Goldie Lox and the Three Breakdowns
by Andrew Krucoff
I bought a car this summer with the best intentions in mind: I wanted to look cool, get girls, and have reliable transportation for weekend trips to the Catskills. Yes, in that order. Somewhere between Point A and B (a distance that barely cracked 3 miles) it all went horribly wrong...
But first, click here for an interview that originally appeared in the beluga of bloggerdom, lasgnafarm.com, to read about the initial hope and promise that would eventually be crushed like a junkyard Ford Escort.
The car's name is Goldie. I didn't pick that of course. (Given the opportunity I would have dug deep into the indie rock lyric well and called it Crackity Jones or Jumper K. Balls.) It was anointed due to the color, even though it's faded tan if you ask me, by the very proud previous owner who spoke of the car with the type of bizarre attachment primarily reserved for cat owners and Rush fans. He made it easy to think I was getting a decent deal at $1250 if treated and maintained with slightly more care than your family's first hamster. A week after the purchase it took $350 to pass New York state inspection. This was unexpected but not entirely troublesome as I figured the minor work was all it needed to guarantee a summer of green flag racing. Ready, steady, go, right? But wait folks, we got some trouble at Turn 2 on the first lapů
Dave Epstein, a man who's no stranger to fuzzy dice, was trusted to keep Goldie legally parked in Brooklyn. A week after the inspection/tune-up I get a call from him one morning to inform me of Goldie's complete refusal to turn over and start. (A position he's been in before and usually a little music while pumping the gas aggressively does the trick.) No dice this time, just fuzz. I arrive on the scene and left with no other option, I watch my two-week-old purchase get loaded onto a flatbed tow truck. I cry, curse the sky, and get to work 3 hours late. This puts me at the mercy of a mechanic who says it's the starter, timing chain, and throws in some other things for good measure to make it a whopping $900 job. I'm getting royally crankshafted.
That should be the end but car gods inflict pain that last longer than DMV lines. How could anything possibly go wrong now that I've added $1250 worth of work to a car I paid the same amount for originally? I assumed she was seaworthy and Dennis, Chris, Kelly, and I set forth on the maiden voyage upstate to our Catskills retreat one Friday night. We didn't make it three miles out of Williamsburg before we smell something bad (I thought it was Dennis), see smoke from the engine, pull off the BQE almost as soon as we got on it, and find ourselves staring at anti-freeze gushing from below. Here we are stuck in a Hassidic section of Brooklyn with the sun going down on a Friday. Happy Shabbos motherfucker. Desperate calls to AAA ensue but we find a gas station down the street and with Kelly as the neutral navigator we push this p.o.s. out of harm's way. Chris manages to get the mechanic on duty to stop flirting with Polish girls long enough to look at Goldie and determine it was just a bad hose. The man puts on rubber gloves, uses the 3-foot screwdriver, and fixes it in thirty minutes. Total cost: $50. Too spooked to continue our journey we postpone until the next day.
That's two breakdowns but still my spirit is not broken. I assume I've reached the limit of bad "carma" so the trip should be hassle-free. Well it was, until about Exit 15 on the NY Thruway when the steering wheel started vibrating violently and soon the rest of the car followed. We didn't panic (yes we did) and we calmly thought about the situation when we pulled over onto the shoulder. What's the smart thing to do? Probably park it, take off the plates, scratch out the VIN, and just walk away forever. But we decided to proceed ahead at the feel-safe speed of 30 mph. The shaking stops, then it comes back, then it goes away again. Kelly is the most informed lug nut in the bunch and informs us it has something to do with the tires, front end alignment, etc but without a clue what turns this shaking on and off we invoke the silent clause and no one talks until we miraculously make it to the Catskills in one piece. Appropriately the engine cuts off on its own as soon as we pull in front of the house.
It's been with a mechanic in Hunter the pass week and he just informed me that the strut bar bushing, etc was part of the problem, a relatively inexpensive fix. But then he dropped the death-knell bombshell: none of it matters since the real issue is the frame through the torsion bar is too rusted to make a reasonable repair. It's a major, major breaking point. He said the car shouldn't be driven at all except maybe around the block. In his words, "I certainly wouldn't drive it for 60 miles at 60mph."
I obviously can't sell Goldie to recoup the losses and my conscience will not let me donate her to a charity. The thought of harming handicapped or blind kids on a ride through the country is too much to bear. So it's off to the boneyard for this gold digger. Let's hope for all our sake's she doesn't pull a Stephen King "Christine" on me and come back to kill because I would be forced to shoot holes in the grille, windows, and tires with the double-pump shotgun I plan to purchase at an upstate flea market. It's a sad day indeed. Shed a tear for Goldie. I'm shedding about 2,500 of them.
If you are so inclined, please put something in the virtual tip jar. I'd like to paint the car black, scrawl "Eat Me" on the side of it, and push her into a quarry.
Before and after emails from Goldie's orignal owner:
Subject: Goldie Say Hi
Hellow Andrew, In spite of the rain yesterday, it was a great time at the party in Westchester. Also, had a long talk with Goldie and explained where we are at in our "relationship." She understands completely - This is an amazingly wise and proud car! In order to preserve her dignity, she requested that I not put a "For Sale" sign up in the window if possible.
Subject: re: goldie broke down on me
Andrew - My sweet (former) car must have the blues! Please let Goldie know that the dog & I didn't reject her...
Yes, there are a few tricks to starting the car. First of all, if the car hasn't been started in over day or so, you need to turn the egnition on with a few pumps on the gas pedal. As the engine turns over, you must pump the gas quite aggressively to keep the car running. Be careful not to flood the engine tho., make sure the engine is starting if you are giving it gas. Once it starts, you have to pay attention to the engine and pump the gas regularly, like Vroom, Vroom. Don't be shy about it, the old girl needs a good warm up even in the summer.
Once you have the engine humming, you should let it run a few minutes before you drive. Also, she may stall from time to time after you start, so be sure to keep the gas coming, especially if you are turning out of a parking space, etc. After you get the hang of it all, it will make sense to you as you develop a "feel" for how to start the car.
Remember, we were together for many years, so I learned how to "push all the right buttons" with the car. For the most part, I was the only one driving the car, so there are things that I instinctively knew how to do that the car responds to. You will learn all this too in time and I'm sure Goldie & you will do just fine. I'm surprised that the mechanic wasn't able to tune it up for you to prevent all this from happening. The car has been running well, with the engine set to run a little fast (remember that I told you the setting was intentionally high, but a kinda ruff. If you are not satisfied with your mechanic, please see Gus at ZP Auto - He's at 372 Lafayette St. He knows the car & knows his stuff about the Dodge Dart!