This has been the most complicated vehicle purchase I’ve ever made. The first two weeks were filled with surprises and setbacks. And I still haven’t fully registered the truck in my own name yet.
THE HOME RUN
Before I’d even confirmed the truck was mine, I’d already negotiated a super sweet deal with local buddy Josh to get him home. Turns out all the links I shared with him for feedback on gen 2.5 Monteros in SoCal got him thinking about picking one up, too. For $250, Josh was happy to make the quick weekend road trip.
A week to the day after I’d made contact with the seller, Josh and Kim were camping somewhere near Salton Sea, ready to roll into Los Angeles County to load Fezzik on a trailer, buy their own 2.5, and head back. Even this proved more difficult than it had to be.
Rolando (the seller, for those who missed part 1), had called earlier in the week, telling me he was going to Vegas Friday and I needed to pay off the truck and take delivery before then. Uncle Ron, who had already done so much to help, basically bought the truck with his own money – then coughed up $150 additional to have it towed to his place in San Dimas. (Yes. That San Dimas. And he didn’t want to risk an unregistered vehicle on the road, thus the tow.)
Now, I’d already overnighted a cashier’s check for $2600 to Uncle Ron, covering the cost of the truck and a little extra for his trouble, but this tow caught me out. I PayPal’d Josh an additional $150 to give Uncle Ron when he picked up Fezzik. Josh sent me a couple pictures of Fezzik on a trailer, his and Kim’s new Monty close behind.
Things we looking up. Josh told me they’d probably get back into Phoenix around lunch time. Perfect.
Then Josh lost a trailer tire somewhere between Desert Center and Blythe, California. If you’ve ever watched a Roadrunner Coyote cartoon, this stretch of I-10 looks a lot like where those two characters mixed it up when we were kids.
Pull it up on Google Maps and check the satellite view. Or just picture a straight stretch of divided, 4-lane asphalt as far as the eye can see, with about 10 miles of flat, scrub brush dotted dirt between the road and distant mountains. There’s really no cell service once you get more than half a mile off the highway out there. Desolate.
Josh did a little MacGyver-ing and decided to try limping an hour up the road to Blythe. Then he lost another tire.
They hopped in the gold Monty and drove back to Desert Center for new tires. Considering all I’ve ever noticed in Desert Center is an abandoned school and dozens of long dead palm trees – seriously, they could film a movie like “The Hills Have Eyes” in a place like this – I’m surprised they got tires.
A couple hours later, they were back on the road. And they lost another tire. I’m glad I gave Josh $250 for the tow, as I’m sure it certainly came in handy. With all new tires on the trailer, Josh and Kim resumed their trip a couple hours later. My dad and I met them on the edge of Phoenix around 8PM – easily eight hours later than expected.
I’M ON THE BRUTE SQUAD
Josh unstrapped Fezzik, handed me the keys, telling me I had the honors. My first time ever in a gen 2.5 Montero, and I was backing it off a trailer, in the dark, on the edge of town. I noticed a little lifter tick, but it was just a little low on oil. An easy fix.
Dad hung around for some general walk arounds of both new Monteros, then headed home. I followed suit soon after. Fezzik was missing both sun visors, a couple small trim pieces, and had some kind of hole cut in the steering wheel with cut wires coming out it. There was also a strange toggle switch installed right of the steering wheel that didn’t seem to do anything. Otherwise, Fezzik seemed perfect.
On my way to Auto Zone for some Rotella, I missed my exit for the 101 loop and found myself cruising I-10 into Phoenix. I was thrilled to be driving a truck with so much power. It was so fast, so smooth, so quiet. I noticed the rear windows were slow to roll up, especially on the driver’s side. And there was definitely an alignment issue, as Kris mentioned with the truck pulling a little to the right and shaking a bit above 70mph. No biggie.
As I drove, I played with the ECS (electronic controlled suspension) settings, switching from soft, to medium, to hard, although I felt no difference between the settings.
After maybe 15 minutes, Fezzik and I had a little talk.
I told him I would take care of him and he would take care of me. We were officially a team. I would maintain him to the best of my ability, promised not to hack him up into some kind of barely reliable “off road DSM,” and trust him with my most precious cargo. Together, we would go places. He’d get to stretch his legs and run on the open road, and surprise more than a few Jeep owners with his technical, off-road prowess.
