Join Date: Apr 2001
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Re: what will it cost
First decide on some of this: What do you want? DD to play with off road? Off road only? Do you like to tinker/fix/modify/improve? ...if not CJ is not your bag, baby. Do you mind water on your feet when it rains? What are you willing to pay for a vehicle that will not only be transportation but will be a hobby and a lifestyle?
What to find kinda depends on your definition of ideals like 'nice' and 'too rusty' and 'fixing everything' and on how much cash is in your hands while talking to the seller and how much the seller wants the cash. You know where you live and what winters to do vehicles. You also may know that AMC used no rust protection (other than topcoat body paint) on their vehicles which exasperates the rust and winter thing. That said, typically any given person looking in temperate zones can find a rat heap of rust & duct tape from $500 to $3500 -or- that same person can find a decent condition CJ within the same price range. Depends on how, where, how long that person searches and how ready that person is to drop everything and run to inspect/buy possible 'good deals'. The old standard "get what you pay for" rule can really apply. However, you do need to watch out for the shady ones who try to make their turd look like a gem. You will also encounter those who think their turd is worth it's weight in gems. So the "buyer beware" rule is in effect too.
To me, you should be able to find a useable driver in the $2k range... it will have body rust and or repaired body rust. the frame may be rusty, worse in the rear - check it closely, if repaired was it done well or cobbled? will probably be in need of front axle parts i.e. ball joints, axle seals, axle u-joints, spindle bearings, etc. maybe some driveline parts too. may or may not have rebuilt engine, trans or transfercase and will likely leak here and there but should be a dependable runner. watch for cobbled up wiring... this can be a major source of headache. Unless you spend about the same price as used TJ, plan on fixing on your CJ regular... after all it is a Jeep not a Civic.
IMHO - Get cash ready to go. Start monitoring sites like e-bay.com, autotrader.com, classifieds2000.com (if it still exists), autobuyer.com, dirtroad.com classifieds section, the SWB resource.com, etc. Start monitoring the auto classifieds section and 'bargain corner' section of the local paper(s) and local/regional auto trader type publications. Do this a couple months to get an idea and feel for the local market. Get the word out to anyone and everyone you know who is 'into' off road stuff, when they see something have them contact you. Look in back yards and in the woods as you drive aorund. Wait. Watch. Wait. Good deals do pop up...