Yeah, I Still Have a Problem

Well, as some of you could probably guess, I haven’t cured my car buying addiction yet. I swear I had legitimate reasoning this time, though. I have been struggling since February to try and get the FJ60 to at least functional. I could get it to run, drive, and so on, but the key issue was the rust. It had tons of it. I wanted so badly to get the FJ60 functional, but the rust had gotten the frame, and it was no longer structurally sound enough to be safe. Since I had originally purchased the FJ60 as a daily driver that I’d work on on the side (I know, bad plan), this was a problem because I still needed a daily driver, and the FJ60 was just sitting in my car port undriveable.

I was able to get away with it not being functional for the summer, because I had the CJ-5, but coming up into winter I’ve been able to drive the CJ-5 less and less, and the fact that I was leaving my wife without a vehicle she could use was becoming more and more of a problem, and it finally came to a breaking point where I had to sell the FJ60. So, sadly, the Rolling Turd has moved on to a new owner.

The Rolling Turd loaded up to go to its new home

The money from the FJ60 was promptly used to purchase a new vehicle. I bought a 1995 Jeep Wrangler YJ, which I initially was thinking I would drive in the winter, then modify in the spring and summer, but I’ve come to a new conclusion (one that I’ll detail a little later in the post), and now I think I’ll be keeping it stock, at least for a while. The YJ has been great so far, running and driving well. I had to get new tires put on it (par for the course with most used car purchases), replace the TPS (Throttle Position Sensor, and a $12 part), and get the ECU rebuilt ($128 from SIA Electronics), and it’s running great now. The tires were scavenged off of the CJ-5, which is now sitting in the car port on jack stands as a result, but the sacrifice meant that I didn’t have to spend a ton getting new tires for the YJ.

And now for a picture dump!

So, I have a new daily driver that has windshield wipers (the CJ-5 has 1, and the motor is burned out), tires that are snow rated (General Grabber X3s in 31×10.5r15s, to be precise), a top (CJ-5 definitely doesn’t have one), and a heater/defrost (biggest key to actually having a winter daily driver). All for the price of $2500, and this time there’s no frame rust. Sure there’s holes in the body tub, but I couldn’t care less since the frame and important structural bits are immaculate.

We’ve finally gotten to what my actual plans are. Like I said earlier in the post, I originally thought that I would drive the YJ for the winter, then come spring, I would go hard out on modifying it, doing things like a rear axle swap, 35s, lockers, the works. Then I decided to do some research on something fairly important in regards to that. Namely, where would I actually use those modifications? There are a few places, somewhat close (read a few hours away) that I could take advantage of them. But they’re all small places, and fairly expensive to go to regularly since they’re all privately owned. All the places that are closer and publicly owned can be done on the 31s that it already has, so the conclusion that I came to was that it wouldn’t be worth my money to do so.

So, what am I going to do? We know that I love working on/modifying cars, but I’ve also basically said that I won’t be modding any of the vehicles I currently own. Well, if you’re even mildly following my track record, you’ve probably already guessed that I’m gonna feed my addiction, and buy another car.

I’m changing gears (heh, car pun) and going with something that I haven’t done before. I want a muscle or pony car. I’m definitely hoping I can get a 67-69 Mustang, but I’m open to anything really from that era. It’ll be closer to March before I’m even able to start looking, but that’s the current plan. I’m excited about the idea, for sure, and am hoping it goes well. If you know anyone that has a Mustang in that year range that is both willing to sell and willing to hold on to it until I’m able to buy sometime next spring, feel free to let me know.

Amateur Cinematography

I finally launched my YouTube channel! I’ve been wanting to do so for a while, but I finally started recording my working on things. You can find the channel at I know the URL is long, but that’s what comes with being new to the game, I guess.

My video skills are very unrefined in every aspect of it, but I like to think that I’m slowly improving. So please give it a look, and let me know how I can improve!

Progress on Lemon-Lime and the Rolling Turd

It has definitely been a hot minute since I’ve updated the site here. Life has been busy, surprise, surprise, and I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and write, apparently. Despite that, I have continued work on my rigs. Since I last wrote, we purchased and moved into a new house, which has actually been a huge help for being able to work on things, as I’m actually allowed to here (it was against the lease terms at the last place) and I have a level parking spot in a carport that I can work in.

