I never thought I’d say this, but: Starting in January, I’ll be living in the heart of show business — Studio City, Los Angeles. Will I suddenly become beautiful? Will I go vegan? Will I start wearing tank tops? Honestly, I don’t know the answer to these, but I’m keeping an open mind. Anyway, getting to LA after living in metro Detroit for nine years is going to ruin me, but there is one thing I’ve figured out: the cars I’m bringing. So if you voted on the polls in my article My Eight Cars Are Preventing Me From Moving Out Of Detroit And I Could Use Your Advice, you can now see if I heeded your input or ignored it entirely. Here we go.
First, I’ll just say that the 346 comments on that other post were heartwarming; I really do appreciate you taking the time to offer your two cents. Second, let me talk about the two cars I sold in the past week: the 1958 Willys FC-170 and the manual 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ:
I’ve already written about the FC’s departure in Why I Just Sold My Beloved 1958 Willys FC-170; Click that link for the full backstory and discussion about why I decided to part ways with the charming Forward Control; here’s a short quote:
I’d initially bought that vehicle as part of an EV conversion project I’d pitched to my old employer, and though the job never received the funding I’d expected and was thus canceled, I do plan to do an EV conversion soon — just not on something this rusty. (No point in dropping $25 grand on batteries and electronics if they’re all going into a shell that’s this rotted).
The FC was too far gone, structurally, for me to use as an EV conversion candidate. I want to focus on electrification, not bodywork. As for the 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee, well, that just sold yesterday. A gentleman in Texas sent me a $9,500 check and a car hauler, I drove the Jeep up the hauler (in four-low to make it easy), and off the Jeep went:
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This was no doubt my “prettiest” Jeep and one that some — including my mom — wanted me to hold onto. But here’s the issue: What’s the point of having a beautiful, stock Jeep Grand Cherokee in LA? Seriously, the thing will get 15 MPG in the city, so it’s certainly not worth making my daily driver. And in stock form, it’s not capable enough to be a frequent off-road toy. I could modify it, but why do that to such a beautiful, bone-stock, rare Jeep? Plus, I’d be afraid to scratch it while off-roading.
No, to me, it made more sense to sell the Jeep, make a few bucks to help lighten the blow of this move (and get me a few months of rent!), and instead keep my other manual Jeep Grand Cherokee “Holy Grail.” Speaking of, let’s just get into which Jeeps I’ve decided to keep and why.
Storage: 1992 Jeep Cherokee
I realize that paying someone to store a car is not a financially intelligent move. But the reality is that this is my first car, and I’m just not able to get myself to part ways with it, at least not right now. And I have very little use for it in California; it needs plenty of work (radiator, rear axle, some rust), and my focus needs to be on improving The Autopian’s content. So, in order to keep things moving and to prevent indecision from thwarting my life plans, I’m just gonna throw the Jeep into storage and move on with my life.
Cars aren’t rational; people daily-drive gas-guzzlers because they like the way those cars make them feel; people name their vehicles; they cry when they lose cars or when they get cars back after years of separation; people put bows on their cars and wax their machines for hours and hours on nice days — my point is that the $1,200 a year I’m blowing to store my very first Jeep are just 1,200 of millions that folks have spent on cars they’re far too emotionally invested in. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, even if it’s a bit silly.
I’ve spent too many hours thinking about this, and I’ll gladly drop $1,200 to kick this can down the road. Keep it movin’.
Bringing To California: Jeep J10, Ford Mustang, Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle, Jeep Grand Cherokee 5-Speed
Here’s where I announce the lucky four that get to live in Studio City, California with me! First up: My Jeep J10.
I realize that it’s a 1985 and will therefore fail SMOG testing, but you know what? Bring it on. This Jeep J10 is the most perfect truck in the world in my eyes, and I have no interest in trying to find another just like it, because I simply won’t. This truck will be a huge help during the move, as the eight-foot bed is gigantic. I’ll move my entire household in this beast, then I’ll park it on the Galpin dealership lot and figure out how I can fuel inject it to get it past SMOG. We’ll see! Again, I just need to keep the train moving, here. No more indecision!
