Todd’s Rods! What’s in the Garage?

Before reading on, take your best guess to identify each of the vehicles visible here! For my 1000th Barnfinds post (and after multiple requests) I’m sharing a glimpse of the current fleet here on Fitch Mountain aka Todd’s Island of Misfit Toys. None are for sale unless the amount offered borders on the ridiculous. Regarding car enthusiasts, my gear-head buddy John has remarked “There’s a fine line between ‘hobby’ and ‘mental illness,'” and you’ll find evidence of both below. Anyone tending toward the Curator role may have developed a facial tic seeing my cars outdoors. Rest assured a larger garage should take shape on the left edge of this scene to more thoughtfully house these vehicles.

In order by date purchased, check out this dope thug and his new 1989 Mustang LX 5.0, bought new in the Fall of ’88. Did I mention it was purchased new? Yes; I’ve kept the only new car I ever bought and barely changed it except for a ’93 Cobra rear axle and 3.73 gears in place of the original 2.73 set. That alone was like an engine swap. The 5.0 Mustang was one of the fastest new cars on the planet that year, with numbers that could be bested by a host of V6 cars today. However, the sky is the limit for modifications on the Fox Mustang. After 244,000 miles, being totaled once (see write-up from 2018), and 33 years, I’m leaning toward a 351W swap for the next quarter-million miles. Original factory parts include the clutch, glass, most of the exhaust, front suspension, many bulbs, and a nearly perfect though slightly faded interior. Though not a fireball compared to today’s muscle cars, the powerband is broad and I can run a whole Solo II autocross in 2nd gear while steering with the steering wheel and/or the throttle. Parts required beyond regular maintenance:  an idle air control valve, one tie rod end and a water pump.

My late Father’s 1980 Honda CB-650 Custom became mine when he bought a 1600cc Victory with a motor the size of a dorm fridge. This little gem runs like a Swiss watch and still has the break-in sticker on the speedometer. I’ve added a mere 4000 of its 14,000 miles, and I love my full-face helmet because I can’t wipe the stupid Cheshire Cat grin off my face while riding it. Every year it seems to gain a few HP, maybe because the fuel is flushing out decades of caramel varnish. I never owned a bike before this one or anything else with a 9500 RPM redline. Only the starter solenoid has gone on it, which looked identical to a lawn tractor part on the shelf, so that $10 tractor part has served me longer than the Honda unit.

The 1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ replaced a ’94 Wrangler YJ that a 16 year-old driver totaled and caused to roll over, which caused something substantial to hit me on the back of the head. I have no memory of the accident, but it must have been a heck of a ride. No hard feelings, though; the coil-sprung TJ is much better off-road vs. the YJ’s jouncy leaf springs. This was a one-female-owned New York City metro vehicle bought on eBay. When the Dana 35 rear let go I sawed all the hardware off and welded everything onto a Ford Explorer 8.8, thereby gaining a sturdy rear axle and rear disc brakes. At 235k, the 4.0L straight six and five-speed show no signs of stopping… ever… though I have had to weld metal into the frame in several places. All in all, it’s been well worth the $5500 spent some thirteen years and 80,000 miles ago. I fitted these 30″ tires about a year ago. With ARB or E-Lockers I’d like to drive this TJ across the Trans-American Trail.

My first European car, the 2001 Mercedes-Benz C240 features a six-speed close-ratio manual transmission (only 6th is an overdrive) and a brilliant silky-smooth V6. Like a Honda you can feel the variable valve timing kick in at high RPM. After fixing a frustrating bout of “random misfire” errors this thing has been a tank. No wonder they made a common taxi cab in Europe. Bought for $7700, it’s given us nine years and 120,000 miles of virtual perfection. The interior looks nearly as tidy today as when we bought it, and includes the world’s coolest cupholder. My wife drove it a while then it became my oldest daughter’s first car. I wanted both girls to begin with stick-shift so shifting became an automatic (ha!) part of their driving process.

This 2007 BMW 530i languished at a small dealer outside Atlanta wearing a color-changing blue-purple paint job. Loaded with Auburn leather, front and rear heated seats, heated steering wheel, navigation, and more, we snagged it cheap for my younger daughter’s first car. When the test drive uncovered a few items that the seller had not disclosed, I began negotiating. When the seller realized I might actually buy the car he started taking $100 bills out of his wallet and putting them into my hand until we made a deal. With more peak HP and less torque than the Mustang, the stout I6 pulls hard above 5000 RPM, about where the Mustang goes flat. BMW’s blend of ride and handling makes it easy to forgive the ever-failing electronics. My then 15 year-old daughter and I painted it a Mini blue called “Lapis Luxury” (still in the BMW family) and color-sanded and polished the single-stage PPG urethane. BMWs of this vintage chomp up sensors and other $250+ parts like popcorn, but if you duct-tape over the dash to hide the warning lights and just drive the heck out of it, you realize why it was a $55,000 car… bought for $5800.

