Chapter 9: She Runs, Now What?

The Deuce

So, the Deuce runs now, but with a few concerns. I decide to take her on another shakedown run… to work. It is only 15 or so miles. What’s the worst that can happen?


You know how well that worked out last time. Yes, I am using one of the most human abilities: denial. I’m just going to ignore all the things that I know are wrong and see if I can discover new ones.

I do make sure that the new fire extinguisher in under the driver seat. And I take extra gas and a jug of water. Just in case. My standard bug out bag in loaded and I wear some good hiking shoes. As the Boy Scouts taught me well; be prepared. At least this time.

The thing about when you first start driving a piece of shit vehicle is that you pay extra attention to everything; every noise, every vibration, every smell. Well, the Deuce has a whole lot going on at once. Soon, we will engage denial and ignore it all, happily cruising around until something breaks. But for the time being, it can be nerve racking.

Is that new? How are the gages? Is that a happy engine noise? What is that vibration when I lift and turn left? How are the gages? Is that the road or is something important about to fall off? Gages? Can I even trust the gages?

All in all, it was a successful trip. I made it to work with the temp below 200F the entire way. The oil pressure started on the high side, but eventually dropped to my expected range. If I am going to continue driving it on payment, I need to inflate the tires a little for those 65mph S-curves on the way to work. But I’ll take the win! 

Just to give me a heart attack, a customer came into the shop and mentioned that our dumpster out back was smoking. Now, I know they said dumpster, but my brain immediately went to CJ ablaze! It isn’t that big of a stretch.

I went out back and indeed our recycle dumpster on fire. The Deuce lurked in the background like the other gawking tourists as we watched the fire department quickly douse the dumpster. The flames were luckily 20 feet away from my plastic gas can.

On the way home, when an air temperature of 99F, she got up to about 207F while driving 65mph in traffic. I slowed to 55mph and the temp dropped. Eh, driving it at 65 was a bit taxing anyway.

Back at home, I noticed that the radiator cap was from a bygone era and that the radiator wasn’t mounted well. There were air gaps on all sides of the radiator, the mounting was the bare minimum at 2 bolts, and there was no radiator shroud. I put some foam all around the radiator to make the air go through the radiator. I removed the winch off the front as I wasn’t planning on using it soon… not to mention that the fairlead was mounted to the other front bumper. I planned to leave the current towing bumper installed for quite some time.

When picking up a new radiator cap, I learned that my old 7psi cap wasn’t stock. I would feel much more confident with the new stock pressure 16psi cap installed.

Continuing to ignore several issues yet gaining confidence in the reliability, I decide to drive the Deuce around more often. I actually take it up to the cabin, the original intent of the vehicle. It does good enough, at least in respect to the cooling. It was over 100 degrees F at home and as I drove up the steep inclines, the temp topped out at 205F and then dropped when we got to the level areas. The suspension was rocketing up my list to fix. With blown shocks and ungreased shackles, it was a stiff, bouncy ride and my spleen was demanding something more compliant. I drove about half the speed I usually go with my modern JKU. Or less.

A few other little things were noticed. After a while, I could tell there was exhaust gasses getting to the driver’s seat. The rear diff needed a pinion seal as it slowly leaked. The steering could use a bit of inspection.

But she made it there and back. And actually made it to work and back the next day. And a couple days later.

The Deuce Making it to Work, yeah?

Well, life happens. With the Deuce running, and somewhat reliably, I continued to drive it around. I did little things, such as ordering a fuel gage that actually is made to work with my sending unit. It only got lost in the mail for a week.

The exhaust leak on the right front header to block is getting to the point I can’t ignore it. But I do. I mean, I can see where is gasket is blown out. That will be an easy fix, right?

With the rear axle leaking from the pinion seal, I head down to my friendly autoparts store, pick one up and wait until I have a few minutes before work some morning. After prying the old seal out, I clean it all up and notice that the seal doesn’t look exactly the same. Compared to the old one, it appears to be a smaller diameter. The test fit confirms this as it falls into the hole and rattles around. Great.

I head back down the next free day and ask for another pinion seal, but “not the first one”. The guy pauses, looks down further and finds it. Seems that the part I need isn’t listed under a Dana 44, but the 44-M or 44-HD. The seal should fit either one, their system says. I’m not confident in their system. I think the wrong seal might actually fit Homer instead, so I keep it.

Get back home and go for the quick install. The seal doesn’t quite want to go back in. There are two spots it hangs on. Sure enough, there are tiny burrs that I dress with a file. Seems to do the trick. It didn’t go in smooth, but it went in and didn’t leak afterwards. I’ll call it a win.

Back to ignoring several issues, I continue to drive it around. I’ve run up almost 500 miles and it is (still) functional. More than that, it is a hoot to drive. I’ve started to just accept most of the current issues. It bangs, it rattles, it jumps over bumps but it is just plain fun.

We took the bikini top off and enjoyed a night ride with the Milky Way over our shoulders. Sure, the windshield rattles a lot more and I notice that the windshield clamps are crap; of the 6 bolts holding the 2 top pieces to the windshield frame, 3 are present and the rest are broken off and painted over. It takes less than 2 minutes to reinstall the bikini top, so that makes night driving fun. Just need a good way to store it while driving.

Coming home from out post-midnight Milky Way ride, I finally decide that the exhaust leak is getting too loud to ignore…at least for my neighbors. So I order some exhaust manifold gaskets and head to the garage to pull the headers off. All of the bolts are loose. Two are not even finger tight. Now, I can understand that near there would be loose bolts where the gasket was blow out, but not one single bolt needs two hands on the ratchet.

Needless to say, it is easy to undo. The bolts practically fall off. While undoing the header collector to the muffler flange, I inspect the rest of the short exhaust system. I notice, not for the first time, that the rear of the Muffler is attached to a solid metal L-bracket. At least it is a single bolt up into the body to give it some degree of movement when the engine rocks on the motor mounts. Just not enough for my liking. Put that on a list of things to change.

Perfectly Fine

As I pull back the headers, there is one cylinder on each side that shows white in the exhaust port. Great. The exhaust manifold gaskets show that there were leaks at just about every cylinder, not surprisingly given the lack of bolt torque. While trying to figure out how to approach the problem, it hits me. Just pull the damned motor. I have a hoist and a stand and I should probably inspect both the top and bottom ends. So why not? It’s not like it is complicated. My brain mocks me by thinking “Sure, an easy exhaust manifold gasket swap, huh?”

So, do I pull the motor? Naw, back to denial time. Throw the exhaust header back on and ignore the rest. For now.

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