Home » Fleet Update: The F-150 Drives Again, The Yugo Shits The Bed As Is The Way Of Things

Fleet Update: The F-150 Drives Again, The Yugo Shits The Bed As Is The Way Of Things

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Regular readers of this site may recall, or perhaps have recalled, likely to their therapists, that my fleet of shitboxen has been in a somewhat sorry state lately. When I gave you an update in mid-July, only my Yugo was operational, a grim commentary on what a colossal procrastinating dipshit I am. I’m happy to say that there has been some progress, and I’m hopeful for more coming soon, progress that should get a full half of my fleet back in running order in the near future. And it started this weekend with a very simple realization.

First, a quick recap of the members of the fleet whose status is relatively unchanged: the Beetle’s carbs are still on my workbench, trapped by my formidable procrastination skills, the Dodge Tioga RV is really more of a guesthouse than anything mobile, and the Changli is still awaiting a fresh set of batteries that I was told would be provided by our wonderful site sponsor, Optima.

Of these, the Changli is the most likely to become motile soonest, as it just needs that battery swap. I’ll get to the Beetle and RV at some point. Especially the Beetle, I really feel bad about letting that sit for so long.

Okay, now to the ones whose statuses have changed!

1990 Nissan Pao

Pao SmThe good news here is that after hitting that deer months and months ago, the insurance company has finally paid out for the mechanical work that needed to get done (bodywork was finished months ago) and I’ve given that money to a local shop that specializes in JDM cars, so I feel good about the hands it’s now in.

Parts have been ordered, including a new radiator and water pump and timing belt, the head will be sent off to a machinist, and I’m expecting that in a few weeks’ time I’ll have my little buddy back, with all those 52 horses ready to run again. It’s been too damn long, but I’m excited that when I do get the Pao back, it’ll be in better shape than ever, especially with that new timing belt which was something I’d been needing to do, deer or no deer.

1991 Yugo GV Plus

Yugo FerrariThe humble Yugo had been the surprise MVP of my fleet in recent months, ending up the sole running car for a strange period of time. Even then, it hardly had an unspoiled run, requiring a throttle cable fix that included a length of garden hose (as described last time) but it did continue to run, well, it did until a couple weeks ago, when it decided that running was no longer an interesting path for it to take.

In the middle of a downpour, it suddenly stopped, um, going, an ability I usually consider important for a car. I got out and tried to see what was wrong, but there was nothing obvious happening. I did manage to get it going well enough to limp home slowly, and once back, it’s refused to start.

It seems like something fuel-related. I’ll need to poke around at those injectors or maybe there’s some kind of crude mass air flow sensor I need to wipe off on my shirt (don’t laugh, I once got my old Isuzu pickup running again that way) or something like that.

Actually, now that I’m typing this, I’m wondering how much do I really trust that fuel gauge? Could it be something as simple as fuel starvation? Huh.

1989 Ford F-150

F150 1 SmThe ruggedly charming F-150 known as the Marshal hasn’t exactly been easy on me since I got it, but it’s getting there. After the initial electrical issues were sorted out, things seemed basically fine (well, that clutch cylinder does need replacing) until the serpentine belt jumped off (again in a downpour – is someone with meteorological control trying to send me a message?) and I was unable to get it back on the right way.

I was able to limp it home by skipping the A/C compressor, but that wasn’t a real solution. When I tried to get the belt routed the right way, I found myself stymied by the incredibly stubborn belt tensioner. Even after enlisting the help of strong-armed friends to help try to move the tensioner while I got the belt routed, it had never worked right, and that serpentine belt had stubbornly refused to stay on the pulleys.

This weekend I had my friend Andy come by to lend a hand. Andy is also my only friend who happens to have a lift, so I hope he doesn’t feel like I’m too big a parasite at some point, because the truth is I do certainly take advantage of his sweet setup. I should buy him some liquor or something.

