The weekend we fixed everything.
“You never go Full Pajero,” but that’s exactly what we did.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Fezzik was an absolute basket case. The poster truck for, “If you buy a cheap vehicle because you can fix everything cheap, fast, and easy—you damn well better fix everything,” this California-spec 1998 Mitsubishi Montero got away from me quickly.
I don’t want to go over everything that was wrong with Fezzik—again. Suffice to say one of the valve covers never fully sealed, the valve seals were on their way out, the rear main was suspect, and the radiator neck was about to fall off.
It was just easier to replace the entire long block. So that’s what we did.
This is our story.
The plan was simple. I stashed at least $20 a week for a few months to save up the big cash money wad. I was originally planning on getting some tatau done, but decided it would be smarter to fix my daily driver than get cut. I digress.
Once I had $500 set aside, I called up Joshua Mead at Adventure Driven Design—Official GBXM Partner, by the way—to get his advice on a budget engine rebuild.
[ Disclosure, for the rumor mill. ADD did NOT do this job. Josh helped as a friend. Adventure Driven Design doesn’t do installs and such. At least, not yet anyway. You should buy more stuff so they can grow and start offering this service. /plug ]
- Friday: I drive to Josh’s after work, we eat dinner, remove engine, hang out.
- Saturday: We eat breakfast, assemble & install new engine, test drive, celebrate.
- Sunday: We sleep in, test drive on a trail, and I’m home for Mother’s Day.
FRIDAY: I leave work and head straight to Josh’s place, arriving around 6PM. After I’m settled into the guest room, we order up shawarma and catch up over dinner. The conversations are excellent as always. We remove Fezzik’s hood and pull him into the shop just before 9PM.
(Hey. We’ve both pulled more Mitsubishi engines than we can remember and we have everything we need on-site. There’s no rush. Besides, pulling an engine usually only takes three or four hours, tops. We’re good.)
And that’s when we start running into what I’m just going to call “things that should have been removed at least couple times in the last 20 years that no previous owner ever removed in the last 20 years that become almost permanently attached to the truck.” Combined with “things that were removed, but reinstalled off by just enough to make your life miserable,” the going is much slower than expected.
The last bellhousing bolt comes out just after 3AM.
Josh, his old friend Joe (who showed up earlier in the evening, lent a hand, and was just an all around solid dude), and I retired to a quiet corner of the yard under the trees to hydrate and get a game plan for the morning.
We were dead to the world when the sun came up 90 minutes later.
Somehow, we were all back out in the shop just after 9AM. We made a Dunkin Donuts run. (Fezzik runs on Dunkin, too.) I had three donuts and a vanilla cold brew.
Once the engine was out, I hit the engine bay with Easy Off engine bay, I mean, oven cleaner. Night and day difference. The change in the engine bay from just this made the engine removal worthwhile. A filthy engine bay only makes urgent, crisis repairs all the more horrible, ya know?
Due to a clerical error, a vendor shipped Josh the wrong valve seals. The Mitsubishi 6G74 V6 was offered in both single and double overhead cam configurations in Monteros, both with 24 valves. Fezzik is a SOHC model (I wanted the torque curve and simplified timing belt job). The vendor shipped DOHC seals.
Experts in the audience will note the need for valve seals implies the heads needed to be assembled at this point. Said clerical error introduced a significant speed bump to our project, but there was plenty to do in the cleaning department, so it was all good.
With most of the grimy bits degreased and pressure washed clean, we hopped in Goldi-locker, Josh’s 98 Montero, and rolled back up to the north side of the valley to Keith’s Shop of Mitsubishi Wonders to do a final cleanup and assembly of the heads.
It was well into late afternoon by the time we got back to the fort in east Mesa. Dominos was selected to be our dinner sponsor and we threw down on a very large, very tasty pepperoni pizza-ah, as the King of Oo might say. (wink)
I started painting the valve covers with barely an hour of daylight left. Josh painstakingly assembled the heads. I began stripping and cleaning everything bolted to my old engine and preparing it to go onto the new engine. Josh installed the heads.
Once the sun set, we found ourselves dragging ass. I think we all thought we would have been done by this time, but we were still stripping the old motor and building the replacement. We would blink and two hours had passed. It was going to be another late night.
“Second coffee” was arranged from Dunkin and we pressed on regardless.
The new engine was assembled and nearly ready for install just after 3AM Sunday morning.
Which was okay, because it would be easier to install a known quantity into a clean engine bay than it was to pull the janky mess out the day before, right? After another strategy session under the trees in the corner, we called it a night just before dawn.
9AM. Mother’s Day. I feel like a sack of smashed assholes, but I told V I wanted to be home by 3PM, so I’m the first one up and I’m already out in the shop turning wrenches when Josh rolls out about half an hour later.
Fezzik now runs on Dunkin, so we load up in Goldi-locker and roll out. This time, I decide to try the iced mocha with Thin Mint swirl Josh gets. It is delicious and does the trick.
We also need coolant, Rotella, a cheap oil filter, new coolant and vacuum lines, and a couple more cans of Brake-Kleen certainly can’t hurt, so it’s off to AutoZone with our coffee. There’s talk of hashbrowns later, but I’m hungry now—and don’t want to stop again once we start. We make a detour to QT for a microwave sausage sammich.
It’s pushing 11AM by the time we get back. If I’m going to be home by 3PM, I need to be on the road by 2PM. Man. This is gonna be close.
And that’s when I notice the radiator. The one with the leak under the water neck. The one I need to braze and re-seal. The brazing and sealing I can’t do because I couldn’t find my flux before leaving the house Friday morning.
So we go back out to Home Depot for solder and flux and something else, I think. The hours are passing like minutes and I’m shitting bricks about disappointing V on Mother’s Day.
