Back in the fall of 2019, I wrote about a rare 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee sitting on an old dairy farm in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, road salt had rotted out the main unibody rails, making the vehicle no longer suitable for the road. The owner, Dustin Sawyer, hoped to preserve the piece of automotive history, but years passed, and he ultimately decided to scrap it. Then a series of events conspired to save the holy grail from the crusher. It’s coming to my House of Misfit Jeeps.
Initially in the few months after I wrote that 2019 article, the plan was for me to buy the grail, but I went out and found another 1994 model without any rust. For $700, that seemed like a smart move over buying a rusted-out one for a few hundred bucks and swapping all the parts over to a rust-free automatic.
Dustin (whom I recently met on my Land Cruiser/FC-170 road trip — see above) then decided it was time to scrap the grail. Yes, it was rare, but it wasn’t in high demand, it was no longer roadworthy. Laziness led him to kick the can down the road a few months, but then he tried to donate the vehicle to NPR. That ended up being a hassle. Then came COVID.
“COVID really slowed things down because I had so much going on, and didn’t really want people to come to the house,” Sawyer told me over the phone. Then he and his wife decided they wanted the Jeep out of the way so they could build a shed.
Sawyer spotted in a yard a sign that said “Will buy cars for cash.” Sawyer called him, but earlier this year, just before parting ways with his Jeep, he gave me a call.
This was shortly after my article about buying my second holy grail Jeep Grand Cherokee, a 1993 base model with crank windows and manual locks located in Reno, Nevada. A rust free example, it was a steal at only $3,000. Look at this beauty:
Strangely, the article about that red manual ZJ blew up, with people sharing my words all around the internet. Eventually, someone either tagged a man named Seth or they linked me his for-sale listing, I don’t remember. In any case, I got in touch with Seth, who showed me that he was selling off a twin to my grail, which is wild, because I thought mine was the last of its kind! (To be fair, Seth’s is a 1994, my Reno Jeep is a 1993).
He sent me these photos:
It looks beautiful! It has the original steel wheels, which are unobtainium and which I’ll install onto the Reno Jeep, as well as the original silver-stripe exterior door and bumper trim. Plus, there’s a factory radio in there I’m told (which I’ll also swap into my Reno machine), and crank windows/manual locks. This is the 1994 “SE” model, which was basically the same as my 1993 “Base” model from Reno; it’s very spartan.
The vehicle, however, lacks a transmission, as Seth had removed it. “I had no idea what I bought when I bought this,” he told me. “I thought it was just a factory manual ZJ, which I knew was semi rare. But not unicorn rare.”
Seeing Seth’s Jeep, and then later receiving a call from Sawyer, put me in a bit of a pickle. Here was a nice, rust-free, red, base-model manual transmission Jeep Grand Cherokee holy grail, but it was missing its driveline. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, days from heading to the scrapyard, is a rusted-out holy grail, but with a complete driveline.
Needless to say, The Great Holy Grail Transplant Of 2021 is underway. I will be picking up the red Jeep from Seth this weekend near Richmond, Virginia. Dustin Sawyer’s dad will be dropping off his rusty grail at my house. Starting next week, it’s transplant time.
I have no other choice. It was a sign from the heavens! “If NPR had hooked me up with a competent car carrier, it would be gone,” Sawyer told me. “If I hadn’t had this tickling notion to give you a call and see if you needed the front driveshaft of the shift boot, it’d be gone.”
I am the chosen one.