Anyway, after struggling with pry bars and the uncooperative tensioner, we decided to remove it, and that’s when we saw the truly sorry state of the thing:


Look at how chewed up the threaded hole is there! No wonder the belt wouldn’t stay on, that tensioner pulley was as stable as a wombat on ketamine. And this is where I had my huge realization about this truck, because Andy just said, with simple rationality, “You should get a new tensioner.”

An obvious statement to nearly everybody, but, you see, because of the sorts of cars I’m used to living with and wrenching on, my first instinct when I see a ruined part is to try and figure out if there’s a way to bodge it together, because I’m used to parts being weeks and weeks away after having to be ordered from specialized sites after a lot of searching online. I’m used to parts being rare and exotic items.

But this is a Ford F-150! My thinking has to change! I don’t have to make do until I can get some obscure bit of Japanese or Yugoslav metal shipped halfway across the world, because I can find F-150 parts at a flapjacking grocery store if I have to.

So, delirious with the ease of it all, I went about a mile away to the nearest auto parts store, and of course they just had the part sitting on the shelf, and about an hour and $69 later I had a running truck again.

New Tensioner

I need to just write this right on the dashboard of this thing: Parts Are Easy To Get. I don’t have to scramble and half-ass things for this truck. If a part is broken, un-broken ones exist, and are easy to find! I feel like one of those ex-Soviet citizens visiting an American grocery store as seen in 1980s news shows, dazzled and overwhelmed by the sheer bountifulness of it all.

I feel like a fool for waiting so long. It just didn’t really occur to me, because, again, I’m kind of an idiot.

But, I’m an idiot with a working truck again, and I celebrated by taking the kid out canoeing.  The truck also makes unloading and loading the canoe from my side deck so much easier, as you can see:

F150 2

I’m going to indulge in a bit of optimism: my fleet is on the mend. Slowly, sure, but it’ll happen. I hope.

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71 Responses

  1. Beetle carbs on the workbench and out canoeing with the kid? That’s not procrastination — it’s that other ‘pr’ word: priorities. Keep up with the ‘kid’ stuff, Dad!

  2. As someone who also has a wide assortment of “challenging” vehicles when it comes to finding parts, I had a wake-up call when I recently helped one friend with a Dodge Caravan and another with a ’96 Silverado. To say that getting parts is easy would be an understatement. Add to that the low-cost for the parts and I have started to rethink my obsession for “quirky” cars.

    1. Plus, if it’s a bit older, then there will be loads of them in scrapyards, so getting hold of eg replacement wing mirrors is super easy.
      Which is good because I had to get five wing mirrors for my old Peugoet. Apparently, being the shittiest car on the street meant all the drunks felt fine about kicking them off.

    2. I go through the same thing with my RAV4. Toyota sold so many of them that parts are likewise easy to find and cheap. Not like my daily where some parts are special order even through the dealer.

  3. I’ve got kind of a random question- what is the deal with the “farm use” license plates? Is there a “real” license plate somewhere else on the truck, or is there some loophole that allows a vehicle to be driven with those plates?

      1. So basically the plates aren’t legal (at least on a vehicle used to go canoeing), but no one has questioned it since it looks like a farm truck.

        I looked into the laws for farm vehicles in my state. It appears that the type of vehicle doesn’t matter, as long as it is used exclusively for farming or ranching. That makes me wonder how long I could get away with “farm use” plates on a Lamborghini…

    1. There’s a loophole.
      Not sure how/if Torch qualifies as it varies state-to-state, but most of the time you have to own X acres of land in one plot, and promise not to use the truck for anything but agricultural duties.

      Not sure canoeing qualifies.
      I’d bet they are something he can slap on to avoid having to hold his thumb up to cover the license plate for pictures being run online so people don’t doxx him or follow him around or whatever.
      There are creeps out there, y’know?

      1. Everybody can see your license plate all the time. By statute. 99% of people wouldn’t have any idea how to run a license plate anyway, and only maybe 5% of the 1% that’s left would have access to the databases that they would need. People that take pictures of their thumbs when photographing their cars are stupid.

