Home » I’m Buying A Second Jeep Because I Forgot How To Put My First Jeep Together

I’m Buying A Second Jeep Because I Forgot How To Put My First Jeep Together

David Easter Jeep Cherokee Ts New (2)
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Life has gotten complicated over the last two years; whereas prior to founding The Autopian fixing cars was my number one priority, I’ve now moved to California, assumed a lot more responsibility as part of my position, and miraculously started dating someone. Plus I own cats. As a result, wrenching on Jeeps has dropped from number one to number seven or eight on my priority list. This means my beloved 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee five-speed “Holy Grail” has suffered, languishing in my Michigan driveway and then in a hot California parking lot for a combined two years. But starting on Wednesday, that changes. Only one problem: I kinda forgot how the whole thing goes together.

To be fair, I can reassemble most of a ZJ or XJ or really any Jeep with my eyes closed, but some things can get tricky. For one, I have no clue where my starter motor bolts are, I have no clue where the screws are that fasten the transmission cover to the floorboard, I don’t know where my power steering pump bolts are, I really don’t remember how to install the headliner, and I can go on and on. Much of this I could figure out via service manuals and YouTube videos and studying various internet sources, but I don’t have time. This ZJ has to go back together ASAP — ddeally before the Easter Jeep Safari, though I have so much going on these days that I can’t say I care that much that I make that event. But I do want this Jeep fixed; it’s wearing on my psyche.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

For reasons that are hard to explain to a normal person, I find the manual transmission ZJ to be the best Jeep of all time (not the “greatest”; that would be the World War II Jeep). I’m lucky enough to have found two that were heading to a junkyard simultaneously, and I’ve now amassed their parts into a big pile in a Van Nuys parking lot. I want to turn that pile into a running machine before too much time elapses:

 

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The truth is: Too. much time has already elapsed. Look at the date on this Jalopnik story about when I bought the red Jeep (it was $250 plus $100 for the transfer case; so really it was $350):

Jlp Grab 1
Screenshot: Jalopnik

And here’s the story about me trying to merge a rusty green Jeep’s parts with that incomplete red Jeep, thus completing the aforementioned “pile” that’s been sitting in a parking lot forever:

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Jlp Grab 2
Screenshot: Jalopnik

Those stories are from 2-3 years years ago. I’ve been dragging ass! And that kind of thing isn’t good for the soul. I need to get going, but since so much of my red Jeep — which I towed all the way to California from Michigan — is incomplete, I’ve decided to take a big step: I’m buying another parts car.

The Jeep ZJ below is for sale for $1,200 (I’ll offer $800), and it’s nearby. It’s got, predictably, a failed transmission (which is why the manual in mine is so important to its grail-hood). It’s two-wheel drive, so any of the four-wheel drive bits like the front driveshaft, front axle, and transfer case won’t be there, but the interior is exactly the same, the engine bay should be exactly the same, and the basic suspension layout should be the same.

Screen Shot 2024 03 05 At 1.30.29 Pm

My plan is to park this parts Jeep next to my red kitten-birthing-center (see below), and just use it as a template and also swap parts/fasteners over to make my life easier.

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This may seem a bit excessive. I’ve already merged two Jeeps into one; why use a third?

The truth is that this Jeep is doomed. Nobody’s rebuilding this 246,000 mile Jeep’s transmission, which is why the vehicle has been for sale for 19 weeks. It’s destined for a junkyard, and if I can use it as a template and snag a few parts, why not? It will bring life to my Jeep.

Screen Shot 2024 03 05 At 2.26.40 Pm

But the real reason why this is actually a smart move and not excessive is: It’s got a running engine and a catalytic converter.

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Knowing that this Jeep has recently made it through California emissions testing is a huge deal, as my Jeep has pretty much no exhaust system. Being able to swap the exhaust and catalytic converter over will save me hundreds of dollars. If my red Jeep’s engine doesn’t end up running (I have no clue), I could swap this parts Jeep’s mill over assuming I find it to be running well and making good compression. I have another spare 4.0-engine, but I could just sell that. Or I could use that spare and sell this part’s Jeep engine.

In any case, the parts Jeep will likely cost me at least $800, but if you factor in the running motor and catalytic converter and all the other parts I’ll need, plus the fact that I can use it as a template to vastly expedite my red Jeep’s reassembly, then this is a total no brainer.

