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.
One monkey don’t stop the show.
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