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Old 11-02-2017, 03:59 PM
Crankyolman's Avatar
Crankyolman Crankyolman is offline
258 I6
Join Date: Sep 27, 2017
Location: Pacific Northwest
Posts: 408
My J-4500

So now that I think I have figured out photo posting I think it's time I can tell you guys all about my truck. I wasn't sure if I should post it here or in the build section but think it probably falls in the category of prissy for sure.

It's going to take a couple of posts to get the full story in so it is a bit of a long read but hopefully you enjoy it.

I used to have a '66 Gladiator that I bought when I lived in Minnesota. When I bought it it had a Chevy 283 engine and a 3 speed stick. The gear shifter had been moved from the column to the floor but was not correct and shifted upside down and backwards and poorly at that. It also had bucket seats. Of course from spending most of it's life in Minnesota it had the usual rust issues like ventilated floorboards and the bed seams were a bit rusty. It also had an in bed "tool box" that was actually only 6 inches of tool box with the rest being a 50 gallon fuel tank. I drove that truck for a year or two in northern Minnesota before I decided it could be the perfect truck to pursue a dream I had of moving to Alaska. Somewhere along the line 2nd gear stripped out but I don't really care for stick shift anyway and figured I could change it out for an automatic since it already had a Chevy engine.

When the time came to leave Minnesota I drove the truck to Oklahoma where my family happened to own a salvage yard. I worked for them for a couple months and in my spare time worked on the truck. Having an entire salvage yard at your disposal is a real advantage when modifying a vehicle. I got a 350 transmission and transfer case out of a blazer and with a tape measure figured out that a Monza drive shaft was the right length for the rear driveshaft and an S-10 front drive shaft was correct for the front. I think the floor shifter also came out of a Monza but may have come from a Vega or any number of other cars.

Since I was planning on sleeping in the truck for who knows how long while driving up there and looking for a job I secured a set of nice cushy front seats out of a Cadillac.

All that sorted out I loaded my toolbox, 4 spare tires, and assorted other spare parts and set off for the last frontier.

I drove that truck all the way to Anchorage and only threw the driveshaft once, blew up the radiator once, had that repaired but it also sprung a leak somewhere after Whithorse Yukon. It threw a fan belt 100 miles from the nearest parts store and used all 4 of those spare tires before I got there but it was a wonderful trip. I continued driving that truck all over Alaska and Anchorage for some time until I was driving it down the busiest street in Anchorage and somebody going the other way hit a curb, lost control, crossed 3 lanes of traffic, jumped a median, crossed 2 more lanes of traffic and hit me square in the rear axle breaking the transmission mount and drivers door latch, bending the wheel and messing up the brakes and I think cracked the rear brake drum.

His insurance company picked up my truck then called me a week later. They told me they valued my truck at $800 and were willing to pay me $800 for it provided I agree to take it back.

I was more than happy to oblige so they paid me the money and dropped my truck off at the house I was renting but that left me with a truck I couldn't drive to work. So most of the money from the truck went into a car I could drive while fixing the truck.

As is often the case, things happened, I got married, never got around to fixing my beloved truck and had to leave it behind when we left Alaska.

Fast forward many many years. I now had a good job, was financially stable and actually had a little money to spare. We even had 2 cars, although one of them was now a 16 year old Taurus that we had owned for 15 of those years. As we upgraded other cars the Taurus became my work car. It was used pretty much the same way a pickup would be used. It hauled home lots of lumber, sheetrock, firewood, and thousands of pounds of apples but it was beginning to get tired. Eventually it was costing about $1,000 every six months to fix whatever the latest problem was and I decided to pull the plug on it.

This left us with only one vehicle and my wife hated it when I hauled stuff home with it. So I started looking for a proper pickup. At this time a Jeep wasn't even on my radar. I didn't need anything that was 4WD but I wanted something that was easy to work on, unlike the Taurus, and didn't have to pass emissions. So I started looking at trucks made before 1970. What I was looking for was a simple basic truck that is easy to work on with a reliable engine that hopefully didn't get too bad a gas mileage. I preferred a half ton, short wide bed and auto transmission. I was pretty flexible on the rest. I actually started out looking at 1955-59 Chevys but the owners of these trucks don't seem to actually want to sell them because if you try to contact them they never get back with you. I eventually expanded my search to go all the way up to 1970. By this time I was thinking mid 60s, Chevy or even GMC because I actually like the quirkiness of a big GMC V-6 but I also looked at and test drove a Ford or two and even considered a Dodge sweptline.

