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Old 10-28-2006, 12:22 PM
WITT79 WITT79 is offline
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Red face Wag as a daily driver?

I've recently come into possession of a 1979 Wagoneer. I am considering one of two options for this classic and was hoping to seek out the more informed opinions of those who have come before me. Please bear with me as I explain:

Option # 1) Fix this puppy up and turn it into a daily driver for my soon to be driving teen age son. It’s built like a Sherman tank so it ought to be a pretty safe rig for a young man.

Option # 2) Have my head examined for even considering option #1 and sell this thing before I get in over my head.

The trouble with option # 1 is that I would want to update the rig with more modern equipment to make it a true daily driver versus an enthusiast ride. Please hold off on the hate mail for just a minute - I'm too old and my sons too young to walk around smelling like an old muscle car. I know that will offend some people, but I rather enjoy getting out of my newer, cleaner burning vehicles without smelling like exhaust. Those of you who want to send me hate mail because I'm a blasphemer, please refrain. I know I'm not a purist, which is why I'm seeking more informed opinions in the first place.

In order to make it a daily driver to suit my taste, I would want a more modern power plant. I'm guessing this would also involve swapping out the tranny (darn shame there because they don't come much better) and drive train and probably new axles as well. It would also require updated heating/cooling system and rear defogger. So, in the informed opinion of you more experienced FSJ folks who can forgive my non-puritan pursuits, what am I looking at in terms of time, effort and cost? Just your best guess.

Anyone?

Thanks.
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  #2  
Old 10-28-2006, 12:38 PM
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despite my love for Grandwags, I havent used one for a daily driver in nearly 10 yrs. 2things persuaded me to move on. High gas prices,and lack of dependability. A stock 79 wag is barely road worthy on modern highways because of its inadequate brakes. The engine can be tuned to about 12 mpg best case if its a 360 / TH400/ quadratrack. Modernizing an FSJ would require new stuff between the caps on the tire valves to the wing nut on the air cleaner. Serious Johnson spent 10grand modernizing his 83 with EFI and a 4spd. I dont recall how much time it took. For that kinda money, I would just get a newer vehicle
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  #3  
Old 10-28-2006, 12:51 PM
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This thing is still a daily driver.

But I do not think I would let a teenager drive it, least not one I was paying the insurance on
Option 2 probably works the best overall.
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  #4  
Old 10-28-2006, 12:54 PM
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shimniok shimniok is offline
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There was just a thread on this a day or two ago.

Short answer: you and your son can fix it up yourselves, he can learn about cars (if he doesn't know already), you can bond, and the gas prices and unreliability will keep him from going too far (if he pays) and he'll learn more about cars than he'd ever want to know.

It's taken me 8-9 yrs to get mine to where it is halfway reliable and I still wouldn't trust it as a DD for myself (cuz I don't have the time or money to keep it up for continued use). Altho to be fair I work at home so I guess it could be DD in that case.

You can sink a lot of time and $$ into these and they still won't be highly reliable in most cases. They'll hold together ok, but they are old and they weren't all that reliable when new.

Michael
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  #5  
Old 10-28-2006, 01:01 PM
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..
WITT79;

... Teenage boy? Try a Abrams Tank and buy yourself a tank retriever.
What ever you get you might fix it so it doesn't have full power. This will protect the running gear and tires from excessive wear.

Have a good one and Eugene the Jeep says.. “Jeep FSJ Jeep!” CUL.. Don S..
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  #6  
Old 10-28-2006, 01:07 PM
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I drove a few of my dad's SJ's when I was a teen....
Not the wisest choice for a young man, but LOTS of FUN!

Now that I'm older some of the stories have been told to my dad, he wasn't too surprised, but if would have known back then...

You need a cheap economical disposable car for a new driver, cars nowadays are very safe.
Long as he isn't street racing, being stupid, and wears his seat belt you shouldn't worry.

Maybe use the '79 as a project for the both of you to spend some quality time fixing up to both your tastes??

