Home » I Spent $1300 On A Nissan That Lasted 3 City Blocks And 2.5 Minutes

I Spent $1300 On A Nissan That Lasted 3 City Blocks And 2.5 Minutes

Juked Ts1

Look, everybody makes mistakes. They’re bound to happen, and there is a flurry of boilerplate sayings about what you should do when they occur (“get back up and dust yourself off!”). Sometimes you can see a mistake coming from a mile down the road and sometimes they just sneak right up on you and bite you in the keister

Way too early in the piece sidenote: That’s right, I just said keister — old folks rule and are also the reason you exist, so don’t forget it, son!

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Mistakes concerning cars are bound to happen to anyone in this hobby, and unfortunately they can be, at times, very expensive and difficult to reverse. There have been two cars in the ~133 vehicles I’ve bought that caused me to feel immediate regret after purchase. These are the stories of those cars; hopefully I can impart some caution and some purchasing knowledge so that you may escape a similar fate.

One day, in 1997, in Utica NY…

I started my car hobby with the dual goals of A) feeding my intense love for cars and also B) up-cycling and repurposing. I deeply loathe waste, trash and pollution, and there is an ungodly amount of waste within the world of used cars. Sadly, our hobby relies on rampant consumerism in order for the wheels to turn, and consumerism has a few nasty side effects.

I took a shop class in high school where you had to rebuild a shop engine (Slant 6) and have it fire in order to pass. If it didn’t, you had to tear it all apart and figure out why not! I was able to convince the shop teacher to let me rebuild my own engine out of my just-purchased first car: a silver V6 ’84 Cougar.


Swg Whipper Snapper

In pure future-Autopian fashion, this was a $400 ‘84 Cougar that I bought with an entire summer’s worth of paychecks from selling musical instruments at Big Apple Music in Utica, NY and lifeguarding at a local apartment complex pool.

That Cougar’s claim to fame was that it was driven by Mike and Tom Gossin of the Platinum-selling Country group “Gloriana”. You may have heard their #2 song “Kissed you Goodnight” or seen them open for Taylor Swift on her “Fearless” tour.

Another sidebar because sidebars are fun: That Cougar had spent 13 winters in Central NY salt, so you could pass a ham sandwich through the rust holes at the bottom of the door from the out of the car to the occupants.

Regardless, once you learn how to build an engine at age 17, you can do most of the tasks needed to keep an old junker running. Yeah, I didn’t do glass, bodywork, welding, deep electrical, transmissions or paint, but those are (and still are) in The Future File. So opening the paper to the Classifieds back then yielded nothing but opportunity to this newly-minted wrench. 

My UNCW dorm room, 1998. I was the only guy in the dorm with Southern Fox-Body doors in his room that were awaiting install on his Cougar.

There was an entire sea of cheap broken cars available with owners that were fed up and looking to get rid of them quickly! Some were even ready to take the hurtful financial loss of taking a car to the scrapyard if a buyer didn’t materialize in the near-term. This quickly made me realize that there was an ocean of cars to save!

Summer, 2000: I restored that entire car over the course of ’97-’00 and got it looking pretty good when I was finished!

Not only would doing so be better for the planet, but these cars would also be wicked fun to own, and selling them would maybe even pay for beers and books through college. This was the genesis of Gossin Motors Backyard Auto Rescue (which is not a real business, but just a name one dude has given to his work in this arena for the past 27 years).

The high school built engine lasted for 3 years of pizza delivery- not bad! This is the day I said goodbye to my first car with my college girlfriend. I’m not sure what she’s up to these days, but I miss that car every day.

Dying Felines and Lumber Products

Starting out, I’ll admit that I was a bit green. I’d landline-call sellers from the local papers from my college dorm room at UNCW and check out any car within a ~20 mile radius in my newly rebuilt ‘84 Cougar with a pocket full of 20s from my pizza delivery job that I’d do each day after class. 

One of those early cars was a Midnight Regatta Blue ‘85 V8 Cougar in Delco, NC (right outside of Wilmington and right down the road from where I would buy this, 24yrs later). I had a thing for the big Mercury cats back then and was all about having the 130hp 5.0 V8, since I had the 120hp 3.8 “Essex” V6. 10 more hp, homie!

85 Cougar
This was the exact car. Wicked badass.

This thing was puuurfect (ha) and only $500. Now granted, that was a lot of money for a college kid in ‘99, but this was worth it. The thing about owning the lesser version of a car (like I did) is that you constantly pine for the greater/better version of it.


