Update on Rachel & Tonka

(For the original accident page click here)

Well, it's been well over a year now since the accident. First, a Big thanks to everybody who expressed their sympathy to my wife Rachel over her injuries. We were hoping she would make a complete recovery but, as can generally be predicted, Life Ain't Fair. She's had a long recovery from four knee operations & the broken ribs. Let me tell you right now- any time you see somebody on TV or in a movie supposedly sucking back the pain from broken ribs its complete B.S. I've never seen someone in so much pain in my life & it lasted for months. Nasty Nasty stuff. Those knee operations alone could form the basis for a good horror story- after the second one a septic infection set in and for a while there was a real possibility she would loose her leg. Scary Scary stuff.

Link to a picture of Rachel's knee- Warning: Not pretty- Click Here

After some creative re-arranging of her leg muscles & a skin graft or two she is actually managing to get around fairly well, but will never have all the mobility she had before the accident. Did I mention that Life Ain't Fair?? To keep her busy I've been putting her to work popping spot welds, welding them back up & whatever miscellaneous grunt work I can think of- the theory being that the *More* I can get her to do, the *Less* I have to do :)

Also another Big thanks to my parents for allowing us to take over their garage during the summer & fall :).

Tonka's rehabilitation is progressing, if not quite as quickly as I had planned. It took a better part of a year to get a settlement for the damage out of the insurance company. We had an appraisal from one month before the accident saying that Tonk was worth $9000, they offered $4-sumthin thou.


Basically with everything that was happening to Rachel I just couldn't deal with handling those (insert nasty name HERE) so I just let it slide. About a year later they were so desperate to get the liability off their books they called our lawyer just about begging to settle. Subtracting the salvage value we ended up getting damn near the whole wad, & no BS about buy-back or salvage titles ;).

The damage, believe it or not, wasn't as bad as it looked at first- It was bad enough, but not as bad as it looked at first. Basically I found he needed new fenders, windshield, & drivers side sheet metal. I'll have to fab a bit of the drivers side floor, otherwise I've got all the parts. With the exception of one piece I'll need from the donor I think I'll actually be able to reuse the drivers side hat channels. The frame was only bent in about 2 1/2" & that was easily fixed (ed.-Yeah Right- see below). Of course there were the usual nasty rust surprises found during the tub tear down but these should be easy to patch.

TONKA DAMAGE STEERING COLUMN_1.jpg Mechanically, the steering will have to be replaced, the transfer case, a couple of broken spring leaves, motor mounts, radiator. Pretty much everything is salvageable or an easy bolt on replacement.

Over the last year I've been picking up the replacement bitties as they became available; my sincerest apologies to everybody I Sniped on EBay- but the need was great :). Between EBay & the recent aquasition of Magnificent I think I've managed to round up everything I need. In fact, if the mechanicals don't turn out to be too bad I could conceivably end up with darn'near a whole 'nuther jeep outta the deal :). I picked up a donor tub with fenders summer 03 (it was even the right colours, White & Green!!) & promptly tore it down. That gave me most of the body parts. I went using a donor for replacement panels instead of just buying a new tub because its important to me to-

A- Save as much of the original sheet metal as possible
B- Have as much of the replacement panels as possible to be original factory metal.

Don't bother trying to figure out why, I'm just funny that way :).;>.

Apart from the Snipeing activities not much else occured during the winter, Tonka got tarped & that was it till spring. Once the weather got warmer it was time to start the teardown. The master plan for 2004 was to get the frame fixed, break Tonk's tub down, get the floor & other panels fixed then weld everything back togeather & POR'd. I elected to pull the tub apart whilst it was on the frame because... well no real reason, I'm just funny that way :).

The first step was to get the engine out of my way. Have you ever tried to pick one of those things up? They're HEAVY! So, how to get it out & move it 100' into the garage? After finding out that the neighbour had (very inconsiderately) moved his backhoe to the country estate for the weekend I had to do try something new- Thinking. While wandering aimlessly trying to figure out how to pull it off I tripped over a couple of spare 2x6s and suddenly had an idea- but as it turns out somebody else already invented the can opener :(. Finally giving up on thinking as being a bad idea I built a DooHickey outta those 2x6s &, bolting it into the gray thing with the wheels under it, "Trailer Crane" was born.

To make a long story short-

It creaked, it groaned, it swayed back & forth like a drunken sailor but it worked:). Take a close look at that center picture, it's hard to see due to the angle but there's a 4" bend in that 2x6 from one end to the other. Did I mention those engines are heavy?? As it turned out Trailer Crane came in handy for moving the tranny/xfer case & axles as well. No home should be without one!

So with that minor unpleasantness out of the way I could get started on the dismemb-, er, um, teardown :). In all, uncharacteristic, seriousness I'd be lying if I said it didn't hurt a bit making those first cuts. In my mind I was still seeing Tonka the way he used to be.

It's definitely been a learning experience. The first thing I learned was that the guy who did the spot welds on the left side of the tub didn't agree on very much with the guy who did the right side of the tub :(. The second thing I learned is that only 90% of spot welds are visible, finding the other 10% takes 90% of the time :( :(.

With the tubs diss-assembled into Major Tub Sub-assemblies it's time to move everything into the garage for Major Tub Sub-assembly diss-assembly into Minor Tub Sub-assemblies!

There, Wasn't That Easy? Well, it was for me :).

Now here's the real reason I went so far overboard on the tear down. When Tonk goes back togeather I want to know that that cancer won't be there anymore. And it won't.

Meanwhile, back at the Frame...