        1. Everybody can see your plate all the time!
          However, 99% of the time, hell, 99.9% or even 99.999% of the time the people seeing it don’t care cause you’re just some dumb goober on the road with them. The remaining percentage is those that might be in the public eye, or have some reason to not want creeps from the internet find them.

          Anyone that gets paid for doing anything on the internet is probably in that percentage as they are A) doing porn and don’t want a stalker or B) eventually going to say something that some weirdo won’t like. How tech savvy that weirdo is, or how much they can excite the tech savvy weirdos that can track someone with small amounts of info is a different question.

          As an example of the tech savvy getting excited about something:

          1. My whole point is that the general public has no way to run a plate. Let’s try a little demonstration. Here’s a plate number, registered to me for my first car. The plate is still in the system. So hit me with your, make, model, my first name and last initial in the town it’s registered in. Please don’t talk to my mom’s address LOL she still lives there.
            (Oregon) RYS 997

              1. Its $4 from the Oregon DMV to look that info up. You gonna Venmo me? https://www.ore gon.gov/odot/DMV/pages/records/available.aspx

                It really is that easy.
                Most states allow you to get ahold of the DMV and request plate records. Free systems work as well, provided the car is actively registered. I tried it with my a random truck I had in my camera roll (Florida HRPC72 https://www.fax
                vin.com/license-plate-lookup/result?plate=HRPC72&state=FL ) and it pulled it up, I tried it with my project car and it didn’t find it.
                I didn’t find anything for Oregon RYS997, so I’m guessing that it is not an active registration?

              2. Nope, that didn’t work either.

                Long story, short. faxvin at the dotcom, put in Florida tag HRPC72, its a plate of a random truck I had in my camera roll.

                Most state DMVs allow you to pay a small fee (Oregon is $4 in person, less online.) I’m not gonna try it cause I’m a cheapass, but the free website above didn’t work on the plate you gave me or my project car’s plate. Because my project car is not an active registration I’m assuming that your plate is not an active registration either.

                  1. And for $4 I could run it as well. I’ll reiterate that I’m a cheapass.
                    However, we weren’t talking about non-active registrations, we were talking registrations on vehicles the staff is actually driving and as I showed above that can be found out fairly easily.

    2. Here in Ontario you can buy dyed diesel at a different tax rate for farm use. I’m not sure anyone has ever been pulled over to have their tank checked.

      1. They do the same thing in the US. I live in Ontario now and a friend’s dad filled a VW with dyed diesel on a reserve and the cops were checking tanks of all diesel vehicles coming off the rez. Not sure how much the fine was but I am sure he would have been further ahead paying full price for fuel.

      2. In Virginia, it’s $1k or $10/gallon of capacity—whichever is greater. I did the used vegetable oil in diesels for awhile, so took the time to look it up. The loophole is that additives are allowed. I documented my volumes quite well, and thinned the canola with gasoline (5% for expected temps over 45°/10% under), so intended to argue that the UVO was an ‘additive’. Thankfully, I never had to fight it. Nor did I ever personally meet anyone who got checked in a passenger vehicle.

    3. In WVa one can simply paint Farm Use on the side of the vehicles to avoid yearly registration, lift laws, and safety inspections by simply painting Farm Use on the side of the vehicle. I’ve seen beater trucks, nice trucks, Roxor’s, and even Corollas being used as farm vehicles. Some (most) times it’s just crudely sprayed or brush painted on and others go the professional route. The restrictions are along the lines of No driving after sunset or before sunrise. Can not drive further than 20? miles from farm/home. And the one that got me asking a guy at the gas station in the first place, you can not refuel the vehicle at the pump. You have to bring and fill your gas/diesel containers. Then into the tractors, mowers, and your farm vehicle.
      Most people use this legitimately, farmers getting fuel, feed, supplies, etc., driving old rusty pickups that wouldn’t be able to pass inspection. In WVa you can have no rust holes in the body or underneath. No stars or cracks in the windshield. They also lift the vehicle and check your front suspension/brakes/exhaust. Very easy to fail.

