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August 2010 4Word - Editorial

Posted in Features on August 1, 2010 Comment (0)
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I've told you about my vehicle projects that worked. What about those that didn't? My first failure was my very first vehicle, a 1961 Chevy pickup with the 238ci six and three-speed manual tranny. The 238 was a reliable mill, but I wanted more horsepower. I found a Chevrolet W-motor 348ci Super Turbo Thrust V-8 with three carbs. The 348 shared its big block with the famous 409 (well, sort of). Remember the Beach Boy's "She's real fine my 409"? Okay, so you don't. I do. I also remember fabricating motor mounts and replacing the three-speed tranny with a Borg Warner T10 four-speed. Once in the truck, the 348 stumbled and stuttered all the time. The tri-power setup used the middle two-barrel carb under most conditions, with a vacuum switch opening the front and rear carbs when the throttle was opened 60 percent or greater. I could never get that 348 to run well. Then again, I was 16 and learning as I went. I sold the truck.

My next failure was a 1974 CJ-5 with a 304ci V-8 and OE Dana 44. This Jeep broke every time I drove it off-road. I remember driving up a very steep mountain that had a cliff on the other side. As I neared the crest, the clutch rod dropped out. Not a big deal usually, but it really got my attention as I turned the ignition off and tried to keep the Jeep from dropping off the cliff or rolling back down the way we'd come up. The body would flex on the body mounts and the front clip would crush the steel brake lines. Reroute the brake lines? Yeah, but this was 1974 and I was in college with very little money or time to do anything. Fuses blew - all the time. The '74 had inline fuses, so it was always fun to find the blown fuse. Of course, after multiple failures, I knew where all the fuses were. The Model 20 transfer case popped out of low range unless I leaned over and held the shift lever. Goodbye, Jeep.

My '82 CJ-5 was a very clean vehicle. I built it using Summer Brothers axles in the AMC 20 and put Detroit Lockers front and rear. Rancho leaf springs and shocks worked well for those days. This Jeep's weakness was the Iron Puke (oops, I mean "Duke") four-cylinder. It was gutless and had very little oil pressure, even at highway rpm. I could have performed an engine swap, but sold the CJ instead.

Now we reach the magazine days. I told you about a YJ project that worked perfectly last month. I decided to build another exactly the same way, using the exact same parts. It didn't work. What's up with that? Why do some projects work, while others that are the same don't? I have no explanation.

Long-time readers might remember the YJ project called "The Little Engine That Could." That 2.5L four-powered YJ had Currie 9-inch front and rear ends with 5.60:1 something gears, a five-speed tranny, and TeraLow T-case gearing. The little engine that could couldn't. It returned 10 mpg at best because my foot had to be buried to the firewall to get the Jeep to move. Bye, Bye.

My latest failure was a JK Unlimited we named "Christine," as it didn't like people. The electronic throttle failed and the JK would go into limp mode almost every time it was driven. It turned out this was a problem that some 2007 JKs had and Chrysler ultimately replaced the in-cab throttle assembly, but I spent plenty of time on the side of the road. Christine must have been assembled on a bad day, as the gasket that held the fuel filler in place fell/blew out and the fuel filler hose bounced around and rubbed until it started leaking and causing a code to be generated for an unsealed fuel system. I repaired that. The wiring harness then shorted and started the Jeep on fire. After the fire was extinguished and the JK repaired, the TIPM module decided the cooling fans didn't need to activate, so the JK overheated. Even a JK Wrangler can be a lemon. Goodbye, pile.

Lots of projects mean lots of successes and a few failures. The failures help us grow. What fun.

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