All’s Well That Ends Well

Posted on September 25, 2009 by

Oregon

Sorry for the long delay in updating the blog.  We’ve had lot’s of stuff happen and not much in the way of internet access over the past few days.  Anyway, this is the blog entry I did not want to write. The good news is that we are up and running and putting some miles on the new engine. The bad news is that I got taken by a con artist.

Here’s what happened…

After getting lot’s of recommendations for VW shops in the Portland area (thanks!), I called pretty much every one of them to see what they could do. Most folks could rebuild what I had, but weren’t sure when they could get started or when it would be ready. I did more research and ended up calling every other shop in the greater Portland area and found the same story – nobody has a rebuilt bus engine ready to go and pretty much none of them could start on mine right away – except one.

Enter Joseph “The Hawaiian.”  He sounded like he knew his VW’s and I took my long block down to his shop. There were two or three VW’s out front and a cherry ’56 oval window Beetle with a 2100cc performance motor inside the shop – his ride. We talked for a while and he seemed to be on the ball, seemed to know his stuff. Enough that I pulled out my motor and decided to have him rebuild it.  Ready in a couple of days.

Two days go by. Angela and Bode go to the OMSI – twice. I adjust my rear spring plates and splines – more greasy filth and more effort than I thought (but worth it.) Joseph calls – the engine is ready. We boogie on down to the shop to pick it up.

“Here ya go!” says Joseph.

“Umm.  That’s not my engine.”

“What do you mean?  That’s your engine.  It’s all ready to go!”

“So, first of all I know the serial number and that’s not it. Second, I drive a bus – that’s a bug motor. No mounting points.”

He proceeds to hem and haw. Well, your motor is at ‘the other shop.’ Later, it was “Actually, I don’t have it anymore. This one will work fine – just go buy an adapter plate.”   etc. etc. etc. I actually listen to him and consider taking the thing. I’ve haven’t got many options – I don’t have an engine – I’m from out of town – I’m perfect for scamming.

I tell him I’m going to the bank to get some cash, and take off to collect my thoughts and go visit a few other shops nearby and see what they have to say. The first shop says, ‘Yeah that Hawaiian guy. I know him. He comes in and buys stuff. I didn’t know he had a shop.’  I ask about the mounting plate and they say it’s a terrible idea and guaranteed to wreck my oil pump and leak oil quickly. I tell them what just happened and they suggested I go back with a baseball bat and demand my engine back and get the hell out of there. If that doesn’t do the trick, call the cops.

I’m not exactly the physically imposing type and threatening people isn’t really my style, so I didn’t head to the sporting goods store for a bat. I go to another shop.

This time I don’t have to do any explaining. About 10 seconds into the story, the shop owner says with a knowing smirk, “Yeah – the Hawaiian guy.  He’s a scam artist. He rips people off on Craigslist and The Samba. He spray paints engines and calls them rebuilt. He’s an idiot. I bet he talked a good game – didn’t he?”

I finish my story and they just grin. Heard it a few times already. People buy crap from Joseph and then come to them to get it fixed or start over. That 2100cc engine in his showpiece? They built it – not him. They suggest a gun instead of a baseball bat. They also tell me I can come into their shop and use all their stuff an they will teach me how to rebuild my engine – for free. Finally, back to the real awesome air-cooled VW folks.

I go back to Joseph’s shop and try to use reasoning and logic to no avail. While standing over the engine he’s trying to push off on me, it’s obvious that there are three case studs missing from this one. I imagine if I turned it over, there would be more missing. If you don’t know, these are what actually hold the whole thing together. There’s no way you should even attempt to start an engine without these. He says no biggie, just go buy some more and install them myself. Christin suggests there’s a workmanship issue here and he just goes off.  We’re the bad guys. I told Joseph I would be back the next day and I wanted my engine back – whatever he had – and he agreed.

So now I’m in a quandry – I know I’m never seeing my engine again. I go back to Christin’s place and call every shop again and see what they have and what they can do. Same story – if I’ve got an engine, they can rebuild it, otherwise go look for a brand new motor or buy another bus. Turns out, one of the most recommended (and most expensive) shops has a BRAND NEW (like, no serial number) engine in stock and ready to go. Brazilian magnesium case and all-German components. Basically screwed, I head down to go open my wallet and do what maybe I should have done all along.