Then since I was now in the area of 1966 I started reminiscing about my old truck. I missed my old truck in spite of it's issues but no Jeep trucks were showing up in my searches. In fact very little of what I was finding in my price range was actually acceptable. Then I expanded my search to include 1972 and that's when a '72 J-4000 popped up. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for because it was a long bed but it had an auto trans. The AMC 360 engine was larger than I wanted but I figured it should be a good engine and the truck just spoke to me. Best of all the seller responded within minutes of contacting him, so in spite of it being more than an hour drive away I made arrangements to go have a look at it.

When I got there the first thing I noticed was the new tires, that was a good sign. Looking underneath the truck I also saw a brand new exhaust system. The guy showing me the truck also had the documentation where the owner had the work done, including the statement " Advised customer repair costs exceed value of the vehicle but she said do the work anyway". The invoice was for new tires, new brakes, new exhaust, including headers, a new gas tank and some other miscellaneous repairs totaling $3,000 which was considerably more than the asking price of the truck. The basic story was her father bought the truck new and drove it many years racking up a total of 105,000 miles. Then the truck was put away in a barn for a number of years until he began getting ill. The daughter had the truck repaired so she could drive him around for the last year or so of his life. After he passed it went back to the barn for another 2 years until it was decided it was time to sell. A new battery was purchased for it, a flat lifter replaced and a tailgate was located in a scrap yard because the original one was stolen while it was in the barn and it was put up for sale.

That's where I came along. I absolutely fell in love with this truck. I love the round taillights, the old hook side tailgate, the old school Gladiator gauge cluster similar to my old "66 with that cool green glow at night, the Cheesy wood grain stripe that screams 1970's and even the "Keep On Truckin" mud flaps that have been on it since the early 70s. I even liked the sound and feel of that old AMC engine and there was zero rust on the floorboards. So we made a deal, I called a truck to haul it home for me since I didn't want to drive an unknown truck more than an hour through Seattle traffic.

I now had a new old truck.

After getting it home and being happy with pretty much everything my wife thought it would be a good idea to have the seat recovered and while we were at it may as well do the door cards too. So I pulled the seat and door cards out and took them to a guy nearby to have the upholstery redone. While the seat was out I pulled the nasty old carpet out and cleaned up and painted the floorboards.

My plan is to eventually bedliner the floor so this was a temporary measure.

Two weeks later my seat was done.

I put it back in and continued driving it to work and back.

So far it had been no trouble at all but I decided to replace the points ignition with a more reliable electronic ignition. I started researching ignitions for the AMC and decided to go with an HEI because the Chevy system is just so reliable. My old '66 had points and was so low geared it at 60 MPH it was pretty much redlined and would eat a set of points every week. When I was at the salvage I grabbed an HEI out of an engine in the junk engine pile and never had to do that again. So my plan was to repeat that with this engine since HEI is readily available for the AMC. So I bought a new distributor, swapped the gear on it for the original gear and dropped it in, timed it and never had an issue.

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Old 11-02-2017, 04:31 PM
Crankyolman's Avatar
Crankyolman Crankyolman is offline
258 I6
Join Date: Sep 27, 2017
Location: Pacific Northwest
Posts: 408
Then Just at the beginning of apple season, just when I needed a truck the most the engine began to backfire. I pulled the valve covers off and found a flat exhaust lifter and a broken intake pushrod.

That's when my engine got a bad case of the may as wells.

I pulled the intake off, pulled the 2 lifters out and checked the cam. It seemed ok on those 2 lifters but I figured I may as well replace all of them since I have the intake manifold off. As I pulled the lifters out I checked the cam lobes and they seemed to be fine, until I got to the #1 lobe. It had some pretty heavy wear. So I figured I may as well replace the cam.

So I took the whole front end of the engine apart. The timing chain actually looked brand new and tight so I was thinking all I need to do is pull the cam out and swap in a new one. So I pulled the cam out and found the front cam bearing had big pieces missing. I figured I could probably change that one bearing out and make due but may as well change all the bearings.

