FOR ME THE BEST PART OF BUYing a vintage 4x4 (or any kind of vehicle for that matter) is all the hidden stuff you find as you go through it. I’m not talking about scary old-man engineering like using wood screws to secure seatbelts to the floor or home stereo speaker cording and wire nuts to juice those high-amp foglamps. No, I’m talking about all the cool hidden Easter eggs you sometimes find hidden behind door panels or inside dash vents or squirrelled about in underhood crevices. Who knows what you’ll get. It’s like trick-or-treating. Sometimes you score a fullsize Snickers and sometimes it’s an apple with a razorblade. But Halloween comes every time you buy a vintage 4x4, and anybody who has bought more than a couple used vehicles has no doubt found a cool thing or three. I always enjoy the process no matter what the outcome. Here are some from my collection that come to mind.
I bought a 1972 Superbeetle right out of high school and drove it for a few months before my buddy opened the ashtray for the first time to put out his cigarette. Inside was a baggie of pot and an emaciated joint. I’ve never done drugs, and to this day I’m reluctant to pop so much as a Tylenol, so I’m glad I never got pulled over by a K9 officer before we dumped the contents in the trash.
When I bought my 1953 DJ-3A back in the winter of 1999, in addition to a really cool factory 60/40 bench seat and some rare Willys trinkets, the interior was chockfull of leaves, trash, and what at first glance appeared to be a woman’s fur hat that wound up being the carcass of somebody’s pet rabbit. When it died, they ceremoniously tossed it in the back of the Willys and wrote an epitaph on the rear quarter-panel in black Sharpie, which I found shortly after the rabbit. I named it Flopsy.
I bought my 1968 M-715 from a 4x4 guy up in Boise, Idaho. It had been used by a contractor as his work truck and was full of tools. He bought it at a lien sale after the original owner abandoned it. After taking all the valuable tools, he sold it to me for $800. Inside was a huge Braden PTO winch from a 21⁄2-ton M35A2, scores of driveshafts, a cool original M-715 centrifugal underhood air filter, and a bunch of live ordinance inside the battery box, including .223 rounds, 10- and 12-gauge shells, .45 ACP, and a couple 30-06. It was all too scary and corroded to fire off, so I dismantled them, lit off the powder, and got rid of the remaining components.
LEE PRESS ON YUCK
I bought my 1989 Wrangler from a party girl in the high desert. In addition to a mat of half-eaten Starbucks muffins, hair scrunchies, and potato chip crumbs all congealed together with spilled, sugary latte drinks inside the center console, there was a full set of sliding Bestop Hard doors (score!), a dry-rotted Firestone spare tire with no wheel (boo), a pair of super-hot Halogen 12-volt lamps mounted on a wooden board (dangerous), and a complete fingernail with a French manicure (yuck). I didn’t look closely enough to see if it was a false nail or if somebody had their natural nail yanked from their fingertip. I wore latex gloves while cleaning out that vehicle.
PUMP IT UP
I’m not sure which is more flammable: butane lighter fluid or old-school Fix-AFlat. So its only by some miracle that the vintage can inside the rear quarter-panel of my 1978 Cherokee Chief didn’t explode at some point. My guess is that it was manufactured shortly after the vehicle. It is proudly on display in my garage along with a few other trinkets.
Those are but a few of the things I stumbled across in my new-to-me vehicle purchases. Got a better find? Let me know about it at edi[email protected] and maybe we’ll share yours.