    4. Missouri had “Local” and “Beyond Local” plates when we lived there. IIRC Local allowed use within a set radius of the registered address. Our Ranger was registered BL6 for Beyond Local under 6000 lbs

      1. My state likes to avoid having a sales tax by levying a creative assortment of other taxes and fees, one of which is the “document fee” when you first register a car, which is based on NADA value, with the implication that the value of the car somehow impacts what it costs to print up the paper registration documents for it. Maybe if you title a Rolls-Royce, the DOT has it all engraved on vellum or something, I don’t know.

        1. ” if you title a Rolls-Royce, the DOT has…
          to get the document signed by a Notery who has both an excellent English Accent AND can speak perfect German. As you can imagine, the number of people in this overlapping circles vin diagram is rare, hence the high cost 🙂

      2. Various states levy property taxes based upon vehicle value. They are not all southern. As of this writing, I think Rhode Island and Mississippi have the highest rates. But Virginia and Connecticut also do it. Additionally, almost all states have some form of restricted registration for farm equipment, so you will frequently see pickup trucks with special tags like this in rural areas.

  4. Parts availability is one of the big reasons I favor American cars as cheap beaters. As much fun as it would be to drive something like your Pao (or even better, a Renault Twingo), the lack of instantly-available parts would drive me nuts, I think. It’s bad enough waiting for Moss or Victoria British (I guess they’re the same now now) to deliver stuff for the MG.

    1. Ha ha, you think you have a hard time finding parts? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

      Let’s see:
      – took a MONTH to find the correct centerlock nuts for my 997.2 even though they’re a COMMON PART
      – need to change center differential fluid? 2 weeks lead time because it ships only from Germany. No there is no substitute
      – hey, the Jeep’s easy, right? He says as he has been waiting on 52090274AF for over a godd…
      … wait a fucking second…

      I’ll finish later!

      1. … as I was saying after dropping $550 on a piece of stamped sheet steel (SIGH) …

        – Saab. Both the make and what you do trying to order parts that aren’t cheap made in China junk.
        – have you EVER tried to find parts for a 1980’s Turbo Dodge? Please. Please try this. I want to watch a man’s soul shatter in realtime.
        – hey, I know! A cheap Ford! That’ll be easy to find decent parts for! They made hundreds of thousands of them! (BZZT) TRY AGAIN, SUCKER!

    2. Try bpnorthwest.com
      I think I read in one of your articles that you’re in the Pacific Northwest. British parts Northwest is located in Dayton down in Yamhill county. I’m up in Columbia county and whenever I’ve ordered from them (’76 Midget) I’ve had my stuff within 48 hours.

    1. Oddly, that was the exact phrase I once heard used, to describe a particular Marine gunny, while I was overseas. His eyes were never looking at what he was really looking at. Very disconcerting. Also, it indicated quite clearly to those of us who worked with him, that it was good not to make him angry or uncomfortable. Interesting fellow to have a beer with, and exchange stories. His were usually better than mine.

  5. You know you’re in a strange automotive place when your most consistently drivable vehicle is a Yugo.
    After years of driving imports the availability of parts for huge selling vehicles like an F150 is astonishing. When I needed trim parts it took two purchases on eBay to get the stuff that was NLA from Ford.
    Jason, you need to get the Beetle running, after watching some I Do Cars videos I appreciate the simplicity of a Beetle or old motorcycle

  6. Wait, Torch, didn’t you own a Beetle at a time when half the J.C. Whitney Catalog was still stuff for Beetles (well to the end of the ’90s iirc)?

    Speaking of VWs, how’s Sally’s Tiguan holding up? (knocking preemptively on wood for your sake)

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  7. Jason just a suggestion I am not that familiar with Yugos but if it has an electronic fuel pump check it or the fuse that provides power to it. Sounds like my Jensen.

