What’s in Jeff’s Garage? Nothing!

I wish I had better news for you all about my collection of barn finds, garage finds, and unconventional projects, but sadly, this is all I have to offer at the moment. We actually moved to a new house in the midst of the pandemic last year, with part of the appeal being a larger-than-standard garage space to store vehicles that had been dispersed throughout New England and under temporary shelters. Blame COVID, blame bad communication, or blame outside forces beyond my control, but at the moment, all that’s in my garage are a bunch of parts waiting installation and a lonely 1987 BMW 325is that has been the one vehicle that’s managed to stay within reach and not on a shop’s back burner.

To start, this is a 1991 Saab 900 Turbo SE convertible I purchased out of a garage in Florida last September after a tip from a fellow enthusiast. It hadn’t been run in a few years but fired up with some battery and fuel system work. It also had a faulty ECU that needed replacing. The car is one of 300 painted in Monte Carlo Yellow, but was sadly saddled by a decrepit three-speed automatic transmission. I had it shipped up to Rhode Island to Conntech Saab Specialists, where it’s been since last October awaiting a manual transmission conversion. The car is a genuine one-owner 900 with no rust, and I bought it to use this summer to replace my departed 1999 BMW M3 convertible, which I sold last August. We’ll see if I’m able to use it before the leaves fall.

The junkyard find Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth has been parked on a lift since the spring of 2020 at my go-to shop for German cars, and this has been delayed partly at my own insistence to get another project down the road. I briefly lived with a 1988 VW Scirocco 16V that I spent way too much money on and sold after a short while upon discovering I really loathed the thing. So, the Cosworth was shuffled around to make way for the Scirocco, which was at least a running, driving car when it showed up. The good news is the Cosworth came down off the lift this week and we should have a new video soon of the progress in getting it back to road-going condition.

As some of you may recall, I sold my 1981 Toyota HiAce last summer. This was sort of my COVID purchase, as we needed a reliable way to drive the family down to Georgia/Florida to visit my in-laws. I bought a 2003 VW Eurovan from the original owner for a great price, and it was dealer maintained since new to boot. It was a joy to drive the 16 hours down to Blue Ridge and back after New Years. I then made the brilliant decision to address the one weak point in the car, the automatic transmission, by purchasing a European-spec manual gearbox and shipping our  now-beloved Eurovan to Missouri to Kansas City TDI, a shop that specializes in such transmission conversions. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the van since February 1, 2021, and have been advised not to ask for a completion date, so we’re in limbo for now. My wife and kids remind me daily of how much sadness I’ve brought into their lives for sending the Eurovan away (my daughter actually believes I sold it, which breaks my heart.) It will be worth it when it’s done.

One of the few bright spots has been the 1986 Isuzu Trooper two-door I rescued off of my friend’s property in North Georgia, whose collection has been profiled on these pages more than a few times. The Trooper came up from GA with a junkyard engine swapped in to replace the frozen 2.3L four-cylinder, so it was running and driving when it rolled off the trailer, but still had numerous issues to sort out. Art’s Automotive in Jamestown, RI has been picking away at it ever since, installing a Calmini lift kit and genuine ARB front brush guard; converting the air conditioning to R134A and getting it to blow cold; addressing a trio of faulty gauges and wiring issues, caused by the original engine removal; eliminating all vacuum leaks; and addressing some of the surface rust spots by carefully blending the paintwork to preserve the raw patina. This should be home in the coming days, if all goes well.

After becoming strangely infatuated with the 1986 Trooper, I bought another vehicle out of a junkyard in the form of a super rare 1989 Trooper RS, which was one of 800 sent to the United States in short wheelbase form. This truck utilizes the very reliable 4ZE1 2.6L four-cylinder and is paired to a fairly rare Aisin automatic transmission. The auto isn’t the preferred gearbox, but if you have to own an Isuzu and it has to have an automatic, this is the one to buy. I had my eye on this truck for years and finally worked out a deal with the salvage yard to buy it last February. It’s bounced around a few times since, but it’s now up at a small shop in Barre, Mass. owned by two brothers who specialize in vintage Hondas and have worked on plenty of Isuzus when Honda was selling Passports. This one really has no set timeline, but I hope to see it back in Rhode Island before the end of the summer. Surprise, surprise: it will need rust repair, as the rockers are pretty much gone.

