I’ve been in denial about this for a while. “My cars aren’t holding me back at all,” I’d convinced myself for years. “If I wanted to, I could sell them all tomorrow.” Recently it’s become clear that this just isn’t true, as has been proven by my move to LA, which should have happened months ago but hasn’t yet due to an anchor made of tons of American iron. So I come to you asking for advice on how to move past this.
The truth is, I’ve been wanting to leave Michigan for years, but what happens is: 1. November rolls around, things get cold, and I tell myself “I’m out of here.” Then 2. I fly to Germany or Hong Kong to be with my family for Christmas, and stay over there for a month working remotely. 3. I get back, spend a few months in cold Michigan and then the sun comes back out in April. 4. Weather is absolutely perfect from April through October, and car culture thrives. My enchantment with Michigan swells. 5. I vow never to leave Michigan. 6. November hits again. 7. Repeat.
[Ed note: Right before the pandemic I had dinner with David and our bud Aaron Foley and pleaded with him to move. I offered to buy one of his cars. Anything to make it happen. It didn’t work. Then during the pandemic we hung out in a junkyard and had the same conversation. Next week I’m going to make him get an apartment. Just tell him to sell all but two of his cars for everyone’s sake – MH]
This has been the cycle for about five years. My upbringing as an Army brat has built within me an insatiable desire to move every year or so, and yet I’ve staved off this urge by traveling so often and for such long durations — I was just in Australia for a month earlier this year, I was also in Germany and Italy, plus I see my brother in Hong Kong relatively frequently. But I don’t know that I can push this off any longer, mostly because the long-term future of The Autopian depends on me being in LA and working with our talented behind-the-scenes crew out there.
So I have to go, and in truth — as a single dude who feels a little out of place in suburban Michigan, and who’d like to try listening to the buzz of a bigger city for the first time in his life (I’ve only ever lived in small cities) — I want to give it a shot. The problem is these beautiful mechanical anchors:
- Jeep J10 4spd stick: Store in MI (?)
- 1966 Ford Mustang auto: Drive to CA
- 1992 Jeep Cherokee auto: Store in MI (?)
- 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd: Sell
- 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd: Tow to CA
- 2000 Chevy Tracker 5spd: Sell
- 1958 Willys FC-170 3spd stick: Tow to CA
- 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle 3spd auto: Sell
Let’s go through them one by one. Each car has a poll below it; I’m eager to hear your recommendations (it might make sense to read the whole article before going back and voting).
1985 Jeep J10: Store In Michigan Or Drive To California
I love this truck with all my heart, but I don’t think it’ll make it through emissions inspection in California, mostly because all the smog stuff has been ripped off. I could fuel inject it using a Jeep 4.0-liter cylinder head, then throw on a 4.0 catalytic converter and hope the shop doesn’t care that I don’t have an air pump on my accessory drive. But I don’t know that this will work; California has a “visual” inspection, so even if my now-fuel-injected truck is cleaner, it’d likely fail. Logical? No. But such is life.
“Sell it,” you may now suggest, but I can’t. It’s the greatest truck on earth, and I can’t let it go. It’s true mechanical perfection in my eyes. As of now, my plan is to store it somewhere. Or maybe take it to California. I haven’t decided.
1966 Ford Mustang: Drive To California
Is there a place where this vehicle would be more at home than in southern California? Answer: No. I’m daily driving this. I have some security concerns, so I’ve purchased a GPS tracker and a “club” steering lock. I hope those do the job; I’ll also make sure to park it in a garage whenever I can.
I’ll likely drive this on weekends as my free Nash Metropolitan will be my true daily driver that I take to work and park on the streets without worry. I doubt anyone wants to steal that.
