Old car keeps mechanics on road to riches

July 10, 2006|By KEVIN COWHERD | KEVIN COWHERD,SUN COLUMNIST

Driving an old car is like death by paper cuts, a slow, agonizing process that saps your will and bleeds your bank account dry with a thousand repair bills.

Do I sound bitter?

Look, I drive a 10-year-old Ford Taurus station wagon - one of the worst cars ever made. And the thing has 150,000 miles on it.

I deserve to be bitter.

If you want to know about it, the latest paper cut was delivered one evening last week, when I pulled into the driveway and turned the engine off.

Except this time, the car kept running.

Which did not seem like a good thing.

OK, I am not a car guy. But it seems to me that when you turn off your car and pull the key out of the ignition, the thing should stop running.

Actually, when I got out and popped the hood, it turned out it wasn't the entire engine that was still running.

It was just the cooling fan.

OK, I say just the cooling fan.

But that's like discovering a major malfunction in a person's body and saying: "Oh, it's just the kidneys."

Immediately, I got back in the car and drove to the Cockeysville world headquarters of the Fabulous Kleim Brothers, legendary "Mechanics to the Stars."

This is all I do with my money anymore: give it to the Fabulous Kleim Brothers so they fix my cars.

And I've given them a bundle.

In fact, I've given them so much money, I foresee a day when each of them moves into a big mansion with a huge kidney-shaped pool out back.

And instead of working on cars, they'll sit around the pool all day clinking champagne glasses and shouting: "To that '96 Taurus wagon!"

When he first looked at the fan, Jamie Kleim said he couldn't tell what the problem was.

But with a pair of pliers, he showed me a fuse I could pull out to make the fan stop running when the engine was off.

Great, I thought. Fifty-four years old and I need pliers to drive my car.

"Drop it off tonight, and we'll look at it in the morning," Jamie said.

By 11 a.m. the next day, the Fabulous Kleim Brothers had arrived at a firm diagnosis of the problem.

"It's the electrical control box," Jamie Kleim said when I called. "The fan's not shutting off."

As soon as he said this, I had a vision.

In the vision, the Fabulous Kleim Brothers were throwing a huge party at one of their big mansions with all sorts of top-shelf celebrities on hand: Paris Hilton, Diddy, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Miguel Tejada, the entire cast of Pimp My Ride.

Even Jack Antwerpen and Alan Elkin were there.

As the vision continued, a conga line formed and began snaking through the mansion and out to the kidney-shaped pool, led by Jamie and Tim Kleim, with everyone lifting their champagne glasses in the air and chanting: "Taurus! Taurus! Taurus!"

Oh, I'm telling you, a vision like that can leave you shaken.

As soon as it receded, I called my wife and said: "We're selling that piece of junk. These visions are killing me."

Anyway, to wrap up this story, I picked up the car that afternoon.

The bill came to $268 and change.

That included the cost of putting on a new tire, since the Fabulous Kleim Brothers had also discovered a crack in one of the wheels - another paper cut for the kid.

Whatever. I'm used to it.

As I wrote out the check, though, I wondered how many more of these I'd write before the brothers closed their shop and retired to their respective estates, where they'd spend the rest of their days, oh, I don't know, drinking wine and raising Arabian stallions.

They should name one of them Taurus.

OK, that's a weird name for a horse.

But you see how it fits.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

To hear podcasts featuring Kevin Cowherd, go to baltimoresun.com/cowherd.

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