The Willys Diesel Truck is coming along!

So the Dana 53 is now installed under the back of the truck. Re-did the brake soft parts as the shoes and drums looked like new. Well, no sense in throwing away perfectly good stuff. Shortened  a factory driveshaft to connect the 231 transfercase to the 53 rear. The old driveshaft had the original factory style of U joints that have the little strap holding em together so the cups can’t fall off…..still nice and smooth….65 years later…greased ’em and installed the driveshaft. Another $25 bux saved there…and I’m guessing those 65 year old Spicer joints are way better than most of the parts store cheapies…. So, now I’m on to another interesting facet of this project. Clutch linkage. Normally, I would do a hydraulic setup for its ability to work properly as the vehicle twists and moves offroad. Well, that’ll happen eventually…for now, I’m going to build a classic Z-bar linkage out of a mess of factory z bar linkage. With some rod-ends thrown in to make it work as good as possible for the time being. A push rod will be going from the z bar to the hole in the AX-15 bellhousing where the external hydraulic slave cylinder normally bolts. Oughta be interesting using the original clutch pedal and such. Never tried this before. Might be just a big ‘ol mess. Also need to fab up some kind of transfercase shift linkage on the left side instead of on the right as it was before. I have an old T90 shifter stick I’ll weld onto the AX-15 shifter. It’ll  feel like it should. I’ll just have to remember where 1st and reverse are! The 5 speed fits under the factory floor but the shifter is going to come up behind the removable panel that originally covered the T90. No worries, I’ll have it looking good in no time.  Well, someone will. I’m still recovering from my surgery so an awful lot of this really is being performed by evil minions as I direct them to do my bidding….


These pix are what I started with. Pretty typical Farm-fresh old Willys.


Complete with some angle iron spring perch lift blocks! Those will be going away… There was no motor/trans/transfercase in this when I got it. Things are  changing fast for this one. Can’t wait!


So, as mentioned earlier, I’m going to sell a few things. This 56 Internatonal is one of ’em.


I bought this a few years ago to spread some gravel around my driveway. It’s a 56 International V225 truck with a gas 549 V8. Has a 5 speed trans and a over-under brownie 3 speed auxillary trans. Air brakes that work. Air horn too! Is a blast to drive around as a toy which is about all I have really done with it. The dump works the 4 yard box wonderfully. These old trucks seldom pop up in this nice of condition as they generally got worked till the day they died. Not really sure how this one survived in this shape for nearly 60 years. I have seen 10 year old dumptrucks in WAY worse condition. Really only needs a fresh set of tires to be truly useable as-is due to the usual dry cracking  old tires get. That said, I drove it 100 miles to get it home as there’s no way It’s going to fit on any trailer I own.  It actually will do a real 60 mph! I’d guess the mileage is in the low single digits with this sort of truck. If you were worried about mileage….really…why were you even thinking you’d want such a thing…. anyhow, included in the$2200 asking price will be a 1/2 hour tutorial on how to drive a 5+3 transmission setup if you are not familiar with such things. These don’t have synchros. Back in the day a truck driver earned his pay and then some! Lets Keep this old iron away from the crusher! Seriously.  What I am asking for this is just barely more that It’s scrap value! And It looks great! The paint is certainly not show quality. If actually interested I’ll send some real pix of the truck and maybe even post a youtube video of it cruising the local streets just for fun. Would love to see this classic piece of American Iron go to someone who will continue its care and perhaps restore it to even nicer shape. Would be a awesome parade vehicle or workhorse.  Has a pintle hook hitch on the back and air brake connections for a trailer too! Also might consider interesting trades of similar value. Really am trying to thin the herd down a bit so keep in mind I’d rather not trade…..but hey, Tempt me…ya never know….

