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My 1971 2002 Family Project (Rufus)


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Hello all, 

I've finally gotten around to making my own account on here to actually post updates and keep a thread of the build I can reference. The car in question is a 1971 model, originally Malaga and was repainted by the PO to Guards Red. I'm 21 now, and my dad originally bought the car as a roller with a short block back when I was in 5th grade. I still remember getting off the bus that day and sprinting to the backyard to see it sitting on the trailer, I was hyped). For my dad's original project blog post, here (might ring a bell for Marshall and Jim):

 Sadly, my dad passed away suddenly in January 2018, and I have now taken it upon myself to finish what we started back then. After that winter, my dad and I pulled the engine, trans, and front subframe/suspension out. First thing I ever welded decently was the motor mount and subframe reinforcement plates. We put the engine on a stand in the Shelterlogic "garage" with the car, and my dad found a machine shop near Rockville/Germantown to rebuild the head (it had a bent valve if I remember correctly) with the help of Jim Gerock. The head went on the engine with the stock cam, but with new valves, rockers, head bolts, gasket, etc. The subframe went into storage along with the trans, suspension, and brakes. We did install the NOS front and rear windshields ourselves, as well as the NOS rear side glass and latches. I still remember an entire weekend where all I did was polish the brightwork by hand with a microfiber and Wenol (I'm old enough for power tools now at least!). For 8 years, the car sat there on jackstands with the front end gutted and its heart sitting next to it. I'm still not sure exactly why we stopped working on it regularly, maybe coaching my sister's softball team and travelling around the east coast almost every weekend from May to October had something to do with it haha.

     Regardless, it sat in that state basically untouched up to my dad's passing. I couldn't bring myself to even take the car cover and tarp off of it for almost a year after, and even once I could, the project seemed so daunting. I had never pulled a transmission or an engine, let alone installed one and gotten it running. I had done lots of tinkering and extensive offroad suspension mods to the 1999 Ram 2500 Cummins I drove to school, but I was always the one who had removed the original parts and therefore knew by experience how it went back together. I had done lots of maintenance work with my dad on the family fleet over the years, and that's where I learned most of what I do now. The memory of how we had pulled the car apart years ago had faded, and that wasn't helped by the fact that the car was only half-together to start with back then. I still wanted to get it on the road though. All my friends in college and the local car groups had, well, cars, and my big, lifted, smoky, 37-inch tire-having, will-handle-jumps-and-whoops-all-day-thanks-to-the-King-offroad-shocks pig of a truck didn't really fit in nor keep up with E30s, Miatas, an M2 comp, RS5, MK7 GTIs, etc when we would go for drives or cruises. I wanted something that I could enjoy the same way they enjoyed their cars, even though that truck is something else (never get cheap shocks or suspension, even if its for a 20 year old pickup). I had the perfect candidate in my backyard, the 2002, still referred to within my family as Rufus. I tend to prefer vintage and older cars to the latest and greatest stuff anyway. 

     So, on New Years 2020, I decided that I would get the car on the road by 2021. Obviously, I didn't exactly accomplish that goal. I think last year the only thing I really did with it was to install some little pieces on the engine, buy a clutch kit, engine and trans mounts, and wash the old suspension. So New Years 2021 arrives, and the 02 is still sitting on the jackstands, only now the tarp and car cover are torn and the nose is exposed, constantly reminding me about it. So, on January 1st, I told myself that THIS year would be the one. A week later, 2 of my friends and I spent 8 hours after classes installing the clutch on the engine, then the trans and subframe to make one assembly to throw under the car. By midnight, we had the drivetrain assembled and sitting on a couple jacks in front of the car, with my engine hoist straddling it all to lift the front of the car up by the bumper supports in order to fit the whole thing underneath. Also, I couldn't find the chains for the hoist so we had to use a couple ratchet straps to hook the shell to the crane (only a little sketchy :)). At 12:30, we had gotten the whole thing positioned under the engine bay (did I mention it's early January and we're outside?), and by 1:30, we had lowered the shell back onto the stands and raised the guts up to meet and had it all in. It was 28 degrees, wind chill advisory in effect, and we were working with hand tools, 1.5 work lights, and our phone flashlights, but we did it. The most work done to the car in years all in one day. That was the biggest hurdle I needed to get over and it was done.

    Flash forward to today, and the car actually runs, has an almost road-ready drivetrain, and I feel like I can see the finish line (though I know it's gonna keep moving as I keep doing new mods). I would like to think my dad is out there somewhere, proud that I'm carry the torch, even if I'm taking the car in more of a motorsport direction that he would've probably liked (thanks Marshall haha). So, currently left in order for me to actually be able to physically drive it under its own power are the back half of the drivetrain and the entire braking system. Also a thanks to Dudley, who I randomly met at a Potomac Cars and Coffee that I tagged along with a friend to, as he helped light a fire under my a** to keep going (idk the expletive policy on this forum, old diesel truck forums are very, uh, expressive). Dudley thought that back in April (I think) I would be able to make it to the Vintage this year, which would be a possibility if I wanted to reuse 50 year-old parts of unknown wear, but I want this thing to drive decades newer than it looks. I'm currently working on upgrading/updating the cooling system and changing the driveshaft support bearing. After that, it's time to start saving for the brakes. I plan on going with a tii booster (to clear the Weber 45s), 750il master, bend up some new hard lines, stainless braided hoses, IE/Wilwood front 13" BBK and the non-Wilwood IE rear disc conversion. I will list all the current specs/mods/parts in a second post to this thread, and more pictures/video once I can get them all organized. If you've actually read this whole monologue up to this point, thank you, and I hope I can have a car worthy of all the darn money I'm putting into it.

Also another thanks to Marshall and Dudley for answering my (probably stupid) questions with patience and wisdom.

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^ My dad and the car the day he bought it.

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^ One of the many vintage NOS parts it came with.

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^ My younger sister and I working on polishing the chrome, 2013.

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