The next lucky machine is my $350 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I’m keeping this because I think the manual Jeep Grand Cherokee is perhaps the greatest budget overlanding Jeep on earth; it’s just the right size, it’s powered by a great engine bolted to a great transmission; it’s incredibly capable off-road but comfortable on-road due to a fully coil-sprung suspension; the cabin is quiet and the seats are comfortable; the fuel tank is nice and big; and it’s just dirt cheap. It’s an amazing machine, which, along with the fact that it’s super rare, is why I keep calling it the “Holy Grail.” I’d be a fool to sell my last Grail, as I’m unlikely to find another at a reasonable price, especially as time goes on.
I want a good off-road vehicle so I can explore the trails in California, and I think that vehicle should be the one I’m preparing for my eventual around-the-world overlanding journey. So I’m keeping the ZJ, turning it into the best possible overlanding Jeep I can imagine, and then checking out what California’s off-road trails have to offer. With the new hood my friend Jamie snagged from the junkyard (see above), the Jeep won’t look as good as the ’93 I sold, but it’ll look decent, and I’ll feel comfortable blasting it through treacherous terrain.
My 1966 Mustang will be my daily driver along with my fuel-sipping 1959 Nash Metropolitan, which is already in California. I don’t have a lot to say about this thing other than that it’s in great shape, and that driving it over the Rocky Mountains in the dead of winter is going to suck. I’ll get into the logistics of the trip here in a bit.
This one is going to come as a surprise to most of you, I bet. I’m keeping my 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle, because I think it’s possibly the ideal candidate for an EV swap. I don’t mean that from an engineering standpoint (lord knows it’s an overweight unaerodynamic nightmare); no, I mean that from a financial standpoint. The Golden Eagle is a vehicle whose cool-factor is almost entirely based on its looks, meaning when I drop the requisite $25,000 to electrify it, it might actually be worth something in the end. I don’t plan to sell it, to be clear, but should I need to, I’d rather not end up having to eat $20,000 like I would if I electrified the rotten Willys FC, which nobody would have been interested in buying due to structural concerns.
The fact that both of the AMC 360 engines in my Golden Eagle ended up as paperweights is a sign from the heavens: Just ditch those motors, slap a Tesla drivetrain/subframe in the rear, and roll around in an awesome-looking EV that I can safely daily-drive (the FC, on the other hand, was never designed to do 75 on the freeway — another reason why it wouldn’t have made for a practical, daily-drivable EV).
The Logistics: I’m Going To Be Third-Wheeling A Honeymoon
You read that subhed above right: I’m going to be the third wheel on a literal honeymoon. And to be honest, I’m honored!
At 31, I’ve basically mastered the art of third-wheeling, with my greatest work having been described on the internet just a year and a half ago. I’d just driven my 1994 diesel, manual Chrysler Voyager from Nürnberg to Istanbul — a truly grueling 30-hour trek through horrible border checkpoints — and after the wedding my friend, the groom, asked if I wanted to join him on his honeymoon. Apparently he was inviting some buddies to Cappadocia, a gorgeous region known for its caves and hot air balloons, situated about seven hours east of Istanbul, about five hours from the Syrian border. Everyone else flew, but I drove; the few days in Cappadocia were mind-blowing, but what’s relevant to this discussion is what happened early one morning when the whole group of about 10 headed up in a hot air balloon.
I somehow ended up in the section of the basket with just the bride and groom. Yes, me, a bride, a groom, on a honeymoon, in a hot air balloon basket. Now that’s third-wheelin’! Check it out:
Anyway, I will have a chance to one-up that third-wheel experience this February, when my friend Andreas (whom I’ve written about multiple times before) and his soon-to-be-new wife Josie fly to the U.S. for their very first time! I’ll attend their wedding in Nürnberg in January, then come back to Michigan, where I’ll prepare the 1966 Mustang for a cross-country trip (I’m slapping winter tires on, of course).