A 72 Vega with a Cosworth Vega engine in it. Not my usual sort of post…

Ok, so back in the early to mid ’90s I bought and sold Chevrolet Vegas like at a rate of 3-5 a month. Back then they were dirt cheap and we often stuffed smallblock Chevy motors in ’em. They were the scourge of the 5.0 mustang kids….finally got so they wouldn’t even race us anymore. But I kept playing with Vegas and  a job came along that included track privilege at Second Creek Raceway. SCR was a small 1.5 mile roadcourse east of Denver near well, nothing at least when they built it…It’s closed now as Denver has slowly crept up right to it. But for a few glory years while it was still open and I was fortunate enough to work there, I had my own key to the gate. With which I had access to as many laps of fun as I or the car could take so long as someone else hadn’t actually paid to have the track privately. So, obviously no fun while clubs or the SCCA were holding races there….I was there on the SCCA weekends crewing cars and getting paid. But come Monday, Before work started, at lunch and when the day was done, I got to play. Diddn’t take long before I’d picked out one Vega, a  Silver ’72 Notchback from the herd and lowered it, realigned it to take better advantage of Yokohama A008 205/60/13 tires that were available for free by picking thru the tire pile at work. There were always enough half used up tires in the pile to keep me going. Drove to and from work on them too. Boy, do those suck in the rain. But once warmed up, magic happened: With a basically lightly warmed up Vega 8 valve motor in the car it turned 1:28 laps! This track was twisty and handling was definitely more important than horsepower. This particular Vega motor has been in at least 5 different cars. But this car gave it more miles at full boogie speed than any other.  It was a ’76 durabilt engine that had smoked a lot and got pulled from a car we were parting out years before… There was no scuffing in the bores and looked like almost no wear in the cylinders. For reference, we are talking about the aluminum bore engines. Not the sleeved ones. As an experiment, I bought a set of chrome rings and installed them in it. No honing, boring, prep work or anything other than making it clean was done. It got a set of fresh rod bearings and a crank polish. Motor worked great. No smoke, no issues and we ran it for YEARS. It literally had THOUSANDS of laps on it. Until 6 weeks ago. I finally pulled it. Why? 16 Valves of Cosworth Vega engine is why. Now I have had this motor stashed away for

Image111220132202501(1)about 10 years specifically to stick in this car. Why now? Well I guess I just felt like it. This engine has been rebuilt but I have no idea as to what internals were used to do it. It’s not a production Cosworth block. It’s a early 70’s part# ( ironically perfect for the car I’ve put it in). It has Weber DCOE carbs on it and a production header. So, in one weekend my buddy Crash and I, long familiar with swapping Vega motors pull the 8 Valve out….in 20 minutes. Beating our old record of 25 minutes! Now I had never installed a Cosworth Vega motor into a Vega before. But, there were no real issues to deal with. It runs great! I have driven 3 other Cosworth Vegas in stock trim. They always seemed a bit slower than I expected them to be. Well I can say that one of these engines in a early lightweight Notchback pre-safety-bumper car goes like stink! The car is geared with 3.36 gears which should theoretically make it kinda gutless in the bottom end…..yet…seems geared fine. Years ago I swapped in a Vega T50 transmission into the car because the original Opel 4 speeds were kinda weak. Plus, overdrive combined with the 3.36 gears was awesome for mileage. It got 32 mpg on a couple road trips with the 8 valve motor. Normally, a Cosworth Vega ordered with this trans would get 4.10 gears so I’m a little mystified about this. The 4 speeds got 3.73 gears. They never offered an automatic with this motor as it was intended for sporting purposes. They made nearly 2 million Vegas yet only 3,508 with the Cosworth engine installed in them. The Cosworth option basically doubled the price of a Vega bringing it price-wise  into nearly Corvette kinda money. All that money went into a lot of neat stuff to include electronic fuel injection (a GM first) and a lot of special trim and special wheels.

