“Hey Sajeev, it’s Mark. We’re up in Tomball looking at a ’95 Bronco. We could use some advice.”
Without sarcasm, a laugh, or any explanation, Sajeev replied with one word, “Run.”
Being a Canadian in Texas, where gas and well-used V8 SUVs are cheap, I was inclined to make very questionable choices which went against my ethos as a Canadian. Things like considering getting rid of a perfectly good Ranger and buying a mid-90s Malaise American SUV with unknown lineage. The Ranger, an amazing little truck that conveyed myself, two dogs, two motorcycles, and my other worldly possessions all the way from the east coast of Canada to Houston, had lots of life and could have had air conditioning bolted on to the 3.0L Vulcan V6 for a pitance.
But, sometimes when an idea is stuck in my head, all I need is similarly minded, common sense lacking friends to say “go for it”.
Kevin, a Z-car driving graphic designer who knew just as much about Broncos as I did at the time, drove me up to Tomball to check out what could have passed as an Al Cowlings Signature Edition Bronco. Very 90s, white grille and semi-removable top included. From a distance, it didn’t look all that bad. I thought Sajeev was a nut for telling me to run, yet when we ended the call I felt dejected. Then Kevin passed me his phone to talk to someone on the other end of the line.
“His name is Jim. Super smart guy. Loves Fords. Races Mustangs,” he blurted out while shoving his iPhone in the general direction of my face.
“Hey Jim, this is Kevin’s friend Mark. Tell me what you think of what I am about to get into,” I inquired, after I’d already partially given up on the purchase.
“Without seeing it, I can’t really say, but it’s probably good…”
It’s at this point my brain completely tuned out the rest of what Jim said. He could have warned “good at being a paperweight” or “good for low speed highway chases”. It didn’t matter at that point. I heard “good”. We are going with “good”. I can live with “good”.
The phone is hung up. The owner of the Bronco is met. The SUV is given the once-over test drive and the prospective buyer (me) ignores all the tell-tail signs of this being a disastrous transaction waiting to happen. By the end of the night, I was the proud new owner of a Ford Bronco XLT with a 5.8L V8, but drove home without the multi-ton monstrosity.
The next day, my roommate drove me back up to Tomball to complete the transaction. On arriving to the single family home on a cul-de-sac, his jaw dropped, eyes opened wide, and he uttered, “Oh my, Mark. You can’t be serious.”
To say the drive home was scary is a total understatement. The Bronco at highway speed felt like being attached to a looping roller coaster with bungie cords, my hands grabbing the wheel so hard that Klan members would be jealous of my knuckles. Keeping the aging Ford in its own lane was an exercise in futility. But, at least I had air conditioning…
As soon as my brain recognized the one good thing about the Bronco, my well air conditioned brow felt a massive blast of hot air. This is now officially the worst automotive purchase I have ever made.
After arriving home with the Bronco, it sat in the garage for a total of three months straight, except for a single trip to an auto journo meetup where it became the laughing stock of the evening. “Mark got rid of his crappy truck with no air for another crappy truck with no air,” and “Mark, you need a plate that reads ‘NO AC’ since you don’t have air and you aren’t Al Cowlings,” were the common commets of the evening.
However, almost everyone in my automotive circle of knowledge and skill helped with getting the Bronco back in running order. The V8 I thought I purchased was actually a V7, as one of the cylinders had a serious miss. All brakes and bearings, including the ones in the rear differential, were shot. Kevin, most of all, felt guilty for supporting me in the decision to take it home. Other than myself, he was the one who spent the most time working on it, which I still appreciate to this day. Sajeev, on the other hand, rightly never offered to help. He warned me.
We did get the Bronco into somewhat acceptable condition and I drove it for maybe a total of 500 miles before selling it. After all that work, money, getting gallons to the mile due to a seriously sick 351 powerplant, and other miscellaneous bullshit, I still miss the hell out of that truck. I’d have another one in a heartbeat, too. Maybe I’m cursed with some kind of defeatist mentality.
But, the moral of this story? I should have listened to Sajeev and got out of there quicker than parachute pants entering the 90s. But, if I had listened to him, I would never have developed the relationships with the people who helped me fix that truck, nor would I have learned as much as I did working on it. It’s all about what you want out of a car or truck. I got what I wanted.
After selling the Bronco, I asked Sajeev and Steve for advice on what to buy and followed on one of their suggestions. This time, I couldn’t be happier. More on that another time.