Home » Why I Just Sold My Beloved 1958 Willys FC-170

Why I Just Sold My Beloved 1958 Willys FC-170

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I’m throwing away my oil-covered sweaters and pants; I’m giving away big tools like engine cranes and transmission jacks; I’m donating all my cans of PB Blaster and Kroil and Liquid Wrench; I’m leaving my MAPP torch behind. And above all, I’m selling some of my cars. After nine years tempting the tetanus gods, I’m moving out of Michigan for The Land That Rust Forgot, California, and the latest vehicle I’ve parted ways with in order to make that happen is my 1958 Willys FC-170. Here’s why I let it go.

Two years ago a man named Tom Mansfield emailed me a link to a 1958 Willys FC-170 for sale near Seattle, Washington. The thing was rusted to hell, likely hadn’t run in decades, and was thousands of miles from my house. But it was cheap, so I asked Tom to buy it; he did, and even stored it on his property until I could arrive in the spring to spend a month wrenching whilst avoiding trenchfoot. 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).

 

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“So it was all for naught?” you might be thinking about my FC purchase. Absolutely not. The incredible experiences I had with this blue pickup were life-changing. Seriously, if you have a free 45 minutes, watch the video below and read this:

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The year 2020 was a rough one for a lot of people. The pandemic made me have to confront the fact that world-order is volatile and life is short. Remaining obsessed with literal bolted-together parts that comprise cars was difficult to do during that time. The lockdown had me overthinking all sorts of life decisions, and the result was just a general loss of passion for most things, including — somehow — machines. This made blogging borderline impossible.

My solution was to wrench my way out of that hole, and it actually worked! First, I bought the 1994 diesel manual Chrysler Voyager shown below, fixed it with some great German friends, then road-tripped it around Europe, meeting readers along the way. I even took a dip in the Baltic Sea before visiting supercar-maker Koenigsegg; I wouldn’t recommend it.

Then came the FC, which was so broken, I really should have taken Tom’s advice and not purchased it in the first place. But, as The Autopian’s new T-shirt says, I’m a member of the church of “Buy First, Think Later,” and I know better than to ignore religious doctrine.

As you can see in the top video, that trip pushed me to my limit, but introduced me to some great people like Tom, Jay, and Zack. Not shown are all the readers I met along the way. Both of these machines taught me the value of cars as a binding agent for society at large. Automobiles are, in some ways, a great equalizer, and there simply aren’t enough of those in this world. Their value in bringing people together — a key ingredient in opening up echo chambers and building true understanding between people from different walks of life — cannot be overstated.

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I think the FC fulfills this role better than any car I’ve ever owned — it’s impossible not to love. Farmers in rural America dig its versatility, city-slickers can’t help but admire its cuteness, and I think its general state of decay makes it feel attainable to all. The vehicle gets thumbs up from every crowd, and I’m glad to have helped get it back up onto its feet so that it can continue to do so.

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That’s really my goal when I buy a junker, fix it up, and then road-trip it. You’ll notice that I rarely do aesthetic restorations — it’s all mechanical and electrical. That’s mostly because I’m cheap, but also because the point is to buy a vehicle that’s destined for either the crusher or to become a parts-car, and actually get it on the road. Once there, it’s gone from being a carcass to being an actual, viable, restorable machine. Many of my previous projects, including my 1986 Jeep Grand Wagoneer and 1948 Willys Jeep — two machines that started as parts cars at best — have gone on to become someone’s treasure. The Wagoneer has even had body work and paint done! With Project Cactus, my Australian ute that was nothing but a shell when I arrived in Oz back in August, the goal was the same: fix it so that it can get back on the road, and hopefully stay there for at least another 30 or 40 years. You’ll find out if I managed that on Christmas day, but an update is coming this week.

After my trip in the spring of 2021, I got the FC running and driving; now the new buyer sees it as a restoration project – something that just needs some bodywork and paint before it can be brought back into regular duty. I’m thrilled about that.