I get a message from Joseph right before I walk in to buy the new engine – he wants $xxx for his time or I’ll never see my engine again. Nice touch, douchebag.

I buy the new long block. I buy new dual carbs. Time to start over. Christin stays up with me until 2 am to get the thing put together and installed.

The next morning, we drive down to the new shop and they check it out and give me some great instructions: don’t do anything. Put 500 miles on the engine and come right back here. That’s what we’re doing right now.

The jackass that scammed me out of my engine – he’s still got it. I walked away form the whole thing without picking up a baseball bat. He didn’t get my cash, but he got my engine. If you’re buying a rebuilt bus engine in Portland or thereabouts, it may be mine. I wouldn’t recommend it.

In the end, we got what we needed. A reliable brand new new engine from a respected local VW shop.  A wake-up call that not all “VW folks” are as amazing as the rest (it’s not all peace, love and hippie beads.)  Lots of new friends around Portland that we can call to hang out, dinner, a haircut, a beer, or whatever we need.  Not what we were expecting – but exactly what we expect from now on. Keep Portland Weird.

DSC_3938

One monkey don’t stop the show.

-Willie Nelson

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Filed Under: Oregon

Comments (24)

 

  1. greg says:

    Ugh. Bummer. It is impressive that you can let something like that slide off your back (I couldn’t), but maybe that’s part of being on the road–you kind of have to let things go.

    Hoping for smoother sailing as you continue the voyage.

  2. elliottjohnson says:

    Do you know Joseph’s Samba userid? It would be good to leave some feedback about this as others might find it enlightening.

    Good to hear you’re not letting this schuckster (and yes I can think of worse things to call him) ruin your impression of Portland or derail your adventure.

    All the best,
    Elliott

  3. Bob Peak says:

    I guess the lesson here is to always go where the recommendations point you because the auto ‘industry’ as a whole is full of scammers and cons. In fact I’d put that at around the 80 percentile range.

    I’d also recommend you call the cops on this guy so he doesn’t keep doing it to others – have them show up with you and ask for the engine with your serial number. Your blog also is a record you own that engine. If you like your new engine you could always get some money back for the old from a good shop.

    I’ve been a VW ‘player’ since ’66 and this kind of thing curdles my blood too.

  4. danielle says:

    So – you are going to add to what allows this thief to keep on with his business? No phone call to BBB or something? No call to the police to see what they can advise?????
    No wonder he stays in business if everyone jsut walks away and complains but doesnt do anything about it.

  5. Sorry to hear about that low life hawaiian punk, give me more info on the low life and I will post it on SAMBA. It is jackasses like him who gives us hawaiian transplants a bad name. Karma will catch up with him.

  6. I posted something on SAMBA.

    Hopefully some of the local “Hawaiian” boys in the Portlalnd area knows of this punk and will pay him a visit and use the bat on him.

  7. Mark Bruno says:

    I agree that the authorities should be alerted about the Hawaiian guy swapping out and keeping your engine. You should be able to file your complaint since you have the serial number of the original engine.

    On another note, I am glad to see that you were able to continue your trip with the new engine. It looks really clean and new in the above photo.

    The twin carbs should aspirate the engine better than the older single carb.

    Mark in Fremont, CA

  8. Ed says:

    As a Portland resident, I’m really sorry to hear that you got ripped off here in our town. I would ask that you tell us the shop name, or even give us an idea of where he is in town so we can spread the word about his shady operation.

    I hope this is the low point of your trip – safe travels!

  9. Bob Skewis says:

    Bad story . . . lessons learned. Should at least report this to the police, though.

    Jason, that is an awesome engine . . . are those Weber carbs? Those babys will push you down the road of the World!

    You can come back to weird Austin now, it has started raining again and the landscape is green again . . . just not as green as Portland.

    Hook ‘em!

