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

Clown Car Civic Copy
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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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OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
3 months ago

My mother-in-law used to be a professional clown and… she drove a Geo Metro with the vanity plate “IBCLOWN”. When people would asked me what it was like to have a MiL that was a clown my stock reply was “it’s great because we have entertainment for the kids’ birthday parties. The only problem is that when we want to get a bunch of people from one place to another and we’re trying to figure out carpooling she always pops up and says, ‘I’ll drive! That way we only need one car.'”

Uncle Cholmondeley
Uncle Cholmondeley
3 months ago

Love this story!

When I visited Australia in the early ’90s, several of the car owners I met said they would just use water in the cooling system (this was in Perth) — no need for antifreeze.

Now I wonder if they just didn’t know what was in the system (or were like Murderclown, cheerfully saying, “she’ll do”), or was WA warmer than SA so they didn’t have to worry, or what.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
3 months ago

You still need corrosion inhibitors. Plain tap water can do a number on the alloy cooling system parts to, due to all the calcium and other minerals that can be present.

A couple southern areas of Australia see below-freezing temps overnight during winter, but in general we don’t need a particularly concentrated antifreeze coolant here.

Ben
Ben
3 months ago

I’m not sure whether it’s better or worse that Murderclown calls himself “the Sane”. 🙂

All up, with fitting and alignment, it cost me about $300.

Out of curiosity, how much would it have cost to get proper tires for it? I wouldn’t expect brand new tires for an old Civic to be that expensive either.

Piston Slap Yo Mama
Piston Slap Yo Mama
3 months ago

Please clarify: Does Murderclown specialize in entertaining people … or murdering them?
If the latter, how do I contact him?

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
3 months ago

That clown is freaking me out. Seriously.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
3 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

My house is red brick, so that second pic is extremely disconcerting to me.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
3 months ago

So is mine. Now I guess it’s time for some outside renovation. Or a bad ass electric fence?

Edit. Shit I forgot about the photo. I hope that bastard does not have a brother, or we’re all screwed.

Last edited 3 months ago by Col Lingus
Tasteful Noodles
Tasteful Noodles
3 months ago

I read the headline, and it was so strange that I legitimately asked myself if I was dreaming.

Then I read the article and had to ask myself AGAIN. What a fun article!

Michael Rogers
Michael Rogers
3 months ago

Let’s have an article where we get to list, in the comments, all (or some) of the different free cars we’ve gotten over the years and some of the stories associated with them.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago
Reply to  Michael Rogers

With this crowd, that would be quite entertaining!

EXL500
EXL500
3 months ago
Reply to  Michael Rogers

My Dad gave me his 1971 Hornet Sportabout because he felt guilty about letting me buy the Fiat 128 SL that decomposed within the year (I was 19).

We (the many friends I made in Pittsburgh) had a ball in this car, but, through no fault of my own, every panel was dented when I gave it back to my Dad when I moved to NYC three years later. We even had a bicyclist hit the car head on (the car was full of friends, and in park at a long light) who was okay but left a dent across the hood and roof of the car.

I t was apparently bought by a collector and wound up at the AACA in Hershey.

Last edited 3 months ago by EXL500
Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
3 months ago
Reply to  Michael Rogers

Sounds like an interesting subject for a future Autopian Asks. 😉

Michael Rogers
Michael Rogers
3 months ago

I feel so seen 🙂

Last edited 3 months ago by Michael Rogers
ClutchAbuse
ClutchAbuse
3 months ago
Reply to  Michael Rogers

The only free vehicle I ever got was a 1984 KLR600. It was in great shape having been in a garage since the early 2000s but had a nasty electrical problem that just wouldn’t go away no matter how many new parts I threw at it. I finally let it go when my first kid was born.

I still got a 1000 bucks for the thing! Blew my friggin mind.

Jdoubledub
Jdoubledub
3 months ago

How common is using retreaded tires on a passenger vehicle in Australia? Seems like they are only used commonly on commercial vehicles in the US.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
3 months ago
Reply to  Jdoubledub

In Canada, we cannot get retreads for passenger vehicles. At least in Ontario.

TheDrunkenWrench
TheDrunkenWrench
3 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

I’ll add that you can’t run retreads in a steer axle position on the commercial stuff either. I don’t think just here in Ontario though, pretty sure that one is country-wide.

Jdoubledub
Jdoubledub
3 months ago

Makes a lot of sense! Wouldn’t want to lose steering function due to a failure. Probably explains why I’ve only seen lost treads on the back of trailers.

Jdoubledub
Jdoubledub
3 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

I did a quick Google before posting and there was a US company advertising passenger vehicle retreads so there must be some market for it down here.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
3 months ago
Reply to  Jdoubledub

It’s not particularly common any more, but was definitely a thing 30 odd years ago.

My first Valiant had retreads. First wet day and it kept doing 180’s on every roundabout no matter what you did, so they went straight in the bin!

Tim Beamer
Tim Beamer
3 months ago

This gives me hope for humanity.

Sklooner
Sklooner
3 months ago

Someone lost their squirting rose
There’s his red nose on the ground
No one’s seen his painted smile
He’s been gone for quite a while
Something bad happened to a clown

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
3 months ago

In a land where everything is trying to eat you or poison you, somehow “Murderclown the Sane” makes perfect sense.

PresterJohn
PresterJohn
3 months ago

Legendary headline even for a site that employs Torch. Honestly the car looks great compared to what it was. I agree it sounds like a great first project.

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
3 months ago

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

There was a time when a headline like this would have immediately captured my attention due to its absurdity. It is amazing that after two years of The Autopian my strange-headline-o-meter has been recalibrated to a point where that headline didn’t even faze me.

