A Tale of Craigslist Wheels

Kamil Kaluski
by Kamil Kaluski

Note: This story originally appeared on Hooniverse.com. It is republished here with permission.

My mother used to have a very nice 2005 Acura TL. For almost nine years she used that car to commute from her home in Edgewater, NJ to work in the Bronx. Those of you that have not traveled between New Jersey and New York over the George Washington Bridge, and further north over the Cross Bronx Expressway, should know that this may be the worst road in the United States. The bridge converges four highways into one. The traffic jams are constant, as is construction. Someone always breaks down or rear-ends someone else. Due to heavy truck traffic the pavement is extremely wavy. It’s bad, really bad.

The third generation Acura TL came standard with 17-inch wheels wrapped in 235/45-17 tires. The car handled very well right out of the box while retaining a ride that was comfortable. With a 270hp engine, it was a fun car to drive, even with the ever-present torque steer. The problem was that its wheel/tire combination did not resist road imperfections very well. Bubbled-up tires and bent wheels were the norm for my mom and many other TL owners. I did my best to ensure that she always had a good set of wheels and tires on the car, which meant frequent Craigslist searches.

One day a friend who knew about my endless TL wheel searches sent me a Craigslist link that seemed perfect: brand new take-offs from a brand-new, base model, fourth generation, 2010 TL. Some dude probably upgraded to dubs on his new car and wanted to ditch those stockers. Brand new wheels and brand new tires, same backspacing, same bolt patter, because those things never change on same model cars — perfect!

I emailed the seller. We planned to meet on a Saturday, around 2 p.m. in Queens. At around noon the seller emailed me said he had to change it to 4:00 p.m.

This wasn’t a problem, as I had moved to Boston six years prior. I was back home in New Jersey for a weekend without my wife and kids. I was enjoying the area, my friends and family. I had all the time in the world and I was hanging out with my two best friends from high school, both serious car guys. When I say they’re serious car guys I mean they have all done engine swaps, all kinds of modifications, they drag raced, they are Gran Turismo champions, and actually have track driving experience. Like me, those guys live and breath cars. The three of us together are supreme car experts extraordinaire — in our minds, no one knows more and no one knows better.

Dude with tires, whose English is far from good, calls and says that something has come up and he won’t be able to meet until 7:00 p.m. To make up for the inconvenience, however, he is willing to drop the wheels off in New Jersey, near the exit from the Lincoln Tunnel. This was annoying, but fine, it saved me a trip into New York City. 7:00 p.m. in Weehawken it was.

Weehawken, near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, is somewhat of a busy area, especially on a Saturday evening when everyone is heading into Manhattan for a night out. There is a gas station there that has decent parking and a lot of light, but it’s always busy.

As 7:00 p.m. nears, wheel dude informed me that he is once again running late. I’m pissed now because I wasted the whole day waiting for him. My boy Vince, a jacked-up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master who may or may not have been raging by now, grabs my phone and goes off on the wheel dude. Wheel dude sounds nervous, apologizes, and says 10:00 p.m. for sure. My other buddy, a frequently-paranoid-but-always-ready-for-anything Marine, who also enjoys randomly raging at people, remains relatively calm and laughs at Vinny.

We decide to relax by going to a bar in nearby Hoboken. It was nice — nice views if you know what I mean — and it reminded us of when we used to hang out in this town during our high school and college years. We had a drink or two. Since Vinny and I were not driving, we had a few more.

11:00 p.m. rolled around. Wheel guy keeps giving us the run-around. At this point we find the whole thing hilarious and are willing to play this dude’s game just because we have nothing better to do. And we’re drunk-ish. And there are college chicks around us, three married guys in their thirties, but Hoboken does not seem as lively and rowdy as we remembered it in the 1990s.

At 1:00 a.m. the bars were beginning to empty out, which is strange, because I remember how this town used to go all night long. This wheel-selling mofo texts me that he is about to get into the Lincoln Tunnel. Halle-fucking-lujah!