  10. Marc & Pam says:

    Sorry to hear this story. Maybe there’s a silver lining, your new engine should give you many carefree miles ahead. There are so many con artist types in the auto industry. I think you were right to take the high road and move on. Look forward and enjoy life.

  11. Chuck says:

    I am truly sorry for your troubles But You cannot let this
    just Be.

    He is a thief You say you like the VW comunity but let him live amoung us like the virous he is.

    You can act Tell everyone his name the shop location .

    Heaven forbid I visit my sister in Portland and need some work Or worse ( cause I will act if harmed) I buy something from someone in Portland.

    AS you have left it I will not be buying anything on Samba that comes from there.

    I know about how it feels to just have to take it.

    But you do not have to continue Just post this scumbags name.

    Chuck

  12. Christin says:

    Here is the link to “Douche Bag’s” ad the Samba.

    http://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifieds/detail.php?id=826871

    User ID – islandcruiser2 ??????

    The name on the ad is Travis, which may be his partner in crime that was there when we dropped Jason’s engine off. I dunno…

    Here are his Craigslist ads –
    http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/pts/1381633988.html

    and

    http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/pts/1382549871.html

    Flame on!

  13. jason says:

    Alright, well I prefer to live and let live, but the cat is out of the bag now.

    His shop is called Promotive Automotive
    5329 SE 80TH AVE # C in Portland

    his number: 971-222-8942 – joseph

  14. Mark Bruno says:

    Here is another link of a complaint against islandcruzer2 from Samba:

    http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=357010

    I have always heard that for every incident that is reported, there are at least 10 or more additional incidents that go unreported.

    –Mark

  15. russell williams says:

    I hope that you ended up calling the better business people or the police or someone about that piece of scum, or you will enable him to continue doinh exactly what he did to you……

  16. Dougie Fresh says:

    Wow! Who needs an adventure in Mexico or Central America, when you’ve got your own crazy adventures right here in the USA! Sorry to hear of your slight misfortune, but glad you are back up and running again.

    I agree with all the other posters…you MUST report this guy to the cops and the BBB. He must be stopped.

    Good luck and godspeed on your next leg. I’ll send you my Washington and British Columbia recommendations soon.

  17. angela says:

    In an ideal world we would have seen this mess all the way through. Fortunately, this guy didn’t get any of our money. He does have our old engine, and potentially we could get it back. But, what would we do with an old engine? We live in a camper van, and we have to get out of Portland.

    In reality, this bus is our home, and Jason’s priority was getting it running for us. Without an engine, we were completely reliant on the kindness of others. We couldn’t even get to a store w/o bumming a ride.

    We’ll do what we can online, but we must move on. And speaking of, we stopped to give a guy a jump and gas today. 1/100th of our car karma debt. Go Jas! thanks for the new engine.

  18. Tyler says:

    amazing story..but a happy ending, expensive, but happy.
    I remember reading about this”hawwain guy” before. did know he was in portland, now I know.

  19. Taylor says:

    Bummer, dude! That really sucks and I’m not the angry type, either, but I’d have gone for the bat. Cricket bat, if they’d had one…you know, for style.

    Anyway, I think you ought to give out some props for the shop who said they’d teach you for free. That, too, is karmic!

  20. julie says:

    19 comments and not one haiku?? here you go:

    3 cats on leashes
    no mahalo in portland
    but the hair looks good!

    xo

  21. Shawn says:

    Glad to see you & the fam are back on the road!

