Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Project Money Burner Jeep

Bigger is better! When bad things happen to good people they have the option of giving up or making things better. Junkyard Life's own Keith Lively wrecked and rolled in his 1991 Jeep YJ one week before his wedding in 2012. The Jeep was destroyed. A loose tool bag knocked Lively upside his head inside the crashing Jeep, but otherwise he was unscathed. Luck or fate? He still had sense enough to marry a woman who shares his passion for all things with four wheels. When Lively walked down the aisle he had already hatched a plan to create a monster Jeep that could tackle any obstacle. Project Money Burner was born! 

What happened?
  "A steering knuckle broke going down the highway 
at 50 miles per hour and the Jeep turned sideways, hitting the side of a hill head on. The Jeep's momentum sent it rolling over and into a concrete storm drain," Lively said. "I was knocked out cold by a tool bag. I also had some yard equipment, axes, and saws inside the Jeep. They ended up stuck in my dash and the pick axe was embedded in my seat where I would have been if I had not leaned over and held onto the passenger harness." The crash no doubt could have been deadly. "The good Lord was definitely riding with me that day," said Lively.

  "Another C.A.O.S. (Central Alabama Off-road Society) club member saw the wreck and got me out. I woke up sitting on the back of a fire truck. The rest of the details? I have no idea."  

Before the wreck of the 1991 YJ. Notice the beefed up roll cage and seat belts.

The only thing that was not damaged in the Jeep Wranger wreck was the massive Off-Road Connection roll bar system.

 The only things not damaged in the wreck were the massive Off-Road Connection roll bar system, the tailgate and the radio. 


Damage assessment
  The force of the crash was hard enough to knock the front axle out, break the transmission in half, and shove the front drive shaft through the floor board. The 4.0 motor was locked up and the transfer case was also trashed. 
  "Most of the drivetrain was busted but when Jeep in is in your blood you got to rebuild," said Lively.

 The Jeep's frame was stretch 21 inches to make the 2-door YJ/TJ into a 4 door.

The plan: Building the Beast
Lively loves to share his outdoor adventures with all who are brave enough to ride along. The more the merrier, he says, so the plan morphed into a big boy 4-door Jeep. The middle of the Jeep frame and body was stretched by 21 inches for more legroom, and the rear seat was widened by 6 inches to allow more elbow room for two full-size adults. Sharp eyes will notice that rear doors were minimized in size to give it more of a Jeep Scrambler appearance.

  What started out as a wrecked 1991 YJ (YJ=1987-1995 Jeep Wrangler) ended up with a 2001 TJ (TJ=1997-2006 Jeep Wrangler) front clip that was donated from another member of C.A.O.S. who wanted to help Lively turn the YJ into a TJ project.   

 Money Burner is on its third engine in eight years.
Each more powerful than the last.

Nuts and bolts
  A decision was made to upgrade the powertrain to a 6.0 liter built LS engine with a 4L80-E transmission with NP-205 twin stick shifter. Power to the ground via a Dana 60 front axle
, a 14-bolt Dana 70 rear axle, with both axles receiving Detroit Lockers. The front axles received larger stub axles upgraded to 35 spline with Warn locking hubs. Toss in a set of military H1 Double Bead Lock rims with new centers (to improve the offset) and 43-inch tires and you can see where this trail of money leads. The name "Money Burner" was a no-brainer.

Party in the back
  A storage area behind the rear seat now folds out to a full-size bar with a 3500 watt inverter, built-in blender, lights, disco ball and everything you need to relax after a long day of wheeling with friends. Money Burner features front and rear Warn winches, rock lights and onboard welder and air pump.
  "The blender will make 4 gallons of crushed lemonade or possibly something stronger before the battery goes dead," said Lively. "If you crank the Jeep you can mix drinks all night or run power equipment in remote locations."

Seat of your pants thrill
  Take a ride with Keith Lively in his Money Burner Jeep and you will come back impressed or shaking in your boots. No middle ground here. The thing is a monster! Lively lives up to his name and is not afraid to drive those 
43-inch tires into deep water, tackle boulders, dams or a steep wall of earth. He will nail it headfirst into a mountain and drop the back bumper into the dirt. Lively never met a rev limiter he couldn't abuse. The Money Burner delivers! Wow!

Jody Potter — Junkyard Life

 A roll cage and half a wrecked Jeep were all Lively had to get started.

 Progress shot after Money Burner build takes shape.

 Money Burner roll cage is beefed-up to handle heavy impact of a Lively rollover. Oh! There will be rollovers.

