The Great DIY Scam

Drake Kirby
4 min readApr 4, 2021


I already told you about my stupid plans to build out a Unimog, so you can consider this the 8-months-later-update, featuring a DIY culture rant and the car we bought instead. Enjoy!

Back to the beginning.

It was covid. I spent too much time staring at walls. Life sucked, and with nothing interesting to do or look forward to, I resorted to making shit up.

Fantasies ranged from having an actual career to buying a Toyota Tercel for $1000 to leaving the damn country forever (this was right when Ahmaud Arbery got shot), to taking a sick gap year with my girlfriend… and building out a Unimog along the way.

Now we’re talkin’.

The good news!

Eight months later, we actually are on a sick gap year. We live in Asheville, NC and we have jobs (!) and a cozy apartment a few blocks from downtown. Life is good.

The bad news:

It was apparent from the day we moved in that we weren’t building out a damn Unimog, and for the most obvious reasons — such as not having any power tools, or a garage, or carpentry skills, or experience working on cars, or… ummm… TIME to do all this shit man adulting is BUSY.

The worse news:

Having seen firsthand the impossibility of working impractical machines into our busy city-dweller lives, we (okay, I) had the brilliant idea of buying a hooptie — a 200,000 mile Toyota Tacoma. It lived up to the marque’s legendary reputation for reliability… For exactly one week.

By the end of that week, I was already accustomed to ignoring the brake warning light on the dashboard, which was routinely triggered by the improperly-adjusted parking brake jiggling around.

I began to suspect that there was another problem, however, when I went to pull off the freeway and hit the brakes and didn’t really slow down. Hm.

So I hit the brakes harder, which solved the slowing down problem — but I could’ve sworn I felt the brake pedal hit the floor, which brake pedals aren’t supposed to do. HMMM…

Thankfully, I was almost home, so I limped the rest of the way there before taking a look — at which point I popped the hood and discovered a nearly-empty brake fluid reservoir. Nice. So I poked around underneath, and discovered that the missing fluid found its way onto the front right caliper… The perfect place for something corrosive!

Upon closer inspection, the problem seemed to be the caliper fitting, not the caliper itself. Should I have tried tightening it? Replacing the line? Tightening the bleed screw?

Who knows! And how in the fuck would I have ever found out? In the process of my most elementary diagnosis, I almost got run over three separate times by passerby SUVs trying to squeeze down our tiny ass side street. You think I would even take the wheel off? Let alone start messing with stuff? And then fuck it up worse? And then have it sitting on the dinky little emergency jack until I could somehow get it together again? (no, I don’t have fucking jack stands). If the landlord doesn’t start threatening to tow it away first?!

Helllllll naahhhhhh.

So instead, we took it to the mechanic. Which, of course, is the most satisfying way to spend one’s hard-earned money.

Lesson 1: an old car is still an old car

Even the mighty Toyota Tacoma, the most reliable thing ever made, is still a complex-ass machine with a bunch of 20 year old bushings and hoses and pressurized fittings. And when they go bad, it’s going right into my mechanic’s pocket. Why don’t I fix it? Because of lesson two.

Lesson 2: DIY isn’t a mere activity. It’s a fucking lifestyle.

It takes more than just time, or effort, or skill. You also need a good workspace, and lots of fancy tools… Which reeks of home ownership, I know!

Anyways, I took this all for granted, because I grew up on a cul-de-sac with big lots, two car garages, and driveways with extra room on the side to park an RV. Cars weren’t an inconvenience, they were a necessity. If you wanted five of them on your damn property, why not? As such, I spent my whole childhood dreaming of a fleet of cool, shitty old cars — and maintaining them would be part of the fun.

Now we don’t even have a driveway… How the mighty have fallen.

Someday, me and my junker fleet will conquer the world, but in the meantime, I have a lot more respect for people who buy boring cars that won’t break down. Alas.



Drake Kirby

Car enthusiast. Environmentalist. Enigma.