’57 Chevy Bel Air 4×4 is the Pure Essence of Trar

Tim Odell March 26, 2015 For Sale

1957 chevy bel air 4x4 for sale

Firstly, let it be known, Trar: A portmanteau of truck and car; A car on a truck chassis.

Before Eagle and the original Wagoneer, innovative ruralites were putting cars on truck chassis for reasons known only to themselves. And now the ultimate irony is that a quintessentially redneck vehicle configuration has become one of the most most mainstream, high-volume segments of the auto industry. Every Traverse out there needs to come pay Grandpa 4×4 Bel Air a visit.

The specifics of this beast? How about a 1941 GM 1-Ton Weapons Carrier chassis, 283 V8 and 4 speed manual? The body’s not perfect, but pretty danged good. The seller rivals our Short Sentence Fiesta Guy for odd ad diction style. The word count is high,; the font is courier new. He’s refreshingly un-optimistic about the condition and magnitude of the restoration effort needed, to the point that I find myself disagreeing and longing to pull a Roadkill/Dirt-Every-Day grade driveway rescue and drive home. The fact that it’s sitting 30 minutes from my house might boost my confidence in that adventure a notch.

Still, we’re looking at a (literally) bomb-proof drivetrain and a motor that can be replaced by countless cheap examples over a weekend. What’s not to like? Besides, the $4,000 to $4,500 price is pretty danged reasonable for what you get.

Redusernab Garage: DIY Installation of a Leaf Spring Lift

This week we’re kicking off a series of DIY maintenance, fixes and upgrades to my 1969 Jeep Wagoneer with the installation of a four inch lift from Hell Creek Suspension. With leaf springs front and rear, this is about as simple as suspension modifications get: jack it up, unbolt the old springs and shocks, bolt the new ones in. The simplicity of this job makes it a great first “major” modification to a car to attempt. In fact, I got my start performing this very install on my 1991 Jeep Wrangler as a junior in high school. Because the Wagoneer has a spring-under-axle configuration up front and spring-over-axle out back, what we cover here applies to modifying any leaf-sprung vehicle, either lifting or lowering.

You can see the the video that things go pretty straightforwardly with only a minor snag when it came to the U-bolts and the new mounting plates. There’s no movie magic there, I did it all in my driveway with basic tools and it took a whole day instead of half like I was hoping. You can even see my neighbors walking their dogs by.

There are only two points not pictured, but worth mentioning. One, I soaked every bolt in penetrating oil the day before, which really speeds up the unbolting process. Two (and there’s a hint of this at the very end), the added height had my driveshaft drooping down and rubbing on part of the gas tank skidplate. That skidplate was a previous owner add-on that mostly just collected oil, so I removed it.

This is the first of what will hopefully (*cough*) be a long series of DIY features using our project cars as examples. Sound off in the comments about what what you’d like to see more of, less of, or other projects you’d like us to work on.

Redusernab Garage is brought to you by . We’re already fans of the brand, so teaming up to bring you focused wrenching content is a no brainer. Enjoy!

You Need a 412 in Your Life

Tim Odell March 24, 2015 For Sale

1974 vw 412 for sale

…and I’m not talking about calling someone in . While the 70s weren’t kind to anyone, but prior the Polo/Golf/Passat Renaissance Volkswagen went through a bit of an awkward phase with the , , , and this: the . The Type 4 was essentially an updated version of the standard VW formula: air-cooled rear flat 4, but now with fuel injection and updated independent/strut suspension. This is, by the way, should not to be confused with the similar-looking South-America (and Nigeria!) only , which was pretty much just a re-bodied Beetle.

vw 412 for sale (1)vw 412 for sale (2)vw 412 for sale (4)

Overall, the condition looks decent: there’s no rust or obvious cosmetic issues beyond a split driver’s seat cushion, and there are lots of new parts and claims it runs excellently. The Oregon plates on a Southern California car raise questions, but maybe no one told this guy ’75-and-earlier cars are smog test exempt. Looking over this example’s photos, it looks a bit like a 911’s frumpier half-sister: the rough shape is the same, but the beauty’s entirely absent. I can see how these might get a notch sexier with the giant bumpers trimmed back and a new stance/wheel/tire combo. Oh, and a Subaru swap, just to make everyone angry.

