The 1989 Tracker Project

Re-posted from and old document .. Sept 2007:

Because I am starting to work on a new Tracker project .. the 1991 Tracker .  I thought it would be nice to reference this old post.  This was the second Tracker that I have had, but the first one to need TLC and work.


I couldn’t say no !  The lady accepted my offer of $800 for the 1989 Tracker sitting in her snow bank.  So now I have another project for after I finish the reno’s in the house.  I had one of these before in the fall of 2000.  That one I bought from a co-worker for $3,500.  and I still had to repair some rust plus I bought a new top for it. It was so much fun to drive … cheap on gas, 4×4 and a convertible too!  I felt then that it was worth the money. Unfortunately that little Tracker came to demise in the hands of my Daughter one snowy day. There wasn’t a corner of the Tracker that wasn’t bent & twisted.  She was ok, only shaken up a little. A testament to a good roll-cage design. It was unfixable so I sold it for parts to a guy for $500.  and that was that.   I missed the little guy….

So here I’ve found another one.  And although there is some rust problems , it runs good and the top is new.  These are the things that we found with the first inspection. Please note that we haven’t pulled the wheels off to check the condition of the brakes and other driveline stuff. So this is just the obvious stuff and what I know from driving it home from Christina Lake.

  • Driver’s door is bad, it’s rusted and has a dent in it, and the interior latch & panel are broken.
  • The gas tank leaks, probably rusted through on the bottom from mud collecting on top of the skid-pan. ( later I find that it is the filter that leaks..not the tank)
  • The floor in the back is badly rusted through, and the backseat is missing. This will happen if the top had leaked. And the seat would not have been secured anymore.
  • Quite a bit of play coming from the drive shaft. U-joints are worn
  • Tailgate latch was so badly rusted that it broke off.
  • A few bits & pieces of the interior are missing, glove box latch, ashtray and the dome light.

Well we need some positives here…so

  • The motor runs good , does not burn oil and it started right up after sitting for months. There is only 175,000 km on the odo
  • All the electrical works good. Heater is good too, Battery looks new
  • The tires are fair, about half worn, they are on steel rims that have only a little surface rust. And the spare is good too.
  • Top is NEW and works good.
  • It drives good, steering was tight, and the brakes seem to be good…no pulling
Gathering the pieces:

So now I’m going to spend some money collecting up all the parts & pieces needed to fix the Tracker up to my standards.  But I’m setting a total budget of $2000 dollars ,and that includes the $800 to buy it.  So away we go to see what we can find.

The price of a new gas tank was $150, so I’m not going to fool around with an old one.. so I bought that and two new u-joints from Lordco, total $220. Later I exchanged the tank!

I phoned around to all the wreckers in the area to see who had Trackers.  A place in Enderby had two in the yard.  So I paid them a visit this weekend.  For $350 I got a complete drivers door, a matching door panel for the other side, a complete tailgate, the back seat, glove box, ashtray and a set of nice floor mats.

From E-Bay I got a shop service manual for $35, and  Keyless entry system for $40 also I splurged and found a power window kit for $200.  That’s a total of $1645 so far… I’m  getting very close to my $2000 dollars so I better wait to see if there are more mechanical issues before I go for those nice alloy rims at the wreckers.

The Ultimate Tracker:

My goal for the Tracker is to have it fixed up so that it’s impressive as well as just running good. So this is my plans and hopefully I stick to the budget:

  • Mechanically …running great.. not just good, but A-1 no unsafe stuff
  • Fix all the rust and repainted. I may keep it white but all white no black trim and that stripe has to go… My preferred choice is sunset orange and keep the black trim with all the exposed interior painted gray
  • Sound proof the body.. give it a more solid feel, quieter and not tinny
  • Undercoating , mud flaps and vent shades to keep the rust away
  • Power windows and power locks with keyless entry
  • Purple neon interior lighting. (just too cool )
The Work Begins:

Well I set up a Costco garage for a workshop, and Dave & I backed the Tracker up on my ramps to have a better look.  Sure enough the U joints are worn out, so that’s the first job.

Then I started looking at the rusty floor. It was obvious that the Tracker had been out in the rain with a leaking roof…or no roof!  Especially the left rear corner. So its back to the Auto wreaker’s  to score a floor panel.  In the mean time (upon further inspection) we realized that the gas tank had been replaced with one from a 94 tracker. And that it was the fuel filter that was leaking. So I returned the tank in exchange for two new shocks for the back and of course the new filter, some primer and stuff to equal the cost of the tank.

It’s now Aug … My reno’s and the family camping trip is over and its time to get at the Tracker again,  and get it done so we can use the carport for the winter…  Dave & I fixed the U-joints and installed new shocks and a fuel filter.  So now I’ll move the Tracker into the carport and strip it down .   Here’s a photo of the interior pan that I got from a 1991 Tracker, same auto-wrecker  This one has only a little surface rust . But it’s totally solid. Boy it’s hard to drill out the spot welds and get rid of all the layers.  But it’s worth it because this will replace the entire rear floor and wheel wells, So now to carefully cut the metal in my Tracker so as to have overlap for welding & rivets.  The new carpets and wall panels will hide all the seams.

As far as the “budget” goes …well I’ve  gone over the $2000. a bit but that includes those alloy wheels I wanted..  I also bought a new molded carpet cause the old stuff is kind of gross.