Honestly, I’m just excited to be able to introduce the U.S. to these two marvelous people, and to do so by road-tripping a ’60’s Mustang from Detroit to Los Angeles — it should be an unforgettable trip for them, and I hope they have a great time because they deserve it. I’ll write about the whole trip, and introduce you to them; they’re featured in the video below.
So that takes care of the Mustang. What about the J10? Well, I’ll drive that one out sometime in December/early January. That’s when I’m starting to move into the apartment. I want to make sure the place is somewhat livable for when Andreas, Josie, and I show up in February. LA will be their home-base; they’ll just explore the U.S. from there.
Part of me would rather do the honeymoon in the J10, since I know it’s a great road-trip machine (I’ve never done a long road trip in the Mustang), but three-across for 3,500 miles could be rough, especially for the center person. I’ll just have to dial that Mustang in. It’s not far off from being a cruisin’ stallion.
As for the Golden Eagle and Holy Grail? I haven’t figured out what to do there. I could have them shipped, though that’d cost a pretty penny I bet. Maybe I can get a trailer and tow them both with a heavy duty truck? I’ll have to run the numbers. In any case, that’s the plan: Store the XJ, drive the J10 later this year and the Mustang in February, and somehow haul the 1979 Cherokee and 1994 Grand Cherokee out west (I’ll also get rid of my excellent Chevy Tracker). Not the most logical, but the decision is made. I can make adjustments once I’m cruisin’ Ventura Boulevard.
I have no idea how four cars can fit inside a Los Angeles apartment, but good luck David! 😉
It’s always a sad empty feeling, cutting down on the amount of cars in the collection. So that’s some hard brave decisions you’ve had to make in the recent weeks.
I’m down to five cars, here on the other side of the world (DK), and 2023’s goal for me is to reach 60% driveable and registrered vehicles.. 🙂
As Indiana Jones’ dad teach us, “Let it go” is the proper attitude towards Holy Grails. Let them go, Dave 🙂
Still too many by half.
I could very easily recommend selling the lot and catch a flight to LA unencumbered by rusty hulks for a totally fresh start.
But then again I am into vintage hi-fi and it would be like me deciding which amplifier and speaker combo I should get rid of just so I could listen to Spotify on my phone.
That isn’t going to happen either.
And your former landlords in Michigan will wonder if you were a demon or a holy man because the grass won’t grow in certain parts of the lawn.
Sell everything but the Mustang. Dragging a load of rusty Jeeps to LA makes no financial or logistical sense. You are on the right path, just keep following it.
How long do you plan to stay in LA? Do you see yourself spending years there?
If yes, then I would make a small and simple suggestion: why not put all of the cars you intend to keep except your DD Mustang into storage in Michigan while you get settled in?
This way, you can thoroughly enjoy being the third wheel on your road trip with much less to worry about. Leave worrying about the other cars until you have time to give them proper TLC after you have adjusted to your new home. I’m sure storage costs in Michigan for protected storage must cost much less than unprotected storage or poor-parking spots in LA. (I’m not going the crazy route and suggesting that you sell all of your cars immediately and start fresh!)
At $100 a month for a spot I bet its pretty tempting to put all the cars (and more) in storage.
Congratulations on the decision, David!
Regarding smog and such… do these all have to be registered in California?
I dunno man. An apartment in the middle of LA with 4 old cars? Are you sure about that? You need a DD that is bulletproof. Mechanically sound and good on gas. You will be driving a lot, lots of miles in lots of traffic. You don’t want to overheat or break down on the 5 in a traffic jam. And parking? And passing smog? Get a newish GTI or something and store everything else you can’t part with until you get a place with a garage and a driveway. Plus, the cars out west are pristine. You can get a 30 year old car off Craigslist where the bolts come off the suspension with hand tools. Rusty Midwest stuff just can’t compare.
He’s going to have 4 cars on the Galpin lot I bet. And those cars will still have Michigan plates 2 years from now.
“Start wearing tank-tops”? I’ve now got an image of David Tracy dressed up in his best LMFAO outfit, happily singing: “I’m wrenchin’ and I know it!”