When my 11-year daily driver, a modified 2002 Buick Regal GS, blew a transmission at 292,000, I could have replaced the tranny and soldiered on, but the Buick had two weak points… 0-60 was a constant battle for FWD traction with the 300 HP supercharged V6, and the handling went to extreme understeer at the limit, especially when loaded. After an extensive search for a better-handling RWD Buick, I ended up with this 2006 BMW 750Li. I decided to be patient and find a 2006-2008 that was not white, black, or silver, and had the two-tone parchment and black interior, Logic-7 stereo, and this one has the rear entertainment, night vision, etc. I had it trucked in from California, and the purchase price and shipping totaled 10% the original MSRP. I’m not a fan of the black wheels but they are a stock size. It’s no faster than the Buick but it does nearly everything else far better. One unexpected bonus:  driving a car with a 123 inch wheelbase will make you a better driver. In the Mustang, I can lazily dive into a corner early then tuck it in tighter, but the 750 makes you find the one true apex. Cut in a second time and you’ll drop the rear tire into a ditch or worse, you’ll hit something solid. This was the last big BMW to have a conventional V8 with no power-adder and a conventional suspension (except for the servo-operated anti-roll bars). Like the 530i it can’t go 10,000 miles without needing another stupid sensor or something to keep the dashboard from lighting up, but parts aren’t bad if you install them yourself. Just today my wife called it “The Buick.”

Yes: I bought three BMWs in a row. Call me a masochist. I’ve never wanted a tattoo but if I had one, I think it would be “Never buy an electronically fuel-injected BMW.” My love-hate relationship with the newer BMWs does not taint the pure joy of owning and restoring this 1972 BMW 2002 tii. I told more of its story in this article from 2020, and this very recent picture shows the body with everything but the wiring harness and headliner removed. Stay tuned for details.

I went to Texas for this one! The one-owner always-garaged 2009 Land Rover LR2 had all three option packages and the somewhat rare color combination of this lovely green and a tan interior. My oldest daughter split the cost of this, her second car and the last I’m likely to help buy. The LR2 is principally the same as the Volvo XC60, sharing the Ford EUCD platform. The 3.2 L inline 6 features a gear-driven alternator in the middle of the engine. That’s a new one for me. I had to rebuild the combined rear-end and “FoMoCo Sweden”-stamped Haldex unit, a job that cost $200 in parts, $200 in tools, and three weekends of my life. The dealer gets $4500 for that job, and the unit is not meant to be serviceable so I had to Dremel recesses inside the housing to drive out some of the bearing races. I couldn’t have done it without this Russian YouTube video! Other than that common flaw, these trucks have a great reputation, and I would buy another one.

The popularity of golf carts seems to be on the rise, and my Mom’s 2014 Ford Focus Electric represents our entry into this universe. There is no gasoline engine, and it was purchased for well under half the sticker price after accumulating a mere 17,000 miles. I’m not sure I would buy one for myself but we’ve had it here for over a year and it’s great for grocery runs into town. Climbing hills with the torquey DC motor is a joy:  no funky “is this thing ever going to shift?” delay followed by lockup Overdrive disengaging followed by the automatic transmission selecting the gear it should have found five seconds ago and blasting you up the hill in a fuel-wasting high-RPM blastoff. In the Focus Electric, you simply press the accelerator and get a precise linear response no matter how steep the hill.

Arguably the world’s greatest lawn tractor, the John Deere 318 came into my life about ten years after I began wanting one. With two spools of hydro, front and rear electric PTO, hydraulic power steering, power deck lift, separate left and right brake pedals, and more, the 318 leaves little to want other than a deck driveshaft. You’ll need to step up to the 400 series for that. Finally I nabbed this one for an even $1000 and rebuilt the power steering rack for $65 in parts, and it seems good as new. Considering how many John Deeres from the 1950s are still around, this 1987 model should last the remainder of my lifetime. If you’re sick of box store tractors that gradually turn into broken and bent metal husks in fewer than 10 years, I beg you to at least walk up to a 318 and observe how it’s constructed before buying another throwaway lawn toy.

My Step-Dad’s 2017 Ford F250 King Ranch, bought to pull their fifth-wheel trailer, resides at our disposal for half the year. This monster gets the same mileage with three people and luggage at 78 MPH as it does pulling 4800 pounds of car and trailer at 64 MPH, 16 MPG. Anyone who pulled loads like that with ’80s pickups knows you don’t need 400+ HP and 800 lb-ft of torque to get from Point A to Point B, but it sure helps. Heated and cooled and massaging seats help too. I would never buy something this fancy, but having one available has quadrupled my appreciation for these capable comfortable vehicles. It’s good to be the King!

