COAL: 1996 Chevy Tahoe – Big Dreams, Sad Reality


It was a start to a new path in my life, but the universe had other plans and made it known in a spectacular finale.

Working hard at the auto parts store paid off. In less than a year I had gone from part time sales associate to Parts Manager. It included the added responsibility of opening and closing of the stores, inventory, money management, and conflict resolution (the customer is often wrong or confused).

It was a great job and I think highly of it. To make time pass we would often crack jokes, prank each other, or show off our fine sales skills.

Pranks were often “shrink wrapping” each other’s cars when the opportunity presented itself, or placing anti-theft tags on the staff and watching them struggle to find the tag. This one guy in particular, whom I’m still friends with to this day, was a natural salesman. Young children often came in with their parents, I think they were maybe shy or intimidated by the store, or maybe they wanted a toy.


Most auto parts sell Hot Wheels or scale model cars. This guy would seize the opportunity for a sale and loudly announce “Okay guys I’m gonna go put the Hot Wheels away right here by the end of the aisle!” It was hilarious watching this go down. You would see the kid perk up then actually start asking their parents for the car. I would say it worked more than 90% percent of the time.

At home, my girlfriend had moved in with me and my family, under pressure from her family to leave. She had finished a Medical Assistant course and acquired a steady job of her own. She was a petite girl and always wanted a truck. We talked and of course I wanted to make her happy, so we went car shopping. She always liked old Chevy trucks and wanted one of her own, and it had to be Blue. Being a Ford man myself I failed to convince her to switch sides.


This was around the end of 2006, when the new Chevy models were coming out. We went to look at the new Tahoe. I was amazed at how beautiful the truck looked in a dark blue color. It had after-market rims which made it a real knockout. At $50k plus and us being first time buyers…we kind of felt it was not for us.

We headed to Firestone Blvd in South Gate California, which has what seems like block after block of small used car dealers. Most places did not have what she wanted, the ones that did were either too expensive or had higher mileage and wear than desired. We even had one dealer state they would not sell us the car we wanted and the only car they would sell us was a crappy Chevy Malibu. We gave up that weekend but went back for another look around the next weekend.

We finally found a Tahoe she liked. The dealer handed me the keys for me to take a test drive in while my girlfriend waited at the dealer, she did not have her license yet. Me and a cat named Ginger went for a test drive. It wasn’t really for me, so the decision was up to my girl. We bought it as the feedback from the cat and I was positive. And so for around $10k, that truck came home with us.

Hated dragging my rump across the seat cushion to get in


She was happy as could be with her truck. I just never could get myself to like it. It came with auto type tires which I quickly switched over to all-terrain tires. This vastly improved its off road capability despite it being 2wd. There was a creaking from the interior when going over curbs or on to my driveway. When new, the driver’s door would close with precision, but after a few weeks and a couple of re-alignment attempts it just wouldn’t anymore. I gave up on that.


The biggest problems was a backfiring or exploding sound from the Vortec 350 engine when trying to start it. I looked at forums over the years and it seems to be caused by over advanced timing. Still being green, on a budget, and the intermittent nature of the event meant that I just ignored it.


At this time gas prices were up, which really put a strain on our budget with that big 5.7 liter engine. At one point when we needed brake pads we paid $13 dollars for some at an auto parts store. They seemed normal until I had to do a panic stop where the 110 south meets the Hollywood freeway. The truck miraculously stopped, although the pedal sank to the floor then gave off the distinct smell of burned pads, NEVER AGAIN! We got a second much more efficient car to alleviate the stress (next COAL).

At this time my girlfriend was also heavily hinting at having a family. My schedule and paycheck weren’t up par yet, not that I didn’t enjoy trying. It just did not happen for us. And the universe was in agreement so it sent a sign…

Imagine the Xterra 90 degrees in to the street


We had spent the previous night driving around, we slept in that truck then decided to go home and sleep in an actual bed. Around 10 am we were abruptly awakened by my mom yelling that our truck was crashed in to. In disbelief I quickly went outside and looked. The truck was previously parked right in front of the house under a shady tree.

The accident was surreal. Another newer Tahoe had rammed in to the back of our truck, pushed it out in to the street leaving it now blocking the road. The driver of the newer Tahoe had ran off scared while his friend was asking my neighbors for help in getting water to put out the fire that the accident causing truck erupted into.

I was livid to say the least and in boxers an undershirt got in the other car and went to look for the guy. I could not find him, I came back home still mad and in disbelief. My girlfriend handed me some pants so I could be more presentable as I talked to the officers and neighbors trying to figure out what happened.

What happened was that the driver and his passenger were doing drugs. They accelerated at high speed down my block and swerved in to the back of our truck to avoid hitting something, likely hallucinating or passing out. He actually lived one block away and ran back home. The police tracked him down and arrested him at home as he was on probation and found additional drug paraphernalia. The saddest part was that his parents had bought their truck 3 days earlier. His friend was let go, and the sister pleaded with us not to press charges, not that we really had a say in the matter.

Good work is never cheap and cheap work is never good


The truck was totaled, insurance came out, saw the bent frame and quickly wrote us a check. In the end we got to keep the truck and only owed around $1000 on the Lien.

Since we had the truck we honestly thought we could repair it. The cheapest method we thought of was taking it back down to TJ and getting body work done on the cheap.

Realistically the smashed in barn doors should of just been replaced with junkyard parts. Yet the repair location spent a lot of time welding studs and pulling. It looked like the car was shot up in a massacre. We cut our losses, brought our truck back home and headed back to the Alameda swap meet to sell the truck.

From the rear doors forward the truck was still good. The engine and drive-train were fully functional and working proper. This time we sold it for $2000 in its damaged condition. It sold within 4 hours. And we used that money to get myself another car that I wanted…