Well as most of you know, changing the cam bearings requires removing the engine and even though it didn't really have that many miles on it I figured because it is 45 years old I may as well have the engine rebuilt and make sure it is good to go another 45 years.

That's when the real trouble started. I called around to various shops and most of them didn't want to mess with an AMC engine or were just covered up with other work, mostly on Chevy engines. Since everything in this truck is all original I really wanted to keep it that way so I didn't want to just swap it out for another engine. Eventually I found a local shop who said they would do it and even better it would only take a week to ten days. So I loaded up my engine in a truck I borrowed from work and hauled it down there. Before I left I wanted to reconfirm how long it would take. They told me "End of the month, there are two 454s ahead of you." This was the first of August, I figured, well it's more than 10 days but I can live with 3-4 weeks as long as it stays my engine and not an exchange. Then as I was leaving he said "Don't call us, we'll call you"

In retrospect that should have been a red flag but I figured ok, I don't like people bothering me when I'm working so I'll wait.

Then the end of the month came and went and I never received any call, so I called him and was once again told the "end of the month" Now I was getting worried but I once again patiently waited until the end of the month came and went again.

I am guessing you probably see where this is going. Eventually I got tired of waiting and started calling every week or two. He got tired of putting me off and actually did the work and called me a couple days before Christmas and said my "short block and heads" were ready. I should have asked him what he meant by that because he was supposed to be giving me back a long block but by that time I didn't care, I just wanted it back. I once again borrowed a work truck and went over there to pick up my engine and found he hadn't reinstalled the heads but they were rebuilt and had hardened seats so I figured screw it, I'll put them on myself.

I took my engine and heads back home, bought a cheap Harbor Freight engine stand and went to work putting my engine back together. It was now cold, wet and rainy but I was determined to get my truck up and running and after nearly a month of reinstalling everything, which included 2 whole days of fighting with that damn cast iron intake to get it on, I had the engine ready to reinstall.

So my next weekend I pushed the engine out to the driveway, pulled the hood off by myself, hoisted the engine into place and stabbed it and bolted it in place, then reinstalled the hood all by myself. I mention that it is all by myself because the whole time 2 of my neighbors stood outside one of their houses and watched me do it. The next day one of them came over and offered to help, now that the hard part was done.

It wasn't a biggie, everything actually wasn't that hard and I really don't like to ask for help. The real problem was that before I could get the wiring and stuff hooked up it started raining, and showed no signs that it was going to let up until July.

My solution was to go to Harbor Freight and buy a pop up canopy, put that over the front of the truck and press on.

Eventually I got the engine all hooked up and ready to go and I fired it up.

It took a bit of tweaking but eventually it started, I got the timing where I thought it was right and began the cam break in process. During the cam break in I noticed the exhaust started to get hot and glow, then the engine started to get a bit warm so I shut it off. I should have took my foot off the gas and let it wind down a bit but I didn't and it started dieseling a bit, then there was a loud BOOM! and the whole truck was engulfed in a cloud of steam... then the fire started. I have 8 fire extinguishers in my garage but didn't think I needed one when I was starting the truck, which was in the driveway. I also didn't know that when a lower radiator hose blows off and sprays the exhaust with antifreeze, the antifreeze catches on fire!

I managed to get the fire out and there was no real damage done and I learned a valuable lesson, always keep a fire extinguisher handy when working on a truck because even at a 50-50 mix antifreeze is flammable. Apparently what happened was somehow the timing got retarded and that caused the exhaust to heat up and when I connected the lower radiator hose I got the clamp on the bead instead of over it. It was nothing $30 in new antifreeze and connecting the hose right couldn't fix.

While the engine was out I decided to install a tachometer and oil pressure gauge as a temporary measure so I have an idea of what's going on during the break in process. I still wanted them to look good so I bent up some aluminum, cut some holes for the gauges and mounted them where I can easily see them while driving and still be removed when I feel I don't need them. I chose digital gauges because they are easy for me to see even with my bifocals and when the truck is off they are just black so they don't just look like cheap gauges stuck to the dash.

Then with everything finished I began driving the truck again. I now have about 2,000 miles on it since engine overhaul and have made it through an entire apple season without incident. I have even driven it on the freeway and gotten it up to 68 MPH. 68 is 3,000 RPM in this truck rather than the million RPM my old truck required and it drove straight and smooth like it was a new truck.

