Bringing New Junk Home

By Bill "BillaVista" Ansell
Photography: Bill Ansell
Copyright 2002 - Bill Ansell
(click any pic to enlarge)

Confessions of a Lunatic

I have a disease.  I admit it.  That's often the first step to recovery, they say.  Trouble is, I'm not at all sure I want to recover! I quite enjoy my "problem" thank you very much.

My problem is, I am addicted to vehicles.  I love all vehicles, of all kinds...but I REALLY love 4x4s...and the junkier the better.

To feed my addiction, I regularly buy the local "Bargain Hunter".  It's my crack pipe!  It's a $2 weekly paper that contains classified ads that are free to place - the perfect place for junk.  The dream is, of course, that one day, I will stumble across an unbelievable deal, a real treasure, like the $100 RC Dana60 front axle.  Trouble is, I love junk so much, I'm not very discriminating, and I end up buying far too much, even if it's neither a particularly good find nor a great deal.

That's exactly what happened this fateful day.  I was browsing through the paper, and found the following ad.

"1979 F-250 4x4 - with plow gear, for parts or off road use only.  Exc drive train.  $1200, call 555-1212 Ketch Harbour."

Perfect...they must have written that with me in mind.  And you know what I was thinking, don't you?  A 79 3/4 ton...shoot, if that has the snowfighter package, it will have the RRD60 front axle...worth more than the asking price alone.

I was pretty excited at work all day, waiting to get a break, so I could call and find out if there was any chance this thing was the gold mine I hoped for.  Hilariously, as soon as I got a break and picked up my phone, I found out I had was my wheeling buddy Chad...asking if I knew how he could "ask a redneck to identify a RRD60 versus a RRD44".  Bastard...he'd gotten to the ad first.  A quick call confirmed he had indeed seen the same ad.  However, he graciously allowed me first crack, as I was pretty stoked.  

It turns out, the night before I had asked online how to easily identify the 44 from the 60 (I can tell with a quick glance at the hub size...but the seller may have no idea).  The consensus was, the 44 will have ball joints, the 60 kingpins.  So I called the guy, and asked the $64 000 question.  Well, as you can imagine, the result of our conversation was ambiguous at best - so off I set after work with my heart pounding in anticipation!

This is what I found.  This pic is actually shot in my driveway the day after I brought it home.  You can clearly see why I might have been excited by the plow!
Sadly, I was to be disappointed in the front axle department...kind of.  It wasn't the 60.  But it WAS a seriously HD RCD44 - with the thicker tubes and lots of web castings.
Not to mention the big and beefy Full Floater Dana 60 rear, same as in the one ton.
And of course that HUGE 8' blade.  I was at once so disappointed in not having a front 60, and yet so impressed by the huge working plow and grumble of the open header V8, that I made the only wise and prudent decision, and bought it on the spot...without checking it out carefully, or driving it, or anything.

Hey it was junk, and I HAD to have it!

Look at the massive hydraulic gear for the plow!  Apparently it was scavenged from an excavator.  Not only that, but the best part of the whole truck, it has one of those really cool "angry bull sound" horns (blue arrow).  How cool is that.   C''d have bought it too!
And look - there's more...this truck had the much sought after "dual ignition" option :-)

Nothing like buying a truck from someone so lazy, they never bother to unbolt a dead coil, but just zip-tie the replacement to the old one.  You understand why I didn't press for "complete and accurate maintenance records please" :-)

And that's not the worst of it.  AFTER I got it home, I discovered there's no air filter in that housing!  Some people...

Now, you remember that the ad read "for off road use"...and here is one of the many reasons why!  So, when my friend John and I went to pick it up, we had every intention of safely towing it home to my house, a journey of some 65 twisty, hilly, miles winding along the Atlantic coast.  Trouble was, the 3/4 ton rig we had lined up to tow with fell through at the last minute.  No matter - we decided to take my "Jeepasaurus" instead.  Now normally, John drives a VW GT, so the plan was, I would drive the lifted, locked, and Swamper shod XJ on the snowy twisty roads, and John would ride in the junk, on the brakes and steering.

Yea - great plan ...except with that massive blade - no way was even my 250HP Jeep hoping to pull that big truck.  So we made a decision that could be regarded as adventurous and fun-loving or dangerously stupid, depending on your outlook on life :-)

I couldn't ask John to do it, so we decide I would drive the junk, with John driving chase (his first time ever driving my Jeep).  We would go very slowly and carefully, with hazards on, and the big orange rotating light on the junk going...what could go wrong?  It was dark by now...that was good...the law would have a hard time spotting us without plates.  It had started to snow again...not so good!

The red arrow is where we started, the blue arrow our destination.  We would have to cover windy little coastal roads up to 6 lane highway.

