After the Timing Belt – Auto Update

I do love my car. She’s not a hot rod or a classic, she’s not new or expensive. But she and I drove all over the country together last year, and racked up 40,000 miles on the road. She transported me wherever I asked her to, got me to shoots from Boston to San Francisco, rescued me from flooding in Florida, protected me from tent-smashing storms in the desert of Texas, and stood between me and three different bears in the mountainous forests of California.



With the exception of the two hearts in the Bahamas, Gypsy took me in a huge clockwise circumnavigation of a large portion of the country last year, and up and down the East Coast a dozen times or more before and since.

It’s not an understatement to say I’m overly attached to her. I’ve loaded up her ass with stickers from places we visited, sort of her trophy case, a way for me to say “thank you, good job”.

But all that work she’s done has taken its toll, and she’s needed some serious repair and maintenance work. Several people have nudged me to ditch her in a junk yard and get something “newer, more reliable”. I don’t mind explaining to someone once, but I’m at the point now where the second explanation is a perfunctory, “Go fuck yourself.”


So I’ve just had her timing belt replaced. Paulo and Craig at Auto Centro gave me an estimate of $1800-2000 to get that done, assuming nothing went wrong, so that’s what I gathered up from the GoFundMe set up for me and from little photo shoots I’ve picked up here and there. When I picked her up on Monday, the bill came in a bit under the minimum estimate, and I couldn’t be more happy or relieved. That timing belt is good for 70,000 miles. It was last changed, according to the sticker on the engine, at 90,000 miles. She’s at 220,000 miles now. Yep. That’s almost twice as long as the belt is designed to last.

Gypsy is a fuckin’ champ.

And while at least I don’t have to worry about the timing belt busting and tearing up the engine at any given moment, she’s still running like she’s gravely ill. And that’s what the next big repair is for. I need to get her running right again. When I asked Craig about how much I should have on hand, he suggested that because we don’t know yet for sure what exactly is wrong with her, I should probably have $400-$500 in my pocket. So that’s where we’re at now.

With what I’ve got left from the timing belt repair budget, and a few pledges from friends who want to help, I’m pretty close to having enough to get that done, if I don’t eat anything for a few weeks. I’m actually ok with that sacrifice if necessary. She’d do it for me.

But, y’know, if you would rather see me eat over the next few weeks, you can help. If you’re in the DC Metro area, hire me. Headshots, Boudoir, Family Portraits, My Little Pony CosPlay Porn, I don’t care. I’ll shoot whatever you need. If you’re not in the area but still want to help (or if you’re just not that into My Little Pony), you can donate to the GoFundMe to help me get back on the road

And don’t forget, there’ll be a little extra special something for everyone who has or who does help me get back on the road once my super duper secret project comes online. It’s not a big deal, but it’s what I can do.

Every little bit helps, so thank you in advance from me and especially from Gypsy.

Help Louis Get Back On The Road


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Louis Shackleton is an intimate portraiture artist and wildlife photographer formerly based in Wilmington, NC. After 3 years of traveling the continent in his 2001 VW Passat, he's now settled in Seattle, Washington.

Head on over to the About page to read more about him and his work.

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