Warning, this is a bit of a long read:
Friday March 4th 2016
“This is the truck!” is what I said as I clicked the craigslist ad for the vehicle I had been looking for. I am a very picky guy and after lots of searching I finally found a truck that checked every box on my list. It was completely rust free regular-cab short-bed Cat-eye Silverado with a V8 and LS trim. It was even blue, my favorite color! With lower miles, clean title, and the right listing price I quickly called the owner and he talked in length about the truck. I was sold and quickly started checking flights. You see, this truck was in New Orleans and I was located north of St. Louis. It was a roll of the dice but adventure awaited!
My buddy Scott and I are major gear-heads as you expect and also big fans of Roadkill. Mike and David always seem to overcome the odds to either meet their goals or go down in a blaze of glory! Scott (which I will refer to as “The-Arnold” as he is saved in my phone that way) and I had been wanting to do our own Roadkill trip by means of buying a questionable car out of state and driving it back on a limited budget and time. I figured this could be a fun test run for our trip as the truck really had no reason not to make the 11 hour drive home with any fuss. I told The-Arnold all about the truck and that I wanted him to go with me to pick it up. I offered to pay for half his plane ticket and said he would be in charge of where we stopped on the way home. He agreed and I immediately bought a pair of tickets leaving early Sunday morning. This was to be a day trip as we would be getting home just past midnight on Sunday so we wouldn’t miss any work.
As I said above I am very picky and had been looking for the right truck for a while now with no real luck. I have been making some life changes and was shuffling my entire fleet of vehicles to slim down and save money. With 4 cars and a motorcycle it was time to sell some stuff. The truck was to be my daily driver and replace both my 08 Focus and 93 Toyota pickup eliminating some insurance cost as well as gaining parking space at my house. I also have a 1989 Mustang coupe and a 2000 Mustang GT that I wrote about HERE that you can get updates on. The truck needed to be able to pull a car which the Toyota was unable to do as well as get somewhat decent mileage and be decently comfortable since the Focus would be going away. I work close to home now and don’t put hardly any miles on any of my vehicles on a regular basis so this truck would be the best of everything.
The trucks owner Jack, talked up the truck a lot and seemed like a really good guy on the phone. Jack mentioned washing and waxing it every other day, spoke of how great the truck was in every way, and was even honest about there only being a couple dents in the truck that I could barely see in the pictures. Jack even had an extra tire to put on since one tire had a tit in it causing a bump/vibration while driving. Jack was even particular about the plastic drop-in bed liner saying that he wiped it down all the time to keep it shiny and always tried to keep from dragging things on it. The best part is that he bought the truck from a church. Yup, this was the one. As I explained where I was coming from he offered to take money off the price to help me out due to travel costs and we settled on $5000. This was very worth it to me as trucks in that range in my area are beat up or rusty. He was to pick up The-Arnold and I Sunday morning at 10:30 so we could do the deal and hit the road. He was even going to have the tire swapped out for me as I had asked him.
Since we would be leaving very early Sunday and had a quick layover in Atlanta before continuing to New Orleans The-Arnold decided we should have a game plan for food. The plan was to eat breakfast in Atlanta, some good seafood for lunch in New Orleans, and some epic BBQ for dinner in Memphis! We had a killer plan in order and couldn’t wait to get started!
Sunday March 6th 2016 @ 5:15 A.M.
The-Arnold and I are boarding the plane with heavy eyes but light spirits after getting up before 3:00 A.M. to do the hour-plus drive to the airport. While in the air we talked about what mods to do to the truck first such as a Beltech 4/6” drop kit, finding some factory GM 20’s, or even some engine/trans work. We can’t leave anything alone so this is just the norm. We soon land in Atlanta and go grab a simple breakfast within the airport before hoping back on a plane for the connecting flight. After a quick flight we were on the ground and getting off the plane to meet up with Jack. A quick text confirms that he is on the way and we head outside to meet up.
Sunday 10:45 A.M.
We see the truck in the distance and start getting pumped as Jack makes his way through the passenger pickup line. As he pops out of the line about 70 feet away we get out first decent look at the truck and quickly realize that this trip is about to go a different direction. Jack sees us and pulls up close. Before even getting into the truck we see that it is a complete pile of shit and nothing like described by Jack or the craigslist pictures. I open the door and ask Jack to take us to the parking lot just in the distance so we can scope the truck out. As The-Arnold and I circle the truck we just shake our heads in dis-belief as it looks like somebody abused the hell out of this thing with a bat. There were tons of small creased-dents on every panel as well as both upper cab corners. Nothing a PDR guy could repair. The “wax” he used seemed more like 15W40 motor oil drenched all over the truck and paint beneath was just terrible. The quick ride inside revealed the falling down headliner and broken door sill panels. The bump/vibration was not caused by any tit in the tire but rather a completely trashed set of front rotors and possibly bagged-out tie-rods and ball-joints. I lift up the plastic bed liner to find two holes in the bed floor where the metal had been torn out. The rear of the bed floor looked to have been re-welded to the braces due to some impact in the past. The only thing it had going for it was the fact that the AC was Antarctica-cold! The-Arnold gives a sad “no” shake of the head and I think, “what the hell did I get us into?!”
