Project Car Hell isn't so much a place, as it is a state of mind. Actually, it sort of is a place. A place where you're damned to be wrenching and fighting rust until the end of eternity against a restoration project of impossible odds. Well, I've just swam across the River Styx.
Faithful Truck Yeah! readers will know I've been scouring the country for a pre-1965 International Scout for months (actually, years. For real.) Well, turns out somebody a few miles down the highway from Truck Yeah Headquarters had one in his incredible personal junk yard all along. Now, it's mine.
The story starts like any car-shopping trip; I saw an ad on Craigslist and called the number. That ad had one sentence of description and two terrible pictures of the truck, so I knew I was in for an interesting visit. I wasn't disappointed.
I rolled up on the spot at the agreed upon time, and found an elderly gentleman gingerly whistling to himself while tooling on a sawhorse.
Striding up and addressing him by the name I'd been given over the phone, I was greeted by a big-eye'ed warm smile.
No sooner had I introduced myself and shaken his hand then he dropped into a sermon about the benefits of various sawhorse designs and exactly how he was setting up that particular one, down to the color it would soon be painted.
I mean, it looked like it was going to be a pretty sweet sawhorse so I didn't mention the truck until he was finished.
"Oh yes, she's way back in there," the man said, gesturing to an area behind his house from which I could see a few big slabs of rusty somethings poking out.
We sauntered over, rounding the corner from his driveway and into what looked like the sight of an autopsy on a two-hundred-year-old Transformer.
A 1970something Ford wrecker, splitting in half as the chassis succumbed to rust, was the largest single piece but hardly the most interesting. There was a military generator, some sort of electrical power device that creates "three phase" power whatever that means, and a log splitter powered by said device.
My favorite was a school-bus yellow Massey Ferguson tractor. As soon as my tour guide noticed I was examining it he excitedly began another presentation. "Oh yah, I've had her for a long time. Couldn't get it to run on diesel so I converted her to gas." A process which he ran me through in entirety, and I finally had to cut short when the 1964 International Scout I'd come to see caught my eye behind a ladder, a pile of tires, and a trash barrel full of carburetors.
"Yep, yep there she is," my seller said affectionately. This was either the best sales schtick in the world, or despite the absolutely absurd quantity of treasures he'd stockpiled, this man had a genuine passion for each and every item in his "collection."
I chose to believe the latter.
"Never wanted to sell her. Guy came by, oh, three years ago wanted to buy it off me. But I said 'Oooh no, I'll never sell that.' But. The family wants me to downsize."
The "truck," or the husk I was looking at, was gnarly but it was all there. In fact, more than three different Scouts were staring us in the face at that moment. The body and interior was original, hood and driver's door were off another Scout the gentleman had at some other point, and the interior was packed to the brim full of other assorted parts.
Based on the price, I'd come pretty much prepared to buy if the frame was serviceable and the engine was intact. Of course, it hadn't been run in "a couple years" but rebuilt units go pretty cheap on the various International parts sites and Facebook groups I'd bookmarked since beginning my search.
I walked around it, I felt some nerves as my sense of "logic" and "reason" fought a raging battle against the old man's casual charm and my uncontrollable desire to own one of these trucks.
The body was dirty, but only eaten away at the rocker panels. Which I planned to lop-off in place of rock sliders anyway. Ok, let's be real... rust nibbled at the edge of pretty much everything. But when I realized a street sign had been used to patch a wheel well, I started to realize I might not be able to fight the growing need to be a part of this truck's undoubtedly amazing history.
The old man's reassurances were selling the rig pretty hard. "She hasn't run in awhile. But you put some oil down the cylinders, free 'em up, she'll start. I guarantee you that. She'll start."
The temptation was becoming unbearable, but what you might call "reason" mounted a major offensive in my mind and without making a decision or a deal, I said goodbye to the old man and started driving toward my next destination; an off-road race in Pennsylvania.
I got to Rausch Creek off-road park, and as soon as I parked my Acura between two tattered, lifted Rangers I knew I'd made a terrible mistake. I had to have that Scout.
The seller's wife picked up the phone, and I had another opportunity to think it over while I waited for the man I'd just met to come to the phone. Nope, this was happening.
"Oh, I was just down there putting some air in that flat tire and topping off the brake and clutch lines. But I've got someone coming in an hour to take a look, what if they want to buy it?"
If this was a bargaining play, the gentleman was wasting his time. I had no intention of haggling against the $400 asking price, I was going to need this guy's help getting the truck out of his junkyard and I figured I might as well buy his good graces.
"Hey man, it's your truck, you can sell it to whoever you want. But I can come by tomorrow, give you your money, and I'd love to give that Scout a second shot at life."
Apparently that "charm" was working both ways, because my little pitch worked. He said he'd be happy to sign over the title when I came by, and would host the truck "as long as he needed" until I could pick it up.
Which was perfect, because I had (have) no clue how that thing's getting out of the maze it's wedged in the farthest corner of. That will be Job 1 on what promises to be an exciting and excruciating swan-dive into my own personal project car hell.