Admittedly, I haven’t done a lot with Lemon-Lime. I’ve tried working on it multiple times, but keep hitting the roadblock of rusted bolts and nuts, which delays progress. At the moment, I’m working on taking the front and rear bumpers off, as I have replacements for both waiting for it. I have a front winch bumper, and a rear tire carrier bumper to put on sitting in my shop. The front bumper was crudely welded on, which made me move to the rear in hopes of being able to get that off with no issues.

I had no such luck. Most of the bolts were rusted on, and in weird locations that made it difficult to get the impact wrench on effectively, and inexperienced use of said tool also stripped several bolt heads. Ultimately, for me to make any further progress, I’m going to need an angle grinder. So, the bumpers remain on it for now.

The Rolling Turd has seen the most work done to it so far. I’ve made 2 attempts at putting the lift on since we moved, with the first one resulting in some very disheartening news. The Rolling Turd has some decent frame rot issues. That discovery prompted me to take a break from working on it for a while, and I focused for a bit on Lemon-Lime as a result. After some research and thought, we decided that we would keep working on it, and ultimately do some kind of frame off restoration.

For now, though, the goal is to get it to daily drive-ability. The frame has rust issues that would be concerning for long-term off-road usage, won’t cause any issues for on road use. And since I can only afford to have one vehicle out of commission at once, RT needs to be in good enough condition for daily use. To that end, I’m currently working on getting the lift on it. It’s a slow project for me, as I just went back to work for the first time in 4 months. After the lift is on, there are really only 2 main concerns for driving it: the cooling system and the clutch.

The whole time that I’ve owned it, after about 15 minutes of driving the temperature gauge starts to read very hot. While not technically overheating, the gauge would read just below the redline. Admittedly, the engine never seemed to be actually as hot as the gauge is reading, but I don’t have anything else to go off of. So, the first attempt at a repair will be getting an auxiliary temperature gauge that reads out actual numbers, rather than a scale of cold to hot like the current gauge, so I can verify whether it’s actually running hot or not. Assuming that the stock gauge is accurate, and it is actually running hot, the next steps will be to replace the thermostat, water pump, and radiator, in that order. With any luck something along that line will fix the problem.

The next issue that prevents its use as a daily driver is the clutch. The clutch needs replaced really badly, as it slips like crazy any time you apply heavy throttle. That’s a fairly simple and straightforward repair, or so I’ve been told, so it should go relatively quickly.

When all that’s been completed, the real work on Lemon-Lime will begin. I have a lot of plans for that little Jeep, which will be revealed in the near future, as they’re solidified and ratified by my wife. So keep an eye out in the ear future for that.

Putting the Roll in Rolling Turd

The latest and greatest project that I’ve purchased is my 1981 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60. After having an FJ80, I realized that what I really wanted was a square bodied, manual transmission Toyota, rather than the kind of rounded look with the auto that the FJ80 had. Fortunately, Toyota made just such a vehicle: the FJ60. Unfortunately, I’m not nearly the only one who has the same desires, and that meant that finding one I could afford was difficult, to say the least.

After several months of searching, and getting the money together for one, I found what seemed to be the perfect one for me. With fairly low mileage, at 172000 miles, and in decent running and driving condition, it was a steal at $1800. I jumped on it, and got it shipped out here posthaste.

Rachel and Emily checking out the new rig

Visually, she’s in rough condition, with some decent rust spots and holes in the body. The important parts, being the frame, axles, and drivetrain are all in good condition, though, which is what I’m worried about. The idea was for this to become an expedition rig, so the fact that it’s already got bumps and bruises makes it easier for me to not feel bad about beating it up off road. I named it the “Rolling Turd” because of its color and general rough condition. Don’t be mistaken, though, the name comes from a place of great love for the rig.

The very first thing that needed to happen after getting it registered was getting new tires. The ones it had on were so bad that moving it onto the Uhaul trailer to take it to get a VIN inspection was enough to make one go flat. Never one to waste an opportunity, I figured I’d get some good tires, so I went with a set of 33×10.50r15 BFG KM3 mud terrains. In anticipation of getting said tires, I ordered an Old Man Emu lift for it, just to make sure everything would clear properly without rubbing.

New shoes on the turd

The new tires completely changed the look of the Land Cruiser. It went from being an old, tired station wagon to a rough, but capable off road vehicle. Just seeing that change made me want to get her out on the trails as soon as possible. But alas, it was not to be. The day after I got the new tires on, she wouldn’t start any more. A few tests with starting fluid showed that the fuel system was the problem.

