Twister Jeep Build
This project has been a long time in the making. Ever since I first saw Twister, I fell in love with full size jeeps, especially the J10. A couple of years back, I managed to pick up the Dorothy 2 from Universal Studios Florida - https://www.therpf.com/showthread.ph...hlight=twister..., since then I have been desperately trying to track down the actual J10 from the show at Universal. I went through ALOT of people connected to prop management and a handful of park employees. Nobody seems to know where this truck went. It has never been spotted on the back lot, which lead alot of people to believe it was scrapped. So, 2 years of searching and I came up empty handed for the Universal one.
While trying to find the Universal one, I constantly searched eBay, Craigslist, FB Marketplace, and FSJ forums to try and find the right one. Let me tell you, these trucks are so far and few between that you cannot get picky. You have to take the best example that you can afford and go from there. Since the Jeep truck has more or less had the same body for the entire 26 year run, it helped with the search. The only major change in the actual body was the brow, which can be found on the trucks up until '79 I believe. As far as I can tell, 3 trucks were used for filming, ranging from '78 - '84. One of them was used to hit the bridge and be dropped upside down, one of them was for the ditch run and to be dropped upside down, and a third hero truck. Between the 3 of them, it covers most variations in design.
The Hero truck was an 80’s model Honcho:
The ditch run truck is the model with the brow, the wraparound turn signals, and the larger wheels and tires, they dropped this one upside down first (in terms of seen in movie), this one was a pre 80s Honcho:
The Bridge truck, also with brow, which was also dropped upside down. This truck has the standard steel wheels and smaller tires, the non-wrapping turn signals in the front, and a manual transmission. This one was dropped second possibly. This one was a pre 80s standard truck.
You can see in this one, that 2 trucks were in fact dropped upside down. The wheels and even the level of dirt coverage is different.
When looking for the truck, I wanted to have as many original parts as possible. So, the criteria were as follows:
- Post 80’s build for the non-brow look. I’m aiming for a hero truck build.
- Needs to have the flat front brush guard, the ones on the Golden Eagle models and earlier Honchos were “V” shaped. They are incredibly hard to find in the used market.
- Needs to have the Roll/Light bar. Also hard to find, and very rarely comes up for sale.
- Needs to be an original Honcho. These had the “wide track” look and the Warn locking hubs like the hero truck. Not a deal breaker, but it will save me money on swapping axles and a lift.
- Manual or Auto doesn’t matter. The transmissions are interchangeable.
- Needs to have the split seat design, preferably the black Laredo interior like the hero.
- Needs to have a solid rear window, although this is easily interchangeable.
- Needs to have a rear cargo light in the bed. VERY hard to find….
During the search, I found that J10s seem to either be out west, or up north. Western trucks are more ideal due to little rust, but there seemed to be an abundance of them up north. I was able to find maybe 5 J10’s over 2 years that were for sale in Florida. They were either long beds, which are not screen accurate, or they were literally piles of parts. I had one promising lead out in Bell, but that one turned out to be more work than it was worth. Guy wanted $4200 for it and it didn’t even run. Out of state was literally the only way this was going to happen. One state, Texas, seems to have quite a few J10s in various conditions. Ranging from fully restored to project truck. I managed to find one right outside of Dallas, seemed to be the best combination of things that I needed to start. He sent me many HD pictures and a couple of HD videos of the truck running and driving around the neighborhood. It was a Honcho, had the brush guard, light bar, locking hubs and split seat. He also said the A/C worked, which was a plus. Finding a factory A/C is pretty hard for these trucks. It was right in my price range, so I made arrangements to fly out to Texas and drive it back.
I took connecting flights out to Dallas, and the owner picked me up. Gave the truck a once over, making sure all of the lighting worked on the exterior. Upon inspection of the interior, found that the wiper switch was broken. Not a huge deal, I was just hoping that it wouldn’t rain on the way home. Tried to turn on the A/C, but nothing happened. The guy at this point says that the switch can be finicky, I play with it for a good 5 mins, nothing. At least the external vents and windows work, so I won’t be totally dying on the way home. Everything else looked good, tires looked brand new, although the owner did mention it needed new ones do to the age. None of the gauges worked…fuel, oil pressure, coolant temp, nothing. Things were not really looking up, but I was 1200 miles from home and I was committed at this point. We did the paperwork, shook hands, and I took off….then disaster.
