I'm In A Mad Dash To Fix My Long-Dead Jeep J10 By Friday's Toledo Jeep Fest

By now it should be clear that I am, often, a fool. Since buying my Jeep J10 in 2015, I haven’t driven it more than 30 miles due to copious issues like bearing noise from the trans, a major exhaust leak, electrical gremlins, engine stalling issues, and much more. Why, then, did I promise the organizers of the Toledo Jeep Fest that they could feature the truck as part of an exhibit? Because I’m a fool—one who has until Friday to fix a truck that probably hasn’t run right in a decade.

When I purchased my 1985 Jeep J10 from a farmer in Yadkinville, North Carolina back in 2015, my plan was to restore the truck to perfection. But after I started here at Jalopnik, those plans changed and I began focusing on reviving old shitboxes and showing what genuine automotive underdogs can do. Those four projects required lots of my time and money, so the J10 sat. On multiple occasions, I declared that I was going to finally fix the J10, but after a few turns of the ratchet, I lost focus, and the J10 just waited.

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But the wait is over. The J10 is receiving 100 percent of my wrenching focus. I already repaired and installed the four-speed manual transmission, but there’s still a heap of work to take care of in the next four days to get this thing 80 miles to its birthplace, Toledo, Ohio. And then 80 miles back.

The Interior Is Clean And The Bench Looks Good

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My landlord came over and helped me clean this truck’s interior with a bucket of degreaser, which is good, because the farmer who took care of this truck back in North Carolina didn’t do a great job at keeping it fresh (see above). The vinyl covering the floor had trapped moisture and grime, and the whole cab emanated the delicious aroma that is rodent droppings.

That’s all taken care of now; the cab is squeaky clean:

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And better yet, I’ve even installed a new bench seat cover. Here’s how the old bench looked, with its prominent tears in the fabric:

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And here’s the new setup. Not quite as awesome as the original vinyl, but I can dig it:

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There are some holes in the floors that I will, at some point, have to fix. Here’s the passenger’s side:

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Here’s the driver’s side (there’s a hole there in the corner):

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For the Jeep Fest this weekend, I’ll just throw some floor mats down, but eventually, I’ll lay down some beads and splice in new steel.

The Engine

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The 258 AMC Inline Six leaked buckets of oil, and much larger volumes of exhaust. To fix this, my friend and I cleaned the valve cover and replaced its gasket, and then I installed an exhaust manifold gasket, which actually wasn’t included from the factory (it was just a metal-to-metal interface).

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Above, you’ll see the intake and exhaust manifold gaskets on the right side of the cylinder head. Here’s how the motor looked after I reinstalled the exhaust manifold:

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And the photo below shows what it looks like now that I have the intake manifold on as well. It’s worth noting that I plugged a few ports on the intake, as they supplied vacuum to emissions parts that I’ve removed.

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I also installed a new water pump, thermostat, all-new V-belts, and fresh radiator hoses:

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I have a new fan clutch ready to be installed with the mechanical fan, and I still have to throw on some new heater hoses, and pop the carburetor onto the intake.

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Once the fan, heater hoses, and carb are in place, and the cooling system has been filled with antifreeze, the motor will be, at least mechanically, ready to run. It will, however, still need some work on the electrical side of things.

Ignition System

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These 258 inline-six engines of this vintage come with a Ford-style ignition system. It’s not great, and to get it to run properly with a non-stock carburetor tends to require modifications.

That’s why I’m planning to replace the stock ignition module with a GM four-pin HEI unit. I did this same thing to my Postal Jeep’s inline six, and it yielded great results:

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I’ve snagged a heatsink from the junkyard, and a 1/4-inch aluminum plate to mount that module to and I plan to solder everything together using the connectors from a used AMC module. That way, I can just unplug and remove the factory module and bolt in the new plate (with the GM HEI module on top) and then hook it all up using same connectors on the truck’s wiring harness.

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Exhaust Issues

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Four years ago, when I took this truck on one of few short drives, I had a carbon monoxide alarm sitting on top of the dash, as I could hear and smell exhaust, and feared that the CO levels might be a bit high. I was correct, and actually had to ditch my truck in a parking lot once due to high CO readings.

Upon further inspection, I’ve discovered three possible sources of the leak. First, there’s that exhaust manifold-to-head interface, which did not originally contain a gasket. I’ve fixed this, and expect that to be leak-free.

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Second, there is a huge hole in my downpipe. It looks like a tube for some kind of bung, though I’m really not sure why it’s there. Here’s a look:

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I plan to throw a bolt into the hole, and weld around it to plug the source of the leak.

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There’s also a little pipe coming off my catalytic converter. I’m going to need to weld this as well:

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On top of that, my truck as it sits now has no muffler at all, so I ordered the cheapest muffler I could find on Amazon that looked similar to the factory one, and I plan to fasten it to my exhaust using adapters and u-bolts:

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Tires

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The front tires on the truck look brand new, and they’re dated 2013, so they’ve got a couple of years left in them, I think. Out back, though, the tires have deep treads, but they’re too old and too cracked. Luckily, I snagged some nice used, brand-name tires (dated 2017, in excellent shape) 31-inch all-terrain tires from the junkyard:

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So I have to build an ignition system, swap on some tires, weld up and adapt an exhaust system, throw in a fan and some heater hose, install a carburetor, and get everything tuned properly. Plus, I need to have a look at my brakes, since they feel a bit spongey.

I have until Friday; I’ll be wrenching every night until then to finally free this poor J10 from its miserable, stagnant existence.

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About the author

David Tracy

Writer, Jalopnik. 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle, 1985 Jeep J10, 1948 Willys CJ-2A, 1995 Jeep Cherokee, 1992 Jeep Cherokee auto, 1991 Jeep Cherokee 5spd, 1976 Jeep DJ-5D, totaled 2003 Kia Rio