Mike has pony burning a hole in his pocket for the next project car… the chase is on!
Well… the chase… is on. But this time I don’t have the talents of my favourite Alvin Stardust look-a-like Bradley Walsh to guide me on against the Governess or the Beast. In a snap decision, I sold the project 214 to a fellow Rover sympathiser, and armed with last month’s sales commission and the money received from the aforementioned car sale, it’s time to sniff out the next project.
The Chase, of course, is trade speak for finding another vehicle and there is nothing I love more than reading the small ads or trawling through the thousands of on line adverts on eBay and other outlets of automotive misery. Just like the way ‘er indoors ploughs through the fashion magazines and the waste paper catalogues that drop out of the Sunday Mail, Many a wasted hour for me is spent doing the same with a copy of the Friday Ads or going square eyed at the computer.
Personally, I find all this entertaining as I read the most poorly informed or horrendously over worded spiel trying to big up the most low rent of jalopy. Recently, I tried to read through about 1000 words in a jolly multi-coloured italic font an advert of one of the most heinous of automotive horrors – a base model 1.6 Vauxhall Zafira. My sanity came to a climax, as I almost reached for the bleach as the seller went on to list almost everything he had repaired or replaced on the car.
To put it mildly, his reason for auctioning his car was a simple one – the bloody thing needed torching as he spent seemingly hours and hundreds of pounds on this dreadful Vauxhall kiddie coffin. All the catchphrases and groan inducing words were there along with wheel bearings, new cat, pads and discs, head gasket – and on it went. So… what was the asking price for his/her war and peace description of this 1998 five-door of doom? Yours for a snip at just £650 – oh, it was a resplendent Royal Blue as well.
In the end I had to close the advert as my mind was full of images like discarded KFC litter, Opal fruits stuck to the seats, a carpet that looked like the inside of a Tandoori House hoover bag and a faint aroma of damp mattress. At the end of the day it’s all in the wordage and by keeping to the time honoured method of being brief, upbeat and brutally straight to the point, even the most miserable motors can sell quickly enough. All the important blurb should be in the first two lines – tax, test, service history and location.
One of the popular reasons a car won’t sell is because of, and surprisingly enough, is the vendor. Only just this weekend I trawled all over London looking under every unturned stone for the next project car. After viewing a Rover 75 KV6 that was a Cat’s whisker away from blowing up and a Saab that actually munched its turbo on road test (I wasn’t driving by the way) I found myself sitting in a spit and sawdust café in Northolt. In a Wheeler Dealer style with a fry up and mug of strong tea I was jabbing away at the iPad when I found myself pondering over a 1.3 Maestro Clubfoot.
According to Autotrader the car was 15 miles away from my bacon sausage and bubble and squeak. Ringing the seller, I found him to be quite obstructive on the phone, and almost reluctant to answer my simple fact finding questions. In my 25 years of floating around the trade, I’ve learnt that if the owner is crap – the car tends to be as well, but a little voice inside me said that a 26,000 mile Maestro has to worth a pop at £460. So after a miserable trek through the Western end of the metropolis and a staggering 20 minute queue of traffic to cross Putney Bridge I eventually arrived at the vendor’s location of the very picturesque Wimbledon village.
We met in the car park of a small block of flats where I was greeted with the sight of a beaten up and poorly re-sprayed Cowley clunker that didn’t have a straight panel on it. Pretty much right away my mind was focussed on going straight home after listening to it cough, splutter and misfire. Extra misery points were added for the spitting and blowing manifold gasket and an overflow tank that contained nothing but rusty brown water – even the gearbox was four speed.
Yet on the phone I was told how good and well serviced it was so despite asking the questions. It makes a mockery of how all dealers are tarred with the dishonesty brush when so many buyers are liars too. One of my favourite phrases heard so often is ‘only needs a re-gas’ when it’s discovered that the aircon wont work. This old chestnut was heard everyday when appraising part exchanges. Considering one of leading fast fit centres will service and gas up your aircon for under £50, there’s no excuse really.
Air conditioning is one of the most vital and expected toys in a modern vehicle and if the system doesn’t function or hasn’t done for some time – expect a massive bill to sort it out that includes replacing the pump, condenser and pipework – or in many cases… all of the aforementioned. I like reading adverts that mention engine management lights glowing too. One such recently spotted mentioned how his mechanic had said ‘just needs the fault code clearing’ – okay, so why didn’t he do it then?
Another one that sticks in my mind was a chap selling a Saab 9-3 TiD a few years back who mentioned in the advert, on the phone and more than once in the flesh, ‘I don’t really want to sell the car,’ while I was crawling over it with a lead lamp. With a friend holding the brake pedal down whilst rocking the steering I watched the servo and master cylinder bob up and down like a message in a bottle at sea – a sure fire sign the bulkhead had cracked pretty much rendering these cars as scrap.
But I knew the vendor also knew. All the signs were there the moment I started looking around the steering rack – he was shuffling his feet and his earlobes went red. Things like the aforementioned become harder to avoid with the latest MoT certificates, testers are now encouraged to advise everything they spot that’s not quite failworthy at the point of test. In days of old the advised items were written on a separate sheet, not now, its all there on the pass certificate – VOSA can get things right sometimes.
So there we have it – beware of the phrases and old stories of how it only needs a little TLC or first to see will buy. In fairness I love the chase and tip toeing through the mine field of crap used cars for one sole reason… the private seller can be more crooked than Swiss Tony or Athur Daley could ever be – and it’s this that makes me love the trade so much!
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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