I literally made it a block from his home before hearing a very loud metallic thud… I turn off the truck and get out, fully expecting to see that I dropped the muffler. Wrong. The freaking driveshaft fell off the rear differential. The retaining bracket for the universal joint was loose and the bolts worked themselves out. The caps on the u-joint had fallen off, and with it the needle bearings. There was no re-using it. I called the guy up and he pulled me back to his driveway. Needless to say, there was an awkward moment occurring… The truck drove perfectly fine in the videos that he made for me, answering specific questions while driving so I knew that it was not previously recorded.
The guy was totally nice about it, drove me to the parts store, paid for the parts, got me lunch, and then helped me to install the part. It took the better part of 6 hours using basic caveman tools, which aggravated me because I can swap a u-joint in my shop in about 15 mins using my press. But no, we had hammers and a bench vice. Once the new u-joint was in, I was on my way. Took some back roads to the local Walmart and stocked up on road trip supplies. Picked up a tool kit, some coolant, duct and electrical tape, a phone mount and charger, some snacks, and a gas can. Stopped in at the gas station, topped off the truck, filled the can and I was on my way.
Once on the highway, I managed to get the truck past 40mph for the first time…anything above 40 and the truck shook violently. Great. So, I proceed to drive 45-50mph for the next 3 hours. By this time, it’s dark, the freaking headlights are pointed at the ground. They turn on, but do not illuminate the road. I pull off to adjust them…the damn adjusters are broken. My wife convinces me to stop at a hotel since it was close to midnight at this point. Wake up early, eat, fill up with gas and Im back on the road doing 45. I get about an hour out, and finally decide to pull into a shop to get the wheels balanced. They proceed to tell me that it will be at least 2 hours… ugh. At this point I am already 24 hours behind schedule, what’s 2 more. I have them inspect the driveway fix of the u-joint and do a general once over to make sure nothing else will surprise me.
Trying to get this post fixed, missing alot of data here.
Sooo what about the rest of the interior?!?
Here is another collage of shots from the rest of the interior.
1. Unknown yellow rain jacket. Still looking for this one.
2. Back of the cellular antenna; I have a couple of leads on this one, will post the model once I confirm.
3. Vintage plastic hooks. Still looking for these.
4. OEM Cargo lamp switch. Picked one of these up on eBay, fairly common, but expensive. Not all of the J series pickups came with a cargo lamp.
5. Vintage protective glasses. Still trying to find these.
6. Custom Muskogee State College sticker. I will have to recreate these. There are 4 along the tailgate, and one in the back window.
Alright, alright, enough of the interior. What about those exterior bits?!?
We will start with the front of the truck and work our way back. You guys probably already know most of these.
1. OEM 2 piece brush guard.
2. OEM Chrome
Sweet! Great thread. GIANT pictures.
If you look up a member on here called Charles Kline, he started a Twister truck, not sure if he ever finished it.
I stumbled across his thread a while back. He did end up finishing it and goes to shows with the Colorado Movie Cars club.
This is a cool thread
I was having a look around on the interweb to see if I could find a bumble bee whirligig and found these people.
Since they do custom whirligigs and it looks like they have made something similar in the past they may be able to help you.
Just a thought.
Thanks for this, I will definitely reach out to them.
you definately got the OCD going for this
but you have to be OCD to do a detailed project
thanks for posting the photos and your research info.
dave in NC:drivin:
All right, it has been a while since my last update. Things got a little challenging a few weeks ago when I started resealing the bottom end.
The kit that I ordered was an Omix-Ada lower end seal kit that included the oil pan gasket, rear main seal, front main seal, oil pump seal, and a few others I wouldn’t be using yet. I get the rear main seal out, only to find that the Omix-Ada seal was too small when putting it in…
Nobody local had another seal in stock, so I was SOL for that day. To boot, it started raining so I had to make room in the garage for her. I reached out to Advance Auto, and since I had installed the rear main from the kit, I was unable to return it… so $50 down the drain. At least I could use the oil pan gasket… or so I thought. Following the torque specs in the shop manual, it ended up squeezing the pan gasket so hard that it ripped in a couple of locations and squeezed out the side. I had to order a new pan gasket and rear main. About a week later, the new seals arrived. This time I went with Felpro. Perfect match.