Image010620141812321The 1972 Vega Notchback

My ’72 Notchback has a set of period-perfect Minilite wheels still shod in some rather dry-cracked A008s. Soon a new set will get installed…and as my back gets better, I hope to drive it at High Plains Raceway where I unfortunately do not have a key to the track…..I’ll happily pay.

Willys Diesel Truck Update! ( Or I’m Blogging while I Recover from Back Surgery)

Ok, Not like I’m really getting anything done as I am mostly not allowed to lift anything but here is the state of things for my Willys pickup named ZIP. About 3 years ago I installed a Mercedes OM 617 turbodiesel in this particular Willys. Since that time, I have managed the installation of a AX-15 5 speed, a NP231Teralow Transfercase and some wiring goodies. The axle in the rear of this Willys is a Timken  style axle. These are essentially impossible to find parts for and as well, not very reliable. In a trailerload of Willys stuff I bought a few years ago I found a Dana 53. These also are pretty obsolete but I noticed this little tag on it: USE LIMITED SLIP OIL.  Oh yes! Another Powr-Lok differential! So after I freshen it up with new seals and whatever it needs It’ll be getting slung under the back of the Jeep. For a front axle I’m going to use a Dana 44 from a ’60s era Ford truck. These have the high pinion feature although, small 260 sized U Joints. No worries, this I can upgrade later. I’ll have to regear it to 4.88 to match the rear but gears are the easy part to get. For anybody thinking of why I’m gearing this at 4.88-1 the Mercedes diesel likes to be right around 2400 rpm. Run ’em slower and they are doggy cause the turbo isn’t doing anything….faster and it’s just going too fast to do any mileage. For all the scoffers who say 135 hp isn’t enough don’t forget those 5.9 Cummins were only 160 hp when they came out. Sure, It ain’t winning any races but it’ll do 30 mpg and use 2 gallons of fuel to wheel all day. Really. My brother is still amazed with the Comanche I built years ago. I mean seriously, this truck gets Hybrid car kinda mileage. I expect the Willys to do similarly. Oh, and look a bit cooler too!

Normally, I’d be doing the pre-Moab thrashfest to get one of my Jeeps ready for the BIG TRIP.

No big trip this year. At least not in the spring. A number of events have made some big changes in my life. First, Marge has decided after 10 years of life together that she is ready to move on. I’m ok with this too as our interests have changed over the years. We are going to do this totally peacefully and with much planning. Secondly, I had a two level fusion on my back on December 19. I’m at home. Resting. Not all that comfortable tho. It’ll be a few weeks before I’m really moving enough to really be functional.Third, I need to find a house that has a decent size workshop with room enough to put my Bridgeport mill, A 1941 South Bend 16 inch swing Lathe, Toolboxes, A 8000# car lift and someplace to park a bunch of old cars. Have about 25 right now. But will probably thin that by Half or so. I’ll post some pix of the ones I’ll sell here soon. Thanks everyone!

Finally, I Post About my Spring Canyonlands Trip. Cherokee and M715 Get it done!