Meet our only named vehicle! This 2001 Toyota Highlander named Ilene spent nearly its entire life with my late Aunt, accumulating fewer than 60,000 miles in 20 years. I’ve replaced a ton of rusty suspension and brake parts, and it may replace the C240 as my wife’s daily driver, as soon as Ohio’s glacial paperwork process makes it legally ours. With 200+ HP, AWD, and a perfect interior, Ilene may remain in the family for some time. I’ve never owned a Toyota, but after the beating my pocketbook has taken from my two newer BMWs, I’m looking forward to enjoying the legendary Toyota reliability.

I couldn’t pass up this impulse buy from 2020. The 1981 Imperial, also from Ohio, came up “as is” and not running, but with a tidy exterior and a nearly-perfect blue leather interior. I’ve admired the styling of these cars since they were new. This one won’t get any real attention until the tii is sold, but I hope to get it running this year and consider a power upgrade in the future. Check out the August 2020 write-up for more on this one. Many other cars have come and gone in the years I’ve owned these, but you’ve taken enough punishment for one day. Unless I buy something truly interesting, I’ll spare you all the run-down for at least another 1000 posts. We’d love to hear about your inventory in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Holy man, I bow to your superior car-guy’ness, Todd! What a great article, the writing had me spitting out my canned Sanka every few seconds. HA, very well done, sir, and what a collection!

    Like 22
    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Thanks, Scotty; you are too kind. The historical list would include a few more interesting specimens, but never an orange D50 or a MotoCompo, so you got me there!

      Like 11
  2. MattR Member

    Todd thanks for sharing this acre of cars and your stories.

    Lots of similar experiences here.. my 2000 Ranger was chain-smoking 02 sensors for a while. Then when I bought a sensor socket and it stopped cold turkey. I’ve considered tape on the dash for my 2012 Hyundai Sonata for the dead-center ‘Your lights are on.’ light and I had a similar love for my 1982 Yamaha Heritage special 650. I wish I still had it today.

    This is easily my favorite BF post. Cheers for this.

    Like 8
    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Thanks, MattR! I hear the very new BMWs score much better on reliability so maybe they got their act together. Only the “Intelligent Battery Sensor” has actually caused an unnecessary tow. Most of the time they’re happy to go down the road and be thrashed if you ignore the Christmas tree of warning lights. Thanks for your comment!

      Like 7
  3. Todd Fitch Staff

    Here’s the magic decoder ring.

    Like 10
  4. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    I enjoyed your write-up.

    Like 13
  5. RayT Member

    Todd, you make me wish I had kept all my cars! Well, almost….

    Definitely the ’59 Hillman Minx, the two Honda 600s (one “N,” one “Z”), my first Renault 5, Renault 16, Citroen DS21, Austin-Healey 3000 and Frogeye Sprite. Maybe one of my three Kaisers, too…. Oh, and my Honda 305 Super Hawk.

    Those represent a whole lot of wrench-twisting all by themselves. And many, many, many enjoyable road miles!

    Depending on your point of view, I have long been cursed by a lack of driveway/work space….

    Like 7
    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Wow, RayT, that’s an eclectic mix. I’ve done a crazy amount of work outdoors, but I’m getting too old for that.Thanks for your comment!

      Like 2
  6. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    An amazing and cool collection. Love the CB650 (had one exactly like that one!). Nice BMW’s, especially the tii but they all have 2 more wheels than a real BMW should 😆.
    Thank you for sharing with us, Todd. We know you and the BF staff are devoted gearheads but this gives us a better appreciation of the cars you write about and what you’ve done to keep cool cars on the road.

    Like 6
    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Thanks Nevadahalfrack. The CB650 gets positive comments everywhere. One time a gruff-looking mountain of a man with a dressed-out Harley came half way across a parking lot to say “I had one just like that!”

      Like 1
  7. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    This was a great read. I bow to your knowledge and technical know how to keep a fleet like that operating. I also wish my OCD would let me put black tape over an idiot light for more than a day! Fortunately we have driven 8 different Toyota’s over the last decade and a half plus one XJ Jeep, so check engine lights have been kept to a minimum. We had an identical Highlander to yours also. It was a solid vehicle. When inevitably your heat blows cold and AC blows warm randomly, check YouTube, It’s an easy fix with a soldering iron and one hours time.
    I spent some time working on a friends BMW 3 series and really came to appreciate how they are engineered and built, just not the price of parts and the amount of time needed for simple repairs (thermostat).

    Like 5
    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Thanks Bakyrdhero. I’m saving your Highlander tip. You’re right about *some* repairs on the newer BMWs. Just last night I put the interior of the 530i back together after having to remove the center console, dash, steering wheel, and dash frame to change the heater core and evaporator. Are we having fun yet?

