Recently, the company that stamps my paychecks decreed that all who serve under its righteous heel must undergo security awareness training. Like the other delinquents at Road & Track, I settled in at the last minute to click through the slurry of stock photos and common-sense quizzes that added up the basic knowledge of any 10-year-old familiar with the internet. Do not open suspicious-looking emails. Do not download attachments from unknown sources. Do not use the same password for every damned thing in the world. Do not pick up strange USBs and plug them into your computer. Do not send strangers your credit card information over email.
I winced at that last one. Not two weeks prior, I sent someone who claimed to work at the only Ford dealership in Pago Pago, American Samoa everything they need to scrape my checking account clean of every last red copper cent. Full name, card number, CCV, expiration date, and address. Why? It was the last place on Earth where I could buy a new oil baffle for a four-cylinder Ford Ranger.
This was the latest move in the ever-tightening spiral of despair that is Project Ugly Horse. I ditched the stock oil pan on the EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder I plan to snug into my '89 Fox Body Mustang in favor of a pan from 2001 Ranger in order to clear a custom engine cradle fabricated by the wizards at Maximum Motorsports. The problem? While the EcoBoost oil pan came with an integrated oil tray, the Ranger pan did not. Without one, all the oil can slosh to one side of the pan under cornering load, leaving the pump dry and starving the expensive bits of lubrication.
The easy fix was to simply bolt in a tray from a Ranger. I called the dealer that supplied my other Ranger bits. The news wasn't good. The oil baffle was not only discontinued, but there wasn't a single one in stock anywhere in these United States.Ford
Surely, you jest, parts man. We live in a world of mass production and consumption. Apple built 150 million iPhones last year, enough for every other person in the US. We don't know the meaning of finite. Even when we do encounter shortages, they pass quickly, like summer thunderstorms before the sunlight of manufacturing refills our shelves.
Like most people with an internet connection, I thought the solution would be an easy Google search away. I was wrong. I spent nights, work hours, lunches, and smartphone minutes scouring the web, only to come up empty-handed. In desperation, I called the dealer again and begged him to find me the closest baffle.
"Wait. Computer says there's one in Hawaii," he said, and hung up to sell oil filters to people smart enough to leave their damn cars alone.
I called every Ford dealer in Hawaii, only one of which was amused to be talking to a yokel from Tennessee who's shoving a Focus motor into his Mustang using Ranger parts.
"Oh, yeah, man. No, the part's not in Hawaii. It's in American Samoa. Here's the phone number…"
Henceforth, oil baffles shall be known as, "The Ghost and The Darkness."
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My phone didn't want to call American Samoa. Do not give me signs that do not point to a part in hand. I pulled up the Asia Pacific Ford dealer site, found the parts department email, and fired. It was a Friday. I received a response time stamped from the day before. Eat me, Doc Brown.
Sure enough, the tray was in stock and available for the paltry fee of $48, including shipping. All I had to do was send a complete stranger on the other side of the planet my credit card information over email. Russian Roulette has nothing on its Pago Pago counterpart.
I watched my card like a hawk, expecting it to burst into flames on the desk as charges sprang up from the middle of the Pacific. It never happened, and two weeks later, a box showed up at my door from Pago Pago. It looked like it had travelled the 6613 miles from its island home to the mountains of Tennessee via tumble cycle, but the part inside was unblemished. I now have the last piece I need to put the engine together and get it in the car for good.
It feels strange to have bought the last of a wild thing, to deplete the world's reserve of oil baffles for 2001 Ford Rangers. It's a little cruel. Anyone who wants this part in the future will have to carve it out of the cold, sludgy belly of a junkyard engine, laying on their back in the dirt while oil and grime crumbles into their eyes. Or maybe they'll find one in an even more improbable place: the nose of an '89 Mustang.