Previously, everything broke. This time, I struggle to just have everything. Calling my garage a “two-car garage” is a bit of an exaggeration, so something had to give.
With “For Sale” posts for the Focus plastered everywhere that I could fit, I also listed the Ranger for sale. Not unsurprisingly, it sold immediately. A local guy wanted it and showed up with a stack of cash and his mother. The situation was pretty odd, where he, a middle aged man, was registering the car in his elderly mother’s name. I was wary, but he had no qualms with doing a bill of sale, signing the title over immediately, and letting me photocopy his ID. That was one car down.
Not long after that, I got a letter in the mail from the world’s worst Ford dealership. It was the standard “we want to buy your car and put you in a new one” ad that everyone gets, but their offer was right where I wanted to sell and nowhere on the letter did it say that I was obligated to buy something else. The very next day I was at the dealership signing a check to pay off the remainder of my loan. As soon as the ink was dry, I told them that I was shocked by their offer, as I had been trying to sell the car for $2000 less for several months with no interest. They were taken aback, but I was already out the door. Sucks to be them. The car was still on their lot a year later.
Around this time I had also reached out to a local boat repair and hot rod restoration business. They had given me a quote to repair the Autozam’s bumper and had penciled me into their schedule. As a sign of triumph, I sent their quote out to the group chat, exclaiming that I had finally found someone to handle the car. Sam, who was in that group chat and happened to be coming to Indianapolis already, took note. I don’t remember why he was in Indianapolis, but he did happen to leave a check on my dining room table for the exact amount of that quote. I didn’t even notice it for another week, but he had kept his word about making sure that the Autozam got repaired.
I took the Autozam to the shop for its scheduled repairs but the shop wasn’t open. I had gotten the Autozam there with no issues but apparently the shop owners had decided that the snow was too much and had not opened that day. I returned the next day in 55 degree weather and noticed that the coolant temperature had started to rise when stopped. The shop again turned me away, but this time they claimed that a high dollar restomod had come in and they didn’t have the capacity to work on my bumper at the moment.
When I got back home I found that the crash had deformed the metal fan shroud just enough to catch the fan blade and prevent it from spinning. I placed an order for a bunch of OEM parts and returned to the body shop with them a month later. I was again turned away, this time because the boat season had started and they were swamped with hull repairs. I should call them in about eight weeks to reschedule. I politely told them to get fucked.
With that option no longer available, I was down to repairing the bumper myself or hoping that a used one magically appeared online. And as if by magic, one did appear that week. I sent a message to my friendly Australian JDM parts exporter and he was on the case. Unfortunately for me, the auction price quickly exceeded my repair quote. And all of my cash on hand. Disappointed by the incredibly high demand for these, I began wondering if I could handle rebuilding the bumper myself. But this same friendly Australian JDM parts exporter shocked me by saying that he just happened to have a Mazdaspeed AZ-1 front bumper in his basement. It had been the subject of an attempted home repair and needed some smoothing, but unlike my bumper it was still in one piece and not missing any parts. And due to a comically favorable exchange rate to AUD at the time, I could have it shipped to my door for under $500.
Then the waiting game began. Well, it would have been waiting if I weren’t so busy with everything else, but instead I had two long trips to the UK for work (Skoda Fabia estate and VW Golf, respectively). I pitched some new technologies to the company. I pushed a 18 month late program to completion. I went to another con in Attack on Titan cosplay. Before I knew it, the bumper had arrived. I threw it on (as well as all new control arms and bushings and the replacement fan shroud) and took off to meet a woman named Gisela.
Oh, Gisela. She perfectly embodies the small, kind Chinese restaurant owner stereotype. Except that she’s German. And average height. And runs a body shop. When I pulled up in front of her shop, she came running outside and could not stop exclaiming in a very thick German accent how very cute my car was. She inspected the bumper for the quote but spent much more time looking over the rest of the car and asking questions about its design. She was genuinely interested in the history of the car and I had to push her back inside lest we talk for hours in the parking lot. The quote took a very long time to put together but that was only because we spent more time talking about unrelated things than we did about the bodywork. Her moving from Germany. Running a body shop. Insurance work vs. personal jobs. I genuinely enjoyed the time that I spent there, and after the conversations about fiberglass work, I felt very comfortable letting her do the work. And the best part was that her quote was low enough for the repair that I could have her also address the cracks in the rear spoiler and come in under the quote from the boat shop. I paid the woman, and three weeks later I came back to this:
I was impressed. She did a damn good job on everything: the bumper rework, the spoiler rework, and the paint matching. I was the most unproductive that I have ever been at work that day because I could only think of one thing: beating the crap out of the Autozam on some twisty roads. So I left work pretty early to drop my stuff off at home and…
I had replaced the fan shroud so the fan could spin freely, but it had never occurred to me that that much load on the fan would have blown the fuse. Which it had. So I got stuck in gridlock on the way home because of course I did before long found myself staring in a panic at my temperature gauge while, inch by painful inch, traffic imperceptibly moved down the road. After 15 minutes of profuse sweating, the curb finally dropped away and I could pull into a parking lot. Where the coolant system promptly dumped its contents onto the asphalt.
I walked to a gas station and bought their only gallon of coolant but couldn’t find anyone with distilled water, so I sat in that parking lot next to the Autozam listening to it gurgle and drip for a full hour before I could add enough coolant to get me down the street to a CVS to get some water fo fill it up the rest of the way. The story does get a little better because something interesting happened on my way home.
I was pissed. 15-20 mph over the speed limit, I was determined to get home as quickly as I could. And in typical ‘the slightest inconvenience is the worst thing in the world’ road rage fashion, I happened to get stuck behind the world’s slowest vehicle during an interchange. That vehicle just happened to be a black and gold S30 240Z, but I was too angry to care. As soon as the highway went back up to two lanes, I blew his doors off. But soon my rearview mirror showed a gold Nissan gaining on me. When the highway ended, he pulled up next to me at a light and began gesticulating wildly. His window mechanism must not have worked because he was trying to yell through the glass. I pulled into the parking lot of our local sushi joint (RIP Kasai, you are missed!) because I realized at that point I was being reckless and needed to calm down. The Z followed me.
A passenger with a camera got out of the car. The driver marched over to me and exclaimed, “OMGAnAutozamINeverThoughtI’dSeeOneOfTheseHolyCrapIt’sSoSmallThisIsAmazingOhLookAtTheSpoilerILoveThisThing-” I couldn’t stay mad. It was already getting dark but we talked about our cars for two hours while the guy with the camera snapped pictures. I got home at 11PM.
I did a coolant flush, replaced a very damaged thermostat, and then eased the car back into service to work out any other bugs. Just kidding. I immediately took a road trip to Nashville to hang out with my sister. And we had a blast! We did the Lane Motor Museum, who had just gotten their very own AZ-1 in that very morning and still didn’t know much about it. It just happened to be Nashville Pride so we did that and, well, I don’t remember anything else from that night.
I got to watch my sister prove that drive-up ATMs in the Autozam are a breeze. Sushi for every meal. Look how bloated and gigantic her (three pedal) Corolla is!
Also the Autozam leaks. But just a little.
Next time: I rebuild the Eclipse, offroading is simultaneously less and much more awful than I expected, and it’s time to say goodbye to the Jimny.