I talk with Jack and explain that the truck was NOTHING like he described and that I would not pay the price we agreed upon. I reluctantly offered him $4200 in hopes that we could drive home and quickly sell the truck for a small loss instead of spending more on plane tickets or the easy route of renting a car to get home. Jack says he can’t go that low and I say to please take us back to the airport so we can make a plan. Jack couldn’t hardly believe that we would actually back out of the deal but agrees and drops us back off.
The-Arnold and I get out of the truck, shake Jacks hand and head inside to go over our current situation and come up with a plan. We head upstairs and find a restaurant to grab some lunch and re-tool. While we are sitting there we decide to channel the Roadkill gods Mike and David and go on the hunt for another car to buy and quickly sell when we made it home. I had $5,000 in my pocket and this would be way more exciting that a return flight or rental car home. It was 11:00 and the drive would take 11 hours so it was time to make something happen! We each attack our phone’s craigslist apps with a fury and start searching for a fun or interesting vehicle nearby to drive home and quickly sell. Now it is at this point we could have chosen to buy a Ford Taurus and pretty much guarantee a no-fuss journey home but what would be the fun in that? Together The-Arnold and I make a pretty good team as he is a professional mechanic by trade and I like to modify stuff for performance so were up for a potential challenge. We were looking at IROC Camaros, modded Civics, Mustangs, donked-out crown Vics, a mega sweet WRX wagon with 193K, slammed trucks, El Caminos, motorcycles, old Datsuns, and much more. While we were searching I got one last call from Jack who asked if we could do $4800 and I said that ship had sailed and I was no longer interested. I hung up and we continued to search. We ended up landing on a pair of cars that couldn’t be more different. One was an old 70’s Baja bug with a ton going for it and the other was a 1995 C4 Corvette with an LT1. The Corvette was located closest to the airport so I dialed the number only to get the machine. I left a hell of a voicemail that had to sound like a scam but I soon got a call back and after a few questions I asked the guy to meet us ASAP. He had the car listed for $5000 and we settled on $4800. He said he would need to find a ride and would call us back. This entire time there was a nice Canadian couple that sat at the table next to us who we explained the story to and they were loving every minute of it! After about 5 minutes I called the guy back and asked that he meet us for $4900 as that extra would easily cover his cab fare. He agreed and headed our way.
We are waiting at a gas station across from the airport terminal and soon see the guy show up in the Corvette looking like he was having fun one last time. The car looked sooooo damn clean and not torn up one bit. It was all stock in white paint, sawblade wheels, 130,000 miles, automatic, clean Carfax in hand, new alternator, belt, thermostat, battery, and fuel filter. The car had black leather interior with perfect seats and the targa-top was already removed and under the glass. All the fluids looked good, and all gauges read what they needed to. Party on Wayne, party on Garth! This guy was really cool and a definite gear-head who bought the car to flip as it needed the things listed above. He had been driving it for the last month and said he completely trusted it to do the drive we had to do back to St. Louis. He and I signed the title, I paid the man, and we prepared to head out. Before he left we talked about the gauges and he explained that the two temperature gauges always red differently from each other. One was digital and one was a standard needle gauge. He said it cruised all day in the 230 range which wasn’t alarming as GM likes to run things hot so we just decided to keep an eye on it. With our spirits high we bought 4 liters of water, some sun-screen, and a pair of shades before hitting the road.
The-Arnold and I fire up the car and are greeted with “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood, hell yea! 5 miles down I10 out of New Orleans we merge onto I55 north at mile marker 0 and the main part of the drive begins. This car is comfortable, rides great, looks great, and I bought it right! Life was good!
As we are making our way up 55 we soon notice that the temperature gauges are slowly climbing beyond what the seller said was normal we begin to have uneasy feelings about what was going on. Since 55 at this point is only a bridge across the bayou there is nothing we can do but keep driving until there is a turnoff. The temp keeps slowly climbing and before we know it we are nearing 270F!!! The hissing has begun from the overflow as we hear it and as we make it to the first turnoff the car shuts down while we are coasting. We have only made it 30 miles. Crap.
