We have been inspecting the NAPCO bumper to bumper. So far, the overall condition makes the vehicle an excellent restoration candidate. We have been changing and filling up fluids in preparation to attempt to start the truck. It has not been started since approximately 1990. The engine is not seized, but the oil is so sludgy it will not drain. We will be removing the oil pan to clean it out and do a lower engine inspection. The front brake bleeders unscrewed easily, but we have not tried to bleed the brakes yet. The original wiring harness is mostly intact, but so frayed it would be dangerous to use. Fortunately at some point in the past, most of it was disconnected and wires were run to the starter and ignition that are still in good shape.
Getting an early start out of Lorton, we said goodbye to Adam and hit the road. Traffic was heavy but flowing as we wove our way out of the greater D.C. area, and soon we found ourselves back on the turnpike. Weary from our adventures from the day before, we kept alert with talk of future plans for the NAPCO and the museum as a whole. Since the radio in the Excursion is on the fritz, we enjoyed my eclectic mix of favorites on Pandora over my phone, well at least I enjoyed them…
With a craving for greasy turnpike plaza pizza, we watched for a Sbarro, but as the lunch hour came and went, we had to settle for another place we hadn’t heard of. It was O.K., but left us craving the real thing. About an hour after lunch, we had hit a pretty smooth and lazy section of the Ohio turnpike, and as we were in pretty deep conversation about our upcoming National Association of Automobile Museums (N.A.A.M.) conference we heard a loud thud accompanied by a jarring thud from under our seats. At first I thought our driveshaft had let go, but in the mirror I could see a large road gator rolling down the highway. Within a few more seconds everything seemed normal, but I could feel just the smallest vibration so we found a safe spot to pull over and inspect the situation. What we found was that we had lost the entire tread of one of our trailer tires. The remaining carcass was a balding porcupine of wire belts but amazingly it was still holding air. Instead of working on the side of the road, we decided to try and make it to the next service plaza 13 miles down the road.
Our luck paid off, and we made it to the plaza where Justin had the opportunity to learn how to properly change a tire, A.K.A. the old guys put the kid to work. And work he did. Within several minutes, we had it changed out with our spare and we were back on the road, enjoying my fantastic mix of tunes.
As luck would have it, by the time our bellies wanted dinner, we found a service plaza with a Sbarro. With our hearts and cholesterol levels raised, we fueled up ourselves and the Excursion, and hit the road for the last stretch.
Around 8:00PM we found ourselves entering Detroit, where the roads became exceedingly bad. My attempts to dodge the largest of potholes was going O.K. until right north of downtown I hit one with a bone jarring “Wham!!!” followed by the familiar hiss of a tire loosing air. With a quick glance in the mirror, I could see a trailer tire that was utterly shredded and throwing chunks of rubber. We exited the freeway, into one of the lesser desirable areas of town, and pulled into a gas station to assess the damage. I initially thought we had lost both passenger side trailer tires, but fortunately we had only lost the front one, although that was a brand new tire before we departed on the trip.
On our previous tire Andrew had devised the idea of instead of using a jack, just to back up our disconnected trailer ramp to change the tire. It worked well the first time, so our frazzled pit crew started all over again. We had only one problem. We didn’t have another spare, and knowing that the lug pattern on the Excursion, and even the NAPCO, was different, we had to figure something else out. Checking our porcupine carcass, it was still holding air, although not much. It was better than nothing, and we put it back onto the trailer. Not everyone shared my faith that it could make it the 50 miles home, but it was all we had. So, on we went, all a little on edge, waiting for that next big bang that ultimately never came. I watched the tire like a hawk in my mirror, and as flat as it squatted, it continued to roll over the broken asphalt and potholes.
Pulling into my driveway after 9:30, we got out and watched the last of the air hiss and escape from the tire that never should have made it as far as it did. Happy, we all said our goodbyes, and after saying hello to the fiance, I headed for a well deserved sleep.
