Question of the Day: Worst Car Hack You've Ever Seen?

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Over the weekend I got a call from a friend who'd just bought a slightly funky early-90s Tercel for cheap. "It's a nice car, only something's wrong with the radio. Can you take a look?" I have a stash of a few factory Toyota cassette decks sitting around- the remnants of my City Tow buy/fix/sell Tercel period- and Toyota was considerate enough to use a slick 4-screw mounting setup for their radio mounts during this era, so what the hell. "Sure, bring it over," I told her. "Probably take ten minutes to get it right." Famous Last Words...


I knew I was in trouble when I saw the upholstery tape used as trim around the fritzy JVC deck, but even then I was unprepared for the ensuing Rube Goldberg nightmare that followed when I pulled off the bezel; it was like opening your fridge to grab a beer and finding a rotting raccoon carcass crawling with maggots in the crisper drawer. Plywood. Lots of plywood. Plumber's tape. Scotch tape used for insulation. Drywall screws galore, including several 2-inchers screwed through the body and into the guts of the stereo. It goes without saying that the whole mess was powered by a lead running straight to the battery (unfused), with the original factory harness slashed randomly and dangling in the midst of the mess, its own hot wires straining eagerly for the nearest ground. The factory speakers were bypassed and about 50 feet of new wires run a complicated path under the carpeting to speakers wedged behind the back seat cushions. So then I had to shoot several precious weekend hours through the head, tearing out Rube's handiwork, fixing the factory wiring, etc, because the car's owner was a friend who'd done me a lot of favors over the years, plus now the Car Gods wanted to punish me for thinking all Toyota stereo installations are easy. And you can't blow off the punishments of the Car Gods.

Illustration for article titled Question of the Day: Worst Car Hack You've Ever Seen?

All in all, not that bad a previous-owner car hack job, certainly seen worse (e.g., gas tank replaced with 5-gallon can belted into back seat, tiny space-saver spares on all four corners of a car driven that way from Seattle to San Francisco, etc.), but it got me to thinking about the whole genre of dangerous/stupid car hacks (distinct from yet related to stupid/dangerous house hacks). The evil beauty, their insights into the fallibility of the human intellect, the rage you feel when you realize you've almost been offed by one.

So now it's time for you, faithful readers, to share your no-doubt-amazing wealth of car-hack stories. Maybe they're hacks you inherited from a previous owner, maybe they're hacks you ran across in the vehicles of others, or maybe they're hacks you perpetrated yourself and now have the ferrous nodules to share with us. Bonus points for anything involving Warsaw Pact vehicles, of course.

Confound Turbocharging [internal]



My friend's first car was a mid-80's Corolla with a ragtop. The ragtop was more duct tape than rag, so we called it the "solar panel." He bought a new head unit for it, and asked me to help him install it. Apparently a standard single-space DIN head unit will not fit in the factory slot in this car. I was young and we were losing light, so I was getting desperate. There were a couple of metal beams that were too narrowly spaced to accomodate the CD player, so I asked if I could remove one. He gave the ok, so I bent it back and forth till it broke. Great! the head unit went in, bolted up and everything worked great. Till I tried to reattach the console's plastic outer molding. That was when I realized that the metal bit i broke off was the mounting point for the left side of the console. Oops. I made a shim out of a big mac wrapper and wedged it between the console and the trans tunnel, and told him "under no circumstances are you ever to remove this big mac wrapper, EVER! Do you understand me?" Of course the thing shorted out and fried his electrical system a few months later, and then a few months after that he totalled the thing, so I don't feel so bad, but still. That was my ghettoest ghetto-rig ever. (in my defense I was like 15 at the time, and it was the first head unit I'd ever installed.)