1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd: Sell
What you’re looking at is the most perfect Jeep Grand Cherokee on earth. It’s the first model year with a five-speed manual and manual windows and locks. It’s not only the lightest Grand Cherokee in history, it’s also the most reliable, and it’s the best off-road platform. Hopefully I can find someone who understands the rarity and value of what I consider the ultimate Grand Cherokee, as I’d like to get as close to $10 large out of this 130,000 mile, rust-free Jeep as possible. If not, I may have to keep it, which would complicate things.
1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd: Tow Or Drive To California
Of course, I’m not going to sell all of my “Holy Grail” manual Grand Cherokees. I plan to keep the rougher 1994 model that I bought for $350. Why hold onto this one? Overly pretty cars are a pain in the ass to maintain, and this one being a bit rough around the edges will give me more peace-of-mind. Plus, I’ll feel less guilty when I put a mild lift and bigger tires on it; I’ve heard off-roading in California is pretty damn good.
The issue is that this Jeep is still far from being roadworthy. I swapped the guts from that rusted-out Holy Grail in Wisconsin that I wrote about years ago, but there’s still a lot to do before this thing can move under its own power. I could fix it over the next month or so and then drive it west or I could tow it and wrench later.
1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle: Sell
Oh man, this Jeep is one of my biggest regrets. It ran when I bought it, I removed a cylinder head to extract a broken exhaust stud, then I flew to Germany for a month. When I returned, I saw some surface rust on the cylinder walls, so I pulled the engine and honed it; I figured I’d swap the rings and bearings while I was at it, but sadly I could never get the motor back together properly. So I bought a rebuilt engine, which seized.
Honestly, the fact that this machine has been sitting for over five years is a result of only one thing: my own stupidity. I am ashamed, though I am twice the wrench I was back then. So should I fix it and then sell it for some heavy coin? Or do I sell it as is and give up the five grand delta?
This is a tough one for me because, if I’m anything, it’s a cheap bastard.
2000 Chevrolet Tracker: Sell
I should never have bought this Tracker, though I’m pleased with how far it’s come. I’ve fixed the crankshaft damper, cleaned the interior, bondo’d the huge dent in the quarter panel, installed junkyard all-terrain tires, fixed a few electrical gremlins, jerry-rigged a fix for the four-wheel drive system, and swapped out all the fluids. This thing is beautiful now, and I even have a buyer willing to throw me $3,000 for it. Not quite my $3,500 asking price, but close.
First, I’m taking it off-roading tomorrow (you’re all invited). This will be the second time I’m off-roading a car just prior to sale; the first time, I filled the engine with water, then that water froze, and when it thawed, I learned that my crankshaft bearings had been wiped. (You may recall my article “My 1948 Jeep’s Engine Is Ruined Because I Am A Dumbass”). I hope nothing similar happens this time around. I really shouldn’t be off-roading this thing before sale, but come on — I did all this work to this thing; I have to see how good it is in the dirt, right?
1958 Willys FC-170: Tow To California?
I want to do an EV conversion soon, and I really think this FC is the ideal candidate.
Could I just buy one on the west coast? Yes. That’d make my life easier. But look at the pedigree this one has!:
1992 Jeep Cherokee: Store?
This one’s a tough one. The Jeep isn’t in great shape at the moment; I flooded the rear diff, so I need to replace the axle. Plus the cooling system needs some work — likely a new radiator. These aren’t huge jobs, but they’re not nothing, either.
I suppose I COULD bring this Jeep out to California, or I could store it, or I could sell it. But this is my very first car. Should I sell the Jeep that started it all?
This Is Complicated
So I want to keep the 1992 XJ, the J10, the 1994 ZJ, the FC, and the Mustang. I could just bring all five of those, and sell the rest. There should be plenty of space to store these machines on the Galpin lot that Beau has so graciously offered up. Maybe I could tow the FC with the J10, then drive everything else out. Or I could ask an automaker for a big-ass heavy-duty truck and a car-hauler, and just tow the whole fleet out.
