Becoming A Car Guy

At some point my life took a turn, so we’re switching gears. I became a car guy.

May be an image of car and outdoors

There wasn’t a particular moment when everything changed, but it clearly happened because my Play Station 2 still works. I recently turned it on to play whatever was in it, and Need For Speed: Underground 2 began to play. My memory card loaded without error. For context, this game has drivable options that include the Supra and Skyline GTR. My favorite cars — which were evident by the saved game — were the Civic … and the Celica.

If these things mean nothing to you — you’re not a car guy, but that’s okay. Perhaps you’ll convert too.

I keep forgetting to take before pictures, which is a shame because I’ve had to replace quite a bit. Throughout my time of driving Blue the radio and CD player quit working, the windows stopped working, the air conditioning, the heater core, the water pump, the radiator, radiator hoses, the speedometer, the serpentine belt, other hoses, etc. Plenty of things have worn out, because it’s 24 years old and has 250,000-300,000 miles on it. I don’t know the exact mileage because the thing that tells me didn’t work for a few years.

This is technically my wife’s first car. After selling my Honda this became my third car, which has been my daily vehicle for the past ten years. She remembers when this was a shiny new mustang, but I remember it as a rust bucket. If I complained about driving qualities, she would blame my expectations. When something would break, my driving was to blame and not the age of things. After four years of frustration I planned to buy a new vehicle and asked her, do you want me to drive Blue into the ocean or off a cliff? She responded with, “I will always have that car! If you get rid of it I will divorce you!” I then rephrased the question to, mountains or ocean?

She persuaded me to keep the car by saying she wanted it to be our child’s first car (this was before we knew about our son). So the plan became, rather than save $4,000 for a down payment, spend the $4,000 fixing things that bother me. The first major expense was a paint job.

At this time I had no mechanical skills to speak of. My father once showed me a spark plug, but I have no memory of ever working on a car with him. What led me to becoming a car guy were three things. First, I wanted a practical skill. Second, I began working at a company where some of the employees were into buying/modifying/selling vehicles. Third, I came across Chris Fix’s YouTube channel right before he bought the DriftStang. There were times, such as with the intake manifold, where differences between our cars (his is a GT, mine is a base) were obvious, but for the most part I was able to easily repeat what he did. Yet, I still had limited knowledge, limited tools, limited funds, and an aging car that was often testing my limits.

A few years into the project, the heater core stopped working. This meant having no heat to warm myself or defrosting the windshield during winter. There were times that the windshield would frost over while driving. My commute was about twenty-five minutes one way. Due to the lack of visibility I would have to pull over, unwrap myself from a compacted blanket, scrap the windows and then bundle up again. Coworkers volunteered to buy me an electric blanket, but my power outlets didn’t work. After two bitter winters I decided to learn how to replace the heater core. However, in order to replace the heater core, I would have to take out the dash. Since the dash would be out anyway, this would be the perfect time to repaint my interior. With those pieces removed I might as well replace the speakers and carpet, and let’s not forget about new seats …

The more I worked on Blue, the more I understood my complaints. For example, the acceleration was poor so I changed the spark plugs and discovered how corroded and wide the gaps had become. Replacing the water pump explained the overheating engine and rust in the coolant reservoir. The odometer gear was missing teeth, that’s why I don’t know the mileage. The brake fluid was black, it’s supposed to be clear, that’s why I have horrible braking distance. The power steering fluid was black, it’s supposed to be a bright red.

So keep in mind my concern for things under the hood, because my big purchase after the paint job was a touch screen receiver. That transformation still puts a smile on my face. This car went from having a cassette player to having Bluetooth connectivity. The touch screen also displays DVDs, not that I watch movies while driving … but I could.

Out of all the things that stopped working, the speedometer was the most entertaining.

I remember driving behind Christian. Something seemed off, so I called her to ask how fast she was driving. The answer was 50 mph and she asked why. Well, my speedometer says I’m going 70. Oh, wait, now it says 80 — and now I’m doing 20.

During the next few years the needle would usually work, but I need to clarify that it might appear to be possibly accurate. Eventually, the needle stopped trying.

I would accelerate to 40 and things would be fine. However, as I aimed for 50 the needle would keep going to 80. I would eventually slow down and the needle would be directed by gravity to an estimated 150. As I began to accelerate, the needle would try to reach 180 but the needle rest would prevent it.

At this point, I knew my speedometer was useless. So naturally, as you would expect, I was followed by a car with blue lights.

I’m driving home from work on a lonely highway. In my rearview I see a cop or a state trooper. I’m not sure which one, just as I wasn’t sure of my speed. This began an awkward game of tag. If there’s a lot of distance between us, I’m speeding. If there’s no distance, it may be safe to speed up?

This went on for a mile or two.

You’re probably thinking, “Just turn at the next intersection.” Oh, but you’re assuming my turn signals worked. They did not.

Everything works now. *Except the horn.

A friend was complaining about people lowering their cars. “It looks stupid and probably ruins it.” Well, guess what I did? This car has Pedder’s adjustable coilovers, the wheels are modeled after the 2016 Shelby GT 350. It has a Mach chin spoiler, legitimate Saleen side skirts, a 12 inch 400 watt subwoofer, Flow Master exhaust, LED bulbs in the head lights and fog lights. I mean, just my seats alone surpass the tax value of this car!

Strangers now compliment my build, but none of this fixes the current situation.

After driving for about twenty minutes, my oil pressure gage begins to wave. You can’t see it, but I’m shaking my hand around to show how fast it moves.

Again, it’s an old car, something needs to be replaced. So I took Blue to a mechanic to fix it because the part was in an awkward place, and I didn’t want to mess with it. A couple of days pass and he calls me to say, “It’s time to sell the car.” What do you mean? “Well, I replaced it, but the oil pressure still goes to zero. Which means, either your oil pump is bad, or your engine bearings are worn out.” So the part was accurate. Hmm. What if I replace the engine? “Oh, well, yea, that would resolve it.” I knew this day was coming. “It’s here.”

And that’s where the story ends.

I can still drive Blue for about five to ten minutes without issues, but then the oil pressure needle begins to wave. My eyes are set on a Gen 2 Coyote with a six speed manual. I’ve been saying this for years, but we’ll see what happens.

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