No Fixed Abode: Sorry 'Bout That, Chief
The secret is out: my intrepid and long(ish)-suffering wife, Danger Girl, is the new owner of Matt Farah’s Corvette. This was my idea, for better or worse. She was all set on ordering a new Grand Sport for the 2017 autocross/trackday season, but I thought that it would be a better idea for her to experience all of the new-Vette-owner rituals (nose scraping, rocker panel ripping, mirror scratching, lurid 130mph backwards-facing exits into Mid-Ohio’s “China Beach”) with a used car. So now she has a “learner” Vette, albeit one with 421RWHP, Pfadt coilovers, a half-cage, and fixed Sparcos.
With just 32,200 miles at the time of sale, DG’s Corvette is still well out of warranty thanks to an in-service date from the (Bill) Clinton administration. (I guess I don’t have to put that qualifier in there any more, do I?) As my wife found out last week, however, having a car that’s under warranty isn’t always a blessing. In fact, sometimes it’s an outright curse.
The Corvette is the second car that DG has bought from Mr. Farah; the first was his COBB-tuned Fiesta ST. As of right now, we have no plans to get rid of the little blue Ford. It’s been a fun, practical car that does ninety-five percent of what we need from a daily driver in unobtrusive, economical fashion. The sneaky charm of the Fiesta is that after you’ve had one for a while you start to really question whether any car needs to be larger than a “supermini”. It’s comfortable enough for a cross-country drive while also being dead easy to park. Unlike the small cars of previous generations — I’m thinking ’82 Civic and that sort of thing — the Fiesta is tall enough to register with SUV drivers in traffic, while the sit-up-and-beg seating makes it feel just as spacious as a Camry. From the front seat, anyway.
There’s just one little issue with the ST as it sits right now, however; when the temperature dips below freezing, the first-gear synchro becomes a little fussy. The first time it happened, I figured Matt had put some California-friendly Redline gear oil in the transmission. No suck luck; it’s the factory fill. And the colder it gets, the less it likes first gear. Note that the second gear synchro is just fine, despite a whole season of autocrossing. The car is just a little fussy from rest.
Danger Girl doesn’t like this. She’d like Ford to fix it. So I took a look at the various forums. Yes, the Fiesta can occasionally need a first-gear synchro. I would no more trust a modern dealership to replace a synchro in a transmission than I would trust them to do my next knee replacement, but Ford’s approved procedure for bad synchros is just to swap the transmission.
(A brief digression: Isn’t it interesting how the disappearance of American manufacturing has coupled with the disappearance of American tech-college skills to turn “repairs” into “swaps”? I can still remember paying a gunsmith real money back in 1991 to wind a new spring for my Colt Gold Cup pistol. He made it out of wire stock. It wasn’t that we couldn’t buy a spring; it was that he trusted himself to make a better spring than he could get out of a catalog. Today, we swap entire transmissions to fix a synchro, because the transmissions are made in Mexico out of Chinese steel and they have an intrinsic value somewhere around that of a water-stained Pog.)
Knowing that we’d be out of town a while on our Corvette-buying mission, I encouraged DG to drop the car off early last week. The next day, we got the call that I expected: “We can’t duplicate the problem. Had three different techs drive the car. You can come pick it up.” (The odometer would later show that the Fiesta had traveled just under two miles in the dealer’s custody.) That was the good news. The bad news: they’d lost the keys to the Fiesta.
Danger Girl took her backup set to the dealer so they could move the car around while they searched for the missing keys. “I think they are setting us up to come back and steal the car,” she told me. Before you snort the way I did at the time, I should mention that Mrs. Baruth was born and raised in Albuquerque, where shit like that happens all the time. That city truly is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. In fact, to paraphrase Orwell’s O’Brien, if you want an advance vision of Mr. Obama’s open-borders American future, imagine the K-Mart in ABQ. Half-empty shelves, everything with a value over $9.99 padlocked to the wall, people shopping barefoot, women dispassionately slapping each other in the plus-sized clothing area while their slack-jawed children stare at the floor, cashiers who can’t read the error messages on their own idiot-proof cash registers, and a nightmarish aural miasma of nine different Mexican pop songs clashing with eachother in the parking-lot-slash-town-square. It makes a rural-Ohio jail cell look like a wine-tasting party in a Manhattan co-op.
Two days later, the dealer called us back. “Good news! We didn’t find your key, but we programmed a new fob for you at no charge.” DG handed the phone to me.
“You lost the keys.”
“Yes, but we got you a new fob.”
“What about the old fob? What if somebody tries to use it?”
“Oh, you can’t. It’s been deprogrammed.”
“What about the physical key in the fob? Will that still work?”
“There’s no physical key in a Fiesta fob.” This lie was delivered with such sincere conviction that for a brief, shining moment I seriously considered the idea that the service adviser was a drooling moron rather than the certainty that the service adviser considered me to be a drooling moron.
“I’m pretty sure there’s a key in the fob,” I replied. “I say this because I’ve taken apart the keys to change the batteries and you can see the key in there.”
“Well,” he breezily replied, “you still can’t start the car.”
“That may be so,” I said. “However, in the event that my wife gets in the car one day and there is a crazy person waiting for her in the back seat, I have to say that I’m going to hold you personally responsible for whatever happens to her. Rape, murder, that sort of thing. I’d take it amiss. Can I get your full name?”
“You know what,” the service rep said, after a measurable pause, “I think there is a key in that fob.”
“Why don’t you get new physical keys and swap the tumblers,” I suggested. Turns out that swapping the tumblers wasn’t enough. We got a new lock cylinder to go with our new keyfob. Took four days.
At the cashier’s desk, they gave Danger Girl a note from the tech and a stuffed bear.
“Oh, look,” I laughed, “they called you ‘Chief’. That’s very respectful of your Native American ancestry. Hey,” I cried, as DG battered my skull with her surprisingly robust fists, “take it easy there, Sacagawea!”
“YOU,” she screamed, taking a breath then delivering a right hook that wouldn’t have disgraced Wes Studi’s Magua directly to my kidney, “are never driving my Corvette!”
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As a Columbus resident who has seen the blue Fiesta zipping around around Sawmill, I look forward to possibly seeing the old Corvette as well. I have very low goals in life, so seeing a car I've seen on Youtube in real life counts as an accomplishment. #LowExpectations