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The buyer, an electrician named Charles, showed up in a beautiful dually, crew-cab Chevy C30 pickup equipped with a V8 and four-speed manual transmission. Charles asked me to try to start the FC so we could drive it up onto his U-Haul trailer, but the plastic bulb I use to siphon gas out of the jerrycan mounted to the wooden pole (I ran the engine off gravity) had turned brittle from gasoline exposure. So we did the old trick of jackknifing the tow vehicle, and then pulling the FC up onto the trailer:

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Charles threw me $4,000 for this machine, which had cost me $1,500 back in late 2020, but had probably sucked up around $2,500 in gas and parts during that trip out west. I was happy to get back what I’d put into the rustbucket. I’m excited to see what Charles can do with the FC; he says he plans to fix the rust, install a dump-bed, and chronicle it all on a new YouTube channel. I’ll keep you all posted on his progress.

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The FC was a tough one to part ways with, but there’s no point in holding on. Even when it drives, it can’t go much faster than 40, it’s too rusty to EV-convert, and it’s not exactly small, so it’d be a bear to store out in LA. It was time to let go, and to instead do an EV conversion on something that is relatively solid, and that has a chance of being valuable enough that the tens of thousands of dollars I put into that conversion won’t all go into a black hole. Maybe I’ll choose the Golden Eagle? I still haven’t figured out how to get that to LA.

Logistically, I still don’t have my moving plans sorted, which sucks, because I have an apartment already — right in the heart of show business, in fact: Studio City. That’s right, folks — a man who subsists on rust flakes and PB Blaster, who literally goes grocery shopping wearing a green mechanic’s suit and a headlamp, who leaves his groceries in his cars on cold days, and who spends at least two days a week at junkyards is going full-Hollywood. This can’t possibly go poorly, can it? [Ed Note: There’s essentially zero chance of David going full Hollywood. I sent him a few Zillow links for some nice places and instead he picked a place that’s, well, not as nice. Also, if you’re worried this means fewer project cars, I was with David as he walked around the Galpin backlot and realized just how many places he now has to shove cars. More is coming. – MH]

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NJ Jeep Guy
NJ Jeep Guy
9 months ago

As I learned a decade ago the best thing to clear the clutter out of your life is moving. Packing it all is too much work. Trucking it all is expensive. Finding out you have no where to put it all when you get there.

The sadness of selling all your vehicles is temporary. Give it a year and you will have a new collection of cars to wrench. Enjoy California.

Dave Swider
Dave Swider
9 months ago

Excellent. Welcome to the West Coast! FWIW, if you’re trying to sell a vehicle out here and it just has rusty fasteners or some surface rust that Michiganders would ignore, it’ll be just about unsaleable here.

Nice job offloading it while you’re still there. As a kid from Clawson, MI, that’s been here for 25 years, I’m looking forward to your thoughts.

SquareTaillight2002
SquareTaillight2002
9 months ago

Once again proving there is an ass for every seat.
Love the FC, just not that one.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
9 months ago

Thank you, now we can rest at the end of 2022 knowing why you sold it. The universe is at peace. /s

Timothy Arnold
Timothy Arnold
9 months ago

It’s difficult now to let them go, but you’re going to find some other absolute gems out in CA that will take the sting off of it.

Sklooner
Sklooner
9 months ago

Did I miss what happened to the ‘questionable title’ FC ?

Chris Schuttera
Chris Schuttera
9 months ago

David, you’ve re-animated numerous rusted hulks, but this was one of the more abjectly terrifying ones you tackled.

