By on April 18, 2013

Coffee. Old magazines. Quiet murmurs of conversations. I am stuck in an old office with two dozen other people who are awaiting instructions from a young tattooed lady with a clipboard and a shrill nasal voice.

“Follow me!”, I hear six inches from my ear. It seems like the perfect moment to have a rendezvous with the doctor, the dentist, or the job interview. Or at least someone who doesn’t instantly give me an instant flashback to my New Jersey upbringing.

Not this time. I’m in…

Hollywood. Or at least the Atlanta version of it.

24 hours ago I posted an ad on Craigslist for a 1983 Mercedes 300D. Nothing special. Great interior. I had priced it for a quick sale in a business where well used early-80’s vehicles have limited demand.

Within ten minutes I received the following response.

“Hi, We are actually looking for a few additional cars for a scene we are filming tomorrow for a new pilot ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ for AMC.”

Now I have been selling on Craigslist for over 10 years now. So I am acutely aware of the scam side of this world. One that is typically loaded with aspiring Nigerian bankers who need your exclusive help with freeing up millions of Euros. Or my personal favorite. The listing for a car where the phone number is written like ( 5^7^3) 286 –  1 ^ 4 ^ 2 ^ 3).

This one was a bit different. A complete sentence. An unusual attention to grammar and punctuation. It was a boring Sunday afternoon, so I responded.

“I would be interested if I could bring a second vehicle along with my wife as well. Let me know if you are looking for a particular era of vehicles.

All the best!” 

The emails went back and forth and my wife, bless her film and video background, was able to confirm the rest. The listing was likely legitimate. A bit random