Adventures in the auto shop

September 21, 2014


This month has produced a series of adventures in auto repair. First came my young friend Sean Izatt on a Friday night with three friends to install a new exhaust system on his Subaru. The removal and installation went surprisingly well, considering that nobody had told Sean that he would need bolts to hold the thing together. We improvised and everybody learned useful things.

In my case I learned that manifold bolts aren’t rusted into the head the way they used to be, and in fact aren’t all that tight on a modern engine. So one can change an exhaust system without access to an ox-acetylene torch.

This knowledge stood me in good stead when the family Lexus started to growl soon after Sean’s visit.

With the hoist in the auto shop I didn’t seriously consider taking the car to the dealership for the job. When the Toyota parts guy confided that most dealership customers opt for off-brand exhaust systems I decided to give Walker a try, and ordered online from

In three days the exhaust system with gasket kit turned up at Wellesley Island Building Supply, the local Kinek outlet. I bought connecting bolts and washers at Baker’s Feed Store. With HST the materials for the project came to $673 CDN.

But while the pipes were in transit, Charlie arrived to collect a BMW race car he had bought in Austin Texas and had shipped to Watertown. This meant endless signal light repairs to two trucks and a trailer, as well as wiring my Tacoma with a brake controller.

When the driver backed the 1991 BMW 318 off the auto carrier it was covered with the accumulated grime of a four thousand mile ride, but it was clear that this is a quality machine built with the best of components. The paint job wouldn’t be out of place at a car show. It’s a very basic car, completely without upholstery except for the padding on the racing seats. No heater or cup holders here. No power steering, either. Engine bay space has been given over to a large straight six engine from a larger car. An electric fan pinned to the radiator pulls air through from the front. But every component seems to be the best that money can buy.

Charlie commented: “It looks like a low-priced runner built for someone with a hundred thousand-dollar car he doesn’t want to take to the track.”

Tom Stutzman and his beloved Tundra towed the Texas-plated treasure home to the farm.

The car had come with a history of coolant issues, so Charlie added a new, all-metal water pump and a new thermostat. Things didn’t go well until on Wednesday morning he found a blown fuse for the electric fan hidden under the wiring harness. With the fan in operation the coolant would stay in the radiator and not erupt like Vesuvius. A track session again became feasible, though with a very short timeline, so Charlie scrambled to get the car, my Tacoma and the trailer ready for departure Thursday evening for a long weekend at Mosport with the Porsche Club of Canada.

Early reports indicate that the BMW is a strong car, though an early report suggests that it’s hard work to drive it through the curves at Mosport without power steering.

Following three very successful days at the track the car went into the back corner of the garage and Charlie flew back to Vancouver, already designing the power steering unit he’ll install for next season.


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