Well, that is until you landed in Australia.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
9 months ago

I would love to be there when your car hauler shows up. The driver saying, you want to transport these to LA?
David, keep the mustang and your first Jeep and sell the rest

Bob Syruncle
Bob Syruncle
9 months ago

David, what “Elsa” could you have done leaving “Frozen” Michigan other than sing “Let it go”?
(Somewhere inside you is a 13 year-old singing this right now), hehe

M K
M K
9 months ago

Best of luck David. Looking forward to see how LA treats you. Visited there a couple years ago and whenever another Michigan winter comes around, I daydream about spending it somewhere else.

Bruce Larson
Bruce Larson
9 months ago

I’m amazed you did something this rational. Good call, it would have ruined you.

Brian Buckner
Brian Buckner
9 months ago

Good for you. Seriously, good choice. It’s hard letting go of “but IF I can just…” projects but they’re the ones that really, really have to go. In my basement right now is an old console stereo I just need to install a new shelf to hold my turntable , buy some LEDs to make the (nonfunctional) radio parts light up, and then find a knob that mostly matched the one that’s missing so it looks good, and then build it out a bit because it’s honestly about 2 inches 2 shallow to hold a modern turntable and… yeah, it’s time to let someone else try and fix it.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
9 months ago

Realistically, David, you could probably never top the first high you got resuscitating, road tripping, and off-roading this truck. That was Peak FC™. It is providing much more to you now as funding for your exodus out west and will keep on giving to its new owner, Charles.

Britt Halsell
Britt Halsell
9 months ago

I’m taken with the C30! Great color for it.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
9 months ago

What a nice old Chevy! Is it just me or was the back squatting down a LITTLE more than it should with the FC on the trailer?

M K
M K
9 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Those U-haul trailers are also a bit front heavy regardless of what you put on them.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
9 months ago
Reply to  M K

It doesn’t help that there’s not really any adjustability in where the forward set of wheels needs to be secured:

https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/48830457201_847ae98004_c.jpg

Idiot_with_a_garage
Idiot_with_a_garage
9 months ago

You will always have a place in Ellensburg to wrench sir and thank you for introducing me to the world of Jeeps. I never really understood it myself till I spent those four days covered in rust and gear oil laying under the FC. The immense joy of seeing it finally move under its own power, and the insane amount of smoke it left in its wake, changed my automotive and wrenching trajectory for life!

Take care of yourself as always DT and I will see you at EJS23,

Jay

Idiot_with_a_garage
Idiot_with_a_garage
9 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

I have a detroit locker in the rear, once I get around to installing it… I think your experience will more than makeup for my lack of rockers!

JDE
JDE
9 months ago

it is in no way too rusty to EV swap. Your friends from down under would be dissapointed in you. the rust actually makes it easier since you can just fab whatever trays for batteries and floor pieces and what not and not feel bad about Lighting sticking the stock stuff out.

JDE
JDE
9 months ago
Reply to  JDE

Plus that big old long bed makes for a large battery pack option.

Idiot_with_a_garage
Idiot_with_a_garage
9 months ago
Reply to  JDE

While the frame was solid the body was held together by mouse turds and crusty towels. I am glad it’s off to a new home and one of the other heeps in the pile of broken jeeps will get a new lease on life.

JDE
JDE
9 months ago

I think I saw the red one at Electric GT in California, so I assume he went the shorty with no papers. probably EGT’s call in the end, they were showing removal of the cab in the pics.

HeyCharger
HeyCharger
9 months ago
Reply to  JDE

As one of David’s friends Down Under I am far from disappointed. I am happy for him to be giving the LA move a fair go, and if I asked Hud he would be of the same opinion as he only hangs onto a few cars and the challenge of the build is what excites him too.

Dave revived the FC against the odds, had some fun offroad with it and took it down Woodward Ave. Many people have had projects stall for years in pursuit of some rare aesthetic parts, Dave got this FC going in a limited timeframe and bested the challenge.

This FC is now a runner and the new owner sounds like they are keen to tackle the paint and panel so let them have at it.

Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
9 months ago

Cars are a fun part of life, but they are only a part of it. Often, I get the impression from many of your wrenching stories that what you like most about wrenching on old vehicles is the people that you interact with that have the same passion as you. I hope this change of venue gives you a new start and wish you the best of luck!

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
9 months ago

An EV Metropolitan sounds delightful. Just saying…

Turbeaux
Turbeaux
9 months ago
Reply to  Vicente Perez

How many AA lithium batteries can you fit in there? Got to be at least a couple dozen

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
9 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

I am far from an expert, but it might be possible to fit electronics from a Fiat 500e or even a Smart EV, which could be somewhat inexpensive.

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
9 months ago
Reply to  Vicente Perez

Working Smart EDs can be had for as little as $5k. For that, I’d just transfer over all of the guts then send it. But be careful, because the ED has a quirk to its HV system. If you let the 12V battery stay dead for too long (give or take a couple of weeks), the BMS will decide to brick the HV battery. So the 12V should always be on a tender during long storage.

Cayde-6
Cayde-6
9 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Didn’t the original prototype Tesla Roadster use thousands of laptop batteries wired together and hidden behind the body work?

Gabriel Jones
Gabriel Jones
9 months ago
Reply to  Cayde-6

Laptop batteries are made of 18650 cells. The roadster used 18650 cells from a manufacturer that supplied laptop batteries to the OEMs (Panasonic, I think.) Those batteries were put together in a proper battery pack.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
9 months ago

Godspeed, FC!!!

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
9 months ago

I am super-glad I don’t live in the Midwest anymore. Leastwise, I’d be one of the guys pictured in that dually hauling off one or more of David’s old story subjects. On the other hand, David is moving within reasonable driving distance to me, so I think I’m going to have to exert self control when David announces he’s done with a project. I’ve driven to LA for less recently.

JerryLH3
JerryLH3
9 months ago

“The year 2020 was a rough one for a lot of people. The pandemic made me have to confront the fact that world-order is volatile and life is short.”

Life is short, and it’s why in 2020, I originally came up with my brilliant idea of selling the most reliable vehicle I had ever owned (my 2015 Mazda 6) to buy an RX-8 and daily drive it. My wife initially dismissed my idea as crazy, and since I was full time remote during the pandemic early days, she told me to “bring this idea up again when you actually need a car.”

Well, my friends, flash forward two years later and I did it. I sold my 6 back in October and bought an RX-8 out of state in Connecticut. I drove it home 1,300 miles to Florida and have been daily driving it ever since. It has even left me stranded once already, but turned out to be the stupidest of issues – a loose battery cable. I may eventually get my comeuppance for being so arrogant to think I can pull this off, at which point the whole thing is probably blog worthy.

Moral of the story – life is short. Drive what you really want to.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
9 months ago
Reply to  JerryLH3

Good for you! I always liked the RX-8 and rotaries in general. Since I have been working from home, I have been toying with mixing up my fleet and getting a classic since I don’t put many miles on anything. I would love to get into a first gen RX-7, but I’m a chicken. Have fun with your Wankel wonder!

Zeppelopod
Zeppelopod
9 months ago
Reply to  JerryLH3

Oh hell yes, I love the RX8. A 2004 GT, Nordic Green Mica was the first car I ever bought with my own money.

Yes, the engine looks weak and inefficient on this side of the Horsepower Wars, but that chassis is goddamned perfect. It’s just so good. I hope you enjoy the hell out of it and, if you’re feeling up to it, maybe even write us some updates so we can live vicariously through you.

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
9 months ago

Can’t wait for your eventual remake of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when you get tempted by some abandoned desert Jeep, and travel out to get it running with nothing more than two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
9 months ago

Before you leap into EV conversion land you might spend some time with
Superfast Matt.

Scott Johnson
Scott Johnson
9 months ago

Glad your moving out to Cali! Hopefully we can have more events out here!

Automotiveflux
Automotiveflux
9 months ago

Sucks to see it go but it had to be done

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