  22. PDX says:

    HELLO EVERYONE!
    WHO KNEW!
    I TRIED TO HELP PEOPLE BY POSTING ON CRAIGSLIST ABOUT HIM FEW TIMES.
    JOSEPH OR “KOLANI” ALMOST KILL ME 2 YEARS AGO. I PAID HIM TO DO MY BRAKES AND I GOT THE PARTS FOR HIM ALSO…I WAS SO GLAD TO GET TO KNOW JOSEPH AND I TOLD MYSELF HOW LUCKY I AM TO FINE SOMEONE THAT KNOWS ABOUT VW.
    ANYWAY I GAVE HIM MY PARTS FOR BRAKES AND CASH!
    HE START TALKING HOW GOOD HE IS AND HOW HE BRING DOWN MOTOR BY HIM SELF…BLAH BLAH
    SO I TOLD HIM THANK YOU PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHEN EVER IS READY FOR ME TO PICK UP MY TOY.
    HE CALLED ME DAY AFTER, OK COME PICK UP YOUR CAR.
    OH WOW NICE I GO PICK UP MY CAR… OK TIME TO START MY CAR. YOU KNOW, DIDN’T SOUND LIKE MY CAR FOR SOME REASON BUT MAYBE IT’S JUST ME…ANYWAY I DRIVE ONE BLOCK CAR DIE ON ME…I WAS NOT VERY FAR AND I ASKED HIM CAN YOU HELP ME START THE CAR. WHEN I PICKED UP MY CAR ORGINALLY I DIDN’T LOOK UNDER MY HOOD BECAUSE I ONLY HAD MY BRAKES WORKED ON NOT MY ENGINE. HE CAME AND LOOKED UNDER MY HOOD AND STARTS PLAYING WITH MY CARB. I SAID TO HIM “HOLD ON THIS IS NOT MY CARB”. AND WHY WOULD HE RUSH TO ADJUST MY CARB? I ONLY HAD MY BRAKES WORKED ON!
    IT WAS 2 DAYS BEFORE 4TH OF JULY 2 YEARS AGO
    I BARELY MADE IT HOME, THE CAR DIED AT EVERY LIGHT AND STOP SIGN.
    I CALLED HIM THE NEXT DAY.
    HE SAID OKAY BRING THE CAR BACK SOMEHOW AND I WILL FIX IT FOR YOU
    THE SAME OLD STORY HERE WE AGAIN!
    NO BRAKES, WEIRD SOUND FROM MY AXEL.
    I WAS GOING DOWNHILL AND I WAS HAPPY THAT CAR WAS GOING TO MAKE IT TO HIS SHOP… THEN MY LEFT REAR WHEEL WITH DRUM CAME OFF!! MY WHEEL WAS MOVING PAST ME FASTER THAN MY CAR!
    I HAD TO STOP THE CAR WITH MY EMERGENCY BRAKES! I ALMOST KILLED MYSELF AND OTHERS!!
    HE HAD TRIED TO STEAL MY AXEL BUT COULDN’T, THEN HE FORGOT TO PUT A SAFTY NUT BACK! HE NEVER FIXED MY BRAKES I NOTICED!
    HE ALMOST KILLED ME AND I WANTED TO KILL HIM!
    SO I KNOW I AM MISSING ROCKERS, MY GOOD CARB, MY AIR FILTER AND TRANSMISSION WASN’T MINE…HE DID ALL THIS IN ONE DAY FOR HIS OWN BENIFIT!
    MY CAR WAS WORTH 4000 WITH ALL THE GOODIES BUT I SOLD IT FOR 900 BECAUSE OF ALL THE DAMAGE HE DID!
    THERE IS ALOT MORE BUT I NEVER WENT BACK THERE AND KNEW I WASN’T THE ONLY ONE!
    I’M GLAD WE CAN ALL HELP EACH OTHER TO BRING DOWN A THEIF LIKE HIM!!!
    SORRY THIS HAPPENED TO YOU IN OREGON BUT NOT ALL OREGONIANS ARE BAD LIKE THIS GUY…THERE’S ALOT OF GOOD HERE!

  23. Boquete says:

    Thank you for the entertaining read! Alright playtime is over and back to school work.

  24. Pop says:

    If the engine pictured above is in your bus, a couple of issues I observe…

    1 Your mechanic installed a generator type fuel pump with the alternator. It’ll work OK, but if and when it fails you will find it “trapped” under the alternator. The correct pump for the alternator is tilted to the left so it can be removed with the alternator in place. The alternator type pump reqires a 1/4″ longer push rod too.
    2 Your Kadron carburetors are happiest with 2 PSI fuel pressure and should have a pressure regulator installed. Stock VW fuel pumps deliver around 8 PSI.

    Travel safe! Pop

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