Used Car Horror Stories Part 2

I love craigslist, it’s second only to insurance auctions for cars which are mildly beat up but still running. There’s a really bad signal-to-noise ratio on craigslist, probably worse than ebay. And I find the stuff on craigslist car-wise is stuff that wouldn’t sell on ebay. Case in point: 1998 (actually I think it’s earlier than that, post your observations K5…) Vee-dub Jetta TDI.

For your viewing pleasure, the original ad. Also: Kelly Blue Book Prices. Basically, $3750 would have been fair, except that the guy turned out to be a traveling salesperson so he lived in the car. I offered him $3k flat.

Sir, I saw your ad on craigslist
( Is the vehicle
still for sale and how firm are you on the price? I too have a long


Things started out civil enough…

Hi Josh: I am firm on this price, but it could come down a bit. It is certainly
negotiable, and as you probably already know, the prices on these are
high because of their performance and economy. How much are you looking
to spend?

This one is in excellent condition. I am the second owner, and the
things that matter were recently done. Water Pump, timing belt, I did
the glow plugs too, tune up, fuel filter, oil and oil filter, air
pilter, cabin filter, tires, and also I serviced the manual transmition,
noone ever does it, but I am anal about everything so I do things that
seem crazy like servicing a manual TDI tranny.

Let me know if you are interested.

Igor Skinder
Marketing & Sales Executive
The Wolfington Companies
920 Matsonford Rd
W. Conshohocken, PA 19428
610.238.9008 Office
610.238.9912 Facsimile
484.250.2256 Mobile

And the pretty standard “I wouldn’t have posted it for that price if I didn’t want that price”.

Igor, Thanks for getting back to me. I have $3000 cash in hand for the
project which is the low end of the bluebook. The VWs aren’t huge on
reliability which is why I’m a bit apprehensive about spending all of
the piggy bank on the car itself and keeping nothing in hand for any
possible repairs. ¬†I’m a toyota guy, but obviously they haven’t been
too keen on diesel.


Parry, dodge…

I have to disagree on the VW’s reliability statement. I am not sure what
you know about VW’s or about TDIs for that matter. TDIs are getting sold
at a high price, and lowest offer I got on this car was 6,400. Repairs
and TDI are two things that do not go together. All these cars want is
every 75,000 miles to be equipped with a new timing belt and a water
pump. That is all a TDI buyer usually asks me.
This car sells for $4500 at an auto auction. Kelly Blue Book does not
drive the prices of the TDI’s, the economy does, demand and supply.

Good day,

Igor Skinder
Marketing & Sales Executive
The Wolfington Companies
920 Matsonford Rd
W. Conshohocken, PA 19428
610.238.9008 Office
610.238.9912 Facsimile
484.250.2256 Mobile

With a name like Igor, he’d better have all the gold they lost in the Holocaust asking that price. I’ve found some pretty strange stuff in the back seat of cars at the yard, but never a pile of gold filled teeth from dead jews.

No shit Igor, that’s how the world works. The demand is for lower
prices, the supply is week old craigslist ads. ūüėČ
Let me know if it becomes a two week old craigslist ad.


To be fair, it wasn’t two weeks old, but anyone who has bought or tried to buy a car on craigslist knows that it either moves in the first day or two or not at all. Once it falls off the front page, most people don’t bother.

If he does get back to me, I’ll tell him I’ll see him on ebay. Update!¬† 8pm I get this: “sorry, sold today, $6750.00”. That was everything in the email, so I suspect someone from K5 tipped him off.¬† Notice the lack of signature, the lack of CL ad, and especially the lack of a tax, tags and title place open at 8pm.

Deathwish: Real Life

I swear you can’t make this stuff up. The names and locations will be changed to protect the innocent.

