Five months ago, I bought a 1993 Lexus ES300 with an ultra-rare factory five speed for $600. Here's the car's first drive after coming home, and it was a doozy.
By doozy, I do not mean 'resembling in any way shape or form a Duesenberg.' I mean, I wasn't sure if we (me and my buddy Jon Harper) would be riding home on a flatbed. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Yesterday, after a months-long process that did indeed involve the Gawker legal team, I was finally able to insure and register the Lexus. While I was standing in line at the DMV, I got a text saying there was free beer and a Group B Audi at my buddy's shop in New Jersey. Naturally, the moment I got license plates for the Lexus, I screwed 'em on and drove down to pick Jon and head over to Union City.
Except, uh, hm.
So the Lexus didn't start? It didn't bother me, because the Lexus is my second car. I could jump it with my Baja Bug. I have never experienced the luxury of owning two vehicles.
Well, jump start number one went well, until I stalled the Lexus and needed another jump to get it going again. Jump number two went well, until, uh, another stall. Jump number three was more problematic.
By this point, the Lexus refused to start, even with jumper cables on. I held the key to the right, and the ES300 actually started to kill the engine of the Baja. My old Volkswagen barely has enough electricity for one car; it definitely doesn't have enough for two.
Eventually I managed to flag down a very nice New York Public Library worker who gave me a more successful jump, and I started the Lexus' first (short) road trip.
Photo Credit: Jon Harper
This was unwise for one main reason: when I bought the Lexus, I was aware it had something of an overheating problem. You see, it has a strong aversion to coolant, and however much you put in, the Lexus finds a way to get it out. Since I am an idiot, I didn't do anything but dump some coolant in the reservoir, which has a hole in it. By the time I had made it to pick up Jon, smoke was very much pouring out from under the hood.
Who cares? New Jersey's not that far.
So off we went, and as you can see in the video above, things could have gone worse. Despite the almost complete lack of a clutch, despite the whine from all the belts, despite the thin smoke of burning coolant whispering away under the hood, the car felt surprisingly solid. We certainly didn't take things easy on the car. First we went through stop-and-go traffic in the hot Holland Tunnel, then I repeatedly ran the three-liter V6 up the revs. I can't tell you if I knocked on the redline, since the tach doesn't work. I believe I got close.
Photo Credit: Jon Harper
Amazingly, the car made it through the evening without skipping a beat, though it drained itself of one and a half fills of coolant and alerted me of a new problem of the engine whining and dropping revs when the steering wheel is cranked all the way over at a stop.
It's hard to explain the pleasure driving a car in spite of itself. I have every intention of fixing the car's various problems, but for now, I get to enjoy the car as a total beater. How do you describe the joy, the surprise! when your car starts up without needing a jump start? How do you explain the humor of discovering that your car has a moonroof that you'd forgotten about? Parking on the street without a care about scratches, bumps, or dents?
The car's going to get diagnosed by a more capable mechanic than I on Tuesday. We'll see if it makes it there.
Thanks to Jon Harper for the photos!