      Like 1
  8. angliagt angliagt Member

    I see you’re in Virginia.Could I ask where?
    I’m in Roanoke,where I’ve been surprised at the
    amount of “cool” (to me) cars that surface around here.

    Like 1
  9. angliagt angliagt Member

    Todd – try that again.I accidentally deleted it.

    Like 1
  10. Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

    Love the post and the variety! It’s good that we Barn Finds writers are car nuts! 😜

    Like 7
    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Thanks Jamie. “Nuts” is right… for me anyway. lol

    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      From what we’ve read of you, Jamie, you’re no slouch yourself!
      How’re you doing with your carpal tunnel?

      Like 2
  11. Grant

    Many fond memories of hours spent mowing our 318 as a teenager. Great machines

    Like 3
  12. Gunner

    Great write up Todd. Always admired your technique of writing for Barnfinds and your collection and knowledge of vehicles shows why. I have been a follower of Barnfinds for many years and reside in the beautiful City of Trees, Boise. I have slowed in cars as I have aged, selling off my 69 Dodge Coronet Big Block last fall (it was featured here). We are currently down to our Tacoma, a second generation CRV, and my much loved first generation RAV4. I still read articles from this site daily and other articles and feeds pertaining to classic musclecars. Once a gearhead, always a gearhead. Keep up the good fight Todd.

    Like 4
    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Thank you Gunner! My Grandparents had a ’69 Coronet 440 model sedan, gold inside and out, 318 V8, one of the first cars I remember. Owned a ’66 Coronet in the late ’90s that I was building to run the Silver State Classic Challenge but that dream never materialized. Life marches on. Thanks again and happy motoring!

      Like 1
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        Todd, you could still do the Silver State Challenge-just pick a different class! And there’s more than a few out this way that would put you up or find a place on the property to park your rig if needed..
        “You don’t quit riding (racing, etc.) because you got old: you got old because you quit riding(or whatever it is that keeps you young)”.
        Go for it!

        Like 1
      • Todd Fitch Staff

        Nevadahalfrack – Yes; I agree! At the time I had two weeks of vacation every year and the logistics of driving 2000 miles each way proved impractical. My 750 could probably do Touring Class averaging 110 while a dude cut diamonds in the back seat. The SSCC and Targa Newfoundland are definitely on my retirement bucket list. Stirling Moss was still racing in his ’90s. Use it or lose it!

        Like 1
  13. lbpa18

    Best vehicle there is that JD 318!

    Like 2
  14. John Klintz

    LOVE the Imperial, Todd! Another nice Chrysler from the ‘80s was the Fifth Avenue. I had a chance to buy a nearly perfect one a few months back and passed on it; I know I’ll soon regret that. The only thing missing from your collection is a Corvair! Love them and drove them too!

    Like 1
    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Thank you John. I can’t wait to point the Imperial’s Cartier crystal Pentastar hood ornament at the edge of the road and hit the gas. Right now it’s playing second fiddle to the totally dismantled ’72 BMW, but its day will come. A buddy of mine had a Corvair in high school. I remember the shifter was like a little knob on the dashboard. lol Maybe some day I’ll have a Fitch Sprint Corvair https://www.corvaircorsa.com/fitch.html

      Like 1
      • John Klintz

        Yeah, that lever was for the two-speed “powerslide” equipped Corvairs; both of mine had four-speed manuals. Very fun to drive with the manual; my ’65 Corsa was quick and handled very well.

  15. Kenn

    Would be interested in why you drive to the extent you apparently do to put hundreds of thousands of miles on multiple cars. As a traveling salesman, it takes me almost three years to put a quarter of a million miles on just one car. OTR truckers exceed that, but I don’t know who else.

    • Todd Fitch Staff

      Hi Kenn. The Mustang got most of its miles when I was working with schools all over Pennsylvania, always driving, 20k on the Mustang and 20k on a winter car for eight years. The others mainly road trips visiting friends and family stretched (at one time) from PA to FL. I get a little itchy if I go more than a few months without a good road trip! I’ve yet to see 300,000 on a car but it sounds like you rack them up faster than I ever did. What’s been your best high-mileage ride?

      • Kenn

        My 1980 Mercedes 300D gave me the most pleasure, both as a driver and lack of maintenance expenses. Oil changes, brakes and tires were the only expenses up to a little less than 250,000 miles. That’s the point I sell my cars, advertising “A quarter of a million pampered miles.” I’ve had to replace transmissions on Chryslers, starters and alternators on GM and Ford products. Because for so many years I sold to Union members, owning a “foreign” car was not smart. At 84 years of age I’m still selling every day – poor financial planning – and driving a 2014 Lincoln MKZ with V6 and AWD I bought used. Knock on wood, no problems thus far at 160,000 miles. Great road car IMHO.

        Like 1

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