The story begins on the eve of July 4th, 1997. I was out with my friend
Don and my roommate Gary. When I returned to my apartment that night,
I found that my '96 Dodge Ram had been hit by a drunk driver (for the
complete story, see the page about the wreck.)
After $8000 worth of damage and finding out that the truck would be repaired,
I decided that I did not want to keep this "tainted" vehicle. At this
time, I made up my mind that I was going to get a different vehicle. First,
I thought I would get another Dodge Ram, but this time I'd get an extended
cab and 4 wheel drive. Well, being a college student and not having a filthy
rich uncle who likes to buy me cars, I realized that such a truck was beyond
my budget. Next, I decided that I would get an older car... something that
I could tinker with and learn about automobiles. Something maybe along
the lines of a mid eighty's Chevy truck or Blazer seemed fitting. I
testdrove an older Blazer and came very close to buying a Dodge
Dakota. Now I must admit that it was my friend Dave Brown who talked
me out of that purchase. While I was doing my search, my roommate Joe
says "Ben, buy a Jeep." Hmmmm. Now that's an idea. He also offers
one more thing "make sure it has round headlights." With my limited
Jeep knowledge, I took to the internet to learn all I could about Jeeps.
It was about this time that I fell in love with CJ's. I've always like
to keep things simple and a CJ is a spartan vehicle. Well, after looking
at CJs, I realized that I needed a CJ-7 because I couldn't fit in a CJ-5
and I didn't want too old of a Jeep.
More and more research continued. I learned all I could about how Jeeps varied from year to year and tried to figure out which would be the best year CJ to buy. Some years had beefier brakes, some years had better engines, some had better transmissions or transfer cases. The years that really stood out were '77 through '79, '78 looking really good. Being in Houston at this time, I was checking out the prices of CJs. It was November and Thanksgiving was around the corner. Since I was thinking about driving home to Cincinnati to surprise my mom and dad for turkey day, I decided to check CJ prices in Cincy. Well lo and behold, the darn things were alot cheaper there. That settles it... I'm buying a Jeep in Cincinnati. Joe (my roommate) and I drive up to Cincy and after enjoying a meal with the family, I start my Jeep search. My buddy Dave and I go out one day and find something that really looks good - a '77 CJ7 with a 304 V8 and a 3 speed tranny. Not only that, but it offers disc brakes too. After a brief test drive and hearing how well the engine runs, I'm sold. Just a bit of haggling and I buy the thing for $2000. Here's some pictures of what she looked like when I bought here:
Time to drive back to Houston. Gonna tow the Jeep with my truck (I still had my Dodge.) Soon I realized that I didn't really have the time and right stuff to tow the Jeep back to Texas so I leave the Jeep at my dad's shop (he's in the concrete business.)
Christmas time comes along. This time, I fly to Cincy. While back home, I talk to dad and he agrees to bring my jeep down to houston on a trailer. What a swell guy! So I begin really looking over the jeep and to my unpleasant surprise, find many things I don't like. One major thing stands out - the frame has rust holes the size of my hand (no wonder these things are so much cheaper in Cincy than in Houston - salt damage.) Not good! Most of the body mounts are gone and the emission equipment is virtually non-existent (and what's there is hooked up wrong.) Neat...
Returning to Houston, I begin talking to my long time TI mentor Al. Al's always been helpful in advising me on lots of stuff and he's one of those people who's a jack-of-all-trades - really knows his stuff. So I talk to Al on possible things to do with the jeep. Possibilities are 1) sell the jeep and try for a small profit; 2) keep her for a beater; 3) do a complete restoration.
Well let's see... I don't know much about fixing cars, I don't have a whole lot of cash, and I have limited time (have to go back to Cincy for school in 3 months.) Gee, sounds like a complete frame-up restoration is the way to go (I hadn't taking my college critical thinking class yet.)