We go to the gas station near the Lincoln Tunnel, but things are different there at 1:00 a.m. The gas station is closed, all the lights are off, and there is no one there. Not a soul. Even the traffic was lighter than I ever remembered it. And we’re drunk, except for the Marine dude who is just under the legal limit as per his own paranoid calculations. At this point we realize that this may not be the greatest idea we’ve ever had. But whatever, we are three pretty big guys and we can all fight if we need to — what’s the worst that can happen?

So we’re at the dark gas station, waiting. A beat-up white Dodge Caravan, similar to the one pictured below, with New York, plates quickly pulls in and stops. Not the brand new Acura TL we were expecting. They flash their high-beams, they flash back, as if this was a mob meet in a desert.

A skinny Latin guy in his mid-twenties gets out of the driver’s door. He waves to us in a questionable manner, as if to ensure if we’re the ones here for… the deal. A younger guy gets out of the passenger side door. To us, three drunk idiots, this seems like something out of a movie. The two guys open the side sliding door. I look at Vince and I say “Well, let’s go, let’s look at those wheels.”

Paranoid Marine boy says, “You go check them out, I’ll be here, behind you. I got your back if something goes wrong.”

I look at paranoid Marine guy and ask, “Are you packin’ heat?”

“JUST GO!” he yelled back in a way that only a Marine can. Fine.

To our surprise, there was a twelve year old kid in the back of the minivan where the wheels were. At this point I chose not to question anything and just said hello to the kid.

Whatever, I’m here to look at the wheels and tires. Knowing that my boys have my back, I dove into the minivan with a flashlight. The wheels and tires were brand spankin’ new. Not a scratch on the wheels and the tires still had those little hairs on them. The tire size was 245/50-17 and not the 235/45-17 I was expecting.

Hmm. My drunken thinking was that Honda realized that everyone was bending their wheels on the third generation cars, so they upped the tire size, which makes sense as the new 2010 model is also heavier. They probably just changed the final drive of the transmission to make up for the difference. No issues, at worse my mom’s car will just be a little slower.

Of course at this point we were all questioning the origin of the wheels, but for the sake of this story let’s assume he was selling me the wheels off his own car, which he said he did not want to drive into the hood that is New Jersey. There was no way to know otherwise — it’s not like wheels have a VIN stamped into them. I had to take him on his word, and at this point I just wanted to have the whole thing over with. I offered him fifty dollars less than what he was asking, because Craigslist. He grimaced, but took it.

Vinnie and Marine boy threw the wheels into Marine boy’s SUV, I handed over the cash, we said our thank yous, and we all departed. As the three of us started driving away we burst into laughter about the whole thing. Then we high-fived each other for getting such an amazing deal on a set of wheels. Just like we did back in the day, we rolled those fools!!

Marine boy droped off Vinny, and then me and the wheels off at my mother’s house. Good times, one day we’ll tell this story to our kids.

Little did we know, the story was not over.

The next morning, sober but tired, I jacked up my mom’s ’05 TL and removed a wheel. I grab one of my newly purchased wheels, put it on and…

…AND IT DOES NOT FIT!!! What! The Actual! Fuck!?

I screamed out loud in disbelief. A quick Google search resulted in finding this:

For the fourth generation of the TL, Honda decided to change the wheel bolt pattern of the TL from 5×114.3 to 5×120. That bolt pattern has been used on their heavier vehicles, specifically the Ridgeline, MDX, Odyssey, and the Pilot.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” asked Vinny when I called him about my discovery.

“Nope, I couldn’t make this up”

“How the ‘F did we miss this!? We know EVERYTHING!!! The three of us are the supreme car experts extraordinaire!!”

“Right, we sure are,” I answered back, sighing.

Obviously I had to sell those wheels. It took me five years later, almost to the week, to do that because life kept getting in the way. I met the buyer at the same Weehawken gas station and sold him the wheels for the same amount of money. I was by myself and I made sure that it happened in the middle of the day. I did not know that at the time, but those wheels are in surprising demand because people use them to replace the crummy, oddly-sized PAX wheels and flat tires that came on some models of the Honda Odyssey.

