Last: The First Day
Spring 1993-Winter 1993-94
Those first few months were sort of a blur and I don't remember the correct timing of certain events and repairs so I will just ramble a bit here.
One thing I remember about that first year with the jeep was setting deadlines. "I'll have it running for our camping trip on Memorial Day Weekend ... on the Fourth of July ... for Labor Day ... to drive home for Thanksgiving ... for Christmas ..." Well, I didn't end up making any of them. There always seemed to be something wrong.
"Always check your spark plugs first" That is the first thing I tell anyone who asks for advice about fixing their car. I seem to remember my Dad or Grandad telling me that same thing but I really didn't take heed to the advice until the jeep. Basically the jeep was running like shit. I tried messing with the timing, checking points, etc. and decided that the timing chain must have slipped or something was messed up inside the engine. I proceeded to take apart the top half of the engine including the heads and timing cover. Nothing seemed to be wrong so I put it all back together again and tried starting it. It still ran like shit. Then a little "lightbulb" came on in my head ... duh ... check the spark plugs. Sure enough they were trashed and a new set made it run like a charm.
The problems with the charging system was not all the battery and eventually I replaced the alternator and voltage regulator. Hell, replace it all, that's my motto, then it's sure to work. The brakes were also one of those ongoing projects. It was nice to have the 11" drums instead of the stock 9" ones but I still ended up replacing most of the slave cylinders and all the pads. I got pretty good at telling the B&B car part guys what I needed. "You need a brake cylinder for what kind of car... The brakes are in a '52 jeep but I need a cylinder for a Ford F250 truck or something." They loved me and eventually knew not to ask any questions. I wanted to buy a new master cylinder but it happened that the one I had was the original one and practically impossible to find so I ended up rebuilding it instead.
I had a "close call" with the brakes one time in that period shortly after I got the jeep. I was coming back from driving somewhere along Roosevelt in the rain when I suddenly noticed that someone a couple cars up had stopped in the road to take a left and everyone behind him was stacking up quick. I had driven the jeep around enough to know what it was capable of and I suddenly got this rush of adrenaline as I knew there was no way I would be able to stop in time. There was nothing else to do but hit the brakes. Thankfully at the time the brakes were pulling to the left and that's exactly what happened, but rather severely. Some tires locked up, the jeep quickly spun to the left, I let my foot off the brake, and went shooting left across the other lane, into a parking lot. Someone was watching over me that day. As it turns out the parking lot I ended up in was a State Farm insurance place which later ended up insuring the jeep.
In the beginning it seemed like I had some pretty good tires. They were big, looked cool on the jeep and still had pretty good tread on them. Well, things didn't go my way here as one of the tires had a hole in the sidewall which nobody would patch and I couldn't find just one bias ply tire to match the others. I ended up getting four new 31x10.5 AT radial tires which was one of my bigger first expenses. So much for the big cool tires.
After spending a lot of money on the jeep and still not being able to take it anywhere I got a little depressed with the ugly thing. It was still gray and orange and looked like hell. A quick trip to Ernst and $25 got me a few cans of "hunter green" paint and just like that the jeep had a new life to it. I also painted the roll bars flat black since it was mainly the orange that looked so bad.
One thing I must say I am pretty good at is dropping the transmission and transfer case. In those first few months I dropped them about three times trying to figure out what that terrible noise was coming from the transmission when I drove faster. It turned out to be the idler pin in the transfer case which I guess was a weak point in them. After that was fixed I could drive around all over the place, but not for very long before other things went wrong.
After driving around for a bit, smoke would start coming out of the engine compartment. The smoke was coming from oil that was leaking on the exhaust manifold. For some reason I could never get the valve cover set right and oil always leaked out onto the exhaust manifold. That was part of the problem but the source of leaking oil was not a leaky valve cover. The PCV valve in the top of the valve cover was plugged and there was nowhere for the pressure buildup to go inside the engine except out the dip stick and that is where the oil was coming from. I didn't discover and fix this problem for a few months.
In August, Al and I moved from the Northgate place to a house in Lake City. I sort of missed the Northgate place because it had a small garage with a pit in it that was perfect for working on the jeep. The only place I could work on it at the Lake City house was in the gravel drive way in front of the house.
Another one of those first purchases was a bikini top. It covered the seats which was about all that didn't need to get wet. Everything else didn't really matter but you did tended to get pretty wet driving around in the rain . My grandparents got me a soft top for an early Christmas/birthday present. I also installed a heater Al gave me from his landcruiser just behind my rear seats.
Later that fall I found out that my heads were toast. I ended up pulling them off shortly before Thanksgiving and had them rebuilt. While they were in the shop the news started talking about snow. Well shit, I had to get those heads back and put in before it snowed so I could drive the jeep to work. There was no way I would take my motorcycle. Well, I ended up putting the heads back on in the snow and cold and taking the bus to work. The jeep was also not up for a trip home to Orcas for Thanksgiving. I still hadn't figured out the leaking oil/smoke problem.
Speaking of leaking oil, one big pain the butt was getting my oil pan sealed up correctly. After taking apart the timing cover in that first month or so I was never able to get the oil pan sealed up right in the front so I was always leaking oil. What the hell, I never had to change the oil, I just cycled through new stuff.
Since buying the jeep it had never really been very far from home, maybe a few miles at most. Well, about Christmas time I thought I had everything worked out and ready to go home. I loaded it up with all my stuff and started home up I-5. I only made it a couple of exits before oil started coming out the dip stick and forced me to turn around and rent a 3 cylinder Geo Metro to drive home. It was shortly after this that I figured out the PCV valve problem.
Next: The Maiden Voyage