BUILDING WEEKEND WARRIORS THAT CAN BE DRIVEN DAILY
Our editor-in-chief gave a command: Three of us needed to go find cheap trucks or 4x4s and build them for $3,000. But there was a catch. Each vehicle had to be something that would not only be fun in the dirt, but also be able to hold its own on today's busy freeways.
This means building something that is comfortable enough to drive to work, and able to keep up with other off-road toys in the dirt.
He didn't care how we did it, as long as we kept our activities legal (there goes my free truck idea), and kept the vehicles emissions-compliant (or emission exempt if it was a pre-'76 vehicle). Insurance and registration costs didn't have to be included in the $3,000 build cap, but oil changes, bolts, windshield wipers, etc., all had to be included in the cost. Bartering was fair game, but it needed to be documented. Also, it was legal to sell unused parts off the vehicle, and subtract that amount from the total price tag.
Was there a winner? Well, it depends who you're asking. We didn't really start it as a competition, and all three builds ended up differently-but with one theme in common: multi-purpose use for less than $3,000.
In the next couple months, we're going to try to find a day when we can all go out and have a $3K Thrillride adventure day. If you want to join us in Gorman, California, at the Hungary OHV area, email email@example.com and send us pics of your low-cost thrillride!
CC Rogers '79 Widetrack Cherokee
Jay Kopycinski's '89 XJ Cherokee
Jon Acuff's '74 K5 Blazer
1974 Chevy K5 Blazer
About six months ago I ran across a Craigslist ad for a '74 Blazer, and what caught my attention was the price: $999. The ad claimed the Blazer had a rebuilt motor and transmission, but didn't say much else.
I figured it probably didn't run yet (someone's project) and the body was probably junk, too. But for $999, it would be worth checking out just for the engine, transmission, and front axle. Even if the body was rotten, I thought, the rebuilt engine and tranny could fit very nicely into a truck or two that I have.
After a short phone conversation, I found out that a son was selling his father's K5 for his father, after his dad's passing a few years prior. He was just trying to get it out of the yard. I decided it was a good prospect and that I'd go take a look if I got up that way within the next week (it was about an hour away).
Around this time, our editor-in-chief proposed the challenge of building a practical project truck for less than $3,000. He said it had to be off-road worthy, but also functional enough to hit the highway. I secretly think his plan was to just make sure I had a second vehicle to get to work in, so I had no excuses if my normal daily driver was broken or ripped apart.
I told him that I thought I might have the perfect vehicle and would get back to him after I checked it out. Just maybe, that K5 might be the ticket. If the body was in half-decent condition, it would make a great cheap-truck platform.
Upon vehicular inspection, I immediately saw moss growing on old white paint, and it was sitting with a bad lean due to a popped tire. This Blazer hadn't moved in years. But besides the poor paint condition, the body didn't look too roughed up. There was a little Bondo in the front fenders, but overall it was fairly straight, and almost completely rust free. I popped the hood to find an '80s GM 350ci V-8 missing a few pieces-a starter, an alternator, a couple sparkplug wires, and who knows what else.
Apparently, the guy's father had put the rebuilt Chevy Small-Block and the fresh transmission in the K5 about five years ago, but he didn't hook up the tranny to the engine correctly...or so the son told me. He looked honest enough, but I could tell that he didn't know the full story (or even half the story) on this K5.
I offered the guy $800-I would have paid more, but why not see if he'd take less first? It was just a lawn ornament, after all. The only way the seller would take the deal was if I also took four used tires he had at his house. I told him I'd take the tires if he knocked off $20 for the tire disposal fee. He accepted, and I towed the Blazer home for $780.
Upon getting it back to a friend's gated shop, I used a pressure washer to nail off most o
Before I bought it, the K5 had been turned into a storage locker. There was stuff piled to
This K5 really was a good score. It even had a rarer '74 dash package that came with a clo