And now, for the newest project, also from the Georgia property where I found my Trooper: a one-of-500 1985 Toyota Cressida with the factory manual gearbox and sport package. This era of the Cressida came with the 5M-GE inline-six cylinder engine out of the Supra of the same year, and the optional sport package added a limited slip differential and adjustable suspension. The Cressida is also down at Art’s Automotive, where they’ve already gotten it to fire up! We’ll be shooting some video as it comes back to life and posting on the Barn Finds YouTube channel. Early plans call for a Techno Toy Tuning coilover suspension, JDM Cressida/Cresta headlights and grill, some period-correct wheels, and a complete interior restoration (oh, and a good detailing). Hopefully, I’ll be able to stuff the garage full of these projects once they get their spot in the rotation for some much-needed attention. Stay tuned!


  1. TBAU Member

    You have a very patient family.

    Like 1
    • Dave

      And NASA’s budget!

      Like 9
      • Jeff Lavery Staff

        In the interest of full disclosure:

        -Saab: $3000
        -Mercedes: $800
        -Eurovan: $4500
        -Blue Trooper: Free
        -Red Trooper: $1000
        -Cressida: Free

        Like 9
      • Dave

        The “buy-in” price, even if it’s zero, is only the tip of the hook. Registration, inspection, insurance, routine maintenance, all will consume copious amounts of money. Throw in unexpected repairs and gasoline, now pushing $4 per gallon in many states. All of that will compete with things like mortgage payments, property taxes, school taxes. Home improvement and repairs along with property upkeep is a never ending expense.

        That leads into the biggest expense of all: children.

        Many a project has begun and been sold due to lack of time. Families take a lot of time and money. Throw in overtime at work, mandatory or voluntary, and life has become a tightrope walk between competing interests…your kid needs braces but you’re at the point in your engine build where you need heads and a cam. Guess who wins?

        But, if you can make it somehow work out, God bless you!

        Like 12
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      This is an understatement. I am very fortunate in this regard, and others.

      Like 3
  2. mike b

    So Jeff’s username must be “irons in the fire”. How about a pic of your bike as it seems you have no other viable wheels now. Good luck man.

    Like 2
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Since you asked….

      It was a wedding present from a friend who builds bikes. I’ve used it for 3-4 triathlons now, hope to get a few more under my belt before it begins being improved.

      Like 6
      • mike b

        Thanks Jeff!
        Yes, aero wheels to improve your time.
        Budget range: Red Trooper to Saab.
        Keep on rolling…

  3. Bruce

    What on Earth do you do so that you can afford all these repairs?

    Like 2
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Full time corporate job and write for three different websites. I sell project cars and barn finds on the side and have a consulting business where I find and appraise vintage cars for clients. I haven’t gone to bed before 2 a.m. in over a decade.

      Like 13
      • Dave

        LOL! Kudos to you, my sleep-deprived friend.

        Like 1
      • John Walsh

        Full time corporate job and write for three different websites. I sell project cars and barn finds on the side and have a consulting business where I find and appraise vintage cars for clients. I haven’t gone to bed before 2 a.m. in over a decade.
        Jeff. You are almost my double from the other side of the pond. I have a full time job where I work overseas for a couple of months at a time, then spend my time off duplicating what you do. All good fun and loads of miles and late nights. But we keep hem alive. :)

        Like 1
  4. Todd Fitch Staff

    Hey Jeff – Great look inside the corners of your collection… and mind! Some rare and interesting vehicles for sure. Best wishes – give us an update as they ascend the ladder of Lavery’s Need Hierarchy on the path to Self-Realization: I drive, therefore I am.

    Like 2
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Thanks Todd! I hope to have meaningful updates soon….

  5. angliagt angliagt Member

    A few years back,I had 13 cars,& a two car garage.
    Most of them were Engish Fords ( 2 Consul Capris,2 Corsairs,
    Anglia 105E,Fiestas, & Cortinas).My neighbors WERE NOT –
    Ended up selling it all off one-by-one,as I realized that
    I would never get around to finishing all of them.
    I still have the same (first) Wife.

    Like 5
  6. Steve

    You must have a very understanding wife. Mine would have Divorced me after the second car

  7. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Ha, wow! I’ve heard of and seen all of those projects here but when you put them all together that’s quite a collection. I hope they all get to where you want them to be and you can enjoy them for a while before moving on to something else. Nice work, Jeff!