Another crappy thing that happened… I ordered a set of 4x6 Pro Comp 9200’s for the brush guard lights from 4WheelParts. The lights that came, not even close to what was pictured. Hell, the lights were not even close to being 4x6. They were more like 2.5x4.25
The return process was less than desirable, I brought them back to a local store per corporate. They processed the return, but 5 days later, nothing. Called them up, they said they would resubmit it. 5 days later, nothing. Called them again, this time the person walks back to his admin and they processed it right there on the spot. The next day I had my money. I did manage to find the correct set of Pro Comp 9200’s on eBay. Same :o:o:o:oing box….but this time the lights were the right size.
On the plus side, my vintage red letter KC covers came.
AND, I found some pictures of the old KC 69 Series HiLiTES. Aside from being the chrome version and spot instead of spread, the housing and mount is virtually identical to the Pro Comp 9002.
Other than that, right now Im working on stripping the interior and exterior trim bits to prep her for paint.
your pictures are ginormous!
Yeah, I have no idea what is going on there. The other forums I post on, they show up normal size.
At this point, I am waiting on funding to arrive for paintwork. Therefore, I decided to tackle some smaller things while waiting.
Starting with the headlight buckets. The reason I wasn’t able to adjust them… The harness must have been the only thing holding them in.
I looked around for replacements, but all I was able to find are cheap plastic universal ones. So I decided to spend a couple of hours welding up a set of my own. Chances are, they will outlast the truck. Got them mounted and installed the new headlights. The adjusters work beautifully.
I also decided to find out why the A/C fan switch was twitchy. After opening, it became clear why it wasn’t working that great.
After some cleanup. Im sure it will work fine now.
Finding the grill has proven to be a pain, and in the end, I will have to buy a couple of grills just to get the pieces I need. I managed to pick up a final type grill in good shape for a great price. I will be selling or trading the insert for a chrome muscle one. So if any of you want to buy a final type insert, or want to trade for your chrome muscle, let me know.
Im also on the hunt for black interior pieces.
- Arm rests
- Seat belts with the older Jeep logo
- Power window and door lock controls with harness
- Headliner (although I will probably just recover the one I have with black vinyl)
- Black Carpet
- Laredo seats and center section (I may recover the ones I have, but they are in fantastic shape and I would probably feel bad) Maybe a trade on these?
- Auto steering column, preferably with tilt.
- Hole plug for the old ignition opening
that's quite a long list of things to do for your build. How's it going?
Right now I am daily driving it to sort out what else is needed to make her mechanically sound. Went around to a few paint places and it looks like it is going to cost abound $3k if I do all the body work and priming, $5k if they do the bodywork and priming/painting.
So I may hold off on the color change, or maybe look into the rustoleum paint jobs I see some of the J-truck guys do.
I got the A/C working....well sorta. It blows cool during the morning hours, but in the heat of the afternoon it struggles. I may look into replacing the entire system with new components.
Clutch will need to be changed in the near future, but I will most likely be going to a TF727 and matching t-case if I can find one in good order.
I have parts now to do power locks and windows, so that will probably be next. I am also looking into a complete rewire of the vehicle as the previous owners hacked the crap out of it.
any update on your project?
Many actually, but sadly none of them are Twister related. I had stopped work for the last couple of months in order to remodel the garage to a proper workshop. I used Google Sketch Up to model the cabinets I liked and everything else that needed to go in the garage. After settling on a layout I liked, I placed the cabinet order and began to clear out the garage so I could work on the floors, walls, and ceiling. We rented a POD and had it placed in the driveway, our timeline was less than a month because I did not want to pay for more than that. They charge $100 to drop it off, $180 for the month, and then another $100 to pick the empty back up. We had to work quick.
The ceilings needed the most work; the drywall was literally falling down. We tossed around the idea of just ripping everything down and replacing it, but that would have been too costly and take up more time. We ended up deciding on running .5”x2” wood across the seams to lift the drywall back up. I sealed all the edges with caulking, textured the whole thing, and then painted it. What started as a cheap way to fix it, turned in to something fancy. Took me the better part of 3 days to put up the wood, seal it, texture it, and paint it.