By now, I’ve already updated V half a dozen times about our progress. She knows I’m not going to be home by 3PM. 6PM is the new target.
Shortly after 4PM, I’m sitting down to attempt my first-ever brass radiator repair. After replacing the cracked expansion tank, expansion hose, and two radiator caps, I began to suspect the radiator filler neck itself was to blame; like it had been smashed or bent or something.
The plan was to clean it all up with a wire brush, smother it in flux, MAP gas it, and feed it some fresh, silver solder. It was a good plan. Until my torch proved excessive for the job.
Which makes sense, given how important this job was. Nobody in the Phoenix metro—a “city” of nearly 5 million people—had a new, metal-tank radiator for a 1998 Mitsubishi Montero. At least, nobody open after 4PM on a Sunday.
I brushed everything clean, applied the flux, and hit it with the torch.
The entire water neck almost immediately fell right off.
I’m not sure how Josh and I weren’t both freaking out at this point, but we weren’t. Josh calmly stopped what he was doing and we tag teamed that mother.
First, I brushed it all down again. Then I tinned the tank with a metric shit-ton of solder. THEN I flipped the filler neck, fluxed, and tinned its base within an inch of its life.
We tried again. Even with the torch set so low as to just go out on a whim, the solder on the tank liquified almost immediately. We had a large, wooden block on the neck but it didn’t feel right.
We tried AGAIN. This time, Josh held the filler neck with a pair of long needle nose pliers through the expansion hose barb while I aimed the blue fire straight down the hole into the radiator.
I knew it wouldn’t work. And I was just about to give up when Josh exclaimed, “It just settled back into the hole! We did it!” I killed the torch and reapplied the wood block to maintain pressure as the solder cooled.
This was a major catastrophe averted. But would it hold pressure? Only one way to find out.
STABBING WESTARD (I DON’T BELIEVE)
We reconnected the still-hanging-on-the-hoist intake manifold bracket to the new engine and got it airborne. The engine, red valve covers and all [ I feel you judging me, Andrew. – BD ], went over the radiator core support just before 6PM.
It would take us nearly three hours to get the damn thing stabbed on the torque converter. Three. Hours. Three hours or wiggling, twisting, shoving, prying, lifting, lowering, and swearing at a couple hundred pounds of Cyclone V6 that all but refused to settle into place.
But we did it.
VINDICATION: Fezzik is messed up.
An hour later, Vesuvius, my Frankenradiator, was installed. I worked topside, connecting fuel and vacuum lines, sensors and electrical, while Josh painstakingly reconnected the exhaust bits and lower hoses.
I think it was sometime around 10PM when Josh, still under the truck, says, “What is it with this truck and everything being just a little bit off from how it’s supposed to be? It’s never taken this long to get the engine out. Or get one back in.”
The guy with so much Montero experience he goes into business serving the Montero community can’t quite put his finger on it, but confirms there’s just something about this truck that’s bonkers.
So I’m not crazy.
THE TEST DRIVE
We button things up and Fezzik starts on the first try just after 11PM.
Oil pressure comes right up to 30psi or so. Temp comes up relatively quickly and stays put while we let things get good and warmed up to burn off all the oil residue and greasy fingerprints.
A test drive is in order. The power steering pump is loud, but it’s low on fluid and clean for the first time in years. Otherwise, Fezzik pulls smoothly and cleanly, the transmission, with one quart of fresh Diaqueen in it (to replace what was lost during the project), shifts more crisply than ever.
Back at the fort, we re-install the still filthy, forgot-to-pressure-wash-it-too hood, pick up tools, pack Fezzik for the road, and call it a day. It’s midnight and, well, my alarm goes off at 5AM.
An uneventful hour later, I pull into my driveway and text Josh that Fezzik ran great the whole way.
I check my phone as I crawl into bed. 1:39AM.
I decide to sleep in until 6:30.
MEANINGFUL ON SO MANY LEVELS
Before I go any further, I’d just like to go on the record as saying Joshua Mead is one of the most honorable, solid gearheads I’ve ever met. I literally could not have done this without his help.
He knew I’d bit off more than I could chew with this truck. He knew what had to be done to get my life with cars back on track. And in true, next level gearhead brother fashion, he stepped up to be his brother’s keeper.
When I explained everything wrong with the engine, Josh suggested it might be easiest to just replace the whole thing at once and be done with it.
When I pointed out I barely had time to do my brakes, let alone plan an engine build, he offered to rebuild one of the good cores he had picked up for his own project if I bankrolled the parts.
When the time came to do the work, he offered to host the project at his place, where we’d have access to all his tools and spares just in case. And he gave me a bed to sleep in.
He put in just as many hours as I did—and he took on the hardest, dirtiest parts, personally. Dude even crawled out from fighting gonna-snap-off-any-minute exhaust studs to help me get a clamp on a stupid heater hose.
He was no doubt just as frustrated as I was at all the trifling bullshit that pushed this project well beyond the time allotted, but he was calm and collected the whole time. Which made ME calm and collected.
This was one of the most critical, stressful automotive projects I’ve done in a decade. And it was perhaps the most meaningful to boot. My brother Josh has given me a reliable Mitsubishi.
I could go on and on—and in many respects I have—but it has to be said.
There are thousands of us all around the world. And yet most of us can only truly count on a small handful of brothers and sisters when the chips are down.
If you don’t have a friend like Joshua Mead—BE that friend for someone else.
It’s worth it.
This project was meaningful on so many levels.
- I had a full weekend for the job. No rush.
- I had an expert helping who’s seen and fixed everything. No stress.
- I drove home with a fresh engine that should be good for at least 60k. No doubts.
- Everything critical that could fail under the hood has been addressed. No worries.
- Everything else left to do is basically Saturday morning stuff. No problem.