    1. And pour some fuel in it, just in case. I’ve been caught out too many times by lying fuel gauges. Should be the first thing on the list, whack a gallon of fuel in there and try cranking it again. THEN go troubleshooting.

  8. You know Jason that picture of loading the canoe from a nice deck on the truck in what appears to be a well maintained and landscaped driveway threw me for a loop. I just always imagined you and DT living in an service station cluttered up with all kinds of crap. Like Henry Deacon in the 1st couple of seasons of Eureka. Maybe without the homemade nuclear accelerator but something esoteric and hand built.

    1. Mmmm… David, kinda.
      Torch has a wife. My experience with wives (my own 2 and those of others I know well) is that most of them do NOT care to live in the sort of automotive squalor you describe.

  9. 1) Now that the Marshal is working, does that make you a “Ranch Davidian”?
    2) After your run-in with a member of the NAUS (North American Ungulate Society), you really have get some stickers for the Pao: one of a deer silhouette and one that says “Pow!!” (like on the Adam West Batman series).
    3) Having an RV double as a guest house is the single best use for an RV. We have a wonderful 23′ Bigfoot camper with all the goodies (it cost $35000 in 1996 when it was new) and although we’ve taken it on a few trips, its most common use is as a nice little get-away on the east side of our property. My wife and I sometimes camp out in it just for fun, and we’ve had guests actually stay in it for up to a week on a couple of occasions.

  10. One of my favorite things about this site is that although J & D have *buckets* more knowledge than I do, they’re really not any better at keeping their shitheaps on the road than I am. Their pockets aren’t bottomless, their time isn’t unlimited, their energy isn’t quite infinite, they’re just as likely to take an ill-advised shortcut as I am… they really feel like my brothers from other mothers. Mercedes fits well into this family as well, but I just wonder how she funds the acquisitions for her ever-growing fleet! I can see how she’s got the storage figured out, but (not to be too nosy, since it’s none of my business) I figure she must be burning through an inheritance or a previously undisclosed lucrative side-hustle if we assume all her couple-dozen rides are registered and insured.

  11. What interesting to see is how you, my dear Jason are almost on a Davidian path by now. Maybe it’s the extra real estate in the countryside, maybe it’s just fate, yet that stationary Dodge is a sign of things to come, only not to go far.

  12. I own a 2008 Saab, so I have a mix of “zip down to the parts store” and order it from a far away”. Anything engine or really drivetrain related can be pretty easy to get, because most are standard GM parts. Rest of the car is more Saab than GM, so they are ordered from (I sh*t you not) South Dakota. For some reason the Saab OEM parts importer is located in SD.

    1. Same here, except with a Saturn Astra. Mechanical stuff (engine, brakes, tires, some suspension) is mostly stock GM. Anything mechanical that isn’t at a parts house is usually a few clicks away at Rockauto. Anything else? That’s gotta be either taken from junked cars or special-ordered from Europe parts houses.

      1. As a former Astra owner of my acquaintance once said, it’s the official car of knowing what interchanges with a Cobalt and what Halfords.co.uk’s overseas shipping policy is.

    2. A lot of recent Aston Martins are the same way. Lots of Ford parts bin for miscellaneous bits like the EGR valve, but some stuff is custom Aston and has to be ordered from a dealer with long lead times and exorbitant prices.

  13. When you think about the sheer number of processes that have to occur within a certain margin of tolerance, every damn second, a functioning vehicle is both miraculous and glorious. I over-maintain the shit out of my car, but it never lets me down…I love it when my automobile is…mobile.

    1. A torque converter automatic transmission alone is the most complex machine most people encounter in normal life, yet is only part of the cars that millions count on daily. Pretty remarkable when you think about it.

    2. I have that in the back of my mind every time I set out on a 300+ mile road trip in an unrestored econobox from the Johnson administration, which is at least several times a month. Don’t really do anything about it, but that nagging voice is in the back of my head somewhere

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