Work and other things keep me from posting on here as much as I’d like to. (We all know I’m actually piddling around in the toy factory instead of in front of the computer) Finally, I’ll tell all about the fun run back in the spring…. We drove out to Moab, changed a waterpump on the Cherokee that started weeping fortuitously BEFORE we got out in the backcountry….and started out of town headed in the direction of Lockhart Basin. Now, driving across Lockhart Basin to the Needles District of Canyonlands takes a whole day of driving….I thought 3 would better suit the journey. Spent the first night just barely over Hurrah Pass at Catacomb Rock. This place is cool for sure, with all variety of interesting naturally carved grottoes and caves. Some sizable drops in places too. Bring a flashlight for sure! Some go in far enough to want the light as it gets dark and the floors are not exactly flat or even….piles of rock from the ceiling are here and there too… After exploring the inside of the Rock it was decided that the intrepid group of explorers consisting of my buddy Moe,( Not his real name as we have to keep up with our silly little game of pseudonyms) Bart, Alex and Myself would need to climb to the top of Catacomb Rock. Marge stayed in camp and seemed to be enjoying some peace and quiet. And climb it we did. Except Moe, who was not really up to one rather exposed challenging free climb near the very top. He nobly offered to go summon help should we splatter on the sandpapery rocks below. Still, all had tons of fun exploring and we packed up and set off for Lockhart Basin. I have wanted to explore Lockhart Canyon which is a offshoot from the main road for a long time. Am I glad I did. We camped there in a nice spot just off the road. ( Camping not allowed inside Canyonlands N.P. at the very end of the road) We explored all the way to the end of the road where you can see the Colorado River and some really neat petroglyphs. Bart Caught a Rock lizard too! He let it go after ma got a pic. We loaded up camp and headed for our next destination….. Needles district of Canyonlands! Drove the long tedious miles on across Lockhart Basin Road and thru Hamburger Rock Campground to highway 211. From there just a short journey to Needles outpost for a few snax, some well earned showers and gas for the Cherokee. No diesel here. That’s Ok! I have plenty. On to the Ranger station to pick up our backcountry pass and then over Elephant Hill! I noted at the Ranger station that it was exactly 30 years since I first came here and camped at Devils Kitchen. WOW. 1983…… Spot #4 Has always been my favorite campspot since the very first time. Still is. Spent several days camped here. The rocks overhang a significant amount of the camp. Sun only shines in camp this time of year just a little while in the afternoon. We were a bit chilled in the mornings…..had to go for a jog in the valley beyond to warm up! I never seem to have enough time to fully explore the place….always find something new to see…. Wished I’d brought my climbing shoes. But they would likely lead me to all kinds of trouble. Long bumpy ride to a hospital from here! Went and Hiked the Joint trail. It is basically a series of rock joints that have slowly separated over the eons ’till they were just big enough for people to walk in…some only big enough for kids to squeeze thru. Stunning. Pics just cant do it justice. We then packed up camp and headed for the back way out of the park. This means navigating an obstacle called Bobby’s Hole, a steep, sketchy, off camber, loose rubble, tore up mess of a hill and that’s when it’s been maintained some. Still, I wasn’t too worried…. The Cherokee had done it a few years earlier and the 715 just seems to go wherever I aim it….and once again the old truck proved it’s worth and drove right on up. Marge Drove up in the Cherokee without issues as well. I knew she would do fine in it. Then on to Ruin Park. There are some amazing remains of historic anasazi farmhouses. Like Mesa Verde except here they just built on top of defensible hills instead of in a canyon. We wanted showers at this point…..BAD….. and cold drinks….so as we traveled the Beef Basin road I stopped at a snow bank and filled up the drink cooler with snow. Oh the simple things. Then on to highway 211 again and back to Moab after stopping at Newspaper Rock historic site. After all that driving the 715 took 20 gallons to fill back up! Pretty amazing really. So, I had 15 gallons in reserve including my jerrycan. Had also carried 5 extra for the Cherokee. I gotta get the Cummins Wagoneer up and running! Also, Airconditioning has moved higher on the “mandatory” list. Pix Soon!

Annual Moab Canyonlands Trip. M715 and Blue Cherokee Take us to the Needles district! The preparation story.