Up until the EcoBoost Mustang actually brought something to the table, the lesser-engined/V6 versions of most cars always had owners lusting after the V8 version that they really wanted. I’m sure there are a few base-model Autopian heroes out there, but for a certain sect of cars (Mustang, Camaro, Cougar, T-Bird, Firebird, etc), the base trim is not the move.

85cougar Gsdash
Tell me this isn’t wicked cool and I’ll tell you to get your head checked.

Anyway! I drove out to see the car early on a beautiful Saturday morning in my V6 Cougar, which was a mistake, as the seller could see that I was already driving one of these cars. He knew right then that he had the sale in the bag.

Additional sidebar, because why not: Speaking of getting up early on weekends, I miss not feeling hangovers like I do now. The days of chugging a 1/5th bottle of vodka or as many beers and waking up like nothing happened was glorious in your early 20s.

“Go ahead, fire it up. It’s the 5-0 V8, you know, right? Same as the Mustang,” says a man that I would come to realize did not have my best interests in mind. I took his direction and did my best to hide how excited I was to hear that churning, deep baritone rumble on this gorgeous blue Fox body. The guy could probably see it though, as I surely had visible stars in my eyes over this fantastic feline.

1984 Mercury Cougar Xr7 Turbo Brochure
This version was the penultimate; with a turbo 4cyl “Lima” engine. Good gravy, that’s a svelte, gorgeous shape.

I’ll take it! $500, right?” says an overly pumped up, wicked jazzed college-aged me. The guy agreed, we exchanged the money, keys and title (it was already notarized) and I was on my way down the driveway and into my new beginning with my new, blue, V8 Cougar! I was so pumped to drive my new car home that I figured I’d leave my silver V6 Cougar street parked in Delco NC until I could bribe a college pal with beer to take me to get it.


That feeling of elation lasted the entire driveway! This was because as soon as I got to the end of it (it was about 50 yards long), that hero 5.0 V8 threw a rod. The car lasted me for about 1 minute and 40 yards. 

Stunned and confused (hey I was just a green teenager back then), I walked back up to the guys door and rang the bell. He came to the door in a drastically different mood this time and assured me in no uncertain terms that

  1. this scenario was my problem alone
  2. that I was trespassing on his property and
  3. that he was armed

Real nice guy.

1986 Mercury Cougar Brochure
Technically this one is an ’86, but the bottom line is the same: chicks dig a Mercury.

I called a $75 tow (which was pretty much all the money I had left to my name) and had the car brought to a garage in Wilmington. They informed me the next day that it had indeed thrown a rod and that the oil pan was full of sawdust. I called one of the local yards and had the car picked up and junked that week for $50. “Does that 5.0 run?” was the first question the junkyard asked me when pricing it.

Just thinking of the number of pizzas I had to deliver in the succeeding weeks to get that $525 back that I lost still burns me, deeply, to this day. Time heals all wounds though.


Or does it? 24 years and 132 cars later:

Each of us has a daily car search. It’s just part of daily Autopian life. Even if you don’t get the time to search every day, you still are probably letting Mark Tucker do the searching for you and are enjoying the daily Shitbox Showdown. We all raise an eyebrow and shout out to a greatly disinterested partner “Honey, you gotta see this!” when a unique and different car shows up in an unexpected search results list.

Juke 1
This is not what usually populates the search results on a “Less than $2000” search.

For me it was seeing this 2011 Turbo Juke with a stick and only 84K miles, rotting in a backyard about a mile away for $2K. Answer me seriously on three questions:

1) Have you been drinking after a long day at work whilst reading this? If so, then bravo, that’s exactly the party vibe I’d hope to share while penning this.

2) When was the last time you saw a 12yr old turbo stick Juke for $2K with that mileage?


3) Doesn’t “Juke” sound strangely like it’s a slur? I feel gross saying it. Maybe that’s just me.

Anyhow, the seller ended up being a rad local dude who was an old friend of the best drummer in The Cape Fear, Matt Barbour (who happens to be one of my oldest a dearest friends and also my band-mate; we play together in a fun local bar band), so it was an unexpected friend-of-a-friend situation. This greatly added trust to the buying scenario/dynamic. 

He explained that the Juke threw a code for the VVT and that it was his teenage son’s car. They parked it after the VVT issue caused the Check Engine Light to start glowing brighter than the look on the bartenders’ face after a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim and a Juke walked into his bar (see what I mean?!).

Img 20231206 124046826
A tree limb had fallen on the roof during the last Tropical Storm that hit Wilmington NC. This caused the moonroof to leak; not the best.

The seller was a super chill dude and seemed to just want this thing out of his backyard. There was a tone of pure honesty and no avarice or nefarious feel to it like there was with the Midnight Regatta Blue ‘85 V8 Cougar over two decades prior. His son had already moved on to another vehicle and he had a vibe where he seemed to just want to get on with his life, post-Juke.