“Welcome home,” I said, as we pulled up into the gravel that is my front yard. Penny was already asleep by the time I got home, but Vanessa came out for a look around. She sat in the front seat, in the back seat, confirmed the AC worked and the truck idled smoothly and quietly – and we both agreed Penny would love the massive, back seat sunroof.
V went back inside and to bed, but I couldn’t walk away yet. I spent a good hour walking around Fezzik in the front yard, getting to know all the design details of the gen 2.5 Pajero. With my truck now safely parked out front – and clearly not a basket case – I was able to go right to sleep.
29 MARCH. DAY ONE: IMMEDIATE DAILY DRIVER DUTY
Our first trip to work the next morning was my first time actually seeing Fezzik in daylight. I grabbed an organic Rockstar and a breakfast burrito from QuikTrip and got on I-17. Continuing familiarizing myself with Fezzik’s, shall we say, idiosyncrasies, I wondered what those wires coming out of the steering wheel were all about. I hoped all he’d need was a front end alignment to solve the tracking and shaking at speed.
At work, I took a good look around and snapped some pictures. I want to thoroughly document Fezzik’s time with me from the beginning. Ah, I couldn’t tell the difference between ECS settings because the front ECS shocks were long gone. And the driver’s front fender had obviously been re-sprayed, somewhat poorly. What other front end repairs were there? I found a couple.
Later in the day, as I was driving to Pap and Obi’s to pick up Penny for her first ride in the new truck (which she loves, by the way, tells me it’s HER white truck at least once a day), I started noting all the burned out light bulbs I could find. Half the main dome light, rear cargo dome light, compass, green ring around the ‘D’ on the cluster, right rear tire on the drive indicator, rear diff lock indicator might not work either.
Wait a minute. Had I seen the CEL and SRS lights self-test at startup?
With Penny strapped in the back, I fired up the truck for the homestretch. “Aw shit,” I thought, “they’re not working.” I tried to stay calm, telling myself it’s a 16 year old truck and little bulbs tend to get burned out, but the recent tooling marks on the screws holding the cluster in place and fingerprint smudges on the glass directly above told me otherwise.
I just wanted to baseline the truck and detail it. Change fluids, mild tune up (new K&N!), swap my BFGs over from Rocinante, give it a good wash, clay bar, and wax – and get busy driving. Little did I know.
MARCH 31 & APRIL 1. DAYS 3&4: APRIL FOOLS
Tuesday night after Penny went to bed, I ran back out to Auto Zone to check for codes. Sure enough, I’ve got O2 issues. I buy a new Bosch unit and call it a night.
Wednesday night, I pulled the instrument cluster and grabbed my box of leftover dash light bulbs. Whattaya know. No bulbs behind the CEL and SRS indicators. Shady as hell, imo, but whatever. I paid $1000 less than anything else on the market. I knew I was going to have to put some time into Fezzik to get him baselined and ready for action.
Sure enough, installing bulbs revealed a couple inconvenient truths. Everything else in the cluster seemed to be on the up-and-up, otherwise.
I disconnected the battery and set about replacing the O2 sensor. Fortunately, the old broke free without much trouble, and I had the new one in and connected inside of an hour. Far removed from the last O2 sensor I replaced on a Pajero.
BEST LAID PLANS OF MICE
The plan was to swap the O2 Wednesday night, drive cycle it on the way to work Thursday, and get through emissions after work Thursday night, so I could get inspection, title, and tags one day after work the following week. I figured government offices would be closed on Good Friday.
That was the plan, anyway. Upon reconnecting the battery, the siren under the hood chirped once. Wha…? I looked through the open window at the dashboard. The alarm light was blinking? No way. I don’t have any keyfobs. Can’t be. I opened the door.
Barely an hour after my 2-year old daughter has gone to bed, less than 20 feet from her bedroom window, I’m frantically ripping cables off the battery as the loudest, shrieking car alarm siren I’ve ever heard went batshit crazy.
I cut the wires to the siren and re-connect the battery. Now all it does is flash the parking lights. Maybe it honks the horn too, but the horn doesn’t work. (There’s still a question of those wires in the steering wheel and SRS light.)
I start googling like a mad man. It’s pushing 10PM and I can’t get the truck to start. The LED blinker is supposed to double as a valet switch, but that functionality broke/died long ago. I try flipping other random toggle switches. No dice. I try locking/unlocking with the key. Nope.
Disgusted, I hang it up around 11PM. I drive Rocinante to work Thursday.
TO BE CONTINUED…