4 Wheel & Off Road - - CONTENTS -

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.


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.


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.

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