I am a lucky guy

1Having broken my collar bone, there was no way for me to swap over my summer tires. I was expecting to have to drag them to a tire shop just to get them on. Instead my partner offered to do it for me.

2Other than showing her where tools were, she did the whole thing.

3A competent partner who enjoys both car work and helping me. And who happens to be beautiful, intelligent and lots of fun. Lucky, lucky me.


Box’s new look

Box recently got a makeover. He needed some attention, so I decided to have fun with him.

I was tired of the battered bumpers, which had suffered greatly through the last winter. They were cracked and scraped and the lower lips(which I never liked) were half-destroyed. In addition the custom aluminum grilles had started to corrode, and the wheel paint I’d done four years ago was getting worn & tired.


So off came the bumpers & wheels. I’d been buying up 90’s Jetta front lips as I found them at junkyard, with a plan to use them to make new lower bumper lips that were about half as low as the factory ones. I’d tried just removing the factory lips, but the bumpers looked unfinished, it was obvious there should be a lower lip on them.

First up was the wheels. I scuffed them and painted them with some Rustoleum paint. I’d been aiming for a dark hunter green, however the color turned out to be more of a military olive drab. I wasn’t sure at first, but the color has grown on me. The hubcaps got a coat of aged copper.


For the bumpers I sanded out the worst of the scratches & chips, and painted them the same green. As the color is a satin rather than a gloss I wasn’t worried about perfection(plus there is no way these bumpers would ever look perfect).


The Jetta lips were obviously not designed to fit  the xB bumpers, so I spent a lot of time cutting & trimming them to match. They are not a perfect match shape wise, but look good in general, and have the right shape to give the bumpers the look I wanted. I also fixed the cracks in the bumper using zip-ties to stitch it back together. I could have used epoxy and made the repair virtually invisible, but this amused me much more.

All total a hundred or so zip-ties were used to put it all back together. The grilles were painted the same aged copper, along with the fog-light covers and the tow hook cover on the rear bumper. Then everything was re-assembled.

I also removed the side skirts, and with a bit of stenciling the project was done.

All together it came out exactly as I’d hoped. I was able to fix several issues that were making box look beat-up, fixed the lips that always bugged me, and made a major change in his overall aesthetic. So I’m calling this a win.

Box is a non-starter

For the first time in five years of ownership Box failed to start for me. No bad for an 8 year old car with 182K on it. It had started fine when I left work, but after stopping home just long enough to pick up my girlfriend there was no sign of life from the starter.  No click, no power draw, nada.

I ended up driving the Truck for a week while my new starter was shipped to me. Once it arrived I swapped it out. It was pretty easy and nicely accessible, unlike the one on my old Taurus where you had microns of space to work in.

Once the starter was pulled the failure point was readily apparent. The cable bringing power from the solenoid to the starter motor had burned through. While I could probably have had this repaired at a starter shop, it just wasn’t worth the time & money.


The starter I’d sprung for was a completely new one made by TYC and sold by Rockauto.com. With shipping it cost me about $10 less than a rebuilt one from the local chain auto parts store. I figured since I am planning to keep Box for as long as possible it was worth putting in the best parts I could get.

The install went easily, and Box is now up and running fine again.

The history of the Box, part 1

I’ve mentioned Box in passing here before, but I figured it was a good time to introduce him properly.

Box is a 2004 Scion xB I bought back in November of 2007. I had gotten bored with the ’96 Subaru Outback I had at the time and sold it. I was planning to replace it with something around $3K that got excellent gas mileage. I thought playing with hypermiling would be interesting and I was sharing a house with friends who owned a minivan & pickup so a wagon seemed less vital.


After looking at a variety of Civic hatchbacks & Neons without any luck, I found an ad for a used car lot selling an xB for $8500, a pretty good price for the car. My girlfriend and I drove about three hours out to see it on a whim. Despite having 92K miles on it, it drove like a brand new car, had a surprising amount of pep for a 108hp motor and had a flat out ridiculous amount of space inside.

The inside smelled a bit of cigar smoke though, and there was a small scrape on the passenger doors. On a whim I offered the guy $6500. When he asked how I’d gotten to that figure I told him it was what I felt like paying for the car. About then we got back from the test drive, at which point he went in the office and dug out a piece of paper and handed it to me, telling me he would sell it to me for that figure.

It was the invoice from the auction he’d bought it at, for $6828.


After a desperate drive to the nearest branch of my bank 30 miles away, I was the proud owner of a 2004 Scion xB, for $6823, because his secretary wrote the invoice wrong, and I didn’t catch it until we’d left. I drove home waffling wildly between maniacal glee and absolute “What have I done?!?” terror. The picture to the right is actually the first one I took, right after I pulled in the driveway.

Next part; I can’t leave well enough alone, some of the (many) modifications I’ve made.