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The Sh!tbox Derby: Trasborg's Fire Truck

Posted in Project Vehicles on October 1, 2010 Comment (0)
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After the seller swiped a battery from his other languishing truck, my MJ fired right up, idled nicely, and ran and drove. With the only vehicle in the Sh!%box lineup that actually started, much less ran when purchased, you'd think I'd have it made. Yeah, me too.


There is always a reason that a vehicle gets mothballed, and after seven years anyone would tend to forget little problems that they had with the vehicle when parked. If that wasn't enough, parking a vehicle for any length of time and not driving it is way worse than giving it a Cappa-style beating.

Thanks to not knowing the problems, I thought I had a great Comanche and good candidate for the shootout. I put a new O2 sensor in it because when it was last smogged 4 or 5 years ago it came up as a gross polluter and it already had a new cat. I put hand-me-down distributor cap and plug wires on it, and a new rotor I happened to have in a box, swapped on my old XJ tires, and took it for smog. By the time I got to the smog shop, it had a bad miss, but still passed. It turned out that one of the terminals on the cap that was sitting in my garage somehow corroded. So I polished it up and was on my way.


I figured that since it was a driver, I'd take it to Reno. Well along that trip, I realized it never got past 180 degrees, it puked a ton of oil out of just about everywhere, it developed a high idle, and the vibrations at 55 mph bordered on death wobble. By the time I got to Reno, I was seriously second-guessing this truck being a driver.

So I tightened the exhaust manifold bolts, cleaned the throttle body, and checked the sensors-and while it got better, it still idled a little bit high. I checked the hoses and found horror there, and it turned out that every bushing, tie rod end, and ball joint was shot. I don't know what this truck did for its 136,000-mile-life, but it must not have been easy.

My Comanche is the most powerful vehicle in the Derby and the only reliable daily-driver involved. However, it is also the lowest-slung and only two-wheel-drive. I want to do the best I can for whatever mayhem Hazel has cooked up, so hopefully I can make "driving better" also mean "more off-road capable." I had a ton of parts on the shelf and horse-traded a ton of others, so I'm off to a pretty good start. Check out the next installment to see how I finish it off while keeping it all on a shoestring budget.

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