I have a new truck. I’m calling him Fezzik. A little over a week in, I’m surprised I’m not in a padded cell yet. Here’s what happened.
I’ve been playing with Mitsubishis almost exclusively since 1996. First was “Daisy,” my 1997 Eagle Talon. Then came 195 (of 2000), my 1991 Galant VR4 – the would-be rally car. The GVR4 so impressed me, I couldn’t bear the thought of bending 195 on a dirt road somewhere and not being able to find another. I bought 464 (of 1000), my second GVR4 – a 1992.
As my rally/race car dreams evolved, then dissolved, I found myself in Limbo. Building cars was a major part of my identity. It was a major part of my life. If I wasn’t going to race, why was I putting so much effort into making my cars faster? I wasn’t sure what to do.
One day, my good friend John invited Vanessa and I to ride along on a simple 4-wheeling trip to Sedona. We rode in the back seat of his Jeep TJ. We crawled over some boulders, skidded down an obstacle called “Devil’s Staircase,” wondering if the friendly spotter guiding us down was actually guiding us – or just doing the robot – and had a couple craft beers for lunch.
We were hooked. Better yet, I wasn’t in Limbo anymore. 4-wheeling is a family thing. Not to say rally or racing aren’t, but 4-wheeling means family and friends can do more than sit in the stands or pits. Family and friends can ride along. Even better, 4-wheeling is the journey AS the destination.
You know Rocinante by now. My trusty, 1989 Pajero. As I’ve mentioned before, Rocinante is the slowest, least powerful, least comfortable, and perhaps least reliable vehicle I’ve ever owned. At the same time, I’ve not loved a machine so much since Daisy.
There’s a sense of adventure and limitless possibility when you step up and into a 4WD truck. Maybe it’s the feeling of raw utilitarianism. I dunno. In any case, despite his ability to crawl up and over just about anything I had the balls to try, he doesn’t have the balls to do more than 45mph uphill on the highway.
I bought Rocinante because I love the look of the first generation Pajeros. The price was also right – $2,000, including a fairly rare, Mark’s Adapters 4L gearset from Australia retailing for about $800 all by itself. I also wanted something mechanically simpler than the turbo cars I was used to. Little did I know how complicated those Mikuni feedback carburettors were.
In three years, I rebuilt the engine (oil pump failure), replaced the engine (spun rod bearing), rattle canned it, fitted a set of 31” BFG ATs, and collected several cubic feet of spare parts. Being short wheel base (SWB), Rocinante is too small for camping, and the lack of power on hills means loading up a trailer or roof rack is a no-go, too. And lacking functional air conditioning, my girls weren’t interested in spending much time in the slow, hot, noisy fun cooker.
DAISY 2.5: BRUTE SQUAD RECRUITER
I’d been looking into “gen 2.5” Monteros casually for a while, but when Vanessa told me she wouldn’t mind me getting something newer, more comfortable, and more reliable, the gloves came off. I scoured Craigslist in a five state area looking for 98-99 Monteros. I wanted the gen 2.5.
For those not in the know, the 1998-2000 Pajero – aka: Montero, Shogun – were still 2nd generation Pajeros, but with a few, subtle differences. Most notably, the flared, box fenders. Mitsubishi also simplified things under the hood by replacing the DOHC 3.5L (6G74, same engine in the GTO/3000GT/Stealth) with the fancy, adjustable intake manifold for a SOHC setup without. The only options really offered were an electronically adjustable suspension and a “winter package,” which included a factory air locking rear differential.
My budget was $4000 – twice what I paid for Rocinante – and I checked Craigslist daily. Sometimes twice, three times daily. I had money in the bank and wifey approval to buy a new toy. I was in the zone. Finally, after seeing several pushing 200,000 miles in various conditions for $4000 and up, I found what looked to be a damn near mint specimen just northeast of Compton in SoCal listed for $2500.
This would mean I’d have funds left over to fix pretty much all the little annoyances coming with a 15 year old vehicle. White over silver. “Gen 2.5.” I was looking for a new mechanical partner for another 14 year, 200,000 mile run like I had with Daisy. The color matched. I thought “Daisy 2.5” would be a good name.
This was Thursday night, March 26th 2015.
ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY
Friday, I text the seller back, asking for more pictures and can I send someone over to check it out. He says, sure, but there’s a couple guys coming to see it first thing Saturday morning. Money talks, you know. I put the word out to just about everyone I know in SoCal.
I need someone to lay eyes on this machine and make sure it’s not a beautiful disaster. Does it start okay? Does it sound okay? Is it leaking? Does it overheat? Does it look/smell like a crime scene inside? That sort of thing.
