Editor’s note: This Understeer series tells the story of CCF contributor Netgear57’s 25 Year Law-imported 1991 Toyota Celsior, from the shores of Japan to the side of the road in El Paso. Check out Part One and Part Two if you haven’t.
“No. No, this isn’t happening,” I tried to convince myself. The Celsior’s strength that had brought me up the mountain was waning: the previously nearly-imperceptible hiccup was now felt like a slight misfire. I made it to work and limped the car into the parking lot, defeat once again looming in my soul as I sat at my desk and pondered what the cause of the issue could be. As I mentally diagnosed the car, I made several trips outside to inspect the engine to lend credence to my theories. Unfortunately, not a single one panned out. I surmised it may be a wire leading to the crank or cam position sensor, as the engine bay for the 1UZ is quite cluttered, and leaves little room for error regarding wiring position.
I left work early and took the long way home, as the misfiring had now grown quite severe, and I didn’t think the Celsior would be able to make it up the mountain. My destination was the mechanic shop I had just picked the car up from, and I went in to talk to the owner after I arrived. The misfire was now so bad, the car sounded like I was shaking a can full of coins as I drove. I’d never heard anything like it before.
Now, I know there are stupid people who want to blame the last person that worked on their car for everything, so I was very clear that I was not blaming them for the misfire that had developed, however there likely was a refrigerant leak that would need to be addressed. With my tail solidly between my legs, I called my wife to pick me up from the shop. So began The Great Wait.
I waited. And waited. Then waited just a little bit more. I don’t really remember how long this shop had my car, but it was at least 2 months, maybe 3. Then came the call. “Hey, can you come pick up the car tomorrow?” Hell yes I could. I happily had my wife drop me off, excited to get behind the wheel of my luxury sedan again after so long. I was greeted with a dead battery, and after using the shops charger and getting it started, I discovered the misfire had not been resolved. The owner had not told me they were giving up, and I had assumed the car was repaired. I went and verified this with the owner, and yeah, they were giving up. My thoughts lingered on the judging veers and remarks that my wife was no doubt going to grace me with as I limped the once mighty Celsior out of the mechanic’s parking lot.
During The Great Wait, I started driving my S13 Silvia to work, and as the summer months approached I discovered my once-working A/C had been reduced to a hot air recirculation device; I decided to remedy this. I went to a shop that was poorly reviewed online, and decided to give them a shot after speaking with the owner. This is how I met MY mechanic, Lutz Fuggmann.
Lutz is a retired engineer, a little bit over 6 ft tall with a full head of white hair, and speaks in a heavy German accent. His shop cleanliness rivals most airplane hangars, and all four of his bay doors remain closed at all times because Lutz cannot be in the sun. I didn’t ask the reason, but I assumed it was vampiric. I quickly figured out why his shop is rated so poorly: Lutz does not give a fuck. He will do the job correctly, and charge you accordingly, and this doesn’t fly well in El Paso, TX. His passion for vehicles is evident, and the Porsches in his bays spoke of the clientele that do put up with him. He converted my Silvia from R12 to R134a and had the A/C once again blowing cold.
When I picked up the car, Lutz scolded me for not driving the car enough. Like a doctor, he gave me instructions to drive the car at least once a week or at the very least idle until up to temp. I assured him I would meet his demands.
So as I’m limping away from the shop that gave up, I know exactly where I’m going. I drive straight to Lutz’s and park the Celsior behind his shop. I go inside and regale him with the tale of my Celsior, and the shop that gave up. This lights a fire in his belly, as Lutz has an innate hatred of “garbage shops” that “can’t fix anything”, which had been the subject of one of his rants on a previous visit. He assured me he would figure out what was wrong with the car, and I left the keys with him as I walked home, feeling confident that Lutz would no doubt get me back on the road.
But at what cost?
And here’s today’s Feed.