That the clown in question is called “Murderclown the Sane” was a bit unexpected, though.

Segador
Segador
3 months ago

“Puzzled Autopian Graphics Designer Asked to Combine Images of Murderclown, Honda Civic, Carl’s Jr, and Toilet Brush”

Join today!

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago

Shouldn’t Murderclown be driving a Z3 coupe?

Josh O
Josh O
3 months ago

Perfect Comment!

Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green
3 months ago

I can’t resist:

“As the work vehicle of a busy clown, the interior was full of empty energy drink cans, show flyers, and numerous fire-eating implements”

Maybe in Australia, but in the US, I’d bet on finding handcuffs, ball gags, and empty ether bottles…

RataTejas
RataTejas
3 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Green

Don’t forget the shovel. And a towel. Everyone always needs a towel.

AJ
AJ
3 months ago
Reply to  RataTejas

Don’t forget your towel! That said, it would be more relevant if the car were a Ford Prefect . . .

NephewOfBaconator
NephewOfBaconator
3 months ago

Man, my first car was one of these. Ok, so mine was a ’96, but otherwise the same car and color (and it even ended up having similar damage on the right side).

These days whenever I see one I’m instantly transported to my college days and miss that thing. And speaking of clown car … you can squeeze a surprising number of college kids into one of these.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
3 months ago

That has a Ted Bundy ring to it

Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green
3 months ago

I would have thought that the hardest part about cleaning a clown’s car would be removing the blood stains…

TheDrunkenWrench
TheDrunkenWrench
3 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan Green

I figured it was getting the rest of the bloody clowns out!

Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green
3 months ago

I think if you do a favor for a clown he now owns your soul…

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

Murderclown sounds like a swell fellow. I love clowns.

I’ve contemplated going to clown school myself and becoming one. I already have an electrical engineering degree and know how to make all kinds of cool clown toys, including ridiculous electric vehicles that could be used for clowning around.

Glad to see you save another well-built cheap car from the crusher too.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Toecutter the Clown certainly sounds like he would fit into the same world as Murderclown the Sane, so you wouldn’t even need to change your name!

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
3 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

How badly would the nose hurt your coefficient of drag?

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  OrigamiSensei

Not anything noticeable. Because my vehicles are enclosed.

Although, I’d look goofy as hell riding down the street dressed like a clown in THIS:

https://i.imgur.com/bygu75s.jpg

Alexk98
Alexk98
3 months ago

I thought I was hallucinating when I saw this headline… Time for more coffee

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
3 months ago

Great job! We now have another SWG to read about

Outofstep
Outofstep
3 months ago

I was just thinking that we haven’t gotten a Gossin Motors article in a while and upon seeing the headline assumed it was him.

Last edited 3 months ago by Outofstep
Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
3 months ago
Reply to  Outofstep

Less writing means more time for wrenching. It’s a viscous cycle I am sure, trying to fix content to be able to write content.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wyman

I love that autocorrect made that sentence even better 🙂

to be clear: I’m not casting aspirations at your spelling or wording 😉

Ben
Ben
3 months ago

I had to scroll back up and check the byline on this one because it sure sounded like an SWG bit.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  Ben

The real tell was that SWG is a Mopar guy who doesn’t bother with reliable cars like Civics.

Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
3 months ago

Nothing like a feel-good Juggalo story.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago

With this headline…

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

This article could have gone SO MANY different ways. Different, scary ways.

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

I imagined Lewin helping the clown do a backflip during an act, and then promptly being kidnapped into the clown’s circus troupe for eternity after not reading the fine print on the contract.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago

Not an unreasonable possibility, given the headline.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
3 months ago

I really don’t understand people who don’t do super basic things to keep their cars running okay.

Dan Manwich
Dan Manwich
3 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Are you saying he should be Murderclown the Insane?

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan Manwich

Maybe murderclown the lazy? Cmon bro. Your friend fixed your car for you, and told you to put coolant in it. It costs like $8 at the auto parts store.

Dan Manwich
Dan Manwich
3 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Murderclown the Lazy is much more appropriate and much more hilarious

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
3 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Hey, after a long day of murderin’ it can be tough to motivate one’s clown self to drive down to Autozone.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
3 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

I spent four years with a woman who wouldn’t get her car serviced at all because the bonnet catch was broken, so she insisted no garage could open it. I found out the wipers didn’t work when she pulled over when it started raining to wait until the rain stopped.

We had many, many arguments.

“Why is it that every time something of yours breaks you expect me to fix it?”
“Because your degree is in engineering and mine is in French and Spanish”

I know, that seems reasonable written down.

It may be I was a terrible partner back then, I never once asked her to translate foreign poetry for me so she could feel needed.

Gubbin
Gubbin
3 months ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

Look, machines just naturally and slowly get more and more broken, and all you can do is keep using them until they stop or you can afford a new one. (For horse folks, the one exception is any repair that can be effected with baling twine and elaborate knots.)

AlterId
AlterId
3 months ago
Reply to  Gubbin

For horse folks, the one exception is any repair that can be effected with baling twine and elaborate knots.

Horse folks repair their animals with baling twine and elaborate knots? I bet that leaves one hell of a scar.

Gubbin
Gubbin
3 months ago
Reply to  AlterId

Baling twine is for the machines. For an animal they’ll pay whatever a vet asks, even if that means skipping meals or selling one’s organs.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

> I found out the wipers didn’t work when she pulled over when it started raining to wait until the rain stopped.

That’s amazing

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
3 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

“Why won’t the Australian murder clown make rational decisions?” he asked.

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