Sunday Stories' Halloween Special: "Car of Evil" by Thomas Kreutzer

Thomas Kreutzer
by Thomas Kreutzer
sunday stories halloween special car of evil by thomas kreutzer

Photo courtesy of:

It was all their fault, you know. Regular oil changes and the occasional tune-up would have prevented all this, but that hadn’t happened. The end result was a lifetime plagued with trouble. Little things mostly, but eventually they added up. One thing always led to another and now the car sat at the side of the house, grass growing tall beneath its body while the air leaked slowly from its tires. Forgotten.

Seasons came and went. In the autumn, leaves collected on the old car’s once fine paint. Winter a brought thick coat of ice and dirty snow; the spring, pollen and bugs. In summer, it was dust, hornets and a mouse nest in the air cleaner. One year bled into the next. The result was not really death, but the purgatory of slow degradation. The waiting was interminable, endless. As the old car sagged lifelessly on its suspension, the good times forgotten, the soul that imbues all mechanical things slowly died and in its place something darker began to grow.

Decades had slipped away by the time the overweight, middle-aged man used the edge of his hand to wipe away grit on the window. He peered inside, smiled to himself as he noted the stick shift between the bucket seats, then leaned back and looked over the old car’s body. There was some rust, he noted, but he thought it was mostly surface stuff as he probed the rocker panels with his foot. It looked solid. He and the elderly woman who stood beside him exchanged a couple of words and the man showed her several bills. The old woman looked at the money and shrugged . The conversation continued for a few more minutes and more bills were added. Finally, the woman smiled and accepted the offer. After counting the money, she disappeared back into the house while the man waited, returning with a worn envelope. The transaction was completed and later that day the man returned with a rented trailer.

Back at the house, the new owner beamed with pride as he played a garden hose across the old car. The car was in rough mechanical shape, he knew, but the body was solid so he had a good starting point. He threw open the hood, the trunk, and all the doors, then went to work with his shop vac. There was an amazing amount of debris in the car: mouse droppings, the chewed remains of insulation, bits of flaked off paint, deteriorated rubber, long dead cigarette butts, all sorts of trash. He unbolted the seats, pulled up the rotted carpet and continued his work.

Minutes turned to hours as the fat man worked and sweat poured from his brow. At the end of the day the old car was much cleaner but the real issues had yet to be addressed. Happily, he closed the hood, trunk and doors and pushed it into his garage. The car brooded for a week, untouched, but the following Saturday the man returned again and resumed his work.

Week after week, he chipped away at the stone. He purchased an engine stand and rented a cherry picker to pull the engine. It was a struggle to remove the bolts from the rusted motor mounts and he bloodied his knuckles every time the wrench slipped, but he persevered. The entire process took longer than he could ever have imagined. It certainly didn’t look so hard when the guys on Spike TV did this kind of work. He kept after it and eventually what had once been the old car’s living beating heart was pulled from its body and affixed to the engine stand.

With a rebuild manual close by, the man began the work of disassembling the engine. He tore it down bit by bit, inspecting and cleaning each part before laying it out in careful order on the bench. The heads came off and were sent to a machine shop for inspection and rebuild. Later, when everything had been finally been stripped away, the block followed. Replacement parts and new gaskets arrived in sturdy brown cardboard boxes. The work continued, money flowed out of the man’s bank account at a prodigious rate, the boxes kept coming in.

With much of the running gear having been sent out for professional work beyond what he could do himself, the man contented himself with examining the brakes, suspension and all of the steering components. They were beyond repair. He consulted on-line forums and determined that he would replace the old stamped steel parts with the latest, high-tech components. He spent more money ordering larger brake rotors and calipers, as well as new brake lines, hoses, master cylinder — everything it would take to make the car stop like a modern ride — and set to work fitting the new parts to the underside of the car. He piled them, still in their boxes, at the side of the garage when they arrived.

Little by little he chipped away at the project. He pulled apart the old and damaged bits of the car and ordered new and shiny pieces to replace them. He was not the most skilled mechanic; perhaps if he had been he could have saved himself some time and money by refurbishing or repairing some of the parts he had to purchase. But he was dedicated. He worked on it relentlessly. It went from a rolling wreck, to that place every project must eventually go: that place where everything has been stripped away and the car it is a true basket case. From that point on the, things could only get better.

