Chapter 4: The Deuce’s Debute

Well, shit. There I was parked in the middle of the road in front of my house with my newest CJ5 parked up against my JKU. I assumed that the noise was the hitch coming off the ball somehow and dreaded seeing what all got smashed up.

To my surprise, the hitch was still mounted to the ball, but the front of the A-frame tow bar has torn loose from the hitch. Further inspection showed that the bottom weld did not penetrate at all and the top piece of sheet steel just fatigued from carrying the entire load. As for damage, this is where I thank the solid rear JKU aftermarket bumper, the rear mounted tire and the solid front CJ bumper. The damage is limited to a bent right front fender on the CJ, and even that isn’t bad.


I pulled off the tow bar and drove it into the garage. Did I mention that I didn’t use safety chains? What about the last 10 miles of 65mph 2 lane, uphill twists? I can honestly say that I was so relieved that I made it home without the CJ drifting into oncoming traffic or taking an unsupervised ride through the dessert hills that I couldn’t be angry.

In talking to the PO later and showing him the picture of the separated tow bar, he was in shock as he towed with that setup from several hours north.

Lesson learned: check welds periodically on homemade mods. Especially those critical, single weld joint.

Now that it is home, I start going over the critical systems. I’m not planning on doing the same daredevil drive I took Homer out for his initiation. Generally, it looks good, just used. Nothing I didn’t already know, but I start the list of things to repair and prioritize them. I determine nothing is a critical show stopper.

I actually drive it to work one day when it is nice and warm. The 33″ Super Swampers howl the whole way. I laugh at the thought of a radio blaring away unlistened to under the growl of the tires, the rush of wind and the flapping of the bikini top.  Luckily, there is no radio.

The steering isn’t bad, but you do have to pay attention. Brakes good, but I’m reminded they need adjustment. All the way to work and back I am just grinning like a loonie in the asylum.

The Deuce in Homer’s Shoes

A few days later, I have some time to myself, so I decide it’s time for the proper initiation. I jump in to take a ride up to the cabin, as that is the stated goal of this joy ride. Throw all my stuff for the day in a backpack, toss it in and take off.

The road starts out as a badly degraded “paved” road as it ascends up a very steep, winding road, with no guardrails. That was some bouncy riding! Lots of “whoops!” and “oafs!” as I failed to miss the potholes and bumps. I am starting to realize the need for a greased suspension and some working shocks.

Eventually, the road mercifully turns to a relatively flat dirt road, minus the one substantial uphill with flat rock slabs positioned randomly. But the Deuce is taking it well. Not smooth, but well. Nothing is stopping this beast.

A statement I soon realize is incorrect.

Deuce in it’s normal state, Hood Up!

After about 6 miles of dirt, she throws out a backfire and stumbles a bit, but keeps popping. Around the next corner, she decides that she’s has enough. Engine goes quiet and I coast to a stop. As an initial worry, I glance at the gas gage and it shows just under 1/2 tank.

Well, shit. (I have a feeling that I’ll be saying that a lot.) I pop the hood and check for gremlins. I recall the backfiring and remember the PO said something about the distributor hold down clamp loosening on its own until he bent a giant washer to hold it down. Grab the distributor and give it a twist. It rotates fairly easily. Great. (That is not the word I used.) I assume all the bouncing caused the timing to drift.

Thinking the adjustment is just a bit out, I try rotating the distributor in small increments and trying the starter. Not even a single pop of spark.

After 20 minutes of swear-filled frustration, I give up, grab my bug out bag and begin hiking back to cell coverage. I guess the honeymoon is over.

The Deuce eyeing the overlook

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