Honestly, I’m excited for it. This is the fun type of wrenching. It begins tomorrow, Wednesday, and Dustin from Wisconsin (he’s the former owner of the green Jeep, and his was the very first “Holy Grail” Grand Cherokee I ever wrote about almost five years ago) is flying in to lend me a hand. He’s here from Wednesday to Sunday; I’ve already ordered a bunch of parts that I don’t want to swap from the used Jeep:

Screen Shot 2024 03 05 At 2.23.00 Pm

Oddly, I was unable to buy a fuel pump from Amazon or Rock Auto, as I received this from the latter:

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Part # PN3073 cannot ship to California because we do not have documentation required by Proposition 65 from SPARTA. Please choose a different brand.

Oh, California. Luckily, Autozone had a coupon, so I snagged one for about $110 (see below). Still double the Amazon price, but alas, California and its rules…

Screen Shot 2024 03 05 At 2.24.25 Pm

I’m excited.

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Rafael
Rafael
4 months ago

Hey David, do you plan to film and post the rebuild like Tavarish is doing with his P1? Yours might not be a $2m waterlogged supercar, but I would watch it all the same.

Marteau
Marteau
4 months ago
Reply to  Rafael

It takes 2/3/4 times as long to do something on/for vidéo, so i hope for his sanity tht he doesn’t.
Those youtubers either don’t work, or don’t work by themselves. They have 2/3/4 other people helping them/doing the work for them.

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
4 months ago
Reply to  Marteau

This is the truth. Ever heard of the YouTuber YammieNoob? A couple of years ago I got to talk with his team. His videos are planned out 45 days ahead of time and there’s a whole team involved in getting videos filmed and published.

That said, David is the lucky one of us to have access to Galpin’s film crew, so I bet it could be possible.

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
4 months ago

Here I was worried David had been replaced by aliens(other than us) and he goes and pulls a stunt like this, thus restoring my faith in humanity. Thank goodness.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
4 months ago

Yay!!! The real David “Rusty” Tracy is back! Only you would buy another Jeep to finish a Jeep- but it does make complete sense. Also, I love reading about it. Good luck!

Abe Froman
Abe Froman
4 months ago

With zero experience in automotive rehab (but some experience with brake jobs, etc), I disassembled and reassembled a 1995 wrangler. Tub off, down to the frame, replaced suspension and put it back together. It took a year.

Without any experience doing this, I knew to SAVE BOLTS AND PUT THEM IN LABELED BAGS. Why David, why would you not take this most basic step of disassembly??? A simple bag labeled “starter bolts” would save you a lot of time and aggravation.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
4 months ago
Reply to  Abe Froman

Same here, but since I like backup plans, I measured every single bolt and wrote them down in my disassembly log book.

That BOM came in handy when one or two bolt bags went missing after I’ve moved halfway across the country. I can’t really buy nor store a second Datsun Z over lost bolts!

PS: however doing the exact same think as David but with the engine was genius. That 350$ motor paid itself just by providing head bolts, an oil cap and a crankshaft.

Last edited 4 months ago by Manuel Verissimo
Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
4 months ago

Funny how “dragging ass” could translate as “hauling ass” but they connote polar opposites.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
4 months ago

Look DT, this is a safe space. You don’t need to justify buying yet another derelict vehicle to this crowd.

Own your truth. There is a ZJ. You want yet another ZJ. Buy said ZJ.

Jblues
Jblues
4 months ago

And of course the “parts jeep” is in 100% better shape than the “holy grail” jeep.

Just swap the tranny into the parts jeep!

Jb996
Jb996
4 months ago
Reply to  Jblues

Thinking the same thing!

What don’t we know. With the passing smog, probably less rust, etc., why isn’t this the better option?

A. Barth
A. Barth
4 months ago
Reply to  Jb996

Because – as David mentioned – the new parts Jeep is 2WD.

Jb996
Jb996
4 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Yes, but is the body fundamentally different?
I still think it would be easier to swap the transmission, front/rear-ends as needed for 4WD, and any electronics. Seems easier than rebuilding the entire red ZJ, including engine, from the ground up, then getting it to pass smog, inspections, etc.