Just added new rock lights for improved night recovery trips or just riding down to the creek at night.

 A tighter torque converter installed during the last motor swap helped improve the low-end power. The 6.0 LS motor runs a set of shaved, mild ported heads with a Stage 2 cam.  

 A custom hardtop was fabricated for cold weather months. Full doors spice up the color combo. Half doors are blue.  

Money Burner is setup to make it up to the big climbs in comfort and occasionally rescue a Junkyard Life lost car or truck left deep in the woods. The front winch will extend out 250 feet and the rear winch will extend out 175 feet allowing recovery of almost any car we come across.

Know a junkyard that we need to visit?
Got a wild Jeep, car or truck story?
Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Great Corvette Finned Hubcap Mystery

1968 Corvette finned wheel cover is a mystery when we bought a 14-inch version at swap meet.

The great hubcap mystery. We bought a truckload of treasures at the mega-sized Moultrie, Georgia Swap Meet this year. Moultrie is a yearly destination that provides elusive parts an enthusiast may not stumble across everyday. Or in Junkyard Life’s case – parts that may not exist at all. The part in question is the famous finned wheel cover that GM flew on their flagship All-American icon… The Chevrolet Corvette.

14-inch and 15-inch finned wheel covers with Corvette cross flags center cap.
One of these Corvette finned wheel covers is a mystery because we came home with a 14-inch version from Moultrie, Georgia swap meet.

These wheel covers became a hit in 1968 on the Corvette. An alternative rolling stock to the 15x8 Rally Wheels. Reminiscent of the knock-off wheels offered on 1963-1966 Vettes, these hubcaps provided a touch of elegance to show a side of the Corvette that would look in place in the affluent backdrop of a country club parking lot. American muscle and world-class sports car all in the same round rim. 


These wheel covers have always commanded a high price tag due to their association with the Corvette. So much in fact, that they are usually priced out of our range. This year, for debatable reasons perhaps, the prices were down! So I (Ron) bought a set for a car I don’t even own. Yet. But oh, yes. Own one I will. (Editor’s Note: Now he is going to say it again really slow for emphasis) And own one…I will. 


(Editor’s Note: See? I told you. Do we know this guy or what?)

Notice differences between the two?

So I bought two sets! Almost. Sort of. I will explain. Among the two sets was a wheel cover that is an enigma to us all. One lonely 14-inch version with the Cross Flags associated with the Corvette. 

Jody Potter, left, and Ron Kidd, right, get a closer look at the mystery Corvette hubcap.

Do We Have Our Cross Flags Crossed Up?

  • Chevrolet never made a 14-inch Corvette wheel during the production years that this wheel cover was available. It seems they were an option from 1968-1973. All of them were of the 15-inch variety.
  • When asking a Corvette-based product vendor about this, before I could get to my question, a very confident gentleman we will refer to as Mr. IknoweverythingaboutCorvettes Grumpy Pants interrupted and said, “They never made that in a 14-inch.” Yes, we know. So we repeated the first half of the question and asked what else would have a Cross Flag. Mr.IGP then emphasized “That wheel cover was Corvette only!” 
  • My argument of its existence was pretty solid. I just bought one. However, it was seemingly miles away locked in our truck. So we had no choice but to hear how mistaken we were about the origins or dimensions of this wheel cover. I would have thrown my proof at him and said, “What do you call THIS, Mr. IknoweverythingaboutCorvettes Grumpy Pants?”

A look at back of hubcaps shows the 15-inch version has rivets holding center cap and 14-inch version has nuts holding center cap.

14-inch hubcap has flush-mounted center cap.

15-inch hubcap has slightly raised center cap and fins extend closer to outer rim.

Two junkyard Sherlocks attempt to look cool. We won't try that again, but we did learn that these finned hubcaps are heavy. One 15-inch finned hubcap weighs about seven pounds. The smaller 14-inch hubcaps weighs six pounds.