If he starts wearing blue tank tops it will just be his,time in Australia awakening David’s latent Bogan
I lived in No Ho for awhile and had three cars: Mom’s hand-me-down Camry went in the garage under the building, and the two Ramblers had to sit outside. I got bitched at a lot for taking up so much parking, but there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. Still, four cars is a lot for an apartment, and have fun working on them in the street. It’s not illegal, but it sucks.
I still think you’re an idiot for taking the J10. It will never pass smog without throwing a shitton of cash into it. And in the Valley you’re definitely going to want AC in the summer. Do any of these heaps have it, and is it working?
Yep, anything post 75 is going to be a nightmare to smog.
Here’s a thought . . . sell ’em all except for your daily and then buy new project cars that have spent their entire lives in snow-and-salt-free SoCal. Travel light, man. My move this April was my 13th. In exactly zero of those moves have I looked back and said, “Shit, I should have brought more stuff with me!”
Goodspeed, Mr. Tracy.
Re: Golden Eagle, awesome!!! Stoked you are keeping it, imho it’s the coolest Jeep you’ve ever had and it’s one of the coolest jeeps ever made! Idk about electrifying it tho; I helped turn a Studebaker champ into an electric vehicle and it cost a TON, and had terrible range cuz brick, and it was too heavy to offroad. So basically it wound up being a short range (under 120 miles) on road vehicle (heavy) w poor driving handling/braking (truck). Why not ditch the dead weight, let the Grand Cherokee go, and build the Golden Eagle into that same badass offroad machine and tour the world with it? I know you like ZJs man, I get it, they’re good cars, but touring the world in a badass modified ZJ vs touring the world in a badass modified GOLDEN EAGLE? As Charlie would say he’s about to go all America over everyone’s asses. And a properly built golden eagle, capable of tackling everything in Cali/Moab, with integrated overlanding digs, solar, power, and gadgets??? Would be worth FAT STACKS if you kept it clean! Way, way more than a ZJ, which would just be like throwing money down the toilet.
One other thing, be careful driving the Mustang out west in winter. I’ve driven from Wisco to western CO and back like 50 times, and anytime between Dec-March it can get real bad, man. Like, blizzard, can’t see the road, I80 is backed up for miles and miles and miles turning nebraska into a 15 hour shit show bad, side winds so bad you have to correct every time you go under an overpass bad, snowing so hard you can’t see the turns I70 bad and could slide off a mountain pass and die, bad.
Even right outside of Denver, I70 can turn into a total nightmare, and that’s extremely well maintained. I know you’ve gone out west to Moab and whatnot before but have you actually been in the rockies during winter before? I’d echo some other suggestions and go hug the southern border, and skip the snow tires. Plus all the road salt, getting that thing salty would be a crime.
I’ve done the Rockies in a snowstorm. It’s horrible, and I’ll never do it again. I’ll check conditions before even considering going up a pass.
The Golden Eagle would be a great overlanding vehicle in theory, but not in practice. It’s too heavy, unbelievably inefficient, that AMC 360 isn’t reliable enough, it’s not great off-road, it’s loud, parts aren’t that easy to obtain, etc etc.
It’s pretty, and that’s about it. 100 miles would be more than enough! I could drive that everyday!
I had a Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Levis edition that I drove from Ontario to Colorado (did some skiing) and then to Baja California for some off-roading, then through New Mexico and back home. Same fuel mileage off-road as on-road (14 imperial mpg). Might have had a bit to do with the 4:10 gears and full time 4wd. Cost a bit over $800 in gas back in ’86.
Is an offroad ZJ really that much more fuel efficient than an offroad Golden Eagle tho? Esp since your golden eagle has an empty engine bay. Imagine shoving a small diesel in there! TORQUE and MPG!
When and where is the Autopian going-away party? Maybe we can do a meet-up at the Stahl Foundation collection or something with a restaurant gathering after. You need a good send off!
I’m thinking we just have a giant party at my house.
Why not ship the XJ to CA with the other two?