This is the garage before we put everything back in. We re-epoxied the floors, and went with a lighter grey for the walls. The one “white” section on the right we left unpainted since there is tile directly on the other side. I need to put up a sheet of steel and a warning sticker so we never drill into it.
Cabinets going in:
However, before I could finish all of the details, “Jo” decides to misbehave one day on the way home from work. First, it started with some noise from the lifters, almost as if it was low on oil. Checked the dipstick, and it “looked” as if it was about a quart over. It was checked on level ground about 5 times. All came back with this level.
I took it easy for the rest of the way home. I pulled in to the driveway and took a peak under the truck. Still nothing leaking from the engine, however….
So maybe it was just the front differential making the noise since the axle was leaking from the passenger side of the tube. Diff oil was everywhere, all over the back of the tire, under the body, on the cross member, everywhere. At this point, I decided to just pull it in the garage and get a bunch of maintenance done.
I drained the oil, since it was due anyway. ONLY 2 QUARTS came out….so it was leaking oil. But from where??? I changed the filter and filled it back up. I started breaking down the front end for the seal change. This was straightforward and went really without issue. Next up, we did the engine mounts, again straightforward and really no issues there. Then we did the transmission mount… I wish I took a picture of it before I tossed it. The rubber was gone, completely gone. The transmission was not even connected to the cross member. I had to ratchet strap the transmission over to get the new mount to line up. Got it all bolted in and thought I was good. I fired it up and pushed the clutch pedal in and:
Ugghhhh. I am assuming since the transmission mount was non-existent that the pilot bearing wore unevenly and literally requires the transmission to be off center to remain quiet. That’s fine, I can live with the noise temporarily.
Come out the next morning and there is a small puddle of oil under the engine. Having degreased the hell out it during the maintenance, the back of the block was coated again. Figuring it was probably valve covers; I pulled it back into the garage for more maintenance. I began to remove the covers and notices the bolts were not even hand tight. They spun easily on removal. I guess that was the source of the leak. So I figured I might as well replace the gaskets since I was in there. I had to order them in, but it was same day with the local parts store. I put the new ones in with some RTV and torqued it down to spec starting from the center and working my way out. While I was in there, I took these guys out too since I broke them on removal. Since I could not find a bolt to fill the hole, I cut the spacer section out, welded up the hole, and bolted them back in.
Fired it up, and checked for leaks. After running for 5 mins, I called it good and closed up for the night. The next morning I was excited to have it back on the road. I fired it up, checked for leaks again, and left for work. About 3 mins down the road at a stop, I noticed smoke from under the hood. I pull off to investigate and notice the heater hose line was leaking from where I removed it from the heater box. Then looking around, I noticed the headers were smoking pretty bad. I got back in and rushed it home. Got on my motorcycle and took off for work. After work, I fire up the bike to leave, the exhaust starts afterfiring, and the intake is backfiring. Something is wrong. I try riding down the road; it is loud, like gunshots. I limp it home and park it in the garage.
OK, I have to get one of the 2 methods of transportation working again. I pull the truck back into the garage and get some proper light on the engine. The valve covers are leaking again, this time, it is oozing out of the bottom half on to the headers. I pull the covers back off….found the issue:
Both gaskets had squeezed in on tightening and allowed oil to pour out. I called up Auto Zone and they agreed to warranty the gaskets and ordered me up another set. They had them in that night by the time I got off work. This time, I used Indian Head gasket sealer and let it set up over night. No way they were moving now. I got them bolted back up and it appears I am leak free again. I then focused my attention on the bike, as I still needed transportation. Turns out cylinder 1 was not firing due to a clogged main jet. I cleaned it out and now it runs like a champ.
At this point, I am waiting for the new clutch to come in. I figured if I have the transmission down, I might as well replace everything while Im in there. It will also give me a chance to see if the rear main seal is leaking again. So that is where Im at right now. Hopefully once all this madness is over, I can get back to the transformation.
Your garage looks awesome! Are you a Navy veteran? The colors look like Haze Grey and deck grey. Your bike is legit!!! I love the tires and bare metal tank! Your work sound like a typical job on these: Pull it up to find/fix the oil leak, end up replacing the clutch, fixing exhaust leaks and rebuilding an axle. Oh, then the oil leak comes back.
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