Once again life, work, and other responsibilities got in the way of getting the diesel Wagoneer ready for Moab. But, the show must go on…. and so it did. Prepped the trusty old M715 and added a military style canvas bed cover not so much as to keep things dry as keep the red dust off all the camping gear on all the back roads we were going to travel. The happy blue ’88 Cherokee we have been driving for years got prepped for the trip and only needed fluid changes and a few adjustments. Its already pretty well set up for overland travel and has a number of awesome trips under its belt. It is locked front and rear, has 4.88 gears, a Rubicon sourced Dana 44 rear axle, Slip yoke eliminator, 33 inch super swamper radials, heavy-duty steering parts, reinforced steering mount area on the frame, onboard air, even a poo-bucket mount on the roof rack. Yeah, they make you have a potty in the back country…The M715 got a new tilt steering column donated from an XJ Cherokee….It’s hard to find a manual transmission FSJ tilt steering column. Turns out that a XJ one is pretty easy to swap in..  You carefully cut off the Cherokee firewall mount, use the FSJ firewall mount that clamps on same as stock once you cut the XJ one off.. use the FSJ column mount and it bolts right in. Even the wiring plugs right in and works right. I used the new columns high beam switch to turn on the KC Daylighters….super handy when some jerk wont turn off his highbeams… At some point I’ll add a delay wiper module and use the stalk mounted wiper switch too.. The only hard part is making the column connect to the steering shaft. The U joint is different at the column connection. I used the xj Ujoint and fabbed up a new shaft to connect it to the lower joint. I had gotten rid of the “rag” joint years ago. Finally wired the electric cooling fan to a thermoswitch…been meaning to do that since I built it years ago. Had just wired it “on” anytime the ignition was on. Mucho better now…it hardly ever comes on unless you are crawling along real slowly….I’m certain the alternator thanks me…good electric fans pull a lot of amps! Had to replace one of the front draglink ends that had gotten loose and sloppy…these gotta be the most expensive tierod/draglink ends ever…and not easy to find either! Napa wanted $75 ea. for them but didn’t actually have any…..anywhere….Found the part on for less than $50! In case you care, the Moog part number is ES235R for the righthand thread one and ES235L for the leftie…. put that # into their part number search and it comes up. Ever tried getting parts for a truck that doesn’t exist as far as the parts companies are concerned?I don’t usually plug anybody’s company but I’m so super pleased to have somebody actually stock parts for a 45 year old army truck that I gotta say thanks! The trusty 6BT Cummins got the oil changed, new filters all around and the air filter cleaned. Checked and topped off the fluids in everything else on the truck and while it was on the lift  I undertook a task I have been meaning to do for years…..fix the fuel gauge. This at first seems like an easy enough task…You can buy a gauge and sender kit and just make it happen….or…since I wanted to have the gauge in the swapped on J truck cab dash work I had to do some sleuthing. A 70’s J truck or Wagoneer fuel gauge wants to see something between 68 and 12 ohms resistance from the sender. The  gauge would read empty all the time..till just before you ran out…when it went to full. ARGH. The commonly available universal senders have ohm ranges that are nowhere near the same…but…. a VDO one has a range of 10-180 ohms. the scale also reads backwards compared to what the gauge wants but the arm on the one I got can be installed backwards….making it “right” again. I then limited the up travel on it so it cannot get past about the 70 ohms spot. I used a much longer float arm to “recalibrate” the sender to my needs….I’m only using about half its range of movement now to do what I want. It works! The first half goes away faster than the last half because the sender is not being used as intended but I’m still much happier than before… actual use has shown that when it reads 1/2 it only takes 10 gallons to fill the 28 gallon tank back up. So I have some “reserve”. Finally made a skid plate for the tank…. had been meaning to do that for years! Hard to believe the factory never bothered with one.. I need to figure out something for front hubs. The only available (and expensive) locking hub for these old closed knuckle Dana 60 front axles is a Selectro brand one. These hubs are probably way awesome with the stock 125 hp Tornado 6 popper beating on them… with a Cummins putting ~400 hp and near 900 ft-lb into them they die. And quickly. I have been running the stock drive flanges till I come up with something better. With the swapped in 4.11 gears it isn’t bad to live with but you can feel the powr-lok diff cause a bit of feedback in the steering. Amazingly, the stock axle shafts have managed to live. Not sure why. Seems like they’d have busted by now…I got spare ones at least. When summer comes around I just swap the shelled out Selectros back on. Gonna have to swap in that modern Dana 60 one of these days. I’ll get disk brakes too. Next installment….the trip!