David, I in totally empathize with you wanting to punt on your XJ, but it’s clear what you should do. If you’re not going to be buried in it (which, being a loyal reader, may not be a hypothetical) some day it’s either going to become someone else’s or it’s going to get crushed. It’s clear that this XJ set you on your path, and really created a life long love of cars, enough to decide your college major and career. It’s time to let the XJ create that love of cars for someone else.
Sell it to someone to let it become their first car. Solicit posts, it can help your business and help a new soon-to-be car fanatic. Heck, sell it to the autopian and let an intern be compensated with a car for a year of posts about it. It’s clear that this XJs mission is to create car people. Don’t let it idle for a year while it’s bearings and tires deteriorate. Give it a chance to make someone else’s life go the way it should.
Why not the Mustang *and* the J10 (and a pickup-truck load of your other stuff) at the same time? You can drive the Jeep and the newlyweds can have their privacy in the ‘stang, and there’ll be a second vehicle on hand in case one breaks down, especially in the high desert.
This is a very reasonable alternative
Despite the emotional aspects of all this, as David discussed, this all seemed surprisingly rational and strategically sound until the discussion re: third-wheeling. Then he lost me ????. Impassioned vote here for just shipping the bloody things. Then again, I’m not creating content, I guess, so carry on with this craziness ????♂️.
First comment, and now I know emojis don’t translate. Please ignore all random punctuation …
“…driving it over the Rocky Mountains in the dead of winter…” You know, you can avoid that by swinging farther south. Indianapolis, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Barstow, LA. Or if you want to avoid likely snow in Flagstaff, turn south at ABQ to Las Cruces, Phoenix and on to LA.
You gotta point the honeymooners down Route 66. Either take I-94 to the “official” start point in Chicago or skip the Illinois leg and go by Indy and St. Louis as pointed out above.
And this route allows you to experience the joys of Kingman, which the honeymooners will never forget.
Don’t be like Bugs Bunny: take a left at Albuquerque!
Makes sense to me. There has got to be a way you can get this community to do this for you? I live in CT, so it doesn’t makes sense to me. BUT, I’d gladly take a day or two of vacation and “drive a leg” of the journey if I could.
Good for you!
Off you go.
Next awesome chapter of your life commences now.
Parting is such sweet sorrow, even (especially) cars that I’ve hated wrenching on still hold a special place for me. And there will always be “the one that got away ”
Peace and blessings on your journey.
“My 1966 Mustang will be my daily driver along with my fuel-sipping 1959 Nash Metropolitan, which is already in California.”
How has no one yet given you a swift love tap to the chin thinking that having two DD’s in LA while renting an apartment is a remotely logical decision? You are an awesome dude (based on what I can infer from all you share/write) and your dedication to car wrenching is absolutely stellar, however…this is an insane idea. Ditch the Nash and put that coin in the ‘Stang. Sheesh.
The Mustang is pretty much done; no coin needs to be spent on it, really. I just need to drive it. I suppose I could get that interior looking a bit better…
But that motor; it’s three times the size of the Nash’s! At $5/gallon, the Nash has its place!
Maybe, but the cost of maintaining insurance and whatever else is required in LA would easily surpass the cost of the extra gas. Just sayin’ 🙂
It’s not like the Nash is a mint ’91 Geo Metro or something. It’s still gonna break and cost you money (also can be considered as time cost) to maintain. This probably also eats into your energy cost allocated to working on the site. Why not just have one rock-solid classy classic? You are gonna have to go to dinner at a fancy LA place at some point in your life with a new “friend”, ha.
Hell, do whatever you want, lol. I still read about it. Safe travels 🙂
I guess I need to add up all the rego/insurance costs for a classic car…
The registration should actually be pretty cheap for both of those, compared to anything new. The insurance will depend on the coverage you want, and your estimated mileage. One thing I like is that your buddy Beau, and his pals at Galpin, will have between them all the insights you’ll need for registering and insuring them, and I’m sure they’ll also have more recent insights than mine about how to get the J10 past the smog referee. I’ve only done that once, during a particularly tough period (some stupid political budgetary crisis meant all the smog referees statewide were laid off for most of a year), but I’m sure you’ll get good info.
