In Search of a Donor…

In Search of an “Organ” Donor

20140731-JeepAfterWreck-RightSideIt’s the beginning of August and Joel’s headed off to Advanced training (artillery school, he likes to blow things up).  I’ve got this twisted mess in the shop that I’ve got to sort out. As I said before, it came with two side panels, left and right floor pans, rear corners, one front fender and some other pieces. We could probably reconstruct the body from the parts we have, but the cowl was damaged at the hood hinges, and we still needed the other fender, the grill and a hood.

I decided that we might be ahead if I could find a donor vehicle that had a good body I could steal. Craig’s List and I became good friends…or mortal enemies…in the coming weeks. I poured over the ads looking for the right candidate and found a few, but one was in nearly the same shape as what I already had and on another I couldn’t seem to get the seller to respond until he’d already sold it to someone else.

I found one in Laramie that had just been posted the day before – it was a body and frame freshly painted; it just needed a drive train. I called the next morning and he already had someone coming down from Montana to pick it up. I just couldn’t seem to catch a break.

But then God smiled on us as I came upon an ad for a project Jeep in Ft. Collins. It was a 1985 with a clean body and a lot of spare parts. I took a trip up with our oldest son, Billy, to look at it. We had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful gentleman that acquired the Jeep with the property and decided that the Jeep was more than he wanted to get into. All the important parts were there, so we agreed on a price and we left to arrange a way to bring it home.

Tearing down…

While on the search for a donor, it was time to start disassembly of the old girl. I started slowly, as I’ve never really done anything this big before. As I take a part off, I’m bagging and labelling hardware, taking photographs and tagging wires with as much info as I can so I’m not left scratching my head when it’s time to put things back together.

Working alone, it got a little interesting managing the fenders by myself. I decided to work a little at a time from front to back, pulling bolts out. I found that even though there is a lot of rust in the body, the fenders, though mangled, weren’t too rusty and the hardware all let go easily. When the last piece came out, the fender just sat there waiting for me to lift it off.

Getting the harness out of the grill was a bit of a 20140903-FrontClipRemovedchallenge. I had to find all the plastic restraints (does anybody know where you can buy new ones?) and pop them out of their holes. Then it was a matter of carefully working it back out of the access holes in the twisted grill assembly. After much work, I was able to get it out. The mounting bolt on the bottom of the grill proved to be the most troublesome I had dealt with, but it finally relented and the grill went to the pile of scrap.

The Donor Comes Home…

A couple of weeks after we made the deal on the 1985 Jeep, I was able to secure the use of my dear friend’s truck and I rented a trailer. I headed up alone this time to pick up the Jeep and all the spare parts it came with.

It’s probably worth mentioning that this Jeep is not quite stock. The original owner had started the build by replacing the engine with a freshly rebuilt Chevy 4.3L V6, a GM Muncie SM420 transmission and a Dana 300 (I think) transfer case. I’m pretty sure the transmission and T-case have been rebuilt as well, but I will have to verify that. The axles are the factory axles that presumably came on the vehicle. Among the spare parts is another complete 4.3L V6.


Chevy 4.3L V6 installed in the donor Jeep. Note the spread bore intake, HEI distributor and the headers.


Top view of Muncie SM420 transmission and adapter. Fresh paint leads me to believe it’s been rebuilt.


View of T-case from underneath. Looking at photos on Novak site I’m pretty sure this is a Dana 300.

I got up to Ft. Collins at about 10:00AM and the seller and I immediately set about loading the spare engine in the back of the truck, followed by the Jeep on the trailer. Then there was the roll bar that we had to secure in the back of the truck. We got it all loaded and I headed down the road for home without any problems.

20140913-85ComesHomeAt home, I was alone having to unload this beast without brakes or steering. But, I had a tractor and gravity. I backed it up to the barn and raised the tongue of the trailer enough that the Jeep would roll. I attached two chains and a tow strap to the front and to the bucket of the tractor and left a little slack. Then I aimed the front wheels and rocked it over the stop on the trailer. From there I used the tractor to ease it down off the trailer into our barn where it would sit until Joel returned home in late September.

20140913-85UpCloseNext time, the project target changes and disassembly continues…


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