I’m not entirely sure how this happened, but I own 13 cars. And what’s strange is that I just sold a bunch, meaning the vehicle flow rate into my yard must be higher than the vehicle flow rate out of it. This means continuity (the conservation of vehicular mass) does not apply to my abode. This concerns me.
I am literally the first Google result that pops up when you search “all my cars are broken,” and by now, it should be no surprise why. Ever since I started at Jalopnik in 2015, I’ve been struggling to tread water.
When I arrived here, Ti-83+ calculator still piping hot from all the engineering I’d just beast-moded, I owned three vehicles: a 1992 Jeep Cherokee, and 1996 Jeep Cherokee five-speed, and a 1985 Jeep J10. In short order, I added two: a 1995 Honda Accord to act as a winter beater as I prepared a 1995 Jeep Cherokee for what would become an inaugural trip to Moab, Utah. I bought the Honda for $1,000 and the Jeep for $600.
That was too many cars for me to maintain — a fact that resulted in this now-infamous article:
Here’s a quote from it:
I am stranded.
I am forced to bum rides off my friends, who make fun of me for my never-ending struggle to maintain my fleet of junkers. I sit there in the passenger’s seat wondering where I went wrong.
That was nearly six years ago, and I can say that at no point since have I ever come close to actually solving this “problem.” Mostly because I’ve been having far too much fun.
My fleet would see ebbs and flows, sure. I sold that old Honda to my neighbor, I let go of that manual 1996 Jeep XJ, and I got rid of that crappy $600 Jeep XJ. But I bought an Oldsmobile Alero for $1, and traded that for a wrecked Kia Rio that I got stuck in my backyard (ultimately resulting in a war with my next-door neighbor). I eventually junked that Kia.
For my 2017, 2018 and 2019 Easter Jeep Safari builds, I bought a 1948 Willys Jeep, 1986 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, and 1976 Postal Jeep, respectively. I’ve sold all of those, many as a result of the Great DT-Vehicle Purge Of 2020 — brought on by city officials who had received a complaint about my junky-err, vehicle collection.
I’ve bought 20 cars over the last six years and only sold 11, leaving me with a net gain of nine, which — added to my initial four (since I took temporary ownership of my brother’s 1966 Ford Mustang) — means I’m at 13 machines.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a classic “everything wrong with my [insert large number] cars” article, in part because the last couple of years have been heavy for a number of reasons (I’m sure many of you can relate), and it can be difficult to to enthusiastically write yet another story about my broken cars amid so much tumult.
But the fact is that millions of you wonderful readers have been reading about my cars since 2015, and enough of you have asked for an update on my current fleet, so who am I to deny that? Let’s take a look at some incredible (and incredibly broken) machines!
1. 2002 Lexus LX-470: An Absolute Tank
My Lexus LX-470 acted as the support car for an absolutely epic trip to Washington to pick up and fix a 1958 Willys FC-170. You’ll read more about that soon. Until then, just know that the Lexus — which I bought sight unseen for $5,000 — has been basically flawless since day one.
Today there’s a bit of a sunroof leak, which caused my horn to go apeshit:
It has been raining lately, and my floor remains dry. Plus, the horn hasn’t gone mad on me, so who knows — maybe this water-ingress issue fixed itself? In any case, here’s how things looked a few weeks back:
What hasn’t fixed itself is the steering column’s electric tilt/telescoping function and the sunroof motor. Plus the tie rod ends are on borrowed time, since their rubber boots are torn. Once moisture gets in there to contaminate the joint, the tie rod end will be done-for:
The steering rack seeps a tiny bit of fluid, though it’s so minuscule I probably wouldn’t bother fixing it. I haven’t had to add fluid in many months.
I will note that, when I bought the LX, the vehicle shook quite violently under braking, indicating warped brake rotors. But over time, this seems to have improved; there are slight vibrations when touching the brake pedal at highway speeds, but they’re far from alarming. Does my Lexus mend itself?!
Other than these slight issues, the Fancy Land Cruiser is in great mechanical shape. Aesthetically, the seats are a bit worn and the grille and bumpers are scuffed/cracked, but it’s not horrible:
Pretty soon, this machine will be gone (hopefully). Yes, I’m selling one of my most reliable cars, and Land Cruiser owners out there have been giving me grief for it. But this SUV gets 13 MPG, has a boring four-speed automatic paired to an underpowered (for this thing’s absurd weight) 4.7-liter V8 motor, and is just too big to be a real off-road beast. It’s gotta go.
2. 1965 Plymouth Valiant, Three On The Tree: Needs A Bearing And Floors
Taking the Lexus’ place is a 1965 Plymouth Valiant. I needed a winter car, I didn’t want it to be the Lexus for the aforementioned reasons, but also because I don’t like having too much money tied up in a sacrificial winter beater. That’s why I bought this rusty Valiant for two large.