Eventually I got tired of only having one radio station to listen to so the next thing I did was have the original AM radio converted to AM/FM with an aux jack.

How's that for Prissy
While the radio was out I also went ahead and repainted the dash

My future plans are to fix the little bit of rust in the bed and front fenders and repaint it, or have it repainted. My brother actually has a body shop near Duluth Mn and I am thinking about shipping it to him for a winter project. I want the copper lower half changed to a nice burgundy / black cherry color with a cream on top. I hope to be able to have the cheesy wood grain stripe painted on but may have to see if I can actually find one as a decal. I do plan on keeping the Keep On Truckin mud flaps just as they are because I think they are pretty darn cool.

I think I will probably need to locate a tailgate that's in better shape

and would like to give it a rhino grill as well.

I also plan on someday upgrading the front brakes to disk and converting from carburetor to fuel injection. Hopefully I can figure out how to do that without replacing the intake because I never want to ever remove that intake again. If you don't know, the '72 intake is different from later intakes because it was made with a small carburetor bolt pattern and an aluminum adaptor plate was added to allow use of the 2100.

It's one of those goofy quirky things about the '72 and I hope I can buy or make another adapter / spacer plate to allow me to use the fuel injection without replacing the intake.

Once all that is done my truck will bet perfect in my eyes.

Last edited by Crankyolman : 12-27-2017 at 11:41 AM.
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Old 11-03-2017, 11:38 AM
joe joe is offline
Join Date: Apr 28, 2000
Location: PNWet, USA
Posts: 22,369
Beautiful truck. Love the tutones. I like you're keeping it mostly stock. 72 was a capable and reliable truck year straight off the showroom floor. I had a 72 J-4500 but with the T18A trans and it was great truck. The inline fuse electrics can be a bit trying at times but overall a good solid truck. Be glad it's a 4500 rather than the 4600 or 4700. You won't have any issues finding rear D44 parts compared to finding D60-2 parts especially the non-existant 12" brake drums that came on the heavier GVWR models.
"Don't mind me. I'm just here for the alibi"
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Old 11-03-2017, 04:10 PM
Crankyolman's Avatar
Crankyolman Crankyolman is offline
258 I6
Join Date: Sep 27, 2017
Location: Pacific Northwest
Posts: 408
Originally Posted by joe
Beautiful truck. Love the tutones. I like you're keeping it mostly stock. 72 was a capable and reliable truck year straight off the showroom floor. I had a 72 J-4500 but with the T18A trans and it was great truck. The inline fuse electrics can be a bit trying at times but overall a good solid truck. Be glad it's a 4500 rather than the 4600 or 4700. You won't have any issues finding rear D44 parts compared to finding D60-2 parts especially the non-existant 12" brake drums that came on the heavier GVWR models.
Thank you, I really like the tutones too. I also like that it is in such good shape and so original which is why I went to extremes to keep it that way. If it weren't for that I would have gone with a small block Chevy or LS, or just maybe a 500 Cadillac , when the engine failed but I kind of like old unusual obsolete things and the quirkiness of the whole package. I never even considered how difficult parts might be to find. I'm not sure what size the brakes are but they are new so hopefully they will last a long time, I really don't drive far, 50-60 miles a week, maybe a little more during apple season or if I have some sort of project going on. I do need to find a wheel because at some point one of the wheels was replaced and the replacement won't hold the dog dish hubcaps. I have all of them and would like to get them all back on.
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Old 11-03-2017, 08:05 PM
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rang-a-stang rang-a-stang is offline
Join Date: Oct 31, 2016
Location: Camarillo, CA
Posts: 2,999
It was fun reading your story, thanks for posting it.

You have an awesome truck and I agree with Joe, keep it mostly stock. Glad you're on the forum! Looking forward to hearing some more stories and seeing more pictures!
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Old 11-04-2017, 09:39 AM
440sixpack 440sixpack is offline
327 Rambler
Join Date: Jul 21, 2016
Location: oregon
Posts: 612
Wow, that is EXACTLY like my first rig I bought when I was 15 in 1977. I bought it from my uncle who bought it new in 1971. same colors and everything, identical.

I wish I had it back.

I'm not sure about that engine color but you're doing a nice restoration.
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