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Annie, Orphan No More, Part 1

Written by  Ige Gustavson
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It’s been nearly three years now since that Colorado January when my boyfriend and I brought home a rig I've coveted for years and it still feels great!  

It began just over 9 years ago when a woman had posted on one of the forums that she needed help getting her Land Cruiser running.  A friend and I volunteered to swing by and give her some direction.  What we found in that garage was a 1962 FJ40 that had barely been touched by the previous owners (read: previous owner unbutchered).  Her boyfriend at the time had bought it years before with the intention of getting it back on the road.  Eventually he determined that he didn't want it anymore, and he gave it to her.

The boyfriend was gone, but she had the cruiser.

My friend Jeff hooked up his battery charger / jumpstarter and I grabbed a small can of gas.  Within moments, it was running.  From there, we looked it over and gave her ideas on what to do, beginning with brakes.  She's not much of a wrencher and over the years all that got done was the vehicle up on stands and the tires removed.  

Between life happening and her hating to see it sitting, she decided to sell it a few years later.  I wanted it, but just couldn't swing the money, but fate was on my side!  She couldn’t find the title and wasn't even sure she'd gotten one, so she couldn't trade it in.  And so the Cruiser sat.

The next year, a second potential buyer kept saying he wanted it, but never even went to look at it.  And so the Cruiser sat.

It was October when I showed Greg the pictures and asked him what he would do if I brought it home. He volunteered his spot in the garage. The topping on the cake was Christmas:  I got the rest of the money to buy it, and a little extra to begin fixing it up.

I contacted the seller.  “Still available?  I have the money.”  It was, but it would be two weeks before we'd be able to get together and I'd bring it home.  Greg and I were both so giddy and coworkers looked at us odd when we talked about our new baby.  At one point, I made the comment that our baby would be home from the hospital soon, and Greg pointed out that hospitals were for sick babies.  Our baby was just neglected for the last couple of decades so it was more like bringing our baby home from a foster home or orphanage.  So it became Annie...Little Orphan Annie.

Before leaving with the Cruiser, we soaked the engine with Simple Green and headed to a car wash.   The only areas that came clean were where the paint under the crud peeled off. Next task was backing it on the car dolly up the driveway...with near flat tires.  That task easily peeled both rear tires off the rims, with me laughing the entire time.  This challenge was going to be fun.

I started looking into to getting a title and found that the first step would require an appointment with the state patrol to get a certified VIN inspection (different than a regular VIN inspection and only done by state patrol).  I could tow it down in it's condition, but that would assign it a salvage title and I didn't want that, so the VIN verification was going to have to wait until we got it roadworthy.

Greg pulled the plugs and I poured in a little Marvel Mystery Oil.  After that soaked a bit, Greg got out one of the hand crank bars and began turning the engine over slowly to free the cylinders.  A note for those not familiar with the Toyota Land Cruisers is that all the 60s and 70s models came from the factory with a bar made to turn the engine over and literally start the rig by hand.  The crankshaft has a special nut to capture the bar, and yes, it does work.  

The next day, in the rather freezing January weather, I crawled under and drained the 10 gallons of the fluid formerly known as gasoline, and Greg started gapping plugs.  We got it running again, but found we had to feed a steady diet of petrol into the carb throat.  In addition, the clutch master had puked all its fluid down the firewall, the plugs were horribly fouled, and the wires were manufactured in 1961.  The steering ends all were missing boots, front main seal and thermostat housing had been leaking long enough to begin remolding the block with the gunk buildup, same with the rear axle and the transfer case and the transmission were unidentifiable. Let the games begin. 

A shopping list was made and sent out to a couple of Toyota parts managers that I know to see what was still available and what could be retrofitted.  From there, the narrowed down list was farmed out to Cruiser Outfitters in Utah, and after Kurt was done, a few other Cruiser shops were contacted.  Once I knew where I was getting stuff from, I began figuring out priorities for the parts, trying to lump purchases from the same places as much as possible, but realizing that after household bills, what was left of my paycheck could only handle so much.

While waiting for parts, we rolled it onto a flattened out cardboard pallet box and it was time to go to town with scrapers, screwdrivers, picks, chisels, whatever we could find to scrape everything down to the metal.  In some places, the grime was almost an inch thick.  I don't want to recall how many hours were spent scraping, but we changed out the cardboard underneath Annie every weekend for three weekends.  It seems like whenever I’d think there's no more to scrape, I'm scraping for another two hours.  Then we'd accomplish something and I'd have to scrape again.

After a few days, what seemed like a never ending Christmas began.  Almost every day I came home from work, there was a package at the doorstep.  It became so common, that now I still look at the doorstep as I pull up the driveway and catch myself wondering why there isn't a box on the doorstep.  New tie rods and ends, gaskets galore, brake rebuild kits, firewall grommets and seals, door straps, hoses, restoration stickers, it didn't stop.  And talk of parts rolling in stemmed conversations at work of "I know a guy who might be able to make that part" and "Did I mention my husband does upholstery?"  Like a tornado generating weather, our project was spiraling!

The coolant was drained and the front end torn apart.  The hood and front bib were removed, the radiator and cradle.  Eventually, all that was left of the engine was a long block.  From there, we'd do everything we could to get it cleaned up...including hooking a hose directly to the hot water heater so we could try to "hot water" blast the gunk off. 

We also went through the little pile of paperwork that came with the rig in hopes that there would be a title stashed away.  There wasn't but there was a lot of cool paperwork.  The original paperwork from the Husky hubs that had been installed.  A Toyota service booklet with the coupons still there for the 2500 and 5000 mile services (Can I still use those?).  A service booklet from a local service station with markings for the fuel fill-ups and services early on in little Annie’s life...a veritable Smithsonian of information.

It may not seem like much, but it was a couple months work to get to here, so I'll make you wait a couple months to hear the rest...I need a break, after all, I'm not just writing this story, I'm still working on this sexy beast. ;)

 

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