JurassicComanche25
JurassicComanche25
4 months ago
Reply to  Jb996

Red jeep is a base base iirc. Crank windows, etc. He got it so it would have the least electronics possible. Also the rarest of the ax15 zjs

R53forfun
R53forfun
4 months ago

Oh, that’s right. This whole string has helped both ask and answer the main question I had.

That said, with its most recent history as a feral cat home and birthing center, the smell inside the “holy grail” Jeep must be more “holy crap wtf is that” eye-wateringly awful. Hope he’s left time for dealing with that.

To be clear, I love kitties, but I couldn’t drive a feral cat den.

Last edited 4 months ago by R53forfun
JurassicComanche25
JurassicComanche25
4 months ago
Reply to  R53forfun

Strip it, simple green it, ozone generate it. That should help.

And change the heater box, just in case.

Mike B
Mike B
4 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Interesting thing about 2WD XJ’s and ZJ’s: they also had beam axles and essentially the same suspension as the 4wd models. They’re probably one of the simplest “modern” vehicles to convert to 4WD.

Sklooner
Sklooner
4 months ago

I would just go to one of the picknsteal wreckers and re learn you some Jeep stuff and fill your pockets with all the necessary bits

Phuzz
Phuzz
4 months ago
Reply to  Sklooner

He’s effectively brought the junkyard to him. No finding out that someone else has already destroyed the part you need, in their quest to grab a $5 trim piece. No having to run back to the yard when you realise you need that left-hand version of the RH-side part.
Or rather, he’s brought the junkyard to Beau’s parking lot.

A. Barth
A. Barth
4 months ago

we do not have documentation required by Proposition 65 from SPARTA

THIS. IS. SPARTAAA!!

(^^^ pop culture learning opportunity for David)

Outofstep
Outofstep
4 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

If recent history has taught us anything then I’m sure this will be his response reading your comment

“No one knows 300! It came out 18 years ago” – DT

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
4 months ago

Im glad you’re getting back to this project but I always thought you had a Haynes manual ingrained into your brain.

Bendanzig
Bendanzig
4 months ago
Reply to  Scott Ross

Assembly is the reverse of dissembly…

Detroit-Lightning
Detroit-Lightning
4 months ago

This definitely isn’t like Charlie sending another cat in after the cat in the wall. Nope, not at all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQ1qzoPV6V8

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
4 months ago

Hate to be the one to tell you this, but those cats own you. Not the other way around.

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
4 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Yup I for one welcome my 3 feline overlords

Gee See
Gee See
4 months ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Also David.. you do need to pay the cat tax every time you mention them!

Adam Atwell
Adam Atwell
4 months ago

Good to know the Galpin U-Pull It is on track for a spring opening!

Clear_prop
Clear_prop
4 months ago

At this point, just swap the transmission from the kitten factory Jeep to the California Jeep with the busted transmission.

As a bonus, the California Jeep has probably zero rust. I know the kitten factory is DT/Detroit ‘rust free’, but that’s a far cry from California cars.

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
4 months ago
Reply to  Clear_prop

And it doesn’t smell like cat pee

SX-70
SX-70
4 months ago
Reply to  Clear_prop

I think the California Jeep is 2WD, not 4. I realize that the parts could be swapped over but I don’t know how complicated the electronics would be.

and honestly the red one doesn’t look bad at all.

Clear_prop
Clear_prop
4 months ago
Reply to  SX-70

Good point, not sure how hard the 2WD to 4WD swap is.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
4 months ago

It says a lot about this site that I read this post and instantly said, “You know, that makes sense! Good for you, David!”

Have you found a role in this weekend of wrenching for “Doctor Girlfriend?”*

*idk if she’s a doctor, but I hate calling her “the girlfriend,” plus “The Venture Bros.” rule

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
4 months ago

How long before managers at Galpin Ford starts dropping hints to Beau about a “growing problem”?

