By on July 23, 2010

The 1995 Explorer gave me a real taste of what it must be like to be an “order-taker” at a Honda or Toyota dealership. Customers drove up, took whatever we had on the lot, and paid sticker without complaining. We were perennially short on inventory, which of course didn’t keep my flamboyant General Manager from reserving one for his personal use.

Glenn, the GM in question, liked to have things just so. Once every two or three months, he ordered a white Explorer XLT 945A with a few extra options. As soon as his new one showed up, we had to sell his old one. It was a system that worked very well; since Glenn’s demo was the only Explorer on which we offered any real discount, it was a quick sale.

Several Explorers back, Glenn’s personal whip had been involved in a mild fender-bender and had been shuttled off to the body shop. It was placed on the back burner because it was an “in-house” deal, but when it returned, we all marveled at how perfectly it had been repaired. It looked like a brand-new 1994 Explorer.

Which it was.

And it returned to us in January of 1995, in the middle of a monster snowstorm.

Did I mention it was two-wheel-drive?

Droopy, our dealership principal, was angry. He was the proud owner of a $29,200 1994 Explorer XLT RWD in the middle of the 1995 winter. The ’95 Explorer was incomparably superior to the ’94. It had independent front suspension, a completely revamped interior, more room, a better stereo, NVH refinements, you name it. It was also totally restyled and made the old one look like a brick.

We didn’t have a single RWD 1995 model on the lot, because two-wheel-drive SUVs are lot filler during a tough Ohio winter. Glenn’s demo was a triple threat: last year’s model, tricky in the snow, and it had crash damage which would have to be reported to the lucky new owner. The law’s quite clear on that. In the early Eighties, BMW was infamous for delivering damaged cars to dealers. Those dealers would then silently repair the cars at the lowest possible cost. Cue the early rust, the indignant yuppies, the class-action suit.

At first, we thought the truck might move at invoice price, so we advertised it at $25,999. No takers. Every week the price dropped. Droopy finally made us put it in the showroom with “$21,999″ on the windshield. Seven grand discount. And it still didn’t sell. Buyers would come in, see the price, and get interested. Then they’d find out it was RWD, and that they couldn’t lease it, and they would drive away in a new ’95 instead.

On a do-nothing Friday afternoon, a blond woman in her late thirties pulled in behind the wheel of a Tempo. She was my “up”. Naturally, she wanted an Explorer. She still owed money on her Tempo; Tim the used-car guy quoted it at $2500 below her payoff. It occurred to me that we could bury the negative equity in Glenn’s ’94.

Of course, she wanted to drive it, and I had to go along. I’d learned to be fearful of winter test drives with women, particularly in RWD trucks. No need to worry this time. Karen, the customer, handled the Explorer like a Finnish rally driver. I was honestly impressed, and she was perfectly comfortable with the truck.

If shopping for cars is like dating, the credit application is like getting naked for the first time. There’s a little frisson on both sides of the table… and when Karen got naked for me, we had some problems. She had recently divorced her doctor husband and was working part-time as a nurse. $35K annual income, $18K of support payments from the hubby, two kids, big house. This was going to be a problem.

While our unsuspecting customer played with her hair and read brochures at my desk, the F&I guy, Glenn, and I put our heads together and started calling banks. Nobody wanted to touch this. Finally, our guy at Ford Motor Credit laid down the law: They would finance the truck over 60 months and bury the negative equity… with $10,000 down. This was equivalent to saying “F off,” since divorced women with low income rarely have a spare $10K just lying around.

The three of us sat there shellshocked. We were going to have this 1994 Explorer until we all lost our jobs, which had to be an imminent occurrence. It’s hard to put across just how antiquated the ’94 looked in the showroom. The interior was straight out of the 1984 Ranger; shiny, hard-edged. It had the old single-DIN Ford radio when everything else in the showroom had a double-DIN. Worst of all, it didn’t have a freaking driver-side airbag, so it had the old-style Ford truck steering wheel. Just looking at that was enough to make customers think twice.

“Get out there,” Glenn said, “and ask that bitch for ten grand.” I walked back to my desk with the shuffling gait of the condemned man. Karen looked up, and that was when I realized that I wanted to see her naked in the non-financial sense, too. She was good-looking, a bit zaftig for my twenty-three-year-old taste, but as I sat down I knew that I would now have the extra annoyance of delivering bad news to somebody to whom I was rather attracted. I prepared to deliver my usual line, which was “We’ve got some good news.”

“Karen, we have some… bad news, I guess. You know, we have, ah, some negative equity here, and with, ah, the cost of the Explorer, um, well, it turns out the banks would want, like, um, ah, something in the neighborhood of the, um, ten thousand dollar range to, you know, make this happen…”

“Did you say TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS?”