Help! So what are we missing? Help us find out what this is. Was it designated for another car and someone put the Cross Flags in it? Did another Chevrolet cap have Cross Flags during the time this was made? Did it belong to a Malibu or Impala (with a 14-inch wheel) prior to being associated with the Corvette? Did the ritzy Monte Carlo offer one during the 14-inch wheel model era we are unaware of? Is it not even a Chevrolet hubcap? Comment below or email some info:
Send emails to: Ron Kidd at

Ron Kidd — Junkyard Life

I know you want to wear a Junkyard Life shirt. Buy one here on Teespring

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?
Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Cars in Yards: 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix

1962 Pontiac Grand Prix sits in yard neglected. 

Hold on tight! Hueytown, Alabama's Phillip Rutledge found this 1962 Grand Prix parked in a yard in his hometown. He snatched up the rare Poncho knowing a great opportunity when he saw one. There are not many rust-free 1962 Grand Prix awaiting rescue in yards these days. The fact that Rutledge found a 58-year-old Pontiac in decent condition and the car was visible to anyone who drove by should renew hope for those hunting their own first-year Grand Prix. Just don’t try to shortcut the system and make an offer on this one. It is doubtful that Rutledge will part with his find any time soon. After all he still owns the 1966 Pontiac GTO that he bought with his grass-cutting money in 1980, when he was 14 years old!

Red interior of 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix loaded with options.
Red interior of 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix loaded with options.

Previous Grand Prix key holders

At one time this Grand Prix's owners 
relocated to Alabama from Illinois for a job transfer. We are not sure how many times the Grand Prix changed hands in Alabama but the two previous owners here failed in their plans to restore the Grand Prix to its former glory. One owner kept the car out of the elements, letting it sit untouched in a garage for 10 years until he hoisted a for sale sign in the window. Then, the most recent former owner parked the burgundy beauty outside for five years before deciding it was time to sell the project Pontiac to Rutledge. 

The 1962 Grand Prix was loaded up for next owner with good intentions to restore. Time will tell.
The 1962 Grand Prix was loaded up by newest owner Phillip Rutledge.

Best available versus best condition

The sliding scale of time and a vehicle's value can see huge changes based on the care and condition at the time of sale. When cruising the back roads for your rusty relics you can often find the best deal on cars in the worst condition. But buyers should be wary. The expense to restore a (visible from the road) carport calamity may not be worth the end result. Be careful when choosing your labor of love. When you spot a chrome bumper peeking from an open garage, that may be opportunity and fate pleading for you to act.

Distinctive 1962 Pontiac tail lights ride high in air of Grand Prix loaded on flatbed trailer.
1962 Pontiac tail lights are an uncommon sight on the road.

History lesson

When Pontiac introduced the Grand Prix in 1962 it was an instant hit with 30,195 sold. Those production numbers may seem small in comparison to modern standards but this forerunner of the GTO had the recipe for success. With the Grand Prix buyers got a mid-sized body, bucket seats, V8, Safe-T-Track differential and manual transmission. The classy, low slung rumbler turned heads and got people talking about Pontiac. The tiger was about to be unleashed!

A 389-V8 engine with a 4-barrel carburetor resides under the hood.
A 389-V8 engine with a 4-barrel carburetor resides under the hood.

Engine options

Pontiac gave buyers a multitude of engine choices in the Grand Prix. They could choose from one-of-three 389-cubic inch V8s. The thrift-minded 2-barrel produced 230-hp. The standard 4-barrel pumped out 303-hp and the hot tri-power setup offered 318-hp. A beefed-up block with four-bolt main caps was available in Pontiac's 425-A Trophy Series engines. Not much is known about these other than the 4-barrel was rated at 333-hp and the tri-power touted 348-hp. Many say the 425-A figures are underrated.

Those in the upper level performance loop, 16 to be exact, knew that a 405-hp Super Duty 421-V8 engine with two 4-barrel carbs was the hottest ticket in town. A "street version" of the 421-V8 (320-hp) was equipped for 67 buyers who grabbed the wheel of a new 1962 Grand Prix.

8-lug Pontiac wheel with built-in drum brakes were an oddity but still functional.
8-lug Pontiac wheels with built-in drum brakes were an oddity but still functional.

Next step

Rutledge, 54, is no stranger to making heads turn on and off the track. With nearly four decades of racing and a right foot planted on the gas pedal of a blue 1966 GTO, he knows how to make a Pontiac run. Current plan for the Grand Prix is to leave paint and interior original and make it a driver and cruise-in regular. Besides some deep cleaning inside and underneath that should be no problem for Rutledge.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

1962 Pontiac Grand Prix has tons of options including air conditioning.
1962 Pontiac Grand Prix has tons of options including air conditioning.

Dome light has map light integrated into the fancy design on the 1962 Grand Prix.
Dome light has map light integrated into the fancy design on the 1962 Grand Prix.

Hard to believe this Grand Prix has been sitting 15 years awaiting restoration.
Hard to believe this Grand Prix has been sitting 15 years awaiting restoration.