Over the course of the next four months, I went through the entire fuel system. I replaced fuel lines, the fuel pump, and the fuel filters. Finally, I went to the carburetor. The stock carburetor is good, but pretty complicated, and to top it off, very few people rebuild them. So, I went with a non-stock option in the Weber 38/38 carb. The Weber is apparently a point of controversy among the Land Cruiser world, I found out, as some people love it, others hate it. I was able to determine that the majority of those who hated it were Toyota purists at best, and fanatics at worst, so I figured I’d give it a shot, at least it was a simpler set up than the Aisin that came stock, so I might be able to rebuild it myself in the future. Below are some videos detailing that progress.

I installed the carburetor first, wanting to verify that it was indeed the cause of my troubles, and once it was installed (and after rectifying my daughter losing my keys) I started it up to test it out. Thankfully, it ran! Unfortunately, getting the throttle connected was another issue entirely. I didn’t have the tools necessary to make the needed modifications to the factory throttle linkage, so I thought that I would try a cable set up. That didn’t end up panning out, so I used a hand saw and drill to make the modifications.

My approach was not necessarily the best one, I’ll admit

I finally got it all together, and the gas pedal was actually functioning, but there was a problem. Somewhere in the disassembly process, I had lost a crucial hitch pin that keeps the throttle from coming apart, which put a very big damper on progress. While it wouldn’t work for a long term drive, it being missing didn’t put too much of a damper on my spirits, and I took the Rolling Turd for a spin around the block anyway, where it performed very well.

Here, it starts, runs, and the throttle works!

The final step came today, when I got the replacement hitch pin in the mail. Now, it’s all together, it runs, it drives, and I have it tuned properly. There is very obviously still work that needs done. It runs pretty hot, at least according to the gauge on the dash, which may or may not be accurate. Because of that, I’ll need to make sure that the cooling system is functioning properly. The Weber carb kit that I got came with an HEI mechanical advance distributor, which I still need to install and set up properly.

The fun stuff is ready to install, too. I told myself that I wouldn’t work of the unnecessary things until I got her running, but now she is. The OME lift will go on first, but then I have a front bumper from 4PlusProducts as well as a 12000 pound rated Smittybilt winch to install. Those will be going on shortly, I hope, and I’ll update you here when that happens.

Rigs of the Past

Ask just about anyone who knows me well (especially my wife) and they will readily tell you that I have a problem when it comes to buying cars. Since I purchased my first car in 2015, I’ve had quite the list, so I figured I’d take some time and talk a little about them.

Shortly after I bought it in 2015
Up at my family’s farm
About 15 minutes after sliding on the ice in my neighborhood and crashing into someone coming around the corner
My wonderful attempt at body work.

This was my first car, a 1992 Ford Explorer that I bought for $1800. It ran and drove great, and served me great for my first year and a half of college, and the first year of my marriage. It took me everywhere I wanted to go, even when I abused it. It was followed by a 1999 Ford F-150 that I got for $3500. I had needed a truck often enough that I decided to buy one instead of having to rent a Uhaul pickup, so I got that one. I couldn’t find any pictures of it, weirdly, so I’ll have to look into that. It ran and drove great for the first 4 days I owned it, then it threw a rod and needed a whole engine replacement. After that, it was basically flawless. I purchased it and got it fixed about 4 months before I got married, so the third car was actually our first purchased as a couple. It was a 1994 Toyota Camry, which was a cheap, but very functional car. We got it for $1200, and it never failed us.

We had all three of those cars for a while, and they worked great. However, as I was preparing to join the Air Force, it was very apparent that we needed to consolidate our vehicles. After basic, I would be going to Monterey, California for tech school, and the timing of that meant that Rachel would be driving around 1000 miles in the winter with a 4 month old baby. Of the 3 cars we owned, the only one that I felt would be reliable enough to make that trip would be the F-150, but there was a hangup with that. Rachel has never been fond of driving full-size pickups, which would be an issue over 1000 miles.

The solution that we came up with was to sell all 3, and consolidate into one new vehicle, with a warranty, for her to get to California with. So, we got a 2017 Ford Focus. The Focus was nice enough, and it served its purpose in getting my family to California safely. But, once I was allowed to move off base, I needed something for myself. So, enter my 1996 Ford F-250.

Just after bringing her home

The F-250 was fantastic. Ran like a top, drove great, and best of all, it had the 460 big block, so it had power for days. I loved driving it, despite the fuel economy being abysmal. I still had some residual trauma from the F-150, I later found out, as when it developed some valve knock due to low oil level, I quickly traded it, hoping to not have to deal with another blown up engine.

