Finding a 1977 Jeep J10 Golden Eagle!

Everyone likes a good story behind finding a rare or collectible vehicle.  Jeremy (author of this blog post and one of the VIN Hammer founders) is a Jeep nut and is always on the hunt for rare and interesting AMC era Jeeps!  While driving home from work one day I decided to take a route through a neighborhood I’ve never driven through.  I enjoy driving through neighborhoods that are older because many of the houses in these neighborhoods don’t have garages, rather they have  carports or shade canopies.  Well, you can’t hide your vehicles when you live in one of these types of houses because everything is obviously out in the open, which is why I enjoy driving through them.  I love looking at old vehicles!  Throughout the years I’ve knocked on doors to see if a vehicle I spotted could be bought.   To date I’ve only purchased 3 or 4 vehicles this way.  When I saw this J10 parked on the side of the house with the hood up, I knew it had been sitting for a long time as it appeared to be an abandoned project.  One of the rims was missing and the front was sitting on a block because of this.  I had to park my car and knock on the door  when I saw this truck!

It’s always a bit nerve-racking when you knock on the door of a stranger’s house.  You don’t know the reaction people will have when you come to their door to ask if they’re willing to sell a vehicle that’s not listed for sale.  I’ve had people say “do you see a for sale sign?!” and basically slam the door on me.  I’ve also had hour long discussions with some very friendly people who love to talk about vehicles.  Most people politely tell you “thanks, but not thanks,” but you really don’t know the reaction you’ll get until you try.  You HAVE to try!

I knocked on the front door standing there anxiously with my hands in my pockets.  A sweet older lady named Maria came to the door.  “Good afternoon.  Sorry to knock on your door unannounced but I was driving through the neighborhood and saw the Golden Eagle parked on the side of your house.  Would you happen to have any interest in selling it”?  Maria was one of the most polite people I’ve ever met!  She walked me to her back patio and introduced me to her husband Michael, who was in a lounge chair smoking a cigarette.  Michael told me the history of the Jeep.  He’s owned it since 1980 and brought it to Tucson from southern CA, where it was bought new.  He told me the vehicle has not been driven since the 90s because the engine started to make a noise and he never really got around to diagnosing and fixing it.  When I asked why the front end of the Jeep was on blocks and one of the rims was off, he explained that someone made an offer on the Jeep a couple years earlier and they took the rim off to measure the lug pattern because since the tires were flat, he’d have to purchase some cheap roller rims/tires so he can move the Jeep.  So that person left a small deposit, removed the rime to measured the lug pattern and never returned to pick up the Jeep!

Within 5 minutes I had a deal made with Michael and Maria.  I left a deposit (always leave a deposit!) and returned back a few hours later with my trailer, my buddy Alex to help with the muscle, and cash for the balance due.  It took us almost 3 hours of rolling around in the brush, putting the rim back on the truck (with flat tire still), clearing debris, etc. to get the truck winched onto my trailer.  With flat tires, the truck didn’t pull straight and was extremely hard to roll.  It took every bit of power my winch had to get it one the trailer after several failed attempts.  But in the end, it was all worth it!  I got home at 9:30 PM and brought the Jeep to a used tire shop the next morning to get cheap tires that hold air installed to make it a roller.

This Jeep will be preserved.  It’s the straightest, most rust-free J10 I’ve ever seen.  I don’t think there is a dent on the truck.  Not a spec of rust (other than superficial surface rust) anywhere.  My plans are to go through everything (brakes, fluids, seals, etc), rebuild the drivetrain, and enjoy as-is.  This Jeep won’t ever get painted during my ownership.  It took her 45 years to look the way she does and personally I think the patina is beautiful!