Part exchange clunkers from a dealer’s point of view, are mainly moved on to the scrapyards, auction halls or low end traders.
But now and again something nice comes along that just might be able to flip a tidy profit. One thing is for certain, the cheaper the car the bigger the headache or more awkward the punter…
Words: Mike Humble
The games people play
It’s a well known fact these days that unless your car is stunning condition and only a few years old, your local dealer will not be interested in general. He will only want your chopper if it is “prime meat” i.e. popular and sell-able. Old knackers tend to be thrown away by dealers to the ever dwindling Arthur Daley type gravel and bunting brigade, scrap yard or auction houses. No Volkswagen dealer for example would entertain pitching a 25 year old Jetta GL even if it is show condition, besides, many manufacturers will ban used stock that is over a certain age – its all about profit and risk. Smaller dealers operate to different protocol and now and again, something really special will be thrown into the melting pot which you know a home can be found for in double quick time and maybe make a few bob on too.
Used cars tend to be a nightmare; I for one have avoided selling them from a professional level mainly because many customers tend to expect to find a new car for used money. I like the relationship building and process driven environment of new car sales, to some, a new car is like buying a dream, where used cars quite often tend to be bought out of desperation or sheer necessity – neither being the ideal motive for shelling out your money or building up a longer term rapport. Going back to the first paragraph, sometimes a really nice little part ex tootles along that simply begs to be retailed, and one such example was a car I have the pleasure of owning a brace of – the Rover 214 SEi. These run out models were lovely little things containing a nice mix or wood, leather and pretty paint schemes.
Powered by a 103bhp version of the 1.4 K series, they were priced keenly, nippy and most of all – looked a million Dollars especially in Nightfire red or British Racing Green Pearl. Cute starfish alloys along with a powered roof and front windows, they sold like hotcakes and even now, a tidy example still looks fresh and mouth-wateringly appealing. We took in a stunning BRG example against a brand new 25 Impression S model, the owner only changing because they had owned it from new and fancied a change, trust me as you read this – the car was almost as good as new. The only fault on the car was a clutch that was nearing its life’s end – though good for a few more thousand miles, everything else was just superb – even the factory fit Philips wireless was present along with the code and just 65 clicks on the Speedo too!
Everyone agreed it was as pretty as a picture and owing to the fact it still had some rent in the screen, I smoked around in it for a few days never tiring of the glowing walnut and the unique Rover aroma of hide and carpet – a veritable pocket sized mobile palace. We parked it up on the back row with a screen price of £1500, and as sure as the sunrise, that very Sunday afternoon a youngish lad wombled onto the forecourt and started sniffing around the 95 N SEi. There was only two of us on duty that day so I ventured outside to see what gives and the customer asked if he could have a look round inside – he seemed keen and above all, genuine enough. As with any sold as seen motor, you keep the dialogue to a minimum keeping the topic along the lines of “it is what it is” as to avoid implicating any future come back.
Unlocking the door I felt a nip in the air so, I told the chap I was grabbing by jacket and would be back in a jiffy. To avoid the risk of a walk off, I was back outside in a flash but I took a different route (a tactic to catch people off guard which does work) and I noticed the lad with his head buried in the foot well area. I hadn’t been spotted yet and then he got back onto his feet and continued to wander around the car, making my presence known again I asked him for his thoughts. He asked for the obligatory test drive which I agreed to on the pure understanding he was genuinely interested, harsh this may seem but a direct question which sorts out the wheat from the chaff. The bonnet was still up at this point and I wound the key to fire up the low mileage engine only for the motor to fire up and conk out.
Now this was mighty strange as I had been using the car and it had never missed a beat, sure the fuel gauge was reading on car sales level (just above the red) but nevertheless there was at least two gallons of fuel there. Feeling somewhat confused and embarrassed, I invited the customer into the showroom where my colleague would make him a coffee and I would endeavour to get the car running. As anyone who knows me will testify, I never forget a face, and I was certain he worked in a fast fit centre nearby and was more than sure I had also clocked him at the local car auctions. This was never mentioned of course, but by now I was pretty sure he pulling a fast one. Refusing my offer of a sit down and a brew he offered me price on the car making a play on the fact it seemed a non runner.
That was it! I knew he was bent at this point, he offered a stupid price for which he would have it taken away that afternoon, but by now I had not desire to raffle the car or play games. The customer then tried to give me patter about how he was doing us a favour by offloading the motor from us. Turning the key one more time I noticed there was no buzz or click sound coming from the priming fuel pump, so either a relay or fuse had failed or someone else had been tinkering. Having noticed him looking deep into the floor area of the car, I reached my hand around the centre console and felt the inertia cut off device which isolates the fuel pump in the event of an accident or heavy impact. In layman’s terms – it’s a switch that pops up rather akin to a circuit breaker on an extension cable, you simply press to reset.
On certain cars, you only have to slam a door with force to operate this safety device and yes the device had indeed activated – most surely by thumping it or tapping it hard with a butt of a screwdriver. After simply pressing in the switch, I turned the key to ignition and the pump in the tank gave an audible hum and click indicating that fuel flow was restored. By now the customers face was a picture, I could see in his eyes he was dying so I happily re-offered a test drive, brought him back and relieved him of the sum in the region of £1400 blaming a dodgy relay for the fault. We arranged for him to collect the car the very next day in which time we accidentally disconnected the battery and lost the code for the radio, replaced the unused spare wheel for a worn one and misplaced the locking wheel nut – all of the previous items he had previously failed to check. He knew that I knew he had tried to pull a fast one – and failed, though nothing was ever mentioned. Still, we made a few quid that day that’s for sure!
Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications
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