A Tale of Craigslist Wheels… and New Jersey

My mother used to have a very nice 2005 Acura TL. For almost nine years she used that car to commute from her home in Edgewater, NJ, to her work in the Bronx. For those of you that have not traveled between New Jersey and New York over the George Washington Bridge, and further north over the Cross Bronx Expressway, should know that this may be the worst road in the United States. The traffic jams are constant, as is construction. Someone always breaks down or rear-ends someone else. Due to heavy truck traffic the pavement is extremely wavy. It’s bad, really bad.

The third generation Acura TL came standard with 17-inch wheels wrapped in 235/45-17 tires. The car handled very well right out of the box, while retaining a ride that was comfortable. With a 270hp engine, it was a fun car to drive, even with the ever-present torque-steer. The problem was that its wheel/tire combination did not resist road imperfections well. Bubbled-up tires and bent wheels were the norm for my mom and many other TL owners. I did my best to ensure that she always had a good set of wheels and tires on the car, which meant frequent Craigslist searches.


One day a friend who new about my endless searches sent me a CL link that seemed perfect – brand new take-offs from a brand-new, base model, fourth generation, 2010 TL. Some dude upgraded to dubs on his brand new car and wanted to ditch those stockers. Brand new wheels and brand new tires, same backspacing, same bolt patter, those things never change on same model cars.


I emailed the wheel dude. We planned to meet around 2pm in Queens on a Saturday. Later he emailed me says it’s got to be at 4pm.

This wasn’t a problem since I was back home in New Jersey without my wife and kids. I had all the time in the world and I was hanging out with my high school homies, all serious car guys. When I say they’re serious car guys I mean they all have done engine swaps, all kinds of modifications, they drag raced, they are Gran Turismo champions, and actually have track driving experience. They really know their shit, and the three of us together are supreme car experts extraordinaire – in our minds no one knows more, no one knows better.

Dude with tires, whose English is far from good, calls and says that something has come up and he won’t be able to meet until 7pm. However, to make up for the inconvenience, he was willing to drop the wheels off in Jersey, near the exit from the Lincoln Tunnel. Ugh, this is annoying, but fine, saves me a trip into New York City. 7pm in Weehawken it is. It’s somewhat of a busy area, especially on a Saturday evening, but there is a gas station there that has some parking and a lot of light. But it’s always busy.


As 7pm was getting closer, wheel dude informs me that he’s once again running late. I’m pissed now because I wasted the whole day waiting for him. My boy Vince, a jacked-up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master who may or may not have been raging by now, grabs my phone and goes off on the wheel dude. Wheel dude sounds nervous, apologizes, says 10:00pm for sure. My other buddy, a frequently-paranoid-but-always-ready-for-anything Marine, who also enjoys randomly raging at people, remains relatively calm and laughs at Vinny.


We decide to relax by going to a bar in nearby Hoboken. It was nice, nice views if you know what I mean, and it reminded us of when we used to hang out in this town during our high school and college years. We had a drink or two. Since Vinny and I were not driving, we had a few more.

11:00pm. Wheel guy keeps giving us the run-around. At this point we find the whole thing hilarious and are willing to play this dude’s game just because we have nothing better to do. And we’re drunk-ish. And there are college chicks around us, three married guys in their thirties.


1:00am. Bars are beginning to empty out, which is strange, because I remember how this town used to go all night long. This wheel mofo texts me that he is about to get into the Lincoln Tunnel. Halle-fucking-lujah!

We go to the gas station near the Lincoln Tunnel, but things are different there at 1:00am. The station is closed. The lights are off, and there is no one there. Not a soul. And we’re drunk, except for the Marine dude who is just under the legal limit as per his own paranoid calculations. At this point we realize that this may not be the greatest idea we’ve ever had. But whatever, we are three pretty big guys and we can all fight if we need to – what’s the worst that can happen?


So we’re at the dark gas station, waiting. A beat-up white Dodge Caravan, similar to the one pictured below, with New York plates quickly pulls in. Not the brand new Acura TL we were expecting.

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