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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for November 2010

Tragedy rocks Brandon’s Blog: Back to Jalopy-ville (2)

With $3,500 to spend on a car and roughly 2.5 hours to do it, Highway 99 in Lynnwood, Washington wasn’t a bad place to be, relatively speaking. There were only two prospects on the strip: A 1997 Volkswagen GTI listed at $3,750 and a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback wagon for $3,350. Whichever seemed like the better buy was going to be paid for in cash with crossed fingers, followed by bowel-churning convulsions of buyer’s remorse. 

First up, on a used car corral fenced in by a six-foot tall chain link fence was the GTI - A white rabbit on steroids. The tires were bald, a fairly standard deal breaker for a car already out of my price range, but if she still had plenty of hop left in her there could still be a deal to swing. 

A salesman that looked like a giant Cabbage Patch doll brought the VW’s keys from a tiny front office adorned with nearly half a dozen vintage pinball machines. In keeping with his doll-like appearance, he was disturbingly pleasant; void of the usual ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ premonitions a used car slinger normally stirs in a prospective buyer’s stomach. 

His right eye twinkled sincerely when he dropped the keys into my hand, making it nearly impossible to decide whether he was harmless as a children’s toy or a Chucky. 

No matter. He didn’t seem to care if I brought the GTI back at all. Once running the engine sounded about right. It purred with the promise of mischievous fun and heightened insurance costs. With only a buck twenty on the odometer a double duo of bald tires wasn’t enough to take the GTI out of contention just yet, so long as the driving experience packed a fun factor worthy of getting into a price haggling session with Stabby McCabbage. 

I drove her hard up and down the strip breaking the slippery tires loose on the wet pavement through third gear in the eighth-mile stretches between stoplights. The fun factor was too much for the strip to contain. 

We dashed suddenly off the main road through winding back neighborhoods, school zones, blind puppy dog crossings. Street signs of every variety were disregarded without hesitation drawing a crowd of judgmental stares from early evening commuters. 

The GTI was obnoxiously fun. I was willing to buy her a new set of tires if I could get the price down around $3,500, but in a strip mall parking lot, she lost me. 

A haggard old man sat in front of a bar smoking cigarettes. He starred blankly as I repeatedly rallied up to 30mph through the empty stalls before savagely stomping the brakes to test their stopping power. 

The pattern created a manic oval track. On the final pass I cranked the steering wheel over to its max on the end turn and felt a ‘clunk, clunk, clunk’ in the front end. We continued around in a tiny circle to the rhythmic beat. Every dull thud sounded like a cashiers register racking up another hundred dollars per hour for labor. Strike two was one too many if the Subaru could do better. 

Evening was fast approaching with heavy traffic soon to follow. Twinkles the Pinball Wizard took the keys to the GTI back at his lot. His last anti-depressant fueled words were used to explain that the dealership where the Subaru was located could be found just behind the next building over. 

“Take a left out of here and straight into the next left, between the Armadillo restaurant and the coffee stand ‘Jitters,’ it’s right down that alley behind the restaurant.” 


Stay tuned.

Part 1:

Tragedy Rocks Brandon’s Blog: Death of a Civic

My 1995 Honda Civic hatchback, Kimberly Hatcher, is dead, crunched like a little teal beer can in the wee hours of a Sunday morning by the hands of a grizzly drunk. At 3:57am, I was awakened by a frantic knock at my bedroom door. 

“Dude, what the hell happened to your car?” my roommate, Monica asked. 

At the time she was crazy to me; I hadn’t driven my car at all that day. In fact, I had opted to take the bus to a favorite bar in White Center earlier that night just to play it safe. My groggy head jumped to the conclusion that Monica had also been out, much later than I, and was know attempting to pull a bad joke. 

Monica is known for mischief. 

“…What? Are you messing with me?” I asked, only slightly amused by the scenario. 

“No, your car’s totally ****ed up,” she insisted.

