This project has been a long time in the making. Ever since I first saw Twister, I fell in love with full size jeeps, especially the J10. A couple of years back, I managed to pick up the Dorothy 2 from Universal Studios Florida - https://www.therpf.com/showthread.ph...hlight=twister
..., since then I have been desperately trying to track down the actual J10 from the show at Universal. I went through ALOT of people connected to prop management and a handful of park employees. Nobody seems to know where this truck went. It has never been spotted on the back lot, which lead alot of people to believe it was scrapped. So, 2 years of searching and I came up empty handed for the Universal one.
While trying to find the Universal one, I constantly searched eBay, Craigslist, FB Marketplace, and FSJ forums to try and find the right one. Let me tell you, these trucks are so far and few between that you cannot get picky. You have to take the best example that you can afford and go from there. Since the Jeep truck has more or less had the same body for the entire 26 year run, it helped with the search. The only major change in the actual body was the brow, which can be found on the trucks up until '79 I believe. As far as I can tell, 3 trucks were used for filming, ranging from '78 - '84. One of them was used to hit the bridge and be dropped upside down, one of them was for the ditch run and to be dropped upside down, and possibly 2 hero trucks. Between the 4 of them, it covers most variations in design.
The two Hero trucks were an 80’s model Honcho. One ended up in the TN Star Cars Museum and one in private hands:
The ditch run truck is the model with the brow, the wraparound turn signals, and the larger wheels and tires, they dropped this one upside down first (in terms of seen in movie), this one was a pre 80s Honcho:
The Bridge truck, also with brow, which was also dropped upside down. This truck has the standard steel wheels and smaller tires, the non-wrapping turn signals in the front, and a manual transmission. This one was dropped second possibly. This one was a pre 80s standard truck.
You can see in this one, that 2 trucks were in fact dropped upside down. The wheels and even the level of dirt coverage is different.
When looking for the truck, I wanted to have as many original parts as possible. So, the criteria were as follows:
- Post 80’s build for the non-brow look. I’m aiming for a hero truck build.
- Needs to have the flatter, 2 piece front brush guard, the ones on the Golden Eagle models and earlier Honchos were more “V” shaped. They are incredibly hard to find in the used market.
- Needs to have the Roll/Light bar. Also hard to find, and very rarely comes up for sale.
- Needs to be an original Honcho. These had the “wide track” look and the Warn locking hubs like the hero truck. Not a deal breaker, but it will save me money on swapping axles and a lift.
- Manual or Auto doesn’t matter. The transmissions are interchangeable.
- Needs to have the split seat design, preferably the black Laredo interior like the hero.
- Needs to have a solid rear window, although this is easily interchangeable.
- Needs to have a rear cargo light in the bed. VERY hard to find….
During the search, I found that J10s seem to either be out west, or up north. Western trucks are more ideal due to little rust, but there seemed to be an abundance of them up north. I was able to find maybe 5 J10’s over 2 years that were for sale in Florida. They were either long beds, which are not screen accurate, or they were literally piles of parts. I had one promising lead out in Bell, but that one turned out to be more work than it was worth. Guy wanted $4200 for it and it didn’t even run. Out of state was literally the only way this was going to happen. One state, Texas, seems to have quite a few J10s in various conditions. Ranging from fully restored to project truck. I managed to find one right outside of Dallas, seemed to be the best combination of things that I needed to start. He sent me many HD pictures and a couple of HD videos of the truck running and driving around the neighborhood. It was a Honcho, had the brush guard, light bar, locking hubs and split seat. He also said the A/C worked, which was a plus. Finding a factory A/C is pretty hard for these trucks. It was right in my price range, so I made arrangements to fly out to Texas and drive it back.
I took connecting flights out to Dallas, and the owner picked me up. Gave the truck a once over, making sure all of the lighting worked on the exterior. Upon inspection of the interior, found that the wiper switch was broken. Not a huge deal, I was just hoping that it wouldn’t rain on the way home. Tried to turn on the A/C, but nothing happened. The guy at this point says that the switch can be finicky, I play with it for a good 5 mins, nothing. At least the external vents and windows work, so I won’t be totally dying on the way home. Everything else looked good, tires looked brand new, although the owner did mention it needed new ones do to the age. None of the gauges worked…fuel, oil pressure, coolant temp, nothing. Things were not really looking up, but I was 1200 miles from home and I was committed at this point. We did the paperwork, shook hands, and I took off….then disaster.
I literally made it a block from his home before hearing a very loud metallic thud… I turn off the truck and get out, fully expecting to see that I dropped the muffler. Wrong. The freaking driveshaft fell off the rear differential. The retaining bracket for the universal joint was loose and the bolts worked themselves out. The caps on the u-joint had fallen off, and with it the needle bearings. There was no re-using it. I called the guy up and he pulled me back to his driveway. Needless to say, there was an awkward moment occurring… The truck drove perfectly fine in the videos that he made for me, answering specific questions while driving so I knew that it was not previously recorded.
The guy was totally nice about it, drove me to the parts store, paid for the parts, got me lunch, and then helped me to install the part. It took the better part of 6 hours using basic caveman tools, which aggravated me because I can swap a u-joint in my shop in about 15 mins using my press. But no, we had hammers and a bench vice. Once the new u-joint was in, I was on my way. Took some back roads to the local Walmart and stocked up on road trip supplies. Picked up a tool kit, some coolant, duct and electrical tape, a phone mount and charger, some snacks, and a gas can. Stopped in at the gas station, topped off the truck, filled the can and I was on my way.
Once on the highway, I managed to get the truck past 40mph for the first time…anything above 40 and the truck shook violently. Great. So, I proceed to drive 45-50mph for the next 3 hours. By this time, it’s dark, the freaking headlights are pointed at the ground. They turn on, but do not illuminate the road. I pull off to adjust them…the damn adjusters are broken. My wife convinces me to stop at a hotel since it was close to midnight at this point. Wake up early, eat, fill up with gas and Im back on the road doing 45. I get about an hour out, and finally decide to pull into a shop to get the wheels balanced. They proceed to tell me that it will be at least 2 hours… ugh. At this point I am already 24 hours behind schedule, what’s 2 more. I have them inspect the driveway fix of the u-joint and do a general once over to make sure nothing else will surprise me.