My '88 has been a daily driver from almost the first day I bought it, and has been VERY reliable w/ few problems.
I even drove 2000 miles w/ a 1 year old cross country, and 2000 miles back.
Love to do it again, now that gas is cheaper
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Old 10-28-2006, 01:11 PM
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*ahem* in my opinion...

if i was put into your shoes, i would just give it to your son somewhat as is. I'd put a new carb and intake on it, new exhaust, have the transmission checked out, and better tires and a small lift (new springs and shocks partially due to get more tire clearance, partially due to the fact that it will handle way better with new equipment..but you should keep a lower center of gravity). Past there i wouldn't touch a thing. Why? From my own experiences with a V6 Mustang, there is no good reason to buy you kids a really nice first vehicle, because it probably will get a few dings and a few sratches and whatnot and as we all know, young guys like to do questionable stuff with their first vehicle..whether it be jumping ditches, to burnouts, to offroading in fields..it happens. So the solution to you problem, as i see it, is to make a vehicle that is reliable and safe for your son to drive. Something that would get him through a snowstorm, yknow? The gas mileage does suck..but he'll learn to drive only when he has to (especially if he's paying for his own gas, as shimniok said). Finally, it's a highschool vehicle. He'll probably sell it eventually in pursuit of another vehicle..or when he goes to college. But having a Wag now may be a good thing..who knows maybe he'll end up fixing up one for his son someday?

I may just be going out on a limb here..but i stand by my little thing here.
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  #8  
Old 10-28-2006, 01:51 PM
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Almost forgot to mention that because they're so slow he also may avoid some trouble there too. They are built strong and I consider them safe. (Safer than the MG Midget I and 3 of my friends piled into to go to lunch in high school... and marginally safer than the 76 Buick 4dr that was my first car)

I would say a similar option with the features of slowness, safety, mediocre reliability, and such would be a Volvo 240.

Recalling how I drove as a teen I would strongly recommend good tires and getting the brakes and steering in stellar condition.

I'm not a parent so all I can tell you is what I know about FSJs and my own driving habits in younger, stupider days.
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  #9  
Old 10-28-2006, 02:06 PM
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Might want to also consider a TBI setup from Howell etc, or a Junkyard TBI (cheaper and just the same if you have the knowledge). As for start and go reliability, my wag has been 100% for the last 2 years.
Is my DD as well (not right now because im tinkering on her )
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  #10  
Old 10-28-2006, 02:54 PM
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A Wag can be "modernized" to perform on par with modern vehicles and run fairly cleanly, and that needn't entail swapping motors. There's very little that's inherently better about any other motor one is likely to make work in an FSJ, unless maybe you're thinking diesel.

With enough time, imagnation, patience, and money, these things can make excellent daily drivers, but "safe" they ain't. Well, you could make a point that forcing a kid to drive an archaic truck should make him a very careful driver if he survives -- sorta like welding a pointed rod to the steering wheel hub to focus his attention. A newer vehicle with less weight, structure engineered for crashworthiness, good handling dynamics, decent brakes and an airbag is far, far safer. I'd much rather send a kid out in a Miata than an old Jeep.

S.J.
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Old 10-28-2006, 04:10 PM
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Thumbs up

I like the idea, but no need for any swaps. Let him learn how to keep a carburated engine with a distributor running. If it breaks down, with a little help, he can fix it himself and learn from it. My son has an injected Audi that is nothing but trouble and expense, so he drives and maintains my Waggy. He seems to like it, it's as reliable as any other vehicle a teenage boy is liable to be able to afford, and when it breaks down, it's usually pretty easy to troubleshoot, even over the phone.
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  #12  
Old 10-28-2006, 04:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Serious Johnson
I'd much rather send a kid out in a Miata than an old Jeep.
S.J.

put the peyote down man !
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  #13  
Old 10-28-2006, 05:03 PM
WITT79 WITT79 is offline
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Wow - I've been schooled...

Well,

Let me first say thank you to all of you who replied. You have truly given me some serious food for thought. SJ and others may have hit the nail on the head - I can probably make it reliable enough for a young guy but safe isn't attainable by today's standards. Though the prospect of working on a project like this together, does have appeal.

Thanks very much for your input gang. I'll let you know what we decide.

Witt
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Old 10-28-2006, 05:20 PM
Ristow Ristow is offline
 
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we don't even HAVE a non FSJ! wifes' dd is a 401'd '91 GW,and mine is an '83 cherokee.

the ol' reliable standby is the '74 J10.

all 3 get 12-13 mpg overall averages,too.
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Old 10-29-2006, 12:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chr1s
put the peyote down man !

When you pry it from my cold, trembling hands .

I stand by my statement of a light, nimble car being safer than a huge lumbering monster. MG had it about right in their old "Safety Fast" campaign. Sure, by the time you're in a crash, mass generally wins. Trick is being able to avoid most crashes, and for that you need hardware that handles plus the skill to exploit it and the sense to pay attention.

By the time Our Dear Son reached legal driving age, he'd already built himself a 500 HP Mitsubishi, so off he went to Bondurant to learn how things really work (made him pay for it too). I'm not particularly fond of his taste in cars, but am relieved that he doesn't share my affinity for clumsy old iron.