We get out of the car and open the hood to let the car boil-over and eventually cool down. While we wait we go ahead and push the car under the overpass so we can stay in the shade because you know, we are mid-westerners and burn easy! As we are trying to vent some pressure via the surge tank cap a gentleman pulls up in a 6.0 Powerstroke to offer help. Of course the one person who would stop would know all about potential head gasket issues. He offered a jug for us to fill what we could and as we went to grab it out of the bed of his truck I noticed a set of skinny Weld Draglite wheels and tires with a 4 lug bolt pattern! Being a big Fox Body Mustang guy I immediately ask if they were from that type of car and he said no but rather a big turbo rotary Mazda drag car! That option was WAAAAY cooler than a regular Fox Body! He then points to a restaurant in the distance and says they may be able to help. We thank him and he leaves. During our waiting we were passed by a sweet Ferrari F430 Spyder that wasn’t on fire as well a meaty white CTS-V with a set of Weld RTS wheels and a lumpy cam! We waved and he gave us a taste by romping on it!
After a about 20 minutes we are able to pull the surge tank cap completely and begin adding water, it was a good thing I bought 4 liters to drink! It takes all of it and we decide to drive it to the nearest building which was about ¼ mile away to get more water and possibly some tools if they had them. After speaking with a lady at a restaurant we knew there was a large enough town about 8 miles up the road that we could get help at. During this time The-Arnold was venting the cooling system and I was hunting down water which I ended up finding at a very small shack with a guy cutting up fish. This was most definitely bayou Louisiana at its finest! I filled all four 1-liter water bottles along with the gallon coolant jug and we topped off the car before running it any longer. At this time The-Arnold and I strongly fear that the car has popped a head gasket and our problems started with an air-pocket trapped in the cooling system due to the seller filling it incorrectly creating a hot-spot somewhere. As we get the car started we see the confirmation of our fears through white smoke from the left tailpipe. Not good.
We have no other choice but to limp the car along the feeder road or “low road” as the locals called it to the town 8 miles away. As we pull into the town we realize that there is some kind of festival going on and were sad that we couldn’t be a part of it as we had to press on. In the distance we see the beautiful sight of an AutoZone and roll in with a plan. Since the car was still running decent enough to drive we decided to try a quick but unlikely fix in the parking lot by adding some Red Devil head gasket magic sealant as well as remove the thermostat to aid in cooling. I bought some tools, shop towels, coolant, thermostat gasket, permatex, and proceeded to tear into the car in the parking lot! We actually debated going for broke and changing the head gaskets right there in the parking lot which would have made for an epic display of thrashing and a great story but we decided against it. We quickly had the car apart and back together with a correctly bled cooling system and hoped for the best. As we start the car and make our way through the town we confirm that the system had an air pocket in it as evidence from both of the temperature gauges reading the same which they didn’t before. A couple miles later the car was still holding about 180 so we decided to push our luck and continue on after we stocked up on supplies at a Walgreens. I bought more water jugs, topped off the old jugs using the water fountain, bought some flashlights, beef jerky, a Gatorade, and most importantly 2 Roadkill Magazines for good luck! May Mike and David be with us in spirit! We top off the coolant once more and let the car idle to monitor the temperature. It holds steady at 178 and we decide to go for it! It was past 3 at this point and we had 9 hours of driving ahead of us and The-Arnolds wife said we couldn’t make it home by midnight so we took that as a challenge. Game on.
Back onto the highway and all was good for about 3 miles holding 65 MPH as the temp began its all-to-familiar creep north. As we passed a decent looking town The-Arnold looked up U-Haul locations and by the time I found an exit the car wat hot and steaming. Knowing we had been defeated we called U-Haul to reserve a truck. As I called I knew that the nearest place closed at 5:00 and that we would not make it there by that time so I stressed that this was an emergency to the guy who took my call.
Here is how that call went:
U-Haul guy - Hello thank you for calling…blah blah blah how can I help you?
Me - Yes, I have an emergency (I explain my situation) and need to reserve a truck and trailer to get home.
U-Haul guy - He instructs me that all calls go through the main office and that they have to call the individual offices to have them call me.
Me- I quickly tell him that I need a truck and full trailer and to please call ASAP to reserve one and see if anybody can stay late for me. It is nearing 5 fast.
U-Haul guy – Ok great well here are the prices and we have a special going on and blah blah blah blah
Me – I stop him mid-speech and say I do not care about the cost and need you to call them now to please help me!
U-Haul guy – Ok well I just also want to make sure you also know about our offer for blah blah blah…
Me – I DON’T CARE, THIS IS AN EMERGENCY! PLEASE CALL THEM! (I don’t feel I am out of line here)
U-Haul guy – I will put the call through and you should receive a call back very soon.
