Home » I Got A Free Civic Doing a Favor For a Clown And Flipped It For $2000

I Got A Free Civic Doing a Favor For a Clown And Flipped It For $2000

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I’m an auto enthusiast, and my biggest fetish is cheap cars. Sure, Lamborghinis are cool, but so are most cars that cost $400,000. I’m obsessed with the rusty runner that cost $200, or a forgotten luxury barge for under $3000. But you know what’s better than cheap? Free.

I’m so obsessed with cars of all stripes that I’m always telling my friends I want their useless-to-them rides. “When you’re selling this thing, drop me a line,” I’ll say, usually while leaning on the bonnet of a mate’s hooptie. Twice now, that’s netted me a free car.

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This time around, it was a nifty little Honda Civic. It cost me zero dollars, but it did come with a cost. I had to do a clown a favor.

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Meet Murderclown the Sane. I’ve worked with him on a great many projects over the years. Now, though, he needed my help. He’d bought a used truck that lacked a working stereo. He’d give me his slightly-battered Honda Civic in return for some help with a head unit install.

As a big electronics guy, installing a head unit is a piece of piss for me, so I readily agreed. The job was an easy one, and took no more than an hour or two. Pleased with the results, Murderclown happily handed me the keys to a 1997 Honda Civic.

I’d coveted this vehicle for some time. I knew the car was in fairly good nick, mechanically speaking, as I’d done a number of small jobs on the Civic during Murderclown’s ownership. I removed the dodgy aftermarket car alarm, replaced the radiator, and helped replace a broken wheel stud. He’d had the CV joints replaced, so that was a major item I didn’t have to worry about.

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The car was rough, but drove well. I helped push it over the 300,000 km mark.

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At the same time, the car wasn’t in perfect condition by any means. As the work vehicle of a busy clown, the interior was full of empty energy drink cans, show flyers, and numerous fire-eating implements. The Civic had also taken a nasty sideswipe in recent months, and Murderclown reported it had started overheating again. Oh, and the tires were shot to pieces. Clowns aren’t big on preventative maintenance.

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My plan for the car was simple. As neat as the Civic was, I didn’t have a lot of need for it long-term. Instead, I decided to whip it into shape, drive it for a few months, and then send it on to an eager new owner. It was a base model, with the D16 engine, so it wasn’t anything too special. However, Civics are fairly rare in Australia, and they’re still beloved by the JDM set. I figured I could get a few grand for a battered EK model, no problem. At the low price of free, I could spend quite a bit of cash and still come out ahead.

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The car needed a deep clean, but it came with a few coins to feed into the car wash. I used every last one.

First on the agenda was to clean the car. All the trash went straight in the bin. I then did a major vacuum to get as much out of the carpets as possible. Then, I doused all the carpets in the car with a hefty dose of dishwashing liquid, and then sprayed them with a hose. Drastic and reckless, but it worked fine.

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This was before I learned the toilet brush trick for cleaning carpets.

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Gettin’ sudsy.

I was careful enough that nothing electronic got wet, and I used the rubber plugs in the footwells to drain them out. Sounds stupid, but this was a hooptie and it worked just fine.

Yes, I know. A proper job would have meant using a wet-and-dry vac, but who has the money?

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This was a problem.

Next up was solving the overheating issue. This was a real headscratcher because I’d dropped in a new radiator for Murderclown just one year before. Thus, I checked everything else on the car first. Thermostat? Fine. Radiator cap? Fine. Hoses? Fine. And yet it always overheated when running at highway speeds, even on cool days.

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Eventually, there was nothing else to check. I called Murderclown for a chat to get some background. I’m paraphrasing, but it went something like this.

“Hey, remember when I put that new radiator in your Civic last year?” I asked.

“Yeah! Worked great,” he responded.

“You know how I put in water just for the short term, but told you to replace it with coolant once you were sure there were no leaks?” I asked.

“Yep!” he said.

“Did you do that?” I asked. “Nope!” he exclaimed, with all the joy of a clown on the rise.

Okay, so the radiator was probably clogged to hell then. I relented and spent $100 on a new radiator. I got one with different size outlets than stock, so I had to massage the thing into place, but it worked out in the end. The car ran fine, with the temperature needle right in the middle of the gauge. Perfect.