Sitting perpendicular to the Juke in his backyard was a sweet-ass green ‘02 Chevy Tracker under a tarp, which of course I had to ask about. “What the heck is up with that?!” says I, trying to hide the undertone of my Upstate NY accent (as I’ve been trying to do since moving to The South roughly when this song came out) immediately upon seeing it. 

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A view of that backyard scene as I arrived.

Oh that? I’ll sell it to ya for five if you want ‘em both!” said the seller. I immediately asked if he meant $5,000 by his usage of the word “five”. “Ha! No, $500. It’s got a couple issues.”

Tracker 2
A green, soft-top, 2-door tracker?! You gotta be kidding me! Eureka! 

“Sounds good to me, sold!” –S. GossMcDuff, without even looking at it any closer (I ain’t no car culture fool),

Tracker 3
I didn’t even care how rough it was; you can’t lose for $500.

“But wait, there’s more…”

The Tracker was just an awesome side show, but saving that was going to be for another day; this Saturday mornings’ sights were set squarely upon that Juke. Also, did you ever hear about the time The Pope, a bear and a Juke were sleeping in the woods? I haven’t either. 

Img 20231206 123853498 Hdr
Other than a few tears on the passenger seat (weird), the interior looked awesome! I’m not really used to owning cars this new.

I scanned the Juke with my mid-level Autel device and found that the seller was correct with the VVT code the prior shop had told him about. The Nissan started and idled nicely, the A/C blew cold, it reached operating temperature without a cooling system issue, the clutch engaged/disengaged nicely and it went forward and backwards easily in that backyard on that Sat morning. 

It checked every box on the Gossin Motors Backyard Shitbox auto Rescue list. That means that the Juke-red siren-looking light in my brain started spinning and flashing that this car (with many, many more miles to go on it) may end up in a junkyard very soon if I didn’t make a move on it here. I loathe seeing that happen with every fiber in my eco-minded being. And let me tell you, when they are needed, I gots me some moves, son!

Img 20231202 111744070 Hdr
This was a view of that same backyard after the deals were done that Saturday. A pretty cool assemblage if you ask me.

I placed $1800 into the seller’s hand; $500 for the Tracker and $1300 for the Nissan. After a firm, friendly eye-to-eye handshake and an addendum to the deal to leave the Tracker where it sat “for a hot minute” the purchase was made! Also, the seller said that I could keep his plates on it to get it home, which was huge, since it saved me from getting a $90 tow back to my Eveil (sic) Wrenching Lair (under that volcano in Wilmington, NC).  I was wicked pumped about my good fortune and took the below video on the spot.

I returned the following night to pick it up with my 65yr old mother, whom I’d taken out for dinner earlier that evening. She’d agree to drive my ass over there and follow me home since it was only about 2 miles away and because she’s my mom and she rules. She was in my step-dad’s ‘23 C-Class and was thoroughly freaked out and confused why I was doing what I was doing in some random backyard, in the dark, after a nice dinner on a Saturday night.

Img 20231202 185541981
Taken at dinner that night with my beautiful, wonderful Ma.

“Habibbi (we’re Syrian), you went to college, why are you doing this with your free time?! You need to meet a nice girl and I need grandkids.” –My mom, from a brand-new C-Class, in the hood, in the dark

“He’s Going The Distance” 

I placed my Li-Ion jump pack on the Juke and it buzzed to life with my step-dad’s headlights illuminating the jump points on that dark, December night. I figured this would be a non-eventful two mile trip, since I’d already verified the car ran fine and the plates were good. Never assume anything in this life.


I pulled the Juke out of the backyard with my mom following me in the C-Class; there was limited traffic since it was about 8-9pm on a sat evening and rush hour was long over. The clutch felt great and I loved hearing and feeling the turbo kick in as the revs climbed for the first few shifts as we pulled away on the first few city blocks. The engine in that era of Juke was a 1.6-liter four-cylinder direct injection turbo that brought 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque to the table. Not bad at all for a tiny 1.6L!

The interior has a great design theme to it and it’s easy to get into “The Juke Zone” when you’re in one.

After the 4th city block, the route home hit a main artery through the Port City that I call home and I had a chance to see what a turbo Juke was all about. I’ve never driven Carlos Goshn’s Best before (and sure this was his best, right?) but I will say that the pronunciation of “Ghosn” is strangely not at all phonetically similar to “Gossin”.