Or I could sell the original XJ and the FC, and just take the J10, 1994 ZJ and Mustang. Then I can find another FC out west and cry myself to sleep every now and then missing the ’92 OG.
I don’t know what the answer is. But I need to come up with something soon.
For the love of God, just stay in Michigan. People don’t read your column religiously because you make good, safe decisions. People read it because you do the things deep down they really want to do. Keep the classics. Wrench on the jalopies. Document the struggles of the hobby that many of us, for one reason or another, cannot enjoy as fully as you. The sheer stubbornness coupled with naivete and a sprinkle of optimism makes for a great read. Your readers tune in regularly not to see what wisdom you are going to impart on your perfectly organized project; instead, they read because you run into the same problems, maybe worse, than everyone else. You take on challenges that would make most of us experience marital trouble. (I mean, rebuilding car parts in the kitchen? Never happen if you are not single.) And you succeed through dogged determination almost every single time.
Your readers live vicariously through you, David. And if you are gonna find a life partner, my guess is that they are gonna likely be salt-of-the-earth from the Midwest. I mean, where else would you get a person of the opposite gender go to a junkyard with yout?
Also, don’t forget, who else is going to lead Mercedes into a weekend offroading experience turned shit show?
Just sayin’, man.
Sell them all David. Every car/truck has something special and yours are no exception, but it is so good to start fresh. I’m certain you’ll want something to go off-roading with, but you can find one there that passes smog. The Mustang is sweet, but really nothing special in Cali. I am excited to read about an EV conversion, but you already towed that thing across country. Don’t spend good money after bad.
Best case scenario is to have a friend/reader who wants each one, and you’ll know that each car continues to be loved/appreciated for what it is.
FWIW I actually registered so I could comment on this post!
If you decide to sell your 92 XJ I would happily take that off your hands and give it a good home in Southern Indiana. I’ve been wanting a pre-93 with a chrome grill and I need the perfect candidate for R&D for an XJ based business.
Jeep J10 4spd stick: Sell it. It’s a great truck, but it’ll be a waste if you can’t pass inspection. It deserves to be enjoyed. Sell it to someone who can
1966 Ford Mustang auto: Keep it. LA is the perfect place to own and actually enjoy a car like this.
1992 Jeep Cherokee auto: Sell it. I know it’s special to you, but I don’t think you can or should hang onto it forever. It’s okay to grow.
1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd: Sell. It would fetch decent money, which is always good to have when moving
1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd: Sell. I think you’ve had enough project Cherokees and Grand Cherokees to last a lifetime. Or at least to take a break from them for a few years.
2000 Chevy Tracker 5spd: Sell. Although your recent article might have dinged the value a bit.
1958 Willys FC-170 3spd stick: Keep it. Use the money from the other cars to actually work on your conversion project. I think it’ll do you good to work on something that isn’t an XJ or some other basic, cheapo off roader.
1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle 3spd auto: Sell. You’ve basically been hanging onto it out of guilt for a while. But guilt won’t fix it.
You only have so much time in the day. Between running the site, your travels, and exploring a new city, you aren’t going to have time to work on 6 different projects. You also won’t have a yard to stash a bunch of half finished cars, and I doubt you’ll find another landlord who is so lax about their property. Even if Galpin will let you keep and work on your cars in their lot, I doubt they want that many projects there long-term. Especially when your method of organization is “toss the alternator in the yard.”
Change is good. Sometimes, you have to let go of old habits in order to enjoy life in a new way. That doesn’t mean that you should give up on wrenching or building project cars. But I think you’d benefit from being a little more focused and from trying new kinds of projects. Not everything has to be a 90s Jeep. The FC is a genuinely interesting project and deserves a higher level of commitment.
it seems to me you wrote this same article right before you bought the Krassler in Germany. We all told you then to keep the pony and the J10 and sell everything else. Since then you’ve bought a few, sold a few but are basically in the same boat. You need to move for The Autopian, or so you say. It’s time for a change, man