Now this really wasn’t funny. Monica knew full well that I had spent close to four months in search of the perfect 1992-1995 Honda Civic before the obsessive quest was vindicated by the discovery of Kimberly. I blogged about it incessantly:

OBESSED: Finding the perfect 1992-1995 Honda Civic
OBSESSED: Finding the perfect 1992-1995 Honda Civic (Part 2)
OBSESSED: Finding the perfect 1992-1995 Honda Civic (Marysville)
OBSESSED: Finding the perfect 1992-1995 Honda Civic (Enumclaw)
OBSESSED: Finding the Perfect 1992-1995 Honda Civic (End Game)
OBSESSED: Finding the Perfect 1992-1995 Civic (PURCHASE)

So far as I knew, the envy of every Civic owner in Western Washington was still parked safely in front of our house, sleeping blissfully with a recent oil change and new windshield wipers for the upcoming winter. 

But Monica’s tone was somber. She was waiting for my reaction. In the darkness of the hallway, one of her legs was twitching slightly. 

I threw on a pair of socks, sandals, and made my way out to the front porch not knowing what to expect, still more curious than worried. From my vantage point, it was obvious Kimberly was in fact still parked on the street where I had left her the previous day, under the soft yellow glow of a street lamp. 

This was the part where the door was supposed to slam behind me. Monica would yell something like “Trick or Treat, ass****!” and that would be the end of it. 

Only as my eyes adjusted to being open, they picked up on something else, something that was off. Kimberly’s rear bumper was hanging ajar on the driver’s side facing out towards the road. 

My feet were taking me down the driveway. I was very awake now. I rounded the back of the car to the driver’s side, the street side. 

Totaled. It was obvious. 

Just beyond the driver’s side door, the massive steel fist of ***t happens had landed a crippling blow that had punched the entire rear quarter panel in, deflated the driver’s side tire, bent the wheel and torn the rear bumper almost completely off. The impact sandwiched the car into the curb where the rear passenger side wheel absorbed the impact, warping the wheel out of shape and compressing the entire car off-camber from the warping of the axle, body, etc. 

Moving down the street away from the rear of the car, a trail of debris from another vehicle littered the road: Fake chrome headlight moldings and big flat pieces of turn signal covers, most likely from a hooptie. 

From the trajectory of the whole mess, it appeared as though a large ghetto fabulous automobile traveling in the opposite direction had swerved from its lane and smashed into Kimberly, which was parked on the opposite side of the street. The collision pinballed the car back onto the road and away into the darkness never to be seen again; a classic drunk car accident if there ever was one. 

Perhaps most disturbing, if the mystery vehicle hadn’t smashed into my car, it didn’t take more than a basic interest in CSI to see that it would have careened straight through our neighbor’s tiny yard and directly into their house. 

In the seconds it took my brain to calculate the morbid details of the crime scene, I was already in the process of blocking them out of my head for the remainder of the early morning. 

“Are you okay?” Monica asked. Apparently she was standing beside me. 

I didn’t dream of anything that night. When the sun came up I called the police. The officer responded and agreed with my theory of the incident. 

“Most likely the driver was intoxicated,” he offered. 

“Yup,” I replied. This guy really knew his stuff. 

There was no investigation launched. Without a witness there was nothing to be done. 

It was a Sunday morning. I walked to a friend’s house, drank enough Rainier to make Bill the Beer Man blush and watched the Seahawks take a big one from the Giants. It was the best I felt all day. 

On the plus side, I’m currently awaiting a call from my insurance’s claims adjuster to see just how much the perfect 1995 Honda Civic hatchback is worth totaled. In the mean time I’m cavorting about in my dad’s 1994 Ford Escort Wagon. Last night while driving the white horse-pill to the grocery store, a pickup truck backed into me in the parking lot, smashing out the right front turn signal. I’m awaiting a call back from the truck’s driver as well. 

Dad’s playing it cool. I have no enamel left on the portions of my teeth where they grind together. 

This time around I’ll only have about a month to find another car, perfect or not. I’m thinking Subaru’s, although, I do know how to pick a nice Civic by now… 

Stay Tuned. 

(See the carnage in new videos)

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About this blog

Brandon Seiler is a bonafide car guy, member of the Northwest Auto Press Association and proud Washingtonian. He covers the latest auto news, technology, and pretty much anything having to do with car culture. You don't have to like cars to read his blogs, you just have to be able to read.

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