“Um, well, yes, the approximate range of the down payment, which…”

“Okay.” What did she just say?

“What did you just say?”

“Will you take a check?”

“Um, hold on…” She had the money! The court had actually given her a little more than that upon the successful completion of her divorce. Make it a lot more. She stroked the check out of her personal account and the bank verified that, yes, she could cover that one and plenty more just like it. Ten minutes later I was moving the approximately two hundred pounds of shopping bags, clothing, and random items from her Tempo to her new Explorer. On the way out, she reached up, hugged me close, and kissed me on my cheek.

“I’m so happy,” she whispered hotly into my ear. Me too, Karen. Me, too.

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40 Comments on “Capsule Review: 1994 Explorer and the Not So Naughty Nurse...”


  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    You’ve lead an interesting life, Mr. Baruth. I feel like I’ve missed out a bit on something – and that’s coming from a guy who owned his own manufacturing business at 25, was offered coke on a silver platter (literally) by one of an Indian billionaire’s 20 servants, had a grammy-winning pop star rent a bus and drive five hours with his entourage to ride a motion platform, has only worked for someone else for a year, and has been more places than a 25-year-old FedEx 737.

    • 0 avatar
      swhelan

      Forget Jack. Tell us more about you!

    • 0 avatar
      european

      @PeriSoft

      just pathetic. you’re idolising JB coz some woman hugged him.

      PATHETIC!

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Yeah, let’s hear more about PeriSoft!

      This “european” fellow needs a hug himself, I think.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Getting a hug from a woman is easy. Getting a hug from a woma for selling her a 1994 Ford Explorer… That’s something special.

      I think that sometimes people forget that little things can be bigger experiences than big things. Travelling and doing neat stuff like seeing all the cars at the detroit auto show 6 days before it opened are cool, sure, but that doesn’t mean other stuff isn’t. Obviously a lot of stuff Jack’s experienced, and Paul in his autobiographies, is just as compelling on a personal level even though it’s not on an obviously grand scale. And it’s that kind of stuff I miss because of the other things.

      For your edification, search for ‘ford raptor simulator’ and you’ll see what I do instead of hugging.

  • avatar
    NorCalZman

    These selling car stories are very entertaining/interesting to read. Please keep posts like this coming. Hope that lady had a long happy relationship with her Explorer.

  • avatar
    dastanley

    I bought a 94 Mazda Navajo new when I lived in Kingman, AZ from the local GM-Mazda dealer. The Ford dealer down the road was fresh out of 94 Explorers, and the Navajo was just a badge engineered 2 door Explorer. I financed it through USAA which also offered a car negotiating service free with the loan. I just gave USAA the number of the dealership and the USAA negotiator and the dealership General Manager negotiated the price over the phone. Worked out nice. When I agreed to the final out the door price, all I had to do was just show up and pick it up. No salesmen.

    The 91-94s were rough around the edges compared to the 95s, which were much more refined. The pushrod 4.0L V6 was only rated at 160HP, and mine was the CA version, at 155HP (the dealeship in Kingman got it from another dealer across the state line in Needles, CA). It got gas mileage in the teens and went through 4 fuel pumps in the 11 years that I owned it. One day, I had just gotten back from a 4 day trip (airline pilot) and my Navajo had pissed out most of it’s oil in the airport employee parking lot. The crank seal had leaked next to the oil pan. Other than that, and lots of preventive maintenance, it did alright. The 4 wheel drive came in handy in Pennsylvania and northern New Mexico winters.

    • 0 avatar
      trk2

      The 4.0 V6 stayed at 160HP (225lbft) until 1997 when it was replaced by the SOHC version. The engine was rough and thrashed above 3000rpm but it had good low end torque and was competitive with the competition.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      I think I still see your Explorer flaking paint in the parking lot at the Gallup, NM Walmart. Did you ever get any comments from members of the Navajo Tribe driving a Mazda Navajo? I always thought that was a ballsy thing to call an SUV in the 1990s. But also right in line with having a Cheyanne package for Chevy trucks till not that long ago.

      Full Disclosure: I’m a Cleveland Indians fan, and no I don’t think they should change their name, I’m just a history teacher and I notice that stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      The only reaction I ever remember getting from a Native American (I’m assuming a member of the NN) was at one of the Jiffy Lubes in Farmington several years ago. He was the service rep that came out and tried to sell me an air filter when I was getting my oil changed. As he said “your Navajo”, he clenched his jaw and clearly was not happy. I was a little embarrassed, but the moment passed and the transaction went without incident. And I bought my air filter at the Walmart up the street – Fram.

  • avatar
    william442

    My good friend, who spent 30 years with GMAC, tells stories like yours. When I tell him I have leased another car, he just laughs.