Here’s the thing: if being a dedicated Car Guy was prohibitively difficult and expensive in L.A., there wouldn’t be nearly so many of us who manage it. It’ll take some money and gumption, but that’s like lots of irrational passion-based things we do for the things we love, right? It’s all about priorities.
Maybe keep the J10 registered in Michigan
As a long time owner of a 67 Mustang, I think you should sell yours. The value has jumped considerably in the past 10 years and they aren’t particularly unique in southern Ca.
If I recall correctly, the Mustang is actually his brother’s.
Well i know classic insurance can be affordable under 5,000 miles a year for a set value amount. I used Haggertys.
Don’t let the naysayers concern you, there are plenty of single non-wealthy people who live in LA who daily drive two cars. It’s not horribly expensive. I just took the liberty of calculating your yearly reg for the Mustang; $184. The Nash is probably the same or even less. Also, MI has the highest auto insurance rates in the nation so expect to save a bunch there.
I lived in Detroit proper, moved to San Diego for 12 years, and DD two cars the entire time I lived there. Sometimes three if you counted motorcycles. There were just too many cool, old, and rust free vehicles to choose from! For me, the key to saving a bit of money and inconvenience was to always have one (or both) older than 1974 to prevent having to smog. Even with on-street parking only, I managed to go all that time with no tickets or hassles by driving all cars weekly so they weren’t sitting in the same spot for too long.
Tip: Don’t get rid of your winter clothes because when you sometimes miss the snow and cold, (you will) it is only a couple of hours drive away in the winter months!
Thanks for the tip! [grabs a few sweaters from the “donate” pile]
How much daily driving do you really anticipate doing while there? I doubt it’ll be enough for meaningful savings in fuel costs vs registration, insurance, and maintenance. I agree that the Nash is cool but you’ve already got too many vehicles and the golden E-gle is going to take a lot of your wrenching time. Best to let the Nash go before you get attached to it, which brings me to…
It’s time to let go of your first jeep too. Storing it out here just means you’re going to dump thousands more into storing something that is going to continue deteriorating without getting used again. You’ve already basically made this choice… Time and money went into the J10, the mustang and the Grails since they were always higher on the priority list, and the XJ was left to sit. If you didn’t get to it when storage was free and working on it meant just going outside, it’s not worth $100/month to have to fly thousands of miles to work on it. It feels like you’re betraying it to sell it now, but it’ll be a huge weight off your back once it’s done. Plus, you’ve said it yourself, the ZJ grail is a better vehicle in every way, so put the money and effort saved into future adventures
It’s also about security; I don’t want that Mustang getting nicked like JT’s bug!
Yeah, did no one read your article about the Metropolitan’s history and that it was part of his life for so long? Amazing
It may cost you more to trailer those vehicles yourself than to have them shipped – if you have them shipped unenclosed you can probably do it for $1k or less (each). Not sure what gas/lodging/food will cost on your trip (but you are pretty tight with a dollar, so maybe you can do it cheaper).
David, some thoughts on the “first car” situation. I had that experience many years ago. My very first car had what I thought back then was a minor bender (turned out more serious), and I couldn’t make myself to part ways with it for sentimental reasons. This went on for years, awaiting better days to come when I’d have time to restore it. Time went by, the car deteriorated and was ultimately worthless, and I moved on as well. One day I decided to let it go. And what a relief that was! Don’t be a prisoner of the past, let it turn into fond memories and not be a hole burning in your consciousness (and wallet). Besides that, great choices and best of luck in LA! Fingers crossed and keep all of us posted.
He’ll end up selling it long-distance without ever laying his eyes on it again in a year or so.
“He’ll end up selling it long-distance without ever laying his eyes on it again in a year or so.
The sad fate of every “Hometown Honey” ever.
You called all the way from
And said I’ll soon be home
But the years and the tears and the fears
And my heart couldn’t stand the pain
Of that promised love
All the way from
All the way from
I stayed all alone and I waited ’round
For you to knock at my
But the knock never came and no ring
And now I sit and wonder why
You made that first call
*With apologies to Joan Armatrading