It was Smith and Wesson Day at the local range, so I was doing my two favorite weekend activities: Giving advice and spending someone else’s money. He had been looking at a few different guns but since it was discount day there and they were handing out $150 rebates on their prices plus two free mags, we decided to shoot some guns. Which was also free minus the drastically inflated cost of ammo. The lines were out the door of course, people who knew how to shoot were there, people shopping were there, and people who never shot before were taking advantage of the free shooting. My buddy had his eye on a compact in 9mm, so we pulled the Smith and Wesson M&P Compact in 9mm. It was in the shop for $500. After rebates and stuff, that came down to $350. Others in the running were Kel Tec, Kahr, and my favorite Sig Sauer.

After shooting the S&W MP, however, it was pretty clear it was a buyer at the price. Accurate as hell heck inside of 15 yards, it doesn’t reach out to 25 like the Sig but with the barrel, who can blame it. Sweet trigger pull, and a decent design. It also comes with changeable handgrips so if you don’t like one, you can swap them out. All this and the fact that the controls are user-serviceable and switch to lefty, and we were both sold on the platform. It doesn’t come without it’s gripes, but I don’t think anything does. I don’t like having a nonexposed hammer unless you can decock it or it has a safety (it has neither). The only other gripe is there’s a dry-fire arm you have to pull down to open the action but this is easy to do with the tool in the bottom. Finally the action spring is captive, but this prevents you from shooting the action across the room. Changing the spring for handloading may be expensive though. But since it’s not a target pistol, these are minor gripes.

We went to Olive Garden for dinner,¬† and hand a good glass of wine and their lasagna. We spent about two and some change hours there and then retired back to their place where we realized it was midnight. Oops. Everyone rolled out after and my buddy and his girlfriend locked up. On our way out we did notice a bunch of people in the parking lot who were hanging around but didn’t think anything of it being north Philadelphia.

Today I found out the moment we left, two black males went door to door in their building (four apartments) and wouldn’t identify themselves. When my buddy challenged them through the door, they said they were selling “The Word of God” (at midnight on a Saturday). Unfortunately for my buddy, he didn’t have any ammo, but racking the new S&W was enough for them to be convinced it was time to pick on someone else. His girlfriend is really apprehensive about owning a gun, but she’s slowly seeing the light.

Compressed Natural Gas / Liquid Propane Gas

The guy who owned the diesel was nuts, and basically tried to fish me along with the old, “Well I’ve got a deposit, but if you meet this price over here…”

I hate that crap. I just hung up on him. If he’s really got a deposit, it’s good as sold. If he doesn’t have a deposit, he’s jerking me around anyway. From the sound of it, it was some mechanic’s pet rebuild project anyway.

I wanted a 1992 Camry in stick shift since I really hate paying the “automatic transmission” tax. It costs you in both gas and engine wear, if you short shift the trans all the time the engine doesn’t put wear on the bearings, and the slower the engine moves the less gas it uses (not entirely true but you get the point). Plus I already have a fresh clutch kit on the other 5SFE. The problem is that no-one really bought a Camry with stick, so I’m using the automatic trans or bust. In fact, googling for the Camry gearbox yields absolutely nothing. It doesn’t even have a name. I thought it was the NA MR2 gearbox, but the MR2 gearbox doesn’t have a differential. The Camry gearbox does, and because of the orientation it also spins the opposite direction. Unless I want one forward gear in my car and five reverse speeds, I can’t use the MR2 gearbox with the stock engine mount. I have entertained the idea of putting the engine in the camry in backwards and using MR2 headers, but this is a project for way down the road and the MR2’s “performance headers” on the 5SFE move the powerband way up, which isn’t fun in traffic.

But, since it looks like I am not building a greasecar, and I still hate Arabs, I’m going to try to run propane compressed natural gas. Anyone have any opinions on it?

Air Force Cyber Command

In the war on Anonymous… OK who am I kidding they probably hang out in the partyvan. Anyway, Wired has a piece on the new Air Force cybercommand. They also have a website, which looks like a good way to get paid for learning systems administration skills. On the other hand, it’s not terribly interesting for the kind of people they’re probably trying to get for an actual war with Russia or China. Thoughts?

