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nstevic01 04-13-2018 10:29 AM

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 -, 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.

nstevic01 04-13-2018 10:30 AM

So they pull me back there and go over everything:
Tires – 9 years old….the belts are starting to separate. They will make it to Florida, but they need to be replaced. They balanced the hell out of them to make my ride a little more tolerable.
Rear Differential – Leaking oil out of the pinion seal… we can’t have this. Last thing I need is for the rear end to lock up due to non-lubrication. I have them fix this.
Rear Driveshaft – Driveway fix is good, but the second u-joint on the shaft is bad and shows a lot of play. I have them replace this as well.

All in, 3 hours later, about $560 for something that would have cost me $50, at best, in parts and a weekend of work. I’m pissed at this point. I get back on the road and everything is going well. I can get up to 70-75 without any issues.

I stop off in Louisiana, bridge and bayou area, just hole in the wall gas stations every 30 miles or so. I fill up with gas and notice a large black puddle under the motor…. :o:o:o:o. How long was I driving like this? When the hell did the leak start? It was about 100 miles from the garage I just had work done, Im wondering if the tech maybe loosened something and forgot to tighten it again. I wipe everything down and watch where it’s coming from. Rear main seal, front crank seal, oil pan, oil pump, oil pressure sender, oil drain plug. What in the hell??

I go inside the gas station, buy a can of stop leak and about 8 quarts of oil. I put the stop leak in, top off the oil, with the plan to stop in 50 miles to check the level. I get about 50 miles and pull in to a gas station. Only lost about

nstevic01 04-13-2018 10:30 AM

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

rang-a-stang 04-13-2018 10:53 AM

Sweet! Great thread. GIANT pictures.

nstevic01 04-13-2018 11:00 AM

Broken post

Full Size Jeeper 04-13-2018 05:15 PM

If you look up a member on here called Charles Kline, he started a Twister truck, not sure if he ever finished it.

nstevic01 04-16-2018 12:23 PM

I stumbled across his thread a while back. He did end up finishing it and goes to shows with the Colorado Movie Cars club.

Crankyolman 04-16-2018 03:58 PM

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.

nstevic01 04-23-2018 06:32 AM

Thanks for this, I will definitely reach out to them.

SOLSAKS 04-23-2018 08:23 AM

great post
very detailed
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:

nstevic01 05-02-2018 11:01 AM

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.

rang-a-stang 05-02-2018 12:18 PM

your pictures are ginormous!

bwwhaler 05-02-2018 02:45 PM


Originally Posted by rang-a-stang
your pictures are ginormous!

The better to see you with my pretty!!!

nstevic01 05-03-2018 10:44 AM


Originally Posted by rang-a-stang
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.

nstevic01 05-11-2018 09:11 AM

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

Jeepyz 05-30-2018 09:16 PM

that's quite a long list of things to do for your build. How's it going?

nstevic01 06-11-2018 10:18 AM

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.

FleetFox 08-12-2018 09:51 PM

any update on your project?

nstevic01 09-26-2018 09:00 AM


Originally Posted by FleetFox
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.


Current Garage:

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 .5x2 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

rang-a-stang 09-26-2018 11:09 AM

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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