S.J.
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Old 10-29-2006, 06:10 AM
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All of my SJ's have been daily drivers. As long as you spend the time and money to make them safe, and keep up the basic maintenance, they are great dd's. If you instead spend your money on paint, tint, stereo's and new steering wheels, then you will have a nice looking rig broken down on the side of the road

I'd do the following if it were me:

1. check compression on all cylinders and make sure they're within spec
2. change all fluids / filters (including fuel filter & pick-up tube sock filter) on all drivetrain components
3. check / upgrade u-joints
4. complete brake-job including new fluid (I prefer to upgrade to GM 3/4 ton brakes on the front)
5. good tires
6. exhaust system
7. wiring (make sure everything works, charging system is in good order, all lights work)
8. heater / ac
9. steering system (rag joint, ball joints, power steering box & pump)

After all of those things are working / reliable, then I'd look at suspension, custom wheels, and all the other "fun" things.

As my grandfather taught me when I was young:
"if you spend your time and money on paint, wheels, tires and stereo before fixing the drivetrain and other necessary parts of your vehicle, then you will end up having one great-looking vehicle broken down on the side of the road, begging for people to steal your new parts while you are trying to find a tow truck"
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Old 10-29-2006, 07:44 AM
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Forget trying to make an old Waggy environmentally friendly. It could be done but the cost would eclipse that of the Big Dig in Boston.

But as a starter vehicle for a teenaged boy it is probably a good option, provided all safety issues are addressed. The poor fuel economy will train the young man quickly to assess priorities and budget the miles, and the reliability of the vehicle will teach him responsibility and mechanical skills.
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Old 10-29-2006, 08:19 AM
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Some people talk about safety - I say to heck with safety! I ask you - "why does a guy jump out of an airplane? Becuase he's got a parachute on! If he'd thought "splat" you can bet your butt he wouldn't be jumping. I say with all this "5 star safety rating" and 5 airbags, seatbelt, crumple zones, this and that people think they are as safe in their cars as they are in their sofa. I say we start teaching our children that if the run in to something they might die - or take someone else's life.
On a side note - I'm a truck driver and I see ALOT of excessive risk on the road. *jumps off soapbox*
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Old 10-29-2006, 08:22 AM
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A little hijack here. Where exactly are you in northern KY Witt?
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  #20  
Old 10-29-2006, 09:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Serious Johnson
When you pry it from my cold, trembling hands .

I stand by my statement of a light, nimble car being safer than a huge lumbering monster. ... Trick is being able to avoid most crashes, and for that you need hardware that handles plus the skill to exploit it and the sense to pay attention.

This is pretty interesting to think about. I agree--- with a caveat--- b/c I've always felt a little safer in the two sporty cars I had (1993 SE-R and 2003 WRX) figuring the handling and braking will help me avoid problems. But I also think the tool has to be in the right hands for it to be of use. My SCCA autocrossing experience means I'll know how to use the WRX to avoid, and my age means I won't do anything inordinantly stupid to get into trouble, and if I can't avoid a wreck the WRX has a 5-star crash rating.

But I would never give a WRX or even an SE-R to a teen. Hell even in my 20's I was stupid with the SE-R and went off the road. I tried to race only on the track but that one time was too tempting to show off my sk1llz. I was a goody-two-shoes in high school (started drinking after college) but still drove like an idiot so I'm glad to have had a slow boat. My point is that I doubt you can trust any male teen with a fast car... or really even a slow car.

So... I think it'd be fun for father and son to do SCCA Solo II Autocrossing (actually mom and sister, as applicable, may like it too as there are lots of women in this sport who kick a$$), and son would learn how to not kill himself when he inevitably drives fast, and hopefully he can resist temptation and race only on the track.

But how about getting him a car that handles well, brakes well, and has no power, and is safe in the event of a crash? Again we're back to the Volvo 240. You could get some suspension components off a Turbo (strut tower braces, sway bars, etc.) to tighten it up. The brakes are good already. Get good tires. Now it's too slow to bother racing on the street, but it'd probably do well in SCCA b/c that is more about driver than car.

For the record, I've been in one accident where it was an error in judgement not related to speed, and then taking the SE-R off the road which was me being a complete fool (and yes I fully learned from that to the extent that my wife makes fun of me because I drive like a grandma ).

I still wouldn't have a problem letting a teen have an FSJ. Again, too slow to bother racing (or if he did, it wouldn't go fast enough to worry about), just make sure brakes are above par. If he gets in a wreck, based on all the stories I've read, there's a good chance of being safe.

And while we're at it, teach the kid defensive driving skills, like my dad taught me. Anticipate problems and avoid them before they happened. It was drilled in my head enough that it actually stuck with me when I got behind the wheel.

Michael
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