We conducted a quick comms check with the 2-way FRS radios (think hi-tech walkie talkies) and set off.  All was going really well for the first 10 miles or so. The steering was sickeningly loose and unpredictable, and the engine roared through open headers...but otherwise the whole traveling show was pretty slick...what was left of the brakes even effectively slowed the beast from what was a terrifyingly fast max speed of 50 km/h.  We were just pulling in to get some gas for the junk when it happened (for the first time).  Big time overheating...blew steam all over the place.  As luck would have it, we were literally pulling into the gas station as it happened.  So we shut it down to let it cool, and I tried to use John's cell phone to call home and report the delay.  Well, we were in the middle of nowhere, and coverage was spotty at best...the call got cut off a couple of times, and I wasn't sure my hastily shouted message had gotten through.  To make matters worse, all I understood was that I was supposed to be bringing Chinese food home for super to my pregnant and craving wife. Checked watch...already 5:30 pm...glanced at junk...hood up, billowing steam, looked down at cell phone...blinking"NO COVERAGE"...this was going to be a long night!

We topped off the rad with 50/50 coolant mix, relieving the small gas station of their last jug.  Before setting off again, we decided to lighten the load by shovelling all the snow out of the bed of the junk.  As I shovelled, I had a nasty feeling I was in danger of pushing the shovel right through the rusty bed...but I managed not to. 

You find the weirdest things in the back of old pickup trucks, and while shovelling the snow out in the dark and snow, under the eerie lighting of the one horse town gas station ...I uncovered this little gem.

Sometimes life is just too fabulously weird for words!

Here's' the rest of the junk that I scored !

Anyway, with bed emptied of snow, and rad full again, we set off.  This time we made it to the highway before she overheated and blew steam again.  Unfortunately, we were tooling along at about 70 km/h at the time (didn't I just say that over 50 would be mind-bendingly scary...I did, and I meant it)  As such, I was completely "task saturated".  That is to say, It took every ounce of my (admittedly questionable) mental concentration and effort to just keep this think pointed halfway straight down the slow lane with lights flashing (so much for inconspicuous).

When the steam blew - the visibility went to zero instantly ....I snapped on the wipers, only to find that although they surprisingly chortled back and forth quite happily, it had apparently been some years since the wiper blade was actually able to contact the windshield.  I was doing 70 in the most unsafe vehicle imaginable, and I couldn't see a thing.  My right hand grabbed the radio, I pressed the transmit button, and spoke.  Now, John tells me I sounded calm and collected...must be the military aviation training ...because in my mind I was screaming like a little girl!  I said:

"John, she blew again, I can't see a thing ...I need to stop but I can't see"

John just calmly replied that he had the con.  This is an expression we use in aviation to describe when, in the case of helicopters, we take control of the helicopter's position from the back door by passing positioning directions to the pilot, while he is hovering,

Without missing a beat, John said:

"Roger, I have the con, ....Right 2...right one .....almost touching the bank."

I made steering inputs in response to his verbal commands until I was touching the snow bank on my right, and then I braked to a stop.

Well, that was exciting.  Thank God for training taking over!  We huddled in the XJ and pulled out the map to discuss our strategy while the junk cooled.  To make a long story short, we spent the better part of 6 hours traveling the 65 miles, leapfrogging to the next spot where it would overheat, experimenting with different blade positions to try and get some cooling airflow.  You can imagine my wife's joy when she and the dogs were awakened after midnight by the thunder of the exhaust-less 351, and the flashing orange lights!

Now the real treasure is always those oh-so-sweet 1970s interiors.  I think the deluxe comfort-o-matic floral pillow has been there since it was new.

The next morning there was quite a bit of snow about, so I gleefully set out to plow the driveway.  Thing's not nearly as easy as it looks...and I kept going too fast and forgetting to raise the blade when backing up.  I was making a real mess.  In the end, I had to beg my wife, who was raised as a prairie farm girl and knows about such things, to come out and show me how to plow!

Humble pie is good for the soul! :-)

Wooo-eee.  Look at all 'dem goodies.  Shag carpet, vinyl seats, and a real 8 track tape kidding!
Here's its current resting place.  I'm trying to convince my wife that it's "not really noticeable camouflaged amongst the trees".

Nobody's buying that lie - not even me!  The current plan is to sell the plow and hydraulic gear to recover most of my investment, and that leaves me with some stout drive train parts to build a custom rock buggy.

My drive train will be Ford 351m stroked to 400, NP 435, NP 203 and 205 with doubler, FF Dana 60 rear, HD RC Dana 44 front (to be swapped for the RC 60 if I ever find one).


I don't know why I bought it.  My wife thinks I just want to be my Dad, but points out that I don't have a farm like he does, and therefore don't need a plow and a bulldozer and a few tractors.  She's probably right, she usually is.  I've always wanted a pickup truck too, what guy hasn't. And I wanted a RC D60 front axle.  So if we analyze this, I have a plow I can't really use practically (due to the fact that we already have 4 vehicles in the driveway - a fact not lost on my wife either!), a pickup truck with no papers that will never be road worthy again, much less legal, and it doesn't have the one part I was really after.

Nice going really are a genius!


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