The auction’s got five days to go, so we can assume it’s going to climb past the current $2,025 price towards a mystery reserve. Any idea what these are worth?


The Problem with Wagoneers, As Illustrated by Two eBay Examples

Classic 4×4 continue to rise in value. Boomers with money bought up all the mainstream muscle cars and the movement is nearing its zenith, meaning those withing to co-opt some classic style are looking to Land Rovers, Land Cruiser Wagons and Wagoneers to match their overpriced under-muddied boots. Blazers, Broncos and CJs are just too accessible and everyone forgets Scouts exist. Land Rovers and Cruisers were made in few enough numbers and were genuinely crappy enough to make ownership challenging enough to feel special. Ambitious sellers are attempting to move top-condition Wagoneers in that over $20k (and up) market, but how can that work when they’re still thick on the ground under five grand?

I’ll admit in advance that this comparison is unfair. Exhibit A may well be the best-kept early Wagoneer in the country, a ’66 with 327ci V8, automatic and vinyl interior. The condition’s damn near perfect and nearly as original. The odometer reads 17,000 miles, which aligns with the condition (or a 6th-digit rollover and a massive restoration). Notable visible flaws include hacked-in extra gauges cut into the dash, a rattle-canned (?) instrument cluster and a giant CB antenna attached to nothing. There are no pictures of the undercarriage, which is concerning on a midwestern example. Speaking from my own example, the clean metal dash and instrument cluster are major aesthetic selling points, which are screwed up in nontrivial ways here. And yet: .

Meanwhile, this ’66 in Riverside is selling with a and no reserve, meaning the seller’s willing to take $3,601. Obviously it’s several condition notches down, but certainly not $56,000 worth of work away from Exhibit A. It’s got the same V8, a preferable manual transmission, a better/more intact dash and the seller’s actually included pictures of the undercarriage. Compared to the wannabe museum piece, this one’s driven regularly and isn’t sitting on unusable antique bias ply whitewalls.

While this is an intentionally extreme example, it seems the same story plays out through the middle of the spectrum as well. For every example that some dude’s trying to sell for $20k, there’s a slightly scruffier, functionally equivalent example for less than half-price. Hell, I could’ve met my needs for half the $8k I paid for mine. Given how most of these will be used (beach cruiser, hauling, camping, etc), the last 20% of the aesthetics aren’t all that critical.

I suppose I could conclude by congratulating myself on for constructing a nice “Don’t Buy and Expensive Wagoneer” PSA (again), but maybe there’s something I’m missing. Is there some confirmation bias that the buyer of a super-expensive vehicle adopts? “It’s good because it’s expensive”, rather than the other way around? Obviously Wagoneers are in my wheelhouse, but maybe you know of other vehicles where some examples pull ridiculous sale prices for no good reason?


Pair of Opel GTs Makes a Great Tuesday Twofor

Tim Odell March 17, 2015 For Sale

1972 opel gt for saleThe Opel GT should be a great car for the likes of us. And yet, beyond Team Tiny Vette, I’m not really aware of any great Opel GT builds around (cars like that tend to show up in the LeMons paddock). From what I can tell, they’re kind of Opel’s Fiero, in that they look sporty but use mostly plebeian sedan motors and underpinnings, leading to uninspired handling. Of course, that’s roughly the same formula Ford used for a certain equine specialty, so it’s probably a matter of throwing the right aftermarket parts at it.

Our two examples represent the typical condition of a US Opel GT: stalled projects in a yard full of other stalled projects. Something along the lines of “seemed like a fun car, but parts are a little hard to find and don’t really have time for this”. The most concerning two words from the seller are “typical rust”. “Typical” means different things in different states: In the Rust belt, that’d mean disintegrated floors, rockers and fenders. In the southwest, that’s a few microns of iron oxide where the paint’s been burned off. Kentucky’s sort of a crapshoot, but for our likely use they’ll be just fine.