    Like 1
  8. John Walsh

    Good man after my own heart. Collection consists of. 1st. An understanding wife. 2, Lotus Excel Se waiting on an engine. 3, Lotus Elite waiting on some more mechanical work. 4, Lotus Elite waiting on interior work and respray. 5, Lotus Esprit S3 Turbo undergoing full restoration from the ground up, cost so far. Ouch. 6, Lotus Esprit dry sump, waiting on engine rebuild and paint. 7, Another Lotus Excel SE HC just waiting on final mechanical completion and an oil cooler. 8, Another Lotus Excel SE, a bit of a special as has been converted to a pickup truck. Currently a rolling chassis.. 9, Excel No 4 which will be a donor for the pickup truck. I think I have another two tucked way somewhere.

    Like 2
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Thanks John! I like your style, and yes, first step is having a wonderful spouse. We are blessed.

      Like 2
  9. Steve Clinton

    Call me dense, but I’m not sure what the point of this post is. :-(

    Like 1
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      The editors of the site occasionally share what projects they’re working on, and as I’ve been writing for Barn Finds for close to ten years, I thought an update would be appreciated.

      Like 20
      • Todd Zuercher

        And it certainly is! You’re the best writer here, Jeff, and I enjoy seeing all your projects and what you’re working on. I’m not up until 2 am every morning but I do work in the evenings after the rest of the family has gone to bed (as I am now).

    • 67Firebird_Cvt Member

      I enjoyed it and look forward to more like it!

      Like 8
  10. Tom Wasney

    Best of the bunch there… Had an 87is coupe about eight years ago, one lady owner 5sp with 112k miles.. Regretting selling that these days… Now going for about $28k.. Sold mine for $5k…. Good luck with all your endeavors, you’re going to need it…!!!😊

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      It’s a wonderful car that will not be leaving any time soon.

      Like 1
  11. Howie Mueler

    I would be very happy with a full size garage!!

    Like 1
    • Tom Wasney

      I have a garage door with eight and a half foot depth. Stores the snow blower, tools and stuff.. Previous owner turned the rest of it into living space… All my gems sit in the driveway, currently a 99 528i msport sedan and a 96 328i sedan. Just sold my 05 350z for another car then the seller decided not to sell…!!!😑

  12. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Jeff, thanks for the info, and to all the other posters with their collections. This thought came to mind….

    You know those dreams that you have that recur? I used to have one where people had given me old cars, and I stashed them away in various buildings and barns, and then I can’t remember where I put them. The cars were always things like basic four-door sedans, never high-dollar cars. I always thought it odd because I’ve never had more than three collector cars at a time, so the ‘problem’ should have never been something my brain wondered about.

    Like 1
    • Dave

      Funny, but I’ve had that same dream but with every car and truck and motorcycle I’ve owned in the past 65 years. My wife (in the dream) says that she’s stored them but can’t recall where.

      Like 3
    • Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

      I used to have the same kind of dreams except I would buy the car and leave it on the street planning to come back for it later but then it would be gone. Another was I’d have a car on a lift but the lift wouldn’t stop pushing the through the roof of the garage. Wierd. Right?
      God bless America

      Like 1
  13. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    Wow! Some you guys are beyond belief. I’ll be 74 Sunday June 6. I worked as an auto mechanic most of my life and always had a project, but never more than one at a time. My first was a 35 Chevy 4 door sedan in Standard trim. That started my journey in 1960. I’ve had a lot of projects over the years but they just never seem to get to the point of perfection in my eyes. When a buyer would come along for one another would be purchased. My current 64 Buick Riviera I’ve had for more than 10 years now and it will never be finished before I die and it passed on to my grandson who loves it. As for wives: I’ve had three, and a few concubines along the way. My last one who was also a car lover and my loving wife for over 25 years just passed away on April 20,2021. I’m in a grieving process right now and have no desire to work on anything. So I’ve signed up for a writing and acting class at the local senior center here in West Houston. I’m evolved with my church and have joined a group of retired men called R.O.M.E.O.S which means retired old men eating out somewhere.
    God bless America

    Like 6
    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      John, you’re putting your energy in the right places. Good on you. One day, they’ll all be gone and I hope to be wise enough to put something new in their place. Of course, my wife may put me in the ground before that happens, and then it won’t really matter. ;-)

      Thanks for sharing!

  14. Johnny

    Hey Jeff,what is the name of the junk yard in Georgia. You posted of vehicles in it awhile back. I like to go the when it gets colder. When the rattlers and copperheads went to sleep. You have the name of it,where its located and phone number? Thanks.

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