It runs and drives beautifully; it just made the drive from upstate New York to Michigan, flawlessly. It needs a clutch throwout bearing (the current one is making lots of noise when I press the left pedal) and some undercoating to prevent rust. I also need to clean out this mouse nest:
And I need to replace the floorboards. I should probably do this before undercoating the car:
Otherwise the car is ready for winter duty. It even features rear studded snow tires, which may or may not be illegal in Michigan. This thing should handle snow and ice like a beast.
3. 1995 Chrysler Voyager Diesel Five-Speed: Greatest Van Ever
Project Krassler, the diesel manual Chrysler minivan that I bought sight-unseen during the height of the pandemic in 2020, made it through Germany’s absurdly tough “TÜV” inspection last summer, and has been flawless ever since.
Okay, maybe not flawless. I had some wiring issues with one of the headlights and both of the taillights, and the hood latch broke. That’s all fixed, though there’s a tiny crack in the windshield that I need to fill before it gets bigger. The inner CV axle boots were a bit torn the last time I looked, so those tripod bearings may lose their grease and fail eventually, but that’s not a huge deal.
This van is a tank; easily my most reliable vehicle. It took me on a 3,000+ mile round-trip from Germany to Turkey earlier this year. It also took me to Sweden last year. Overall, I’ve put 11,000 miles on this diesel manual Chrysler minivan and there have been zero mechanical problems. Plus, aside from some flakey-paint, the body is beautiful and rust-free.
4. 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Five-Speed: The Perfect Holy Grail
This extremely-rare, base-model manual Jeep Grand Cherokee is rust-free and almost entirely devoid of mechanical maladies. I fixed its saggy door (which failed at welds and hem flanges), swapped its ignition coil, and installed a new oil pressure sender; now the Jeep drives confidently. It’s a low-mileage (126,000) 4.0-liter five-speed Jeep Grand Cherokee — an incredibly rare and incredibly versatile and capable machine.
There is a crack in the exhaust manifold as is customary on 4.0-liter engines, and I do want to replace the gold wheels. Plus, I have to admit that the AX-15 five-speed manual’s shifter does hum a little while driving, and going into gear is sometimes accompanied by a “click,” but overall, this Jeep is a reliable driver.
5-6. 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Five-Speed (x2): Two Junkers To Be Merged
In addition, I own two other five-speed Jeep Grand Cherokees. One of them I plan to turn into an overlanding vehicle that, at some point in the next five years, I will take on a year+ long expedition around the world, with an aim to discover car culture in a way that nobody ever has before.
The chariot for this trek will be the red vehicle, which I bought from Virginia for $250. The green Jeep is a rusted-out junker that I bought from a Wisconsin dairy farm for $350. The plan is to use the red Jeep — which is missing its transmission and some interior parts — as the basis for my build, with the green ZJ donating its transmission, interior, and various other components.
Between the two vehicles, I have more than enough parts to make one solid (the red Jeep has no rust, the green Jeep has nothing but) five-speed Jeep Grand Cherokee, though as they currently sit, both are complete junkers.
7. 1992 Jeep Cherokee, Auto: Needs An Axle And Cooling System Work
My very first car, the 1992 Jeep Cherokee currently sitting in my backyard, was a champion when I took it off-roading on Drummond Island a few months ago with my boss Rory. Unfortunately, it ultimately destroyed its rear differential by ingesting too much water.
On top of that, the engine overheated for some reason.
I fear the Jeep needs a new cylinder head and possibly a new radiator; it certainly needs a new axle (and by “new” I mean “junkyard-sourced”). These jobs will take some time, but will be fairly cheap and easy to complete.
8. 1991 Jeep Cherokee, Five-Speed: Pretty Much Flawless
There was a time when I considered my 1991 Jeep Cherokee to be the best all-around Jeep ever made. Then I bought a manual Jeep Grand Cherokee “Holy Grail,” and now I think it’s a wash between the two. Since I’m unlikely to ever find another stick-shift ZJ, it’s time to part with my beautiful manual Jeep Cherokee.
The thing is in fantastic shape. There are a few cracks in the dash, the AC doesn’t work, and there are some small dings here and there. Plus the Jeep has a rebuilt title due to a fender bender, but overall, the XJ is gorgeous, and I’m sure someone will buy it soon.
9. 1985 Jeep J10, Four On The Floor: Perfectly Imperfect
I can’t believe I let my Jeep J10 sit for four years, and even considered selling it once I rebuilt its transmission. Because now, every time I get behind the wheel and shift that fresh four-speed, I fall in love all over again; I’m never selling this truck.
Right now, the pickup is perfect in my eyes, even if it’s not perfect perfect. The floor, for example, has some rust holes:
In addition, the engine runs like crap when it’s cold, and the catalytic converter appears to have fallen apart inside, because it won’t stop rattling.
Plus, the heater doesn’t work, and there’s something slightly wrong with the rear brakes, since they sometimes grab a bit hard when I first try them after the vehicle has been sitting.