Given 1) the mini-Corvette styling, 2) the GM connection and 3) Opel being German, the only proper engine swap would be an alternate-universe next-gen Corvette rotary. Dropping in the heart of a rusted or wrecked RX-7 of any generation would likely produce great results. The key is to build in the necessary GM “XP Car” fake provenance and supply the necessary breathless Popular Mechanics preview based on a foggily remembered conversation overheard at a Detroit bar and some equally foggy spy shots.

“Great Triumph Stag” is Kind of like “Great case of Ringworm”

Tim Odell March 10, 2015 For Sale

1972 triumph stag for sale

Look up your personal car (or personal favorite car)’s Wikipedia page. Are there eight paragraphs, roughly 25% of the word-count, dedicated to its design and manufacturing flaws? Then you don’t drive a , arguably one of the worst engineered vehicles in history. Among the 3.0L V8 powered touring car’s failings:

  • The water pump is mounted above the engine, such that a low coolant level causes it to 1) stop pumping and 2) self destruct
  • The mismatched iron/aluminum block and heads required rare-at-the-time anti-corrosive coolant, which owners and dealers were not aware of, leading to electrolytic corrosion of the water passages.
  • Timing chains that stretched and failed in under 25k miles
  • Head bolts at different angles that stressed the head and gaskets to the point of failure
  • Block and head castings of abysmal quality, leading to clogged passages and warping heads
  • A manual transmission under-specified for the power this new gem of a V8 was making, leading to premature failure

And yet, this one looks pretty good. The paint and interior look well cared for and the engine bay’s as good as it was leaving the factory (though that dual carb setup…shudder…). The seller’s even opted to skip the unnecessary model in favor of a couple of cute-and-actually-cute mastiffs in frame. The seller’s asking $5,000, which seems cheap for a car in this condition if it weren’t notoriously awful…but I’m not all that up to date on the Stag market these days.

According to the seller, the engine’s been completely rebuilt and there’s a whole parts car worth of spares. It’s been sitting for a while so you might as well start from scratch it needs some fresh fuel and probably a few seals replaced. Still, image yourself touring the countryside in your most stereotypically British outfit on a nippy autumn afternoon in that proper green roadster. Just don’t go too far out of town.

A Trifecta of ’66 Mercuries; I’ll Take Them All!

Tim Odell March 5, 2015 For Sale

mercury s55 for saleLeMons’ “deduct parts sold from the purchase price” rule may account for 95% of the vehicles generating “OMG NO WAY THAT’S $500!” butthurt. If you happen to know the street price of a few key interior or trim bits from, say, an e36 M3, you can get a wretched, somewhat-crunched, high-mileage example into Class A with a mountain of bribes and some penalty laps.

While I have no aspirations of class-A domination, the same logic tends to send me down a road that ends in running a brand-specific junkyard permanently. Case in point: this ’66 Mercury Colony Park wagon showed up in my searches, as did the S-55 behind it. Turns out the seller has two S-55s and the Colony Park currently for sale. There appears to be a later sedan and ’66-ish wagon in the background as well, but not listed. The ’66 S-55s are particularly notable, as it was the only year where the S-55 was technically its own model, rather than a trim/option on the Monterey. I smell rat pee an opportunity to come out ahead with a threesome! Wait…

1966 mercury s-55 convertible for sale1966 mercury colony park for sale

Of the three, the S55 convertible is potentially the most valuable, as they only made 145 of them, with this one originally sporting a Q-code 428ci V8. Of course that 428’s long-gone (probably into a Mustang that’s long since been wrapped around a tree), but we’re offered a 410 as a consolation prize. The S-55 hardtop and Colony Park Wagon are probably more interesting to enthusiasts, depending on what you’re into, but neither of them has a motor either.

Were it me, I’d buy the lot for a couple grand, then put either the wagon and the hardtop on the track powered by the convertible’s 410 and whatever other FE Craigslist yields. Strip them down to the essentials and sell the take-offs along with a slightly cleaned-up convertible for what you bought the whole pile for. Maybe see if you can get the ‘Vert running (in a fashion) with a donor motor just to bump the desirability a notch. Also, anyone suggesting scrapping the wagon for metal gets an IP ban.