I took the frame out to the most expensive body shop in town to be straightned, reasoning that they would do the best job. Three trips back & some expressed displeasure later I finally had a straight frame. As the most expensive body shop in town doesn't do sand blasting I then had to haul it to an industrial shop to get it cleaned off. When I picked it up it looked like This-

This is sand blasted?? Geez, did they wait for a week after it was done before they called?? O.K. what the heck I'll take the grinder with a wire wheel & clean'er up some-

Well, I started at one end & by the time I got to the other where had I started was brown Again:(. Hell, it wasn't even a humid day :(.

Next trick- Hit it with the POR Metal Ready-

It looked Bee-You-Tee-Full !

Guess what? The next day it was brown *Again* :(. Now, the whole summer I was working on Midnight shift, so on the days I was actually free to work on it I was only really getting started about 3 PM which wasn't 't giving me much work time. I finally ended up throwing the tarp over the frame each night with a drop lamp in the trailer to keep the condensation down. It worked very well on two fronts,

1- The brown stuff stopped (mostly)

2- The big glowing thing in the front yard each night kept the neighbors, local police & miscellaneous people driving by wondering what-in-hell was going on. Much Entertainment Value ;>.

As time allowed I did manage to fix a few cracks I found on frame horns & at the front cross member

I eventually managed to get it fairly clean, fairly fixed, fairly Metal Readied & fairly POR'd, although the night I finished up it was so dark I actually missed a couple of sections completely- that subsequently turned Brown :(.

Now, while I spent all that time messing around with this I noticed that somewheres between the time I dropped the frame off at the sandblasting shop & the time I got it home & started work on it that it managed to develope a twist & a bow on the passenger side rail- It actually got worse as time went along :/.

I just can't win :(.

Either the Blasting Buddies Black Beautied it so much it got too hot or the Frame Fellas didn't stress releave quite as much as they might of :[.

Well here's the deal- I'll worry about it later. It's close enough to being right that I can probably bring it back to square on my own. For now the frame is sitting outside "seasoning", so next summer I'll see where the rust spots show up & put a second coat of POR on it.

Oakey Doakey- It's finally Time to start putting Tonka back together :). All I gotta do is crazy glue all this stuff together into something that looks like a Jeep :). Wait a minute- I got extra parts, I mean besides the the doner tub extras.

Towards the end of summer it became apparent that I'd be needing to work through the winter so I decided to replace the ole' woodstove with something that has a thermostat. Some people love wood stoves. I don't. It takes hours to get the &$%^ things going & you're only warm if you're within a 10' direct view of the &$%^ thing. I won't say oil furnases (Furnacesses? Furnace's?? Furni???) don't have their drawbacks, such as installing sheet metal duct work is one of those things that looks really easy when somebody else is doing it 8(. A month's worth of part time cursing & injuries later & I was ready to start on actual repairs to Tonka. Finally!

First step- fix the front floor & firewall. I figured the best thing to do was to clamp the riser to the floor so I'd have a good reference for the replacement sheet metal. Something doesn't look right here, but a little banging away with my brand new set of Gen-U-Ine High Qua-Little-Tee Imported Chinese sheet metal hammers & dollies will be shure to fix it right up-

Hmmm, a couple'a hours later sumthin still don't quite look kosher- I got the sheet metal all nicely formed to the riser cutout but now the rest of the floor is bending in odd spots :(. Turns out the *&%# hat channel that runs under the hump got "squished", it looked fine but when compared to the same section from the donor tub it was about 1" narrower than it should have been. What I ended up doing was using the donor section to make a template that I then used to create a hardwood form. With the aid of the Lovely Lady Rachel, a few strategicaly placed C-clamps & a couple'a whacks from one of the aforementioned Gen-U-Ine High Qua-Little-Tee Imported Chinese sheet metal hammers the channel was back in shape. Unfortunately the sheet metal of the hump wasn't, it was all stretched out from a couple'a hours of me screwing up :)

So- Here I am teaching myself how to shrink sheet metal back into shape- Notice the bend along the edge of the passenger side floor, that was caused by me stretching the hump outta shape. Once I was finished the shrinking it was straight again. Here's what it looked like after I was done- Pretty much the way it looked when I started. Oh well, we'll write it off to the Learning Curve-

This takes us about to the middle of November & it's starting to get colder, so two things had to happen:
Number 1- I had to get the garage cleared up enough so my parents could get the car in it at night. That killed about two more weeks :(.
Number two- I do want to be able to get at various pieces daytime though so while the stuff has to be outta the way its also gotta be easy to get at, so up went the overhead shelfs.

Maybe someday I'll get the rest of the pile up there:).

The other thing is that part of the plan with the oil furnace was that it would get converted to run on waste oil, waste oil being a more economical alternative to furnace oil in an uninsulated drafty garage. For some strange reason this is more complicated than I thought (Duh, anybody?), requiring time consuming purchase & design & fabrication of fiddly little parts & pieces & stuff :(. Until I do manage to get the converter built & properly burning (oil, not the garage) further work on the Tonkster is on hold :(.

The long & short of this is that apart from patching a few holes nothing much has happened lately & probably won't till I get the furnace mods completed, which at the rate I'm going should be about the middle of July- :). Once I'm able to bask in tropical type temperatures whilst snow is blowing under the door, thanks to a steady supply of used lubricating oil graciously donated by all the neighbours who can't wait to get rid of the stuff, I'll be back at work on the body. According to the master plan next summer was supposed to be drive train work but as things aren't going as quickly as I'd like I may farm that out to the local off-road shop, 'though I would kinda like to do the the transfer case myself. I also need to dig into the engine a bit to see if it needs to go out for a re-build-

So thats it for now

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