Me – Thank you. We then hang up
At this point The-Arnold and I are sitting at a gas station that isn’t near anything watching the sun get lower in the sky and waiting on a call back. At 4:50 I call U-Haul one last time and have to start over with a woman who answered the phone. She was way more in tune to what I was saying and quickly put the call through before wishing me luck. As 5:00 clicked by we pretty well had the car cooled down and topped off but with no call back had no choice but to find a hotel and give up trying to make the drive. The U-Haul was located in Hammond, LA which luckily was about 4 miles away down small roads meaning we could avoid the highway. During that 4 mile drive we had to stop at another gas station to do the old routine of wait, bleed pressure, and refill but, soon we were able to make it to a hotel in the typical steaming fashion located right next to a Harley Davidson dealer and a Sonic which was a nice treat after the long day.
As we booked a room the young guy at the desk recognized my Street Car Takeover hat and The-Arnolds Mexico Racing League hoodie and asked if we were with 1320 which we unfortunately weren’t. We told home the story thus far and asked if he wanted to buy a sweet Corvette to which he said, “My friend might!” He ended up posting up the car on his Facebook page for sale or trade. We had a bite from one of his friends with a sweet Integra but the deal didn’t work out unfortunately.
With nothing to do but wait The-Arnold and I headed over to Sonic for some chili-cheese tater-tots because they are delicious and it is mean to judge people. While devouring the delicacies we have another idea on how to get home that involved the Harley Dealer next to us because at this point every idea seemed like a good one. We decided to head over the next morning and see if they had a couple crappy bikes they would trade for our sweet Corvette so we could just ride home like heroes. I figure I could easily sell a couple Honda Shadow 750s or an old sport bike that was traded in.
With the idea in our heads we walked back to the hotel to have a beer at the lobby bar and just wait for the morning. The bartender was a very nice woman named Brittany who bought us a round for our miss-fortune and then offered to list the car on the local Facebook swap shop pages. I agreed and soon we had trade offers of older short Bed trucks, Grand Prixs, and even a Mini Cooper as well as a couple calls from people who don’t read the details and ask if the car has any problems. While tempting we never pursued any of the trades as we were 0-2 at this point on vehicles and didn’t need to go for 3. Soon it was back to the room to end this crazy day and focus on getting home tomorrow.
Monday March 7th, 2016
The-Arnold and I are up early eager to head over to the Harley dealer in hopes of scoring a couple sweet bikes to take home if not just to look at all the shiny hardware on the new models since we have both owned/own Harleys at some point. I peer out of the window to find that the Corvette had surprisingly not been stolen nor even had its desirable sawblade wheels stolen. Soon a quick walk to the store reveals that the dealer is closed on Mondays and that we had no hope of riding home in glory. This meant that U-Haul was the plan so we call and reserve a truck and trailer for pickup at 9:30
IHOP – Enough said!
We walk over to U-haul and take care of what we need to. $853.00 later and with my debit card melting at this point we have our truck and make our way to the hotel to load up. We get the car loaded in a hurry, grab our things from the room which included some papers, and some deodorant because we didn’t pack any clothes for obvious reasons, and check out. A quick stop at a gas station get us 36OZ Murica’ fountain drinks, impulse buy banana chips, and a 6 pack of some beer to drink when home.
We hit the road and keep the U-Haul Fuel Economy gauge pegged in the red just like Jeremy Clarkson would do. POOWWAAA!!!! Making our way up I55 was pretty boring but the radio had our backs most of the time. For those who don’t know, these truck do not come with cruise control but I found they are speed limited to 75 MPH which was the speed limit anyway so the governor made for a nice cruise control system and also boosted mileage! Joke is on you U-haul! The rest of the drive was un-eventful and we made it to the St. Louis airport at around 9:00 P.M. to pick up my car we took down when we flew out. An hour later we were home and done with the crazy journey I put us through. After I dropped The-Arnold off at home I unloaded the Corvette and pulled it into the garage where it will sit until I fix it.
All together I have $6,623 wrapped up into the car not including IHOP or Sonic which is not that bad. I have had my eye on C4 Corvettes for a minute and think that I can still fix the car and sell it for either a tiny profit or break even. My goal is to make $5 profit so I can purchase a single beer at my local Brewery while telling this story for everyone to laugh at my expense! Wish me luck on that part! Even though this trip was pretty much a complete failure it was still a hell of a lot more fun than sitting at the bar trying to decide between Miller light or Busch light as most do in my town. We were looking for adventure and damn we got one and we fully intend to do it again! My advice is this: Always ask for better pictures, hold out for the real-deal New Orleans seafood not found at the airport, don’t pass up on a Baja Bug, and try not to stress out when things go bad. Keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward. Oh yea, and in the words of David Freiburger – YES! FAIL!!
Corvette updates will come!