24 Hours of LeMons Races to be Live-Streamed on RaceCast!

Tim Odell March 3, 2015 All Things Hoon

racecast screen shot

Starting with Sears Pointless on March 21-22nd, you’ll be able to follow race timing and a number of live s for 24 Hours of LeMons races, courtesy of  from RacerConnect. There’s no on-site production video crew (this is LeMons, after all); the s are going to come courtesy of .

Keeping up with a LeMons race from off-site can be tricky. This past weekend’s Texas race ended up canceled due to Hoth-like conditions, but I only know that from a few random individual’s Facebook accounts. Given the sheer numbers of cars, teams and paddocks at a LeMons race, this could make for awesome coverage of the thousands of little stories that come out of every weekend.

Check out to follow along with footage from January’s Sears race, including a bit of Penalty Box action involving Cookie Monster.


Submission Thursday: Dailies

Tim Odell February 26, 2015 Submission Thursday

aw11 toyota mr2

[Prior Submission Thursday Submitter Andrew Simmons comes back to update us on his latest automotive escapades. He needs to remember to take more pictures for his pieces, though. – Ed.]

It was a frigid 62-degree morning in San Diego, and I found myself on the cusp of being late for a 7am meeting. Normally I’d pray before trying to turn the key, but my MR2 had been unusually well behaved lately, and I left my holy water/glycol mix upstairs. True to its newfound form, it started promptly, and was soon zipping (ok, puttering) down the road to the office, all 112 of Toyota’s finest horsepower present and correct.

The AW11 MR2 had long been a bucket list car of mine, and after returning to San Diego from a disastrous stint with a NASCAR team, I searched high and low for a suitable example. I wanted a car close to daily-driver status, but with enough foibles to be cheap and keep me busy on weekends when I wasn’t racing. It took several weeks and four or five dead ends before I found my car, a cocaine-white 1987 model with 300,000 miles, 30 degrees of free play in the steering, and a distinctive three-cylinder warble. The seller had priced it optimistically, but he consumed an entire six-pack while I was inspecting the car, so I forked over 60% of the asking price and bolted before he changed his mind and/or found his shotgun.

… Continue Reading

1987 Cosworth Benz Project is as Horrifying as You Fear

Tim Odell February 26, 2015 For Sale

1987 Mercedes benz cosworth 190e for saleAt some point I want to pick up a dreadfully cheap 928, SEL 6.9, or 8-series to revive just to see how bad it’ll be. I love simplicity, but when someone describes a vehicle as hopeless or not worth saving, I just can’t back away from the challenge. This 1987 Mercedes Benz  scares even me away, even as a fantasy project with a fantasy garage and fantasy time to work on it.

Approaching it in a fenced lot behind a New Jersey warehouse, we notice the lousy tint and over-sized, newer AMG monoblock wheels, typical of the suspiciously cheap aged luxury vehicle. Alas, under the hood, we’re treated to a quartet of exposed, rusted cylinder bores. Apparently the motor dropped a valve and this block isn’t salvageable. But wait! There’s still hope: the cylinder head was rebuilt and there’s a “good” block included with sale. Except that good block has surface rust and should probably be gone through by a shop. Honestly, I’d just as soon drop an in and call it a day.

Fine, the powertrain’s dubious, but hopefully the interior’s serviceable, right? Well, the visible 40% of the seating surfaces look pretty good, but the denuded C-pillar and missing gauge cluster leave an extra tinge of “fnck it” about the whole thing. Exterior? Rust bubbles, missing trim, oxidized paint, the usual. Oh, and those 18″ Monoblocks aren’t included, the factory wheels are and they’ve been spray painted black.

This thing checks all the “string of crappy owners in way over their heads” boxes, and just when you think the seller couldn’t do any better, he signs off with

Looking for Porsche 951. Also interested in E36 M3’s, Alfa GTV6 or similar cars.

Of course he is. Oh yeah, the price: opening at $2800, Buy-it-now of $4500. I apologize in advance for the drink you just spewed on your keyboard.