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
4 months ago
Reply to  Vic Vinegar

It’s a big lot, and this isn’t the only derelict car there by a long shot…

Palmetto Ranger
Palmetto Ranger
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Sounds like a challenge. Nature, and David, abhors a vacuum.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
4 months ago

This reminds of the Seinfeld episode where Costanza becomes even more dim witted.
Because he is having too much sex. Am wondering, (not really) if DT is suffering a sort of similar brain drain situation…

Sklooner
Sklooner
4 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

That was my excuse failing out of first year university, too much sex, rather than too much beer trying to have sex

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
4 months ago
Reply to  Sklooner

I had a deep fear of this happening. So didn’t start college for 7 more years. I was lucky to make it out of high school without getting lynched by some of the girls fathers. Ah the good old days.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

Last edited 4 months ago by Col Lingus
10001010
10001010
4 months ago

“I misplaced some bolts so I bought another Jeep” is the most David Tracy thing I’ve ever read from David Tracy…even if he did manage to justify it.

Sarah Blikre
Sarah Blikre
4 months ago
Reply to  10001010

Sure but just the missing bolts could be dozens of dollars or more to replace. An $800 Jeep has like 1,000 bolts. 50 times the bolts for only about 25 times the price. It’s just math.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
4 months ago
Reply to  10001010

His logic is perfect. I use the very same justification system myself as often as possible. Can’t find a tool? Just buy another one of the same. Eventually you reach a sort of critical mass where you can never find anything because of the mountains of clutter and so you just buy another every time. Fast shipping helps.

Hoarding 101 A+. Economics 101 Fail.

Sklooner
Sklooner
4 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

As a person with a degree in economics I doo the same, but when I re-organized the garage last year I found a LOT of duplicate tools and ones that I didn’t recall buying

GenericWhiteVan
GenericWhiteVan
4 months ago

DT, I guess you didn’t do a rotation in manufacturing when you worked in industry….

The people in manufacturing know that when it comes to the parts on the BOM, they all carry the same importance (no matter how much they cost), if you don’t have them all (including all the fasteners), you can’t build, test, ship and book revenue on the product.

I’ve seen $100,000 products waiting to be shipped for lack of $20 data plates.

…could of put all those in fasteners in segregated ziploc bags and marked their purpose, zip tied them to associated part for a couple of bucks.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
4 months ago

I want to be honest, David. For the last several years, my fandom for you has been waning because it felt to me like you were making intentionally bad decisions “just for the clicks”. This post won me back to your side, because it feels to me like this is one of your better decisions in the past few years.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
4 months ago

Good call, you’ve got this!

We referenced my ute, Lenny, plenty of times building Project Cactus so it makes perfect sense to me.

Just remember to be organised, and don’t store stuff on an upturned bonnet!

I never found that battery clamp that went MIA…

GenericWhiteVan
GenericWhiteVan
4 months ago

I remembered that and wanted to comment, glad you did.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
4 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Oh you bet, I’m still looking around for one!

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
4 months ago

I think that may have been an invitation, but if you do find one, he will come.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
4 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

I am here for the friendship forged under the hood of Project Cactus.

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
4 months ago

Makes sense, leave the stripped body around so the cats and opossums have somewhere to stay.

R Rr
R Rr
4 months ago

Artificial reef, land-based version

Last edited 4 months ago by R Rr
El Jefe de Barbacoa
El Jefe de Barbacoa
4 months ago
Reply to  R Rr

There are worse endings than as a kitten reef for the parts jeep.

A. Barth
A. Barth
4 months ago

Easter Jeep Safari, though I have so much going on these days that I can’t say I care that much that I make that event

I’m relieved that you’re not putting yourself under as much (arbitrary) pressure for that as you have in years past. Kinda no bueno from a health perspective. 🙂

You’ll probably get some grief over buying yet another parts Jeep, but the rationale is sound. Having a combined exemplar and parts repository will almost certainly be more expeditious than referring to a manual and hunting parts individually. I’ve done this with old motorcycles and it’s been helpful.

AlterId
AlterId
4 months ago

This one probably has little or no rust, but I guess the interior and engine make up for that deficiency.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
4 months ago

You should get 3 In One Oil to sponsor the build.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
4 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Nah, that’s part of his prior Detroit life. He should get Hawaiian Tropic as a sponsor now.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
4 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

Now I’m curious if you could use Hawaiian Tropic to free stuck bolts. Worth a try, I suppose.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

It depends on how many Swedish Bikini Team members you get on that breaker bar. Absolutely worth a try.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
4 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

Now that’s a poster I want for my garage wall.

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