As the light turned green onto the thru-artery, I put the pedal down, thinking to myself: “I cannot wait to tell Peter Vieira, The Bishop and Mark Tucker about this when I get back to the team Slack channel!”

These were uniquely-designed cars when they arrived on the market; even if they looked like a drug-addled frog.

Well the story turned out to be a different one than originally planned as the timing chain tensioner(s) decided to walk off the job right around the time the tachometer hit about 4K revolutions/min. The absolute worst metal-on-metal sounds started filling the cabin; worse than a high school metal band rivalry. Black smoke started pouring out the tailpipe and also started curling around the hood.

Backfires were a constant occurrence which could also be seen erupting out of the intake/throttle-body from the driver’s seat from the underhood gap (see below picture). Pieces of engine front cover and timing components were heard falling over the subframe and control arms and onto Burnett St (by Greenfield Lake if you want to Google it), both oil and antifreeze started pouring out of the bottom of the engine.

Img 20231207 102001851 Hdr
I could see the flames of the backfires coming from the engine intake through the hood gap I’m pointing at above.

(phone ringing in that moment of absolute horror and panic; I pick up) “Stevie, honey, I think something might be wrong with your car” says my mom from the C-Class, with a first-class seat while watching this horror show unfold. Thanks Ma!

Luckily enough for me, this happened about 1 minute from my Eveil (sic) Wrenching Lair, so I did what had to be done and limped it to my driveway before shutting the engine off immediately. I knew it was an interference engine and that the valves and head were definitely gone and the pistons probably were too. No need in crying over a spilled $1300 Nissan, but definitely not the best turn of events.

It turns out, those turbo 1.6L engines from Nissan have a “Voluntary Recall” issued for the timing components as you can see here. Sadly they gave a me big Bill Lumbergh-style “Yeeeeaaahh, that’s for cars with the factory warranty” when I called Nissan to ask about it.

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This engine hides a dark secret, deep within.

I said goodnight to my mom, (who, for the record, said she was impressed at how calm I was while the car was backfiring flames from under the hood and pouring fluids out the bottom of a cracked engine with a trail of smoke from behind at 45mph) and went inside my place for a still Stanley Tucci Negroni to drown my sorrows and bad fortune. It sucks having $1300 just literally go up in smoke after only 3 city blocks.

But, There’s A Butt For Every Seat

I was so, so pissed at Carlos Ghosn for his dumbassery with this car that I could hardly sleep that night. Yes, the man being a buffoon-in-an-upright-bass-case made it easier to quell my anger but still what the H, man?!


This car only had 84K miles on it and was barely over a decade old before shredding its engine? My other supposedly “crap” cars like my LeBaron, Stratus, NewYorker (and even my Jaguars!) are still running regardless of being far older and having far more miles upon them than this insult to the legacy of Datsun.

I posted it that next morning for the $1300 I had into it, with a 110% honest ad description stating that the engine was scrap, but that it was a turbo and a stick with a decent body for a possible project. Wouldn’t you know that The Car Gods shined down upon me with an interested buyer that same day! I had only owned the car for 19-ish hours at this point! 

Side Note: I think DT may have called in a favor for me since he’s pretty tight with the Car Gods after having started this site and winning their good graces.

This dude is the reason I’m here and has been solid-gold, on-point for me since the green flag dropped when this site started. I think he called in a favor for me with The Big Motors upstairs.

The buyer told me that he was in Real Estate and owned multiple rental homes on the NC Coast and that his handyman was in need of a fuel efficient cheap car after his 90s Blazer blew its transmission the prior week. He said he was impressed with the only-84K miles on the car and that the stick and turbo were pretty cool, even if it looked like a drunk frog.

He said he had already sourced a $400 junkyard engine and that it was a solid deal for $1700 (all in; with the engine cost) and a weekend of wrenching. The guy seemed to be a knowledgeable wrench; we know how to spot our own. Actually, to be honest,  this guy seemed like he had greater Jedi powers than I. I’m no padawan, but this guy seemed to be Jedi Mace Windu. Purple lightsaber and all. 


The money, title and keys were exchanged and I had successfully owned the car for less than 1 day. Talk about dodging a bullet. I felt like “The Teflon Goss” after that – it didn’t stick. Here’s my final view of it.

Victim of my mistakes, I burn burn burn burn…” -Our Lady Peace, “Burn, Burn

…thankfully the above sentiment didn’t happen too badly to me on either of these experiences, even though that Midnight Regatta Blue really stung my teenage finances. 


Late Sidenote: The above is just such a great song and is also what I’m listening to as I write this, so I wanted to share it. 