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    “…it had crash damage which would have to be reported to the lucky new owner. The law’s quite clear on that.”

    Funny, I purchased a brand-new (24 miles!) 1995 VW GTI from a dealer in Columbus. Under a certain light, I noticed the right front fender was a slightly different shade of red than the rest of the car. Had it inspected by a helpful body shop guy – yup, it was damaged, fixed and repainted. Still had tape on the inner fender well. Drove right to the dealer and after some – ahem – “healthy” discussion, I was driving a Jetta GLX VR6. Dealer went out of business a year later.

  • avatar
    trk2

    “The ‘95 Explorer was incomparably superior to the ‘94. It had independent front suspension, a completely revamped interior, more room, a better stereo, NVH refinements, you name it”

    The 1994 didn’t have an independent front suspension? ;)

    Rude and crude (or rough and tough) it may have been, but it was also independent.

  • avatar

    Oh Jesus that was some story. I second NorCalZman on his wishes for the nurse.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Jack..You have gift, keep them coming

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    Huh? This lady was bringing in 55 grand a year, and she couldn’t get financed at 20 grand? How big was this house? I’ve seen guys who made 40g get financed for 50g for a overloaded F-150.

    Different times I guess. Damn.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      Exactly what I wanted to know. And keep in mind, this was in 1995! And the author called her “low-income.” I’m sorry, but that simply isn’t true. And keep in mind if that $18k support payment was for child support, it was tax-free to her. She was netting $45 grand/year in 1995. Ridiculous.

  • avatar
    werewolf34

    My mother had a 91 exploder with the pushrod v6. We got 220k miles out of that engine.

  • avatar
    chrisgreencar

    These car selling stories are a lot of fun! Very well written, and a nice ’90s flashback too. Thanks.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Love the story. Back when I worked retail in a dept store and then a home improvement store I also had many “friendly” customers. Maybe cause I was the only one who seemed to give a crap about actually helping them?

    On a more related note, the GM ordered a 2WD Explorer while living in Ohio? Why didn’t he just get a fully loaded Taurus Wagon? Better fuel economy and better winter snow traction.

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      Ay por dios!!!! I’ll have to be Captain Obvious on this one… in the middle of an SUV craze… an uncool Taurus wagon wasn’t making his peepee to “grow”.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Generally GMs make enough bank that they don’t have to worry about fuel economy. Also at most dealerships the GM can pick pretty much anything on the lot for his demo, so it tends to be whatever the hottest car is at the moment.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I’m really liking these stories Jack; thanks.

    I’m hoping as your guaranteed-to-please dealer stoies go from risque to XX, perhaps Mr. Schmitt will get over his inhibitions and tell us some of his guaranteed-to-please OEM-XX stories.

  • avatar

    She was good-looking, a bit zaftig for my twenty-three-year-old taste

    From the looks of things I guess your taste has changed over the years. Nothing wrong with a womanly woman.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Wait… Julie is a size four! She’s just top-heavy :)

    • 0 avatar

      Okay, so she’s half zaftig, the better half. Sir Mix-A-Lot and I have different tastes.

      People should understand that when it was still just a Yiddishism zaftig was a compliment. In Yiddish it means juicy or succulent. It never meant fat, just a woman with a bust and hips.

      A good example of a classically zaftig lady would be Lainie Kazan in her youth. It’s been 40 years and I still remember her Playboy spread. You could have put a straightedge from her shoulder to her nipple and there wouldn’t have been any gaps.

      A visual definition of zaftig

      Not necessarily safe for work:
      Lainie

      More
      More
      Ah, here’s one from Playboy

      Another Playboy shot

  • avatar
    educatordan

    zaftig did it for me at 16, 23, and still does it for me at 33. Sorry, Jack.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Makes my experiences selling Fuller Brush products door-to-door back in the early 1970s when a 15-year-old lad to the non-working stay-at-home married, often lonely, wives (far fewer working females back then when a single income was the norm for an adequate middle-class lifestyle).

    The moisturizing lotion samples had to be constantly restocked.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I dunno why any people would get upset over a name being stolen. I dint get mad when the Hudson Wasp came out.

  • avatar
    DangerousDave

    My dad sold Fords when I was a kid and came home with a story of an old dishevelled guy coming in and looking at the new cars on the lot. He said the other salesmen magically disappeared so he was “up” by default. He thought he had a snowball’s chance in hell making a deal, but the guy picked out a car. Of course the big question was “hows this guy gonna pay for it?” The answer, “let me get my bag out of the car”. He went to his car and got a paper bag out of the glove box that contained what my Dad described as a wad of $100 bills that would choke a horse. Proof you can’t judge a book by its cover.


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  • Jack Baruth, United States
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