Just after getting it back from the 3.4 swap

The next rig I got was the first that I actually started working on myself. I had discovered the idea of overlanding, and wanted to get a vehicle that would work for that, but could also take the family. At that point, there was only 3 of us, but a car seat doesn’t do well in the backseat of an extended cab, and I really didn’t want to modify the F-250, because I wanted it to maintain it’s ability to tow. This was also the first vehicle that I researched, and bought after looking for a specific make/model. I knew I wanted a Toyota, due to their heralded reliability, and at the time 4Runners were a perfect mix of budget friendly and off-road capable. I didn’t have money for anything newer than a 3rd gen, and to be honest, I don’t like hatchbacks, so that narrowed it to either a 1st or 2nd gen. While I love the 1st gens as a concept, it needed to be a family vehicle for more than just sunny days, and driving the F-250 and highlighted the need for rear doors when it comes to car seats, so that was out. So, 2nd gen it was.

I found my 1994 4Runner for $600. I knew going in that it would need a lot of work, and initially I intended to do the majority of it myself. Right off the bat, it needed a water pump, which the local shop was going to charge $1200 to do. Considering that parts, including a timing belt (which wasn’t necessary, but you might as well replace since it has to come off to replace the water pump) was a little more than $80, I figured I’d do it myself. It should be noted, that while it’s a fairly involved repair, it’s straight forward, and a competent mechanic should be able to do it in 6 hours. I did it in 3 weekends flat.

Once the water pump was on, I was able to start driving it to work, and that was probably one of the most satisfying things I’d done up to that point. To have taken a vehicle that would overheat in the time it took to get it on and off a Uhaul trailer to being a running, daily drive-able vehicle completely by myself was exhilarating. A few months of driving, and it became apparent that despite my efforts, the engine was on its last legs, however. So, I went on the hunt for a new engine, and a place to install it. Because we were in Monterey, getting even a remanufactured engine installed was looking to be around $10000 to get the work done, and because it was something that I was both ill-equipped and inexperienced in doing the work, it was something I needed done professionally.

After much time, research, and frustration (which also meant I had saved up a decent amount of money) I discovered that I could ship the 4Runner to ToyOnlySwaps in Oregon, and they would swap the gutless 3.0 liter V6 in my 4Runner for a 3.4 liter V6 out of a 3rd gen, for a little cheaper than what I could get a stock motor done for. That was easily the better choice, in my mind, so that’s what we did. It ended up being worth every penny, as the power and fuel economy increases were huge.

The YJ as we bought it

The next rig we got was what we traded the F-250 for, which was a 1993 Jeep Wrangler YJ. This was the first Jeep I’d ever owned, and the first Wrangler style Jeep I’d driven. It definitely ignited my love for Jeeps as a whole. It was a 5 speed manual, with the 4.0 liter inline 6 engine. The previous owner had lifted it about 4 inches, put 33×12.50 r15s on it, and swapped 4.10 gears into the axles. The front bumper, front fenders, and rear bumper were put on by him as well, and he had cut the rear quarter panels to accommodate 35 inch tires eventually. As my first modified 4×4, as well, it was an adventure for me.

Top off, new M/Ts on

As soon as I got the top off, I was hooked. The tires needed replacing, so I swapped them out for some mud terrains, as opposed to the all terrains I had on it, and had a lot of fun with it. I was so in love with it, that I ended up selling the 4Runner, anticipating using it as my expedition vehicle. Reality soon set in, as I realized that a 2 door Jeep wasn’t really useful for a family of 3, especially for the longer excursions I want to go on, so I bought yet another vehicle.

My first Land Cruiser

This time, I had a bit of a better budget for a vehicle purchase, so I was able to get a Land Cruiser. I hadn’t researched quite as well this time around, as if I had, I would have not jumped on this one necessarily. It was 1991 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ80, and while the 80 series is fantastically off road capable, and highly reliable, the FJ80 (as opposed to the FZJ80) is underpowered. I loved driving this car, and it really ignited my love for Land Cruisers in general, but it really didn’t fit with our needs. Combined with the fact that things like the air conditioning didn’t work, and the front axle needed work resulted in my consolidating the YJ and the FJ80 into my next rig.