I think I learned far more than it cost me monetarily though. That’s the real lesson here: any hobbyist car-culture aficionado will inevitably own a few cars during their life and a few of them will not work out very well at all. You can’t make a 130+ car omelet and not crack a few radiators. Bad things with cars happen and they will happen to you. 

These are machines that are ultimately bound for the ground in one way or another, so preparing and bracing yourself for it will only assist your abilities when faced with these types of occurrences. Calamities such as these, if they or their ilk should happen to you, will strengthen you and increase your knowledge so that there are at least 20+ years in between occurrences (like the above two examples).

Aa Juke

Looking back at both of the above “burns,” I can honestly say they both make me smile at this stage of life and are 2 of my favorite car stories out of all of those that I have. It’s funny how the worst-case scenarios can segue into some of the funniest and greatest life-even stories due to either shock value, lessons learned or from keeping your cool under pressure. 


I bought more Cougars after that day in Delco in ‘98 and strangely enough, I bought another Nissan 2 weeks ago. The Juke turned out to be a great example of on-the-spot repurposing and upcycling to the absolute best buyer at the best-possible timing. I didn’t do anything to it, but in the end, it wasn’t junked.

Also, I’m glad that jerk burned me on that blue Cougar in ‘98, because he made me into the more-knowledgeable car buying Autopian that I am today and stories like these are what brings me here to this website to share with you. 

I’m glad that I can, as this has been a lifelong dream of mine. A dream of storytelling about a journey filled with both glorious hillcrests and non-glorious potholes. The nasty, big potholes that don’t bend your wheels are absorbed by your springs and those springs will hold that energy (as springs do) and just make you stronger. 

A heartfelt thank you for letting me live that dream, here with each of you.



All photos by Stephen Walter Gossin unless otherwise noted.


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3 months ago

Keister can also be a verb, as in “he keistered the phone into genpop.”

Though I probably won’t ever own one, I think the Juke was one of Nissan’s few interesting cars of recent years, along with the Cube. I’m only now about to start reading your article Stephen, and though I gather it might have been a less-than-stellar experience for you, I’m still glad to have it ahead of me. 🙂

3 months ago
Reply to  Scott

Too late to edit my comment above, but I wanted to thank you for yet another very enjoyable article Stephen, and to tell you with all due respect something that you clearly know already: your mom’s kinda gorgeous. 😉

3 months ago


3 months ago

This reminds me of my second car purchase as a college student. Bought a 86 Ford Escort station wagon for $650. If I had been a smarter kid and/or my dad had been more knowledgeable about cars we would have ran from that thing.

Guy who sold put in over the top trans fluid which get it 2 days after the sale before it started slipping. $1200 transmission install later and I hated that car until the day I sold it for $600.

Lesson learned and now I know enough about cars to “know when to hold um, know when to fold um, know when to walk away, and know when to run.”

3 months ago

Starting the Cougar sounds like a Wheeler Walker Jr song title

Camp Fire
Camp Fire
3 months ago

Great piece. I’ve rescued several unloved cars and resonate well with these stories. Keep ’em coming.


This piece includes enough information to quickly pinpoint the address of your “Eveil (sic) Wrenching Lair.” I’m not gonna to tell you how to handle your personal information, that’s up to you. But in previous pieces you’ve obscured your location underneath that mysterious volcano. So I want to make sure you’re aware you’ve doxxed yourself, just in case it was accidental.

Either way, I can’t wait to hear about the Tracker. And the Sportage, too!

Camp Fire
Camp Fire
3 months ago

Thanks for writing! And thanks for the personal reply. It’s a particularly special part of The Autopian, that writers take time to cultivate such a community. 🙂

3 months ago

As someone who is also in Wilmington and also has a plethora of vehicles in their driveway, I can assure you yours is not the only house I have driven passed with a wide but questionable selection in the driveway. While yes, the videos and such plus the mention of Greenfield Lake do give away the mysterious volcano location to anyone willing to search I also wouldn’t worry too much about it. Cameras help too, recently my street just off Market/N Kerr got hit by petty thieves checking door handles and my driveway was skipped, likely due to the very obviously placed cameras on the front.

I am sure this is unnecessary, but this random local reader is willing to help lend a hand if you’re ever after someone to assist with recovering a cheap car purchase or working on one of the projects. I have done a few in the area myself and always find them to be a lot of fun.

3 months ago

glad you didn’t buy a leaf with 5 miles of range left

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  Greensoul

I reckon this Juke had even less than 5 miles of range left

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago

Lol thank you kindly.

OK so question.

Gossin, Syrian.

Ghosn, Lebanese.


The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago

Hahaha OK fair enough on both counts. Though I bet an Anvil case would look good on you.

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