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Cleaning Up The Shop - 4Word

Jeep Wrangler
Phil Howell | Writer
Posted February 20, 2014

Memories from old parts

While moving and cleaning up the shop, boxes of old parts turned up. As I held each old, dirty part in my hands, I traveled back in time and remembered the 4x4s I used to own and wish I owned most of them still.

A double shift boot from a 1960s-era International Scout recalled the 1965 Scout my friend and I worked on and took into the backcountry on exploring adventures. That boot was copied and is still sold by companies that offer dual transfer case shifters.

A home-fabricated steering box brace -- and many other parts -- reminded me of my Jeep CJs. CJs are capable vehicles that go everywhere they’re asked to go. They are lightweight, small, and snake between obstacles we have to climb over with our oversized JK Wranglers. The earlier CJs have real character. Some of that character includes C-channel frames that flex and crack, especially at the front leaf spring’s rear frame brackets and at the steering box. The frame eyes are weak and prone to breaking off. Up until 1976, the CJs had no fuse block, instead relying on inline fuses. In 1976, fuse blocks were added and the frames boxed, although they still cracked in just about the same places. CJs were always getting better, though.

When I found the four-gauge cluster from a 1987 YJ Wrangler, it reminded me of the YJ’s cheap plastic dash. It did have a strong frame. It didn’t matter to me whether Jeeps had round or square headlights (real Jeeps work). The YJ was an improvement in many ways.

TJ coil springs, a Mopar/Garmin Trail Guide, and an old steering box brought TJ Wranglers to mind. I liked leaf springs and still do, but it’s hard to fault the TJ’s coil/link suspension, especially once we learned how to modify it. The TJ and LJ may be the best compromise between street and off-road use of any Jeep ever designed. The TJ Wrangler shares dimensions with the CJ7, so fits many places a JK can’t venture.

There were lots of JK pieces in the shop, from the OE plastic bumpers to the rear OE tow hooks and bumper reinforcing plates I never use. The JK is the best street Jeep utility vehicle of all time and works well off-road, except where its size and weight limit it.

XJ shackles reminded me of the XJ Cherokee. The Cherokee is a great vehicle that, even though we didn’t like its unibody construction, works well off-road. I’m not one who hates the new Cherokee. I hope it can continue in the footsteps of its truly outstanding older sibling and namesake.

A paper plate with a hole in the center reminded me of my Toyota pickups, starting with a 1975 Hilux. It was a tough little truck that slowly fell apart under the abuse it received. Every time I wanted to cold start the truck, I removed the air cleaner and pushed a paper plate over the air cleaner stud, covering the carb intake to act as a manual choke. It worked, but was embarrassing to do on dinner dates. Finding a standard dash from my 1981 Toyota 4x4 Pickup reminded me of that bone-stock basic truck that didn’t have much of an instrument cluster. The SR5 cluster looked like it would fit, but my Toyota dealer said it wouldn’t work in the base truck. I purchased it anyway, removed the original cluster and found the SR5 plugs taped to the base truck’s harness. After plugging in all the instruments and reinstalling the dash, everything worked! That truck didn’t fall apart and is still going strong in Arizona with almost 300,000 miles on the clock. Later Toyota Pickups I owned included an ’86 IFS 4x4 that required an alignment every time it went off-road, an ’88 V-6 that had head gasket problems, and an All Pro-equipped 1991 that was one of the favorite 4x4s I ever had.

Parts may be parts, but these parts were in my shop and will be in my new garage. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. Each one is a memory. The bad memories have dimmed over the years and the good ones remain.

I’m getting all misty…

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