Cheap Chinese Goods

Continuing the horrors of automobiles thread here, I recently ran across Chinese motorcycle imports completely by accident.¬† The company is called LiFan, and it makes just about everything you see in the corner of your local pep boys. The importers don’t say a whole lot about the bikes, but it seems that you purchase a frame, then purchase an engine that fits that frame. They assemble the whole lot and ship it to you. In the true spirit of stealing everything not bolted to the floor, their cars even look like Buicks.

Anyone know anything about these guys? Like I posted before, I want a beater car, but I’m not above buying cheap chinese knockoffs. If the car really is a copy of the GM design, it has serious junkyard potential.

Classifieds Horror Stories

The fun thing about car shopping on the low end is you find all sorts of really incredible stuff.

So far I’ve found:

  1. An ice cream truck. I almost bought it but then I couldn’t figure out how to lure a bear into it.
  2. Old postal service jeeps. There’s a ton of these out there.
  3. Incredibly overpriced old crap. I’m talking $2000 for a Toyota Corolla from 1985. Yeah it’s the AWD wagon version, but the dealership is smoking drugs if they think anyone is going to buy it.
  4. Really bad DIY projects.

The first point is the best – Things like old motorhomes, hippy vans with flowers on the side you want to turn into A-Team specials, all types of equipment adapted to electrical systems for automobiles. Old ambulances are the best for this, they have outlets, fridges, all sorts of wacky stuff. For a used car for fuel economy, which is what this whole project is about, not so hot. For a real laugh to consider driving around, awesome. There’s even old police cars on the block they didn’t bother to even take the stickers off. The last category is by far the worst. There’s a lot of shade tree mechanics who just don’t have a clue. Take this ebay auction. Looks good, right? The guy did all this work to it and the thing probably has a simple problem, right? It would be a good buy, the 2L jeep engines are small, good on gas, and fun to drive. I asked the guy “What’s wrong with it? Can you be more specific than blown engine?”

The motor that was in it when I bought it had serious issues with oil so I got a used motor from someone. ¬†That is whats in it now. ¬†Befor I put the used one in I changed all the gaskets but the head gasket and I changed the rod bearings. ¬†New thermostat. ¬†New plugs, wires, cap and rotor. ¬†I drove it about 15 miles after putting it back in and it sat for a week or so. ¬†I picked it up and drove it home and about half way home it started to rattle and lost pretty much all power. ¬†It got really loud and I had to keep my foot pinned on the gas to keep it moving. It would go over 3500 rpms i think. ¬†I was was frustrated with it and parked it in my parking lot and left it. ¬†That was a couple of weeks ago. ¬†I wanted to fix it because I love it but I just don’t have time. ¬†Working alot and other projects that take first priority. ¬†It susks!

Here’s a hint buddy: Don’t re-use headstuds.

Share your horror stories.


I drive a 1991 Turbocharged Toyota MR2. According to the government, it gets about 18 and 24 MPG. This is all well and good, but the maintenance interval is incredibly short. You will change the oil every 3000 miles and it will take all four and some change quarts. The timing belt itself needs changing every 60,000. The problem is, I care way too much about the car to continue fielding it as a daily driver. I would much rather hang it up for weekends at my parents place, and this has the added happy fun time of letting me take all that EPA crap off the car and finally do some serious autocrossing. For the record, it wouldn’t be eligible for the gas guzzler tax. However at an estimated cost of $4 to drive 25 miles, you can figure out it really adds up.

It’s also really hard on your ass.

I was considering a motorcycle, but after the accident six months ago where I was rear ended and PA’s finest State Police dispatched Captain Knuckledragger who did nothing to investigate, I decided this was a bad idea. I’ve always wanted a Subaru wagon, but Travis says they’re hell to work on. I considered one of Toyotas four doors, but I haven’t found anything I like in a price I like. The advantage here is that I already have Toyota parts coming out of the woodwork, and to also quote Travis, “I’m comfortable with their bullshit”. The third option is diesel, but the prices fluctuate wildly. But by that I mean station-to-station, diesel is usually on par with premium gasoline but you get 40mpg out of it. However, Subaru’s 2.2 liter engine fuel economy pegs it at 29mpg highway, and it has AWD. Almost diesel performance on straight pump gas.