All in all we are very happy with the NAPCO, and had a great little adventure going out and getting her. One plan for our trip was to interview an individual that is a big part of 4×4 history, but unfortunately he wasn’t feeling well so we had to tentatively reschedule for next month. Please continue to check our progress on this website, where there are links if you are interested in donating to the NAPCO preservation, and please follow us at facebook.com/themoramuseum
The big day has finally come! After a good night’s rest and a breakfast at IHOP we made the one hour drive to Maryland, weaving the trailer in and out of the concrete mayhem affectionately called the “mixing bowl” by locals. Roads on top of roads made GPS navigation sketchy at best. We continued the theme of failed GPS directions when we called the owner of the NAPCO, and he informed us of the “real” way to get to his house.
We really didn’t know what to expect upon arriving. Most of us, going only off the older pictures we had been provided, were picturing a rusted out old truck in a derelict barn. We had worn our work clothes, and imagined hours of working in mud and sand to free stuck brakes, inflate tires, and do whatever we needed to load a “junker” vehicle. Our ideas couldn’t have been further from the truth. Instead of some old farm, we travelled the winding asphalt drive through a manicured wooded estate, to a large modern shop. As we pulled up, we were warmly welcomed by Mike Boteler, the gentleman we were purchasing the truck from. He welcomed us into his shop, and we immediately noticed it was kept immaculately clean, and decorated with vintage advertising and toys. In the center of the building was our Napco, almost as if she was on display. Accompanied by a vintage military Jeep turned fire apparatus, a huge two-ton antique Chevrolet tow truck, and a beautifully restored 1950’s fire engine, we had entered the garage-mahal of a genuine enthusiast.
Mike showed us around, starting at our Napco, which was in much better shape than anticipated, and he covered in immense detail all the history he was aware of for it. He presented us with a huge binder of information and pictures, 13 years of his acquired knowledge on the truck, for us to keep. After the Napco, he told us all about his other vehicles, and then he showed us the immense collection of parts he had collected to put our truck back together, many of them brand new or in near new condition. We already knew that these “extra” parts were not included in the sale, but we entered negotiations on a few of the prime pieces. All in all, we ended up buying over half of what he had to offer.
Finally, we backed up the trailer, ran out the winch, and started pulling the truck out. At first look we were a bit nervous, as the truck was much larger than we had imagined. But after a few measurements, we knew it would fit. The winch spooled up, and the truck moved, although dragging the rear tires. We threw Justin up in the truck, and had him hold the clutch pedal down and tried again. At first it still acted like it was in gear, but then with a pop it started to roll. At this point we are unsure if something was locked up in the drivetrain, or if the rear brakes were seized, but either case, it rolls freely now.
After carefully packing the rest of the parts in the Excursion, and in the back of the Brush Truck, we said our goodbyes and headed for dinner. All in all, we had spent over six hours talking with Mike, interviewing him on video, and loading parts. We were famished, and stopped by a local seafood restaurant that was recommended to us. However, after finding out it would be a significant wait, and seeing the portion sizes did not match the prices, we chose burgers at Fudruckers instead. Bellies full, we headed back to Adam’s, and we are now resting for tomorrows adventures!
With a belly full of gummy bears, Twizzlers, and overpriced coffee we made our ten hour trip to Lorton, Virginia without much to report. However as we pulled into town the familiar light of charging failure notified me of the third alternator gone bad in less than two years. We met up with our host Adam, a friend of Andrews, and after dropping the trailer he directed us to the local Autozone. Although my Spanish is rusty, we were able to procure and install the new part within a few minutes in their parking lot. we
With our tow rig alive and healthy again, we headed into town for some dinner at Mission BBQ, where we sampled just about everything on the menu. The walls were adorned with pictures of local first responders and badges, making the entire place quite welcoming. And boy was the food delicious!
Tomorrow is the big day! We are resting up, and ready to finally meet our NAPCO in person. If a bum alternator is the biggest of our problems we’ll take it. Stay tuned!