Everyone I know is either working, going to work, out of town, or on their way out of town Friday afternoon when I start asking. Finally, I call my uncle (in-law) Ron to see if he can help me out. Now, Ron drives a big rig for an ice company in the greater Los Angeles metro for a living. Remember, the closer you get to LA proper, the worse traffic gets – and Uncle Ron spends 10-12 hours a day navigating that nightmare in an 18-wheeler. Hopefully I can catch him before he gets home.
Nope. Ron’s just home from work when I call. I ask him if he could pretty please go back out in the evening when the traffic dies down. He says he’ll see what he can do and takes down the seller’s info. Later that evening, he calls back to tell me he’ll be going over Saturday afternoon. Damn. I figure the truck will be long gone by then, but it is what it is and I’m sincerely grateful for Ron’s offer.
DID I MENTION THE CAMPING TRIP?
Adding to the sense of urgency, here, was the fact Vanessa and I were going camping Saturday. I don’t know about where you live, but here in Arizona, your typical, dispersed campsite does not come with any cellular service. I was hoping to have the truck checked out and purchased before we left town around noon. Not that I’d put much thought into how that would happen, but I’m just being honest about my expectations, here.
V & I were walking to the checkout line with the last of our supplies when Kris called to tell me he was going to go check out the truck and what, specifically, did I want to know. Considering I’d not had a chance to call the seller that morning – what with getting a 2-year old ready for a weekend at the grandparents and packing for an overnight camping trip – and I’d not heard from Ron, I figured it couldn’t hurt.
THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH
V & I finished loading the cooler and were about to back out of our parking spot at the store when the phone rang again. It was Uncle Ron! He’d just finished driving the truck, said he thought it was alright – nothing you wouldn’t expect from a 16 year old, $2500 vehicle, anyway – and asked if I wanted him to put a couple hundred bucks down on it to hold it over the weekend.
YES. VERY YES.
Uncle Ron said someone else was there, driving the truck at the moment (I’ll give you one guess who), but would go make the deposit when they got back. V&I decided to hit the road, since Ron had things under control.
10 minutes later, Kris calls back with a full report of the facts. Pulls right, needs alignment, severe cupping on front tires, small oil leak back of engine, probably nothing serious. Doesn’t overheat. AC works. Missing sun visors, front seats a little worn out. He emails me pictures of the undercarriage, which he said looked surprisingly clean.
Kris tells me there’s another guy there looking at the truck now (I’ll give you one guess who), and would have made an ATM run to get me cash if I hadn’t told him Uncle Ron was there right before him and standing by to do likewise. Kris makes no formal recommendation on the truck. Just the facts. And with this, he’s off the hook; probably went home to work on the rally car.
This is a good time to point out that, as a rule, I do not use my cell phone while driving. The urgency of this situation – buying the A-OK truck with 50,000 less miles for sale for $1000 less than the closest competitor before driving out of cell phone reception – had me breaking my own rules.
Rolando is the guy selling the truck. I call him right back. I call him right back from Rocinante, the loud truck without AC or power steering with the 5-speed manual gearbox – as we’re driving through Scottsdale on a busy Saturday afternoon. I don’t know how some people do it. Wowsers.
I tell Rolando my Uncle Ron is ready to hand him cash to hold the truck until tomorrow when I get back in town and can get him the money. He’s on a test drive with a third guy at this point and tells me he’s fine with that. Before we can iron out details, the call drops.
Vanessa is starting to doubt the camping trip. It’s pushing 2PM, we’re not out of town yet, and I’m tripping balls trying to buy a truck 500 miles away like my life depended on it. I’m frustrated yet another gearhead crisis is stressing my wife out – and that I pretty much had a super sweet deal in my hands and fumbled it on the 1 yard line. In disgust, I put the phone back on the dash. 15 minutes later, we pull into a Subway for sandwiches in Fountain Hills.
While V goes in to get me a tuna on white (I like the tuna here), I call Rolando back. He says the other guy – the cool dude with the hat – isn’t there anymore, but if one of my friends will give him $200 deposit, he’ll hold the truck a couple days for me. Cool. I call Ron. No answer. Shit.
With that, I resign myself to failure. So close. So far away. Other fish in the sea. Etc..
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
10 minutes later, as V, Rocinante and I are chugging up a long hill on the edge of cell reception at a blistering 45mph, my phone rings. It’s Ron. I’ve already got my hazards flashing, so I just jump to the shoulder and stop to answer. No more driving and talking on the phone. That’s damn foolish.
Ron tells me he went to get cash at the ATM and asks me if I still want to put money down on this truck. I tell him absolutely. He tells me he’s sitting in Rolando’s living room, will make the deal, and get a receipt for me. I thank him and ask him to tell Rolando I will call as soon as I get home the next day.
V and I cheer, I put the phone back, and we continue to our campsite destination. It would still be closed for winter, and we’d end up driving to a very depressing casino in Camp Verde to spend the night in a hotel, but it ended up being a pretty good day.
TO BE CONTINUED…