'73 Jeep J-20: The Long Road Home
I didn't need another Jeep; I wasn't even looking for one. If I was, I didn't know what I was looking for. I really didn't even want another Jeep. Unfortunately for me, Tech Editor Hazel has an addiction. Like some kind of crack junkie, he religiously searches out Jeeps for sale on the computer and in free print ads. You'll often find him pecking away on CollectorCars.com or Recycler.com, and when we go on road trips, he's always grabbing the free local papers to look for the best deals on some wonder of a Jeep. He doesn't have the cash to buy 'em, the space to store 'em, or a significant other who will let him have 'em, but he still looks anyway and parades his precious junk Jeep discoveries to several of us around the office. I say "junk" 'cause that's what most of 'em are. I'm convinced his key search words are "broken," "missing parts," "doesn't run," "major rust damage," and "ran when parked."
That's how all this started. During a late night writing binge, Hazel e-mailed me an online ad. This one even had a photo. It read, "'73 Jeep J-20, four-speed, 4WD, power steering, power brakes, rebuilt 304 V-8 and T-98 transmission, Edelbrock manifold, cam, lifters, and valve springs, Holley carburetor, $1,000." So I started thinking about owning a J-truck. Nowhere in the ad did it say "not running" or even "runs rough." It looked like the guy had actually spent some money on the motor and drivetrain, leading me to believe this J-truck was a driver. The T-98 mention confused me since it should have been a T-18; it said it was a four-speed, so that seemed close enough. The venerable T-18 was the only four-speed available that year with a V-8, and the T-18 and T-98 are almost identical anyway. I started crunching numbers, but there was one problem: The Jeep was in Aurora, Oregon, 940 miles away.
A few phone calls between Hazel and the seller and 32 hours later, we were on our way to pick up a Jeep truck that I hadn't seen in person, and at this point, I hadn't even talked to the owner. At first, we thought the smart thing to do would be to take Hazel's tow rig and trailer, but the lack of overdrive and slow top speed meant we'd get there a week later. I hadn't made any other smart decisions recently, so I figured we'd hightail it up in the Jp test Cherokee, JR, and I'd just drive the J-truck back.