Today I was doing a lot of dismantling ..removing everything that’s in the way of painting the interior. I also worked on the doors. Stripping them down , cleaning and painting them. Then I put them back together with the power lock & window equipment. They are now ready for reinstalling. I’ve now done all the cutting away of the old body and ready for the new pan. The dash is out and all the wiring has been checked. I found a problem with the park light switch which I’m able to fix. It’s easy to work on these things without the dash in the way. Once the new floor pans are in I can paint the (exposed) interior metal parts. I’m going with a simple semi-gloss black. I really wanted the exterior color to be special… but the cost of my two choices ( magenta or sunburst orange) were very costly. So I settled for the stock Tracker color of Polynesian Green. It’s a bit of a compromise ,but the green looks good with black bumpers & the black roof.

Dave came back from the coast with the parking brake cable that seemed hard to find.  I’ve been waiting on that cause it’s a lot easier to install from the top side before I cover it up. So now I can get back at finishing the floor pan.

Lots of urethane caulking, tons of pop-rivets & some sheet metal screws, and the Tracker has a new floor.  The whole thing fit perfectly. It takes a day for the urethane to dry so I’ll have to do some other little fiddly jobs.

The interior is now all painted and I’m starting the process of putting things back together.  It’s taken more than a day just to get the molded carpet installed.  But looks like new, so it’s worth it.  Small things like the door switches , those notorious little buttons down on the rocker panels.  I was lucky to get two more with the back half of the other Tracker from the wrecker.

They get corroded and stop working after many years.  And they are needed for my power locking system.

I want to get the doors on and everything sealed up before I do to much exterior body work.  This is the part I like the best.  I get to clean and fix all the little parts.  Everything has to work and look good as it goes back together.  So I’ve spent hours on all the pieces before installing them.  The result is a very new looking interior with everything the way it was . I’ve added some new improvements, like an extra power plug on the dash. And of coarse a new Sony CD stereo with good speakers.  Today was my last full day at home because I got called back to work tomorrow, so I got the dash back in and tested the lights and the dome light.  Found out the horn is working so I’ll have to figure that one out. But all the rest is good.  Now I have to cover all the openings and get at the body work.

It took me a day of fussing , filling , sanding.  But I got it pretty good.  There is a point were you say enough… It’s not a classic car..  It’s a $2,500 dollar Tracker and being too fussy is wasting time.  But hey the body was good . The rusty  spots were all gone, and it was nice and smooth all over.

So I went and picked up the paint at Lordco today.  Primer,  Poly-green base coat and the clear coat for the top.  The whole thing cost $200 bucks a far cry from the $500 quote for the Magenta that I wanted to use…   It turned out to be enough paint to do a much bigger vehicle.

So today Sept 1st was the perfect day for painting  22 Celsius  and no breeze.  Once I got the gun adjustments all sorted out that everything went smooth.  Until I got a little generous with the clear coat and I have a few runs to buff out.  Good lighting is very critical when your spraying the clear coat. It has to be glossy but just enough not to run.   Experience would be a factor here…so I learn the hard way.   Got the runs out with 1000 grit wet sanding… and a lot of buffing.  The paint jobs not perfect… but it looks way better than the old white.. The Poly Green is really growing on me “I like it”  Looks great with the satin black bumpers.  The paint is all cured now and I was spending the day putting all the bits & pieces back on the Tracker. The top cleaned up very good and its in perfect condition, what a good thing.. I’ve now got to do a little bit of undercoating , and hook up the park brake.

Last day to totally devote to work on the Tracker, its my Birthday and I’m finishing up  Most everything is back together now.  I gave up on the power lock for the tailgate, because the movement required to work the lock is far less than the throw on the actuator…I have to figure something out for that.  But at least the wires are there.

Because I’m on a tight budget here I’m going to paint the rims that came with the Tracker. Later when I can afford to I’ll put new tires on the alloy rims.  Speaking of budgets … I blew this one by $800 .  But I’ve got a very new looking Tracker for $2800.  By 4 pm I was driving the little guy out of the carport for the photos.  Still a few things …like mud-flaps, and the trailer hitch.  But I’ll get to that a little later.  I want to get the carport cleaned up, and the walls taken down.

Sept 4th..  I put insurance on the Tracker today ..I really want to test drive it… The last time I drove it was back in March.  A few things need a look at:  The heater fan isn’t working, could be the connection.   The check Engine light is flashing the normal code…I’ll reset and see if it stops.  And I still need a horn ..but the rest is good.

I’ve been driving the Tracker for a couple of days now .. and it’s good.  I fixed quite a few little things like the fan control.  Once I took the fuse out of the “daig” slot the check engine light is out now.  Apparently if I have a problem all I do is put a fuse in that slot and the light will flash the code for whatever is wrong.  COOL.

So its road worthy for now.  I need to service things like the hubs.  I’ve ordered a horn.  But I’m going to use it now and it will take its righfull place beside the Avalanche in the carport.  It’s going to look great with the alloy wheels…  so here’s the pics of it finished:

Not long after finishing the Tracker.. it starting to have intermittent problems starting..  The engine control box was acting up and a replacement was hard to find.  I decided to sell the Tracker before things went really bad.   Got $3200. for it..