But the truck is safe to drive thousands of miles as it sits. It’s super simple, and just generally doesn’t bring much bullshit into my life. That’s why I’m keeping it forever.
10. 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle V8, Auto: I Am Ashamed
Over my 6.5 years at Jalopnik, I’ve undertaken many automotive projects, and have always succeeded. Even the junkiest of junkers — like my rotted-out Postal Jeep — were no match for my wrench.
My only failure so far has been my 1979 Jeep Cherokee, and I’m a little ashamed of that. This thing ran fine when I bought it four years ago. I removed a head to fix a broken exhaust stud, then kept the head off for so long that the cylinders began rusting, so I chose to remove the engine to hone the cylinders. With the engine out, I figured I’d install new rings and bearings. After I did that, the engine refused to turn over; I checked bearing clearance and ring end-gap, but something was afoot.
Pressed for time and convinced the old engine was on its last leg anyway due to the tall ridge in the cylinders, I bought a recently-rebuilt engine from a friend of a friend. Though it runs, there’s quite a loud tick, and there’s no oil making it to the rocker arms. This old Jeep is the bane of my existence. So beautiful, yet so broken. And really, it is my fault.
I am ashamed.
11. 1966 Ford Mustang V8, Auto: A Cooling System Away From Perfection
My brother’s 1966 Ford Mustang, of which I’m now the caretaker, not only looks beautiful, but it runs and drives very well. It even starred in an Indian wedding recently; it’s that nice.
Unfortunately, the car nearly overheated during the wedding ceremony. I still need to figure out what’s going on, but I suspect there’s rust in the engine block.
Aside from the thermal concerns, the Mustang’s brake master cylinder also has a slight leak, I think from the lid. I need to keep an eye on that and figure out exactly where the leak is coming from so I can mend it.
12. 1958 Willys FC-170: LOL
There simply isn’t enough space on the internet for me to describe everything that’s wrong with this rustbucket.
13. 1957 Willys FC-150: Possibly Stolen
I haven’t even started diagnosing my 1958 Willys FC-150, mostly because I need to figure out a way to get it registered. You see, this thing doesn’t have a title and — far more worryingly — it doesn’t have any VIN tags.
The body has a skim-coat of Bondo pretty much all over it, so it’s hard to really assess how much metal there is, but the FC definitely looks nice from about 10 feet.
The engine is a World War II Jeep engine (so, not the original engine in this vehicle), but is nice and clean, so I’m hopeful it runs well. We’ll see.
I can tell you right now, though, that there’s something wrong with this Jeep’s clutch pedal. Maybe the cable is stretched, or maybe there’s a bigger issue, but that pedal runs right into the firewall (even though it’s not technically a firewall) without much effort.
Cars I’ve Sold Since We Last Talked
The last time we chatted, I had the city of Troy, Michigan on my back telling me to repair and register every vehicle on my property. This resulted in a hell of a wrenchfest, and in me expediting the sale of my 1948 Willys CJ-2A, 1987 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, and Kia Rio (which went to the junkyard).
Since then, I’ve also sold my 1991 Jeep Comanche, which I’d bought for $500. The last time I wrote about the Comanche, it was taking five years worth of scrapmetal to my local scrapyard; despite its crusty rocker panels and bedsides, the Comanche was structurally sound enough to handle the 1,620 pound load.
I sold the Jeep for $2,400 to a welder, who has been stitching up the body:
Speaking of stitched-up bodies, remember that nice, low-mileage 2000 Jeep Cherokee that I also bought for $500? You know, the one I later found out wasn’t that nice, since it had a gigantic hole in its unibody, which I welded up in the middle of the winter?
Here’s the hole in question:
Here it is after some pokes with a screwdriver:
And here it is once I’d finished going at it with an angle grinder and with my $100 Harbor Freight welder:
Those deeply uncomfortable hours laying on my back in the winter, welding my Jeep’s frame were worth it, as they helped me sell what would have been a $500 Jeep for $3,150.
In addition, I sold my $700 Jeep Grand Cherokee “Holy Grail.” It was beautifully rust-free, and in excellent mechanical shape. I had a hard time letting it go, but it was hard to justify keeping it when I had that nice, low-mileage red one from Reno.
So there it is: The state of my fleet. I’ve sold a few, bought more than a few, and now I’ve got plenty of good-running cars and plenty of projects on my hands. I have a nice Mustang, a trusty Lexus, a beautiful red manual Grand Cherokee, a sweet old J10 pickup, a clean 1991 manual Jeep Cherokee, and an unstoppable manual diesel minivan. I also have a Golden Eagle that I need to get running properly, two manual ZJs that I must merge into an overlanding vehicle, a 92 Cherokee that needs a new axle and radiator, a Plymouth Valiant needs a clutch kit and floors, an FC-150 that needs a title and a clutch cable (at the very least), and an FC-170 that needs Jesus.