Photo courtesy of

But it was there that the evil that had begun to possess the car while it had sat alone and unloved for so long began to reveal itself. As the project began to come together time and finances seemed to disappear. The fat man began to feel the strain of the project. The knowledge that his garage floor lay covered in so many parts and that there were so many different things to do all at once weighed heavily upon him. He realized that he had no idea how to proceed, but even so he tried to rationalize away his fears. He purchased more books on how to rebuild cars, sought advice from friends and family, and dreamed about the day the car would live again — but gradually a dark, cold foreboding began to grow in the pit of his stomach.

Unwilling to admit defeat, he struggled on for weeks. But as his account emptied itself, the old car demanded still more new parts. They were small bits and pieces mostly, those easily overlooked odds and ends that would ensure the larger pieces would fit together correctly, but they were essential nonetheless. Once in a while he needed to rent or buy a specialty tool and the money still flowed in dribs and drabs from his account. Each purchase was another small cut draining away yet another minuscule amount of the man’s financial health. Bad dreams came to him at night and he soon found that his chest tightened whenever he neared the garage. It wasn’t going to happen. There was no way he could do it. He had bitten off more than he could chew.

To make the old car work, he would need to spend more time and more money. But he knew he could spend no more. The car’s evil, that malevolent force that had crept into it while it had waited in that place between life and death, had brought its full force to bear. It killed the man’s enthusiasm and destroyed his desire. It imperiled his finances, toyed with his emotions, and strained the man’s relationship with his hitherto unmentioned wife. Its cycle was complete, its job done.

Know ye all that evil lurks in every project car. It awaits you in that piece of automotive history that you think about before you go to sleep at night, in that lost connection to your youth that you hope to one day reclaim and in that bit of rolling art that fills your heart with desire. Perhaps it lives, even now, in your own garage. If so, may God have mercy on your soul…

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

Join the conversation
2 of 21 comments
  • CougarXR7 CougarXR7 on Oct 28, 2013

    Every time my elderly mom and dad hijack my weekends and vacation days for one of their crazy home and garden projects, I have nightmare visions of what Thomas wrote above. Being the only child of aging parents can cause serious problems for a hardcore gearhead. My '68 Cougar and my '85 300ZX Turbo both paid the price. The Z was traded in on an '01 Crown Vic from a dealer, and this past summer, I finally had to cut my losses and sell the Cougar- after NINE YEARS of disruption. I love my folks, and I'm glad they're still around, but their heavy reliance on me has fubared every single car project I've ever had my entire life. I just hope they don't give me a heart attack or drive me to alcoholism one day :( .

  • Hands of lunchmeat Hands of lunchmeat on Oct 29, 2013

    I spent time being one of " the pros" I suppose you could say. And whenever someone would invariably ask why a project would cost so much, I'd usually reply "plan on spending a thousand dollars on bolts". Superlative yes, but when you buy a crate motor it doesn't come with motor mounts, that fancy new trans needs a release bearing and slave cylinder, and nothing ever fits coming out of the box. The look of defeat when guys would show up a year or two later with their 'car in a box' either to attempt to sell, or see if I was still interested in taking on their project was just proof that everyone wants to write the book, but no one ever wants to read it.

  • Master Baiter Might as well light 50 $100 bills on fire.
  • Mike1041 At $300K per copy they may secure as much as 2 or 3 deposits of $1,000
  • Sgeffe Why on Earth can’t you just get the torque specs and do it yourself if you’re so-inclined?!
  • Sgeffe As was stated in another comment, the FAA nominee went down in flames. But the NTSB chairwoman certainly didn’t, and she’s certainly not qualified either!Lots of this kind of stuff going on both sides of the aisle—Ben Carson would have arguably made a better Surgeon General than HUD Secretary under Trump, for example.
  • Art Vandelay Interesting, the Polestar 2 I had as a rental utilized Android Automotive which is what GM said it is going to exclusively, yet it still offers Apple CarPlay according to this. Wonder if GM will do the same.