Understated Grand Prix emblem hides in the recessed 1962 ill.
Understated Grand Prix emblem hides in the recessed 1962 grill.

A giant snorkel is visible on the air cleaner of the 1962 Grand Prix.
Check the giant snorkel visible on the air cleaner of the 1962 Grand Prix.

Quad headlamps, simplified, streamlined design of the widebody look on the Grand Prix.
Quad headlamps, with a simplified, streamlined widebody design on the Grand Prix.

8-lug Grand Prix loaded on steel flatbed trailer.
8-lug Grand Prix loaded on steel flatbed trailer.

Headliner hangs low but its 58+ years old.
Headliner hangs low but its 58+ years old.

Door jambs look good on this original, survivor Grand Prix.
Door jambs look good on this original, survivor Grand Prix.

Power windows, power lock switches on door panel of 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix.
Power windows, power lock switches on door panel of 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix.

Back seat is clean and neat.
Back seat is clean and neat. Well, except for the scary pile of leaves lurking.

Steering wheel is art on the 1962 Grand Prix.
Steering wheel is art on the 1962 Grand Prix.

Tachometer mounted on console of 1962 Grand Prix.
Factory tachometer mounted on console of 1962 Grand Prix.

Extreme duty wheels? These factory 8-lug wheel look mean.
Extreme duty wheels? These factory 8-lug wheel look mean.

"GRAN PRX" license plate from Illinois is proof this Grand Prix is not from Alabama.
"GRAN PRX" license plate from Illinois is proof this 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix is not originally from Alabama.

Not so rusty gold. Keep looking, maybe you will find your own dream car like this 1962 Grand Prix out there!
Not so rusty gold. Keep looking, maybe you will find your own dream car like this 1962 Grand Prix out there!

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  
Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Rescuing a 1970 Chevelle: Birthday Blues, Vintage Paint, Finally the Right Year

1970 Chevy Chevelle barn find rescued in Alabama with funky white stripes over the Astro Blue paint.

She wanted a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle. Plus, she wanted it by her 50th birthday. Only it proved to be more of a challenge than she thought. The search began years ago when she fell in love with this intermediate size car that was a unique segue from the 1969 models to the one-eyed 1971 Chevelles. It had to be a 1970. She had her reasons. She also had a frustrating search thinking she had an advantage to finding this tin unicorn. What advantage? She is Toni Lively, the wife of Junkyard Life staff member Keith Lively. A very forgiving guy. Junkyard Life can find anything. Usually. Hey, we tried. We did. You just don’t find a lot of 1970 two-door hardtop unicorns laying around.

  “Why can’t you find me a 70 model!?!” Toni asked, with a tone of ‘you better step it up’ hidden in her voice only the day before. This poor girl has taken every opportunity to remind us over the years that if we ever found a 1970 Chevelle, she had dibs. Until now, we failed her.

1970 Chevelle with SS emblems is the ultimate muscle car rescue.
We can't believe it! We found a 1970 Chevelle that's been parked a long time and it's not a basket case.

You Can’t Always Get Whatcha Want

A  nice 1969? No.

A  really nice 1971? No

A really really nice 1972? No.

You can’t get what you want until you know what you want. Toni had that part covered. She knew with absolute certainty what she wanted. We really did tell her those and other encouraging words over time. We even told her some discouraging words during the weekend we planned to rescue the very Chevelle that would soon be hers. 

“You will never find it,” we exclaimed. At times we mixed in, “Keep trying! Don’t give up!” That way she wouldn’t suspect the big blue surprise parked in her coveted parking place when she got home just two days later. 

Loaded up! Rescue and restoration will begin soon!

She is Woman – Hear Her Roar

We actually did hear her roar. She roared at us and told us in no uncertain terms to stop finding every other Chevelle on Chevrolet’s menu except her 1970 request. Little did she know…we already did. The very next day we had the official seek, find and obtain order on a really cool 1970 Chevelle two-door hardtop. This one has a once hot-rodded small block Chevy with a few vintage speed shop add ons. It has a bench seat, a column shifter, great pans and several other attributes that will prove valuable in the restoration. It has front disc brakes, power steering, factory air and a 10-bolt rear end. John Mellencamp would groove on the exhaust system (Cherry Bomb*) and we here at Junkyard Life love, love, love, the circa 1977 World of Wheels style paint job that added several dimensions to the often emulated famous Super Sport stripes. These wild stripes are laying over a repaint on a real steel cowl hood. The paint code (25) tells us this Malibu was Astro Blue from its beginnings and seemed to stay somewhat local to Birmingham, Alabama all these years. How do we know this? We found the treasured Protect-O-Plate! That's the metal business card size tag that told the dealer who was the owner of the vehicle. Usually the Protect-O-Plates were discarded after warranty expirations, this is valuable treasure for us, despite the car being out of warranty by 1973. How did we find this? Forgiveness is important.