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I had to gouge out the inside of this hose to get it to fit, but it worked in the end. A bodge, for sure, but a valid one.
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Someone left a full drink from Carl’s Jr on my spoiler one night. No idea why.
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Perfect temps, out on the highway, with a full tank of gas. Bliss.

Next on the agenda were tires. I found a local shop selling retreads for $50 a pop. Some rail against them, but new retreads were a mighty upgrade from the ancient bald husks this thing was already riding on. All up, with fitting and alignment, it cost me about $300.

The car drove great. The alignment shop had trued up the wheels relatively well. However, perhaps as a result of the earlier sideswipe knocking everything out of whack, there was a problem. The steering wheel was annoyingly a few degrees off-center. I ended up just getting under the car and adjusting the tie rod ends myself to true it up manually. It was fine.

Final work involved dealing with the damage from the sideswiping incident. I pulled off a bunch of trim, and used my feet to kick out the massive dent in the side of the car. It didn’t restore it to anything like its original condition, but it helped a little. As a last touch, I threw on an unbroken doorhandle sourced from a junkyard, and threw the thing on Facebook Marketplace for $2500.

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The interior cleaned up real nice!

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I managed to undo some of the damage to the driver’s side panels, and got a better sale price as a result.

I got a lead pretty quickly. Some guy came round, looked inside, and seemed to like what he saw. He explained that he wanted the car as a first project for his son, and I said that sounded rad. He asked me to start the engine, and nodded at the respectable idle of the single-cammer. That was enough, apparently; he didn’t even ask to drive the car. He did try a few of the usual tricks, asking for my lowest price and listing off all the flaws with the car. I told him to make an offer. He offered $2000, I said “Great!” and accepted a nice wad of cash.

The deal was still a little weird; he explained he wouldn’t be able to take the car immediately as he’d driven alone to inspect it. With the car parked on a public road, I explained it was his now and he could simply come back to get it whenever he liked. He seemed confused, but eventually seemed to accept this reality. The car ended up sitting there for another two weeks; I can only assume he was the one who came back to get it.

I’m not in the car flipping business, it’s not really my game. However, here, I had an opportunity. I got to restore a decent Japanese starter car to running condition and make out with a little cash to boot. I profited to the tune of $1500 or so by the time I was done, and some kid got a rad Civic to begin their own wrenching journey. Oh, and Murderclown got his stereo. Winners all around!

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Image credits: Lewin Day

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Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
2 months ago

Nice! I feel it’s my duty to add jokes from my favorite show ever, Seinfeld. Which I’ve seen hundreds, no…THOUSANDS of times; just like riding in a Cadillac!
“You’re livin in the past, man…you’re hung up on some clown from the 60’s man!”
“BOZO? You don’t know who BOZO is? How can you call yourself a clown?”
“Eric? What kind of name is that for a clown?”
“If your name is “Bozo”, do you really need “the Clown”? Are you going to be mistaken for “Bozo the District Attorney?”

Last edited 2 months ago by Freelivin2713
ClutchAbuse
ClutchAbuse
2 months ago

This is the hard hitting auto journalism I come here for.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
2 months ago

That was a great read and I can only hope to have a headline like that!

I had an acquaintance with one of those Civics, number plate ASB 04T so naturally we named it the ‘Ass Boat’

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
2 months ago

installing a head unit is a piece of piss for me

What exactly is a piece of piss? I could see it up here in Canada where it gets really cold but in Australia?

Steve Harris
Steve Harris
2 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Canoehead

According to the internets, Piece of piss is 1940s RAF slang, and Piece of cake is 1930’s America.

In the UK you hear piece of piss a lot more, but people use both.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago

You mention fire-eating implements, then fail to show them or the actual clown using them?

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

Thanks, man
you rock!

Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
2 months ago

Ii hate to be that guy (not really) but unless it was built for sale IN JAPAN, it’s not ‘JDM.’ Japanese Domestic Market cars are built in Japan, and intended to be sold in Japan. Being right hand drive it might be, but I’d be willing to bet that that car was built for one export market or another. Yes, I am a pedant. But words mean things, and details matter.

Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
2 months ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

LOL I am a pedant. But I didn’t mean to sound harsh and I apologize if I did.

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