In November of 2015, I wrote about my then-ongoing search for my first car—a 1978 Jeep J-10 ‘Honcho’ pickup—and my intent to, if possible, buy it back and restore it. Unfortunately I never found it. But I did make contact with Hardcore Hot Rods, a local auto restoration shop, and discussed my proposed project with them.
After many months and no success tracking down my specific truck, I declared the search over . . . but I didn’t give up on the idea of a J-10 restoration. The folks at Hardcore suggested that I let them find a good truck with good bones, bring it in, and restore it. So I gave them a list of my ‘must have’ requirements and the search began.
They found several trucks, but quickly narrowed it down to the one: a 1977 J-10 from California, intact with all its parts, a solid and rust-free frame, an AMC 401 V8 (more powerful than the 360 V8 mine had), and 165,280 miles. It needed some love—body and paint work, an engine rebuild, and other maintenance and clean-up—but it would be the new Honcho. I paid the deposit, they had it moved cross-country, and here it is:
As you may (or may not) know, the process of restoring a vehicle is very time consuming and expensive. Without getting into the actual price, let’s just say this: If I bought a brand new, full-sized American truck and spec’d it out with all the usual amenities and an off-road package, I’d probably end up in the same ballpark. Although, if I had done that instead, I would have ended up with something with only a fraction of the personality.
The real work on the truck started in November of last year, and right now we’re expecting it to be done in March. The body and undercarriage is done, the mechanical work is in-progress, and soon it will move on to the painting phase. After painting, it will need a lot of interior work, and then the final trim and cleanup.
One interesting thing that I’ve learned is that, under the ’70s-style front-end of the J-10, the basic contours of the earlier Jeep Gladiator front-end are still visible . . . including holes for the two middle lights that had long ceased to be part of the vehicle. That’s just one of the oddities you find in a truck that was in production with only small cosmetic changes over a twenty-six year (!!) run . . . the outside changed, but the bones stayed the same.
I decided not to apply the ’70s-era ‘Honcho’ decals that my original truck had (tempting as it was) . . . instead, it’ll be ‘classic black’ with some silver/metallic trim—something like the mock-up (by Melissa) at the top of this post. And, in homage to the original, the license plate will say “HONCHO 2”.