- Project Passions temporarily on hold

Wood and Rust: A Project Update

After a brief in person introduction, I have learned more about my corroded companion. Updates abound.

5d ago

After what felt like an eternity waiting for a formal introduction, I finally got an opportunity to meet my hero car in person and I was not disappointed. If you haven't read my previous posts regarding this matter, I can offer a bit of background to set the scene. Nearly two years ago, a friend of mine was forced to fix, sell, or register his fleet of decrepit Jeep projects or face eye watering fines from his local municipality. In a bid to assist him in avoiding the fines, I offered to buy this 1987 Jeep Grand Wagoneer and have it shipped to my home. Even as a long term admirer of these, this can really only be viewed as an impulse decision. To make a long story short, I went through with it, and am now the proud owner of about 6000 lbs. of oxidized metal on wheels. At the time of purchase, I was overseas, and could only assess the damage from his descriptions, and the pictures/videos he sent me. Not much later into the year, I was notified that I would be moving again, this time to an extremely remote location even further from home for a period of a year. This relocation also came with the stipulation that I was not allowed to bring my dog with me, necessitating a return trip stateside to make sure she has a home with my family for the next year. This article is about my impressions from when I returned home and got a chance to learn my automotive fate with this beast in person.

Fear and Loathing in...my wallet.

I like this truck and I cannot lie...

I like this truck and I cannot lie...

The trip home in a COVID hobbled world was, with a bit of luck, surprisingly smooth. It had to be done before the summer due to pet travel embargos determined by tarmac temperatures, which meant more time apart from my pup, but it was well worth it for her safety. Needless to say, it was exceedingly difficult to contain my excitement about seeing my FSJ Project in person. It was an accidental answer to my ambitious automotive dreams in a sense, but with a side of fear with the knowledge of how many gremlins could be hiding within. After shaking off the jet lag, I dove straight into the assessment.

"What's that saying about rats on sinking ships?"

As I approached the machine that could mean the difference between abject misery and absolute elation, I could not help but wonder about my own sanity. Was I insane to even take this on, knowing full well that it came from the rust belt? Did I bite off more than I can chew? These thoughts stuck with me through the first few minutes as I climbed into the cab and stuck the key into the ignition. One quick turn, and all of my fears felt validated. Not a single sound to be heard. She was dead as a doornail. I could just feel the furious loathing of my wallet as it sat there in my pocket stewing over my idiocy. It was practically yelling at me saying "What's that saying about rats on sinking ships?" I despised both myself and the poor attitude of my wallet. But, I wasn't going to let a couple pieces of leather tell me what to do.

Despite this inauspicious start (or lack thereof), I was far too stubborn to throw in the towel. I popped the hood, as you do, to begin troubleshooting this no crank, no start condition. My first thoughts were that it was just a dead battery. When it was delivered, my mother had to drive it into the garage and probably had not disconnected the power leads. So I popped the hood and was greeted by this:

holy vacuum lines Batman!

holy vacuum lines Batman!

While the venerable AMC 360 block itself is steeped in legends of low end torque, those vacuum lines were the rubber spaghetti of my nightmares. However, nothing important looked out of place. I made sure to check the fluids before I did anything, finding all fresh and up to the fill lines. My suspicions were spot on, as the battery under there had long since given up the ghost. a quick trip to Walmart and $80 later, I was back with the juice to turn this baby loose. I installed the battery and crossed my fingers. I turned the ignition to on and to my surprise the whole dashboard lit up. I was expecting the worst, but even the 4WD light was on. Cranking the ignition took a bit longer than expected, but with a mechanical fuel pump, this is normal. When that engine roared to life, I was in total shock. It sat for over a year untouched and still fired up and ran beautifully. The dusty old smog blaster idled after only about a minute of warm up time. With it running, It was time to see what did and did not work. Below is the list of items I found working:

What Works.

The ignition and starter, headlights (High and low beams), turn signals, brake lights, reverse lights, all dash lights, the RPM, Fuel, and Oil Pressure gauges (pegged out though, so probably a bad pressure switch), The radio (minus the digital display), floor and glovebox lights, both mirror switches, the blower motor, the blower motor resistor, the driver side windows and door locks (front and rear), the passenger side window and door lock (front), the Horn, the transmission shifts into all gears and the vehicle moves under its own power, the front brakes, the transfer case, and two tires don't lose air.


I was not prepared for so many things to actually function. However, that does not mean it was without flaws. For starters, the flex track on the front passenger window is broken because it doesn't go up all the way. In addition, I found that all the wires running to the rear passenger door (RH) are severed, so I could not determine if the window or lock actually works. The one I was dreading was the tailgate window, which of course, did not work. They are a pain to fix, but doable. None of the dome lights worked because they are not there. Also, the fog lights are inoperable. The wiper motor was completely unresponsive, though the washer pump could be heard. And of course, the hub vacuum lines are shot, so I couldn't completely test the 4WD system.

About the body...

So, In my previous articles, I predicted that the body was going to be the lions share of the work that awaits me. Upon closer inspection, this was absolutely correct. I knew coming in that the rockers, floor pans, fuel tank skid plate, body mounts, and all the exterior rubber was going to need some attention. I also discovered a few small holes in the metal above the rear window, behind the grill, and the left rocker may not be able to be saved. It has the structural rigidity of al dente linguine. The rear fenders have some rust that will need attention, but should be salvageable. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the rear floor pans are actually intact.

Finally, it would seem that the hole in the skid plate is not as large as I thought. It may well be repairable, which would be a nice little money savings. So after going over everything in person, I have learned two things. I am most likely an idiot, but I also love this thing for all of its good qualities and flaws. I can see a little bit of myself in this machine. Both of us are very obviously flawed, but both are determined to keep going for as long as we can. My only regret is that I found out recently that I am going to be away much longer than planned. After this stint at a remote location, I will be following it up with three years in Japan. As depressing as that news was to hear, it is also something worth celebrating. I will now have three additional years to save up the funds to make my ambitions a reality. So for the time being, my poor, crusty partner will have to remain a dream deferred, but I take solace in the memory of the beautiful sound of its triumphant beating heart (embedding doesn't appear to be working):


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Comments (12)

  • Was your friend David Tracy of Jalopnik fame?

      4 days ago
  • Not a Jeep fan, but I must admit that I do love that style of SUV. Reminds of the two International Harvester Scouts I have owned. Now there was a vehicle that knew about rust! This looks like a great project! Can't wait to see how it turns out.

      4 days ago
  • Still I’m surprised the dashboards mostly works

      3 days ago
    • As was I. Although I would not say that the instrument cluster wiring on these is particularly sophisticated.

        2 days ago
  • I must admire your determination to restore such an unusual vehicle. As others have pointed out, in the absence of the iconic seven slotted grille, it doesn’t really look like a Jeep.

    But with the “woodie” trim and those magnificent rims, I can see why you fell in love with it. Great article and I’ll look forward to the final chapter.

      3 days ago
    • PS: if you check my home page, you’ll see two newer Jeep Grand Cherokees. My last 5 vehicles have been Jeeps…2 GCs, 2 GC SRT8s and one Wrangler.

        3 days ago
    • I know! 😂 ur mister jeep

        2 days ago
  • I do love that shape Wagoneer, great looking machines that are one of the few classic SUVs I like as much as the original shape Range Rover

    Occasionally I look at them on sale here, but as much as I like them, I’m not paying £30k for one

      3 days ago