The day after buying the JKU

Our 2008 Jeep Wrangler JKU combined most of what I loved about the YJ with most of the practicality of the FJ80. It could comfortably seat 2 adults and 2 carseats (which was important, as Rachel was now expecting again). It had space for our gear, and I could take the top off, which was mine and Alex’s favorite parts about the YJ. Easily upgradable and already very capable in stock form, it was an awesome vehicle. The major Achilles’ Heel it had was its length, which is useful for people carrying, but for a solo trip vehicle, I missed the small, nimble, nature of the YJ. That lead me to the next rig.

The CJ-5 as I was taking it home. Parked next to a motor home flat towing an M38A1 when we stopped for dinner

Our 1958 Jeep CJ-5 is one of the rigs that we still have, and plan to never get rid of. I had wanted a classic Jeep ever since I got the YJ, and I put in a lot of time and effort to find the right one. I wanted something that was old enough to be emissions exempt everywhere I went, which meant 1975 or older. That limited me to either a flat fender or a CJ-5/6. I wanted it to be a short wheelbase, which eliminated the CJ-6. I wanted to be able to highway drive it, so I wanted the ability to get some kind of overdrive gear. Because of how short the wheelbase is on the CJ-2/3/5 is, that eliminates the possibility of swapping a transmission with an overdrive into it. However, the 1971 and earlier CJs used the Dana 18 transfer case, which had an aftermarket overdrive unit made for it, so that was the final limiter.

When I saw this Jeep on Craigslist, I jumped on it, and I have never once regretted doing so. It runs and drives great, so much so that I use it for my commute. It’s been so much fun off-road every time I’ve taken it, and it only has the potential to get better. Even considering the fact that it only put out 75 horsepower from the factory, it’s been awesome. Current plans for it are simple. I have a new front winch bumper and a rear tire carrier bumper for it, and that’s pretty much the extent of what’s going to be done to it.

The CJ-5 at Hollister Hills SVRA
The JKU, also at Hollister

As I neared the end of my tech training, it quickly became apparent that we would need to get rid of the JKU for something with an actual tow capacity. As much fun as it was, it wasn’t very practical for our needs, so we bought our 2019 Ford Ranger.

In Wyoming, on our 3000 mile trip to Maryland

The Ranger has been everything we need in a truck. Plenty of room for the family and everything we need to carry the same towing capacity as my old F-150, all while getting 23mpg on average. Not to mention that it’s able to fit down the kinds of trails I want to run, and came with a rear diff locker from the factory. All in all, it’s been a great vehicle for us. We plan to keep it at least until it’s paid off, and it will likely stay fairly close to stock during that time.

The final vehicle that I’ve purchased is, I think, the ideal project vehicle for me. I managed to find a 1981 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60 for $1800. That’s the vehicle that I have big plans for, but I’ll leave that for an article of it’s own. Suffice it to say, that it’s one of my dream vehicles, and it’s going to be, and has been already, a great experience just to build it.

The FJ60 with the new 33×10.50 r15s

New Beginnings

Like a lot of people lately, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. Unfortunately, I haven’t been the most productive with that time, which is something I’m trying to rectify. One big part of that is me wanting to record what we we’re working on and doing.

Like many people in recent times, I’ve developed a very large interest in overlanding. For those of you who may not know what that is, it’s basically car camping, but often done off road in hard to access places. I’ve always been a bit of a gearhead, but also have somewhat lacked one of the elements necessary to actually live up to that. Now, at 25, we’re buying our first house, which will give me the space and time I need to work on cars, and my Air Force paycheck is plenty to fund the hobby, too.

When I was in high school, I loved the idea of building and running fast cars. I still love that idea, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized exactly how hard it is to be able to use those cars both safely and legally. Conversely, 4×4 vehicles are similarly buildable, but more easily used. So, I slowly started moving over to that side of the gearhead world. In that vein, I currently own 3 4x4s; a 2019 Ford Ranger, a 1981 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60, and a 1958 Jeep CJ-5. Of the 3, the FJ60 is currently the project vehicle, and I’ll detail what I’ve done so far, and what the plans are for it in the future. The CJ-5 runs and drives almost flawlessly, so it’s been my daily driver. The Ranger is currently serving as the family road trip/adventure vehicle, and it will likely continue to do so for a while. It also has worked as a decent tow vehicle for what we need, which has been helpful.

So, this is a new(ish) beginning. I add the “ish” because I’ve tried blogging this stuff before, and fell of the train, so here’s to making a fresh start. Along with basic blog posts, we’ll be posting pictures here, as well as hopefully utilizing YouTube to make videos documenting what we do.