Sold a project car, but it didn't want to leave

Subtitle: The Turd That Wouldn’t Flush

A couple years ago a family friend decided it was time to sell her 97 Grand Cherokee. Knowing that i’m a huge ZJ fan, she offered it up to me. She was the original owner and while she did take care of it, 17 years in CNY salt was not kind to it. I bought it for next to nothing and decided to make a project out of it.


Started with a radiator and water pump (the reason she got rid of it). Then went to the body: new rocker panels, 2 doors, both fenders, and a gate. gave it a flat black paint job. looked pretty decent. Safari bar and roof rack with light bars gave it a cool expedition look. put a 2" lift in it with new shocks and springs, changed all the sway bar links and the ft track bar. drove it for a month, decided i didn’t want to DD a lifted ZJ. Figured i’d put a long arm kit in it down the road and make it a trail rig instead. So i parked it. It sat on the gravel pad between the house and the garage for about 6 months.

2 weeks ago a friend calls me and says her son finally got rid of the POS lexus he was driving and he was interested in my Jeep. They come over and look at it. He falls in love with it and wants it. Seeing as I’d probably never get around to actually building it, and i could use the parking space, we agree on a price and the deal is done. I tell him I’m going to put it on the lift and make sure everything is in order before he takes it.


here’s where the Jeep decided it didn’t want to leave. first problem: brakes are locked up. specifically the left rear. can’t drive it off the gravel. it’s got open diffs and is just digging holes. So i get the wife’s wrangler. her 9000lb winch makes short work of dragging it onto the pavement. Now that it has some traction, i try to get the brakes freed up. 4 low, reverse and the torque from the 5.2L V8 rip the stuck brake free. and a brake line blows. so the vehicle shoots down the driveway and i barely get it stopped before it goes in the road.

brake inspection time: needs all the pads and rotors changed and both front brake lines. get the parts, start at the back. found the problem- ebrake shoes fell apart. go get ebrake shoes, change them, put new pads & rotors on. go to the front. can’t turn the steering. upper ball joints are seized. go get them. pop the bearings out, tone rings on the cv shafts are rotten. put new axles in. reassemble everything, run brakes lines, bleed brakes. on the plus side, while changing brake lines i find a rusted out vapor line that would have set a check engine light.


Test drive time: late at night, since it’s not registered or insured and the plates on it are just for looks. Get 100 ft down the road and can tell somethings not right. won’t accelerate. turn around and go back. front brakes are smoking. not the normal new rotor smoke, but full on “just lapped the Nurburgring in a minivan” smoke pouring out of the wheels. front calipers are dragging. clearly some corrosion has formed in the piston bores over time. so time to change those.

2nd test drive: new calipers are on. stops great. runs bad under load. check engine light flashing. bring it back, scan it. coil failing. ignition system looks a little rough so coil, plugs, wires, cap & rotor are swapped. runs like a champ. better than it ever had. I get cocky and decided to charge the AC. I figure the way things are going it’s gonna need a condenser or evaporator. but no! it actually holds a vacuum! $15 worth of refrigerant and it’s like siberia inside!


So her kid comes and gets it (finally). Takes it to get inspected, a little soon if you ask me because i didn’t think the monitors would be ready, but it passes! And it’s out of my driveway! And the kid loves it!

And now i’m on craigslist looking for the next project...

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