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Buying New 4x4 Projects - Just Go Do It

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

We've all seen the internet meme of the trashy dude with the "No Ragrets" neck tattoo, right? It's funny, but that saying nothing ventured, nothing gained is most definitely accurate. And when it comes to pursuing that which makes you happy, whether it's little pleasures or major life goals, having "ragrets" is nothing you want to look back on from your rocking chair. I've tried to adhere to that philosophy since I was in my teens. And not just for myself. I've been a good bad influence on my friends as well. Take the time I talked John Cappa into driving with me almost 1,000 miles to buy a pile of crap J2000 for $1,000.

Back then, Cappa and I comprised the entirety of the Jp magazine staff. Cappa had been wanting a fullsize Jeep pickup, so while he hammered away at his keyboard finishing a late-night story, I was in my office surfing the internet classifieds for J-trucks on the West Coast when I found one.

"Hey Johnny, I found your truck; it's a '73 with a manual for $1,000," I yelled though the adjoining wall. The hunt-and-peck typing stopped. "Where is it?" he asked. "Oregon. It's only 1,000 miles away. I'll call the dude for you." "What are you kidding? I'm not going to Oregon to buy a Jeep," he said as the pecking and hunting resumed. In the end, it took about 30 minutes to talk Cappa into it, call the seller, and arrange the sale—with Cappa's money of course. We wound up leaving about a day later, driving up together in my XJ Cherokee. We got to the seller's house in the middle of the deep Oregon woods just as the sun was setting, and the deal was finalized with the ceremonial exchange of cash for title and keys.

After paying, we did a quick pre-mortem of the Jeep and found it was in way worse shape than we figured. We tightened some nuts and bolts on the steering box and pitman arm and then hit the road southbound. We made it a few miles before the first breakdown. It wasn't getting fuel, so we blew the lines clear and messed with some other stuff before limping it to the hotel parking lot. The next day, we used the XJ to make several parts store runs and worked on it until the afternoon, confident it'd make it the rest of the way without issue. Nope.

Not too far into the drive I was bringing up the rear, sucking unburned fuel and watching the comical periodic backfiring out the exhaust and rear main seal smoke when a plume of sweet steam hit my windshield. The upper radiator hose had let go. We scavenged enough water from nearby streams, cut the hose short and reattached it, and found a parts store. That's when the truck just refused to start.

Without the correct mechanical fuel pump in stock, we bought an electric unit right before the store closed. After rigging it in place, we realized the pressure was far too high to work with the carburetor and Cappa's homemade Vise-Grip pressure regulator wasn't going to work. We left the truck, got a couple good steaks in town, and the next day bought a brand new carburetor, mechanical fuel pump, and fuel filters from a different parts store. The rest of the drive home consumed lots of J-truck fuel and oil, but there was—unfortunately—no more excitement.

In looking back, everything on that trip definitely didn't go smoothly, but sitting here 17 years later I hardly remember the stuff that went right. While the things that gave us problems are what I remember with the most fondness. So "no ragrets"—go have an adventure. Buy a 4x4, run a trail, or build something cool. And if it doesn't all go to plan, enjoy the memories. I know I do.

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