Mean street machine vibe on the 1970 Chevelle. The SS emblems, SS grill, and other bits were added years ago.

The forgiveness aspect of the story

Forgiveness is a key attribute that good men practice. The point is if you knew the whereabouts of a very specific car your good friend and co-worker might be looking for really hard and didn’t tell him. That would be wrong. For example if a really good friend (who was looking with you) knew of a 1970 Chevelle that was actually stashed away and the otherwise good…nay…GREAT friend simply forgot the car was there and suddenly remembered after a lengthy countrywide search and declared, “Hey, wait a minute. We DO have one laying around, only 3.5 minutes from your house!” The Chevelle alone is worth a pound of forgiveness. It says so in the Bible somewhere.** Now that guy…he could be forgiven in a matter of seconds. Whew! Glad we got the air cleared there.

Keith Lively can be seen negotiating the purchase of his wife's surprise birthday present.

What? You Better be Kidding

I come from a lineage of car guys and it is in our blood to obtain such things as a 1970 Chevelle. My cousin, Mike, rescued this Velle many years ago and I may have forgotten it was at his house. I don’t usually forget things like that and I am now wondering what else we have hidden away. Keith is threatening to hit me in the head really hard to “help” me remember such minor details as a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle. So, it sounds like forgiveness is on the way. A Chevelle was located and brought home. Toni Lively is finally happy with a retro-painted ’70 Chevelle that Keith finds for her, and Jody*** and I are back in Keith’s good graces. All's well that ends well. 

Another forgiving day at Junkyard Life.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

The expression says it all. Toni Lively is surprised.

Keith Lively’s 1970 Chevelle Fun Facts

  • He really tried to find this car by his wife Toni’s birthday. He missed by six months, so the day he presented the car, he brought a cake and we sang “Happy Birthday” again.

Toni Lively gets her birthday present 1970 Chevelle.

  • 1970 was a transitional year for the Chevelle. The resulting product had headlights and tail lights that were indigenous to that year model.

  • The Super Sport models came with no Malibu emblems after 1965. Before then, a Malibu SS could and did exist.

  • In 1970, the two-door Chevelles did not have front vent windows. For that level of cool you had to have a four door or a station wagon.

  • In 1970 a Chevelle Malibu four door Hardtop (no dividing piller) was on the menu. Most four door models were sedans with a post.

  • 1970 was the height of Detroit’s horsepower war and Chevrolet’s leading warrior was their LS6 Chevelle SS 454 packing 450 HP that they claimed. Rumors always indicated it was more than that. Wow! 

  • Toni’s Chevelle has the treasured Protect-O-Plate! The metal card Chevrolet included for the owner to have an easier time at the dealership for warranty work. For Junkyard Life car geeks this is a decoding treasure maps!

  • 1970 was the last year for the SS 396 option. Due to this being the first year for the gargantuan 454. If a buyer was weary of the new power plant, a 396 could still be had with up to 375 HP. 

  • The famed 396 became a 402 after 1970 with the factory bore increased by 30 thousandths. There was never a 402 emblem in production that we know of.

  • Toni’s 1970 example has a paint job that you would find in the mid-seventies during the custom car paint craze that America went though from coast to coast. Very psychedelic and retro cool!**** 

Editor’s Note*
Junkyard Life Writer/Photographer Ron Kidd is only allowed one rock and roll musical reference per story. After that horrible stretch of a song title, I feel he may owe John Mellencamp an apology.  

Editor’s Note**
Ron took terrible notes in Sunday School. Our apologies again.

“Go forth, young man and seeketh the Chevelle” was cut during editing.

Editor’s Note***
Me? No, just Ron. I was never blamed for this.

Editor’s Note****
Readers have no reason to believe a car from Ron’s family would have a normal paint scheme. Would you? No. No, you would not.

You don't see the custom stripes very often. Most muscle cars have escalated in price and new paint is a must.

Don't laugh at the small-block 350. A big block will be landing here.

Detail of the decklid stripes.

Protecto Plate is stashed inside the owner's manual.

Toni and Keith excited for the new adventure in a 1970 Chevelle.

New parking spot, indoors for the Chevelle.

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  
Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at