Kamil Kaluski
Kamil Kaluski

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  • Skor Skor on Jun 28, 2016

    Wow! So much derp in this story, I don't know where to start. First off, I was born in Jersey City, NJ. I've lived my entire life in the NYC area, I currently live in Jersey and work in Manhattan. I have never been robbed, had my crib burgled, or car stolen. These things are more likely to happen...statically speaking....in Methville, Flyover State, you know, where those real Muricans live. People who come to the big city, and have problems, are usually the types that have their heads so far up their asses, they need a snorkel to breath. I know the area you're talking about very well, I purchased gas at that very station. I also know Hoboken. When I was a kid.....1970s...Hoboken was a slum. In the 80s, the artsy scene took over, now it's Bro-ville full of bro dickishness. Your story is full of bro-like behavior, which I could excuse if you were in your 20s, but it made me wince when I read that you and your friends are in your 30s. Who does a business 'deal' like that after dark? You're lucky this guy was just another one of those foreigners that people like Trump exploit by working them 12-14 hours a day, off the books, for less than minimum wage. That's why he was so late. If the wheels didn't fit, it was your own damn fault. You know what they say about assuming? As for CL, I tried it.....once. I contacted a guy....in North Jersey....who said he had a couple of cans of R-12(freon) for $20 per can. I showed up at his hovel..white dude, 40s, looked like a carny. Immediately he started with the BS, "You know, I talked to somebody and found out this stuff is 'rare'. It's worth at least $100 per can." I said nothing, turned around and walked back to my car. He started making these bro noises which I believe bros are convinced makes them appear scary and intimidating. I ignored him, got in my car and left. Bro-dude, this is not a story I would have repeated if it happened to me, especially if I was in my 30s. Very embarrassing.

  • -Nate -Nate on Jun 28, 2016

    I love the stories ! . . I occasionally buy off craigslist , it amazes me how much effort the lying crooks put into selling crap for scrap price . . Why bother ?. . -Nate

  • Stephen My "mid-level" limited edition Tonino Lambo Ferraccio Junior watch has performed flawlessly with attractive understated style for nearly 20 years. Their cars are not so much to my taste-- my Acura NSX is just fine. Not sure why you have such condescension towards these excellent timepieces. They are attractive without unnecessary flamboyance, keep perfect time and are extremely reliable. They are also very reasonably priced.
  • Dana You don’t need park, you set auto hold (button on the console). Every BMW answers to ‘Hey, BMW’, but you can set your own personal wake word in iDrive. It takes less than 5 minutes to figure that that out, btw. The audio stays on which is handy for Teams meetings. Once your phone is out of range, the audio is stopped on the car. You can always press down on the audio volume wheel which will mute it, if it bothers you. I found all the controls very intuitive.
  • ToolGuy Not sure if I've ever said this, or if you were listening:• Learn to drive, people.Also, learn which vehicles to take home with you and which ones to walk away from. You are an adult now, think for yourself. (Those ads are lying to you. Your friendly neighborhood automotive dealer, also lying to you. Politicians? Lying to you. Oh yeah, learn how to vote lol.)Addendum for the weak-minded who think I am advocating some 'driver training' program: Learning is not something you do in school once for all time. Learning how to drive is not something that someone does for you. It is a continuous process driven by YOU. Learn how to learn how to drive, and learn to drive. Keep on learning how to drive. (You -- over there -- especially you, you kind of suck at driving. LOL.)Example: Do you know where your tires are? When you are 4 hours into a 6 hour interstate journey and change lanes, do you run over the raised center line retroreflective bumpers, or do you steer between them?
  • Mike Bradley Advertising, movies and TV, manufacturing, and car culture have all made speeding and crashing the ultimate tests of manhood. Throw in the political craziness and you've got a perfect soup of destruction and costs.
  • Lou_BC Jay Leno had said that EV's would be good since they could allow the continued existence of ICE cars for enthusiasts. That sentiment makes sense. Many buyers see vehicles as a necessary appliance.