Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two Blue Supras -- a USD "auto" biography -- Jake Zawlacki

Hi folks -- as an aside -- some of the students I have in my current class at the University of San Diego are among the most interesting I have ever had -- and that certainly includes Jake. We share a common passion for going to Pick and Pull junk yards, and working on cars. The following is Jake's tale of two Toyota Supras.

Jake Zawlacki
Heitmann HIST
Feb 1, 2011

The Two Blue Supras

My Auto-Biography includes the tales of two cars, both 3rd generation Toyota Supras. My whole life I’ve been interested in cars. With the upbringing of grandpas who have old Willys and T-Birds, it’s not hard to see why. As a kid I would look at the gloss black Model A, the torn apart Model T, and the Hot Rodded 41 Willys all with the same eyes of awe. I couldn’t wait to buy my first car which ended up being a 72 Dodge Dart, but that’s a whole other story. After my adventure with the Dart, I (aka my mother) thought that it was time to get a car that would be reliable and more economical.
I must admit that I was lucky in that I was able to have a project car alongside a family truck that I could use when the car was apart. Once the Dart was gone, I bought a Dark Blue 87 Toyota Supra. It was pretty rough, and I really mean rough. The interior was shot. The previous owner thought that duct tape was aesthetically pleasing to the eye, so the steering wheel, center console, and door panels were covered in it. The paint was ok, except for the dents which were rusted and the broken plastic bumpers. The engine ran, which was all that I needed, so I bought it.
That was mistake number one. If the outside of a car looks rough, assume that the internals are rough as well. Within a month of owning the car it had a blown headgasket, a problem that has plagued third generation Supras since their creation. With the headgasket blown and being in undriveable condition, I had to see if it was worth fixing. In the end, my dad and I did replace the headgasket. This leads to mistake number two; not changing the oil after replacing the headgasket. I realize that this is a horribly novice mistake when working with engines but I’ll plead the fifth. My dad swears to me that he told me to do it, but like so many other things my parents say, I must have accidentally tuned them out.
If you know anything about engines, it’s that running an engine with low or bad oil ends in a truly catastrophic failure. And that’s exactly what happened. One night after a night with friends I decided it would be fun to try a burnout in the middle of the street. Mind you I was not under the influence of anything except the desire to burn some rubber. From a dead stop I mashed the pedal to the floor to hear a loud exhaust growl which ended in a consistent knocking sound… rod knock. I had never heard it before, but it’s hard to deny what is so distinct.
However, like the phoenix, the death of this Supra was resurrected through another. Luckily, I found a pretty cheap nonrunning Light Blue 88 Supra that wasn’t too far away from me. I went and looked at it, and picked it up for $600. This car was in surprisingly good shape with a nice interior and some good paint. This was a much better starting point than the first. That summer I managed to combine the good parts of the two cars and make one good looking Supra. I rebuilt the engine, new sound system, cleaned up and new interior pieces, painted body parts that where fading, and some new wheels and tires. Although everything I just mentioned fit into one sentence, it took about 3 months and is still an ongoing project.
I’ve learned more about cars from two Toyota Supras than I had from watching others work on them. To put your own time and energy into an automobile is something special because you are rewarded by it every time you turn the ignition. This Auto-Biography may not be as interesting as a road trip or something of the sort but it is the most memorable thing that I have about automobiles. My Supra has been running ever since with only one blown headgasket since the rebuild (one too many I might add), but I drive it every day to school and back. The story of The Two Blue Supras may be done but my Auto-Biography will be one that goes on as long as my own engine is still running.

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