I am a fanatic. A Jeep fanatic. I have owned and restored seven Grand Wagoneers ranging in age from 1981 to 1987. At one time I was considered one of the most knowledgeable full size Jeep people in southern New England. However, since I left Massachusetts I've had a hard time finding another. The last Wagoneer rolled off the assembly line in August of 1991 so you can imagine they're getting hard to come by. Each time I found one on the internet for sale I could not call quick enough. They'd sell right out from under me.
Then about five weeks ago, early one Saturday morning, I decided to pour my coffee and peruse the 'net. When I saw the ad I had to do a double take. There she sat, not two hours away in Birmingham! The photo showed a 1983 Jeep Cherokee 2-door in what appeared to be almost perfect shape! I've always wanted a 2-door but could NEVER find one. I called the dealership at 11:00AM EST and was told, yes, it's still here, we close at 2:00PM. I thanked them, we hurriedly dressed and ran out the door. We made it to Birmingham with ten minutes to spare. A half hour later I was driving it home. I swear I looked out the window two dozen times that night to make sure I wan't dreaming. That the truck of my dreams was really sitting in the driveway.
That's when The Plan started. In my excitement of explaining to Sarah what I intended to do to it I did not notice the look she wore. It was somewhere between puzzlement and shock. When I did finally notice my words trailed off.
"You're going to change it?", she uttered.
Well...duh! Does she not understand a truck is a blank canvas begging to have beauty thrust upon it? You'd think that she, being an interior decorator, would understand the premise of modifying the space to fit the occupant.
Understand, this truck had none of the usual faults found in a 28 year old Jeep. No frame rust. No rear main seal oil leak. In fact it has one minor issue. The transmission pan needs a new gasket. In her research she found that the truck I'd paid just over $3000 for sells to collectors for better than $12,000, and those have far more than the 56k original miles mine has.
But to leave it untouched? That would be like DeVinci never putting brush to canvas! So yes, it will have a four inch lift. Yes, I am going to drill a big hole in the rear quarter for the 102" whip antenna. Yes, the factory low back front bucket seats will be replaced with nice, comfy high backs. Already in the works, a custom built center console to replace the fold down arm rest. It will give me locking storage, cup holders (there's not ONE in it), and a handy catch bin for everything from bullets to cigarettes. 33 inch tires? Hell yes. Gun rack is obligatory. Basket style roof rack, five rack mounted flood lights, swing out spare tire/gas can holder, winch bumper with 12k pound winch, and a basic AM/FM/CD player. There's a sizable list of small detail items as well.
Sure, I could spend the winter buying up the parts and do all the work in a single long weekend in the spring. That, though, would be too much like work. Instead I will spread it out and make it fun. Like watching a child grow, a little at a time, it's far more satisfying. Besides, if I draw it out Sarah will have many more occasions to roll her eyes at me and pray for my sanity!
Like many people I spend a lot of time in my vehicle both at work and play. It needs to be comfortable, well laid out, and something I want to be in. It needs to get me to work and out to the farm. I want it to be eye catching enough to drive for a night out or to church yet tough enough to bounce down the rutted mud tracks that pass for roads where we like to camp. But first and for most, I want to build a twenty-five year old dream.
Sarah may not understand "cannibalizing" a classic truck, but she does understand dreams. I thank God each day when I wake for this woman I so obviously don't deserve, because she lets me dream, then encourages me to build those dreams. I thank Him that she is redneck enough to enjoy the fruits of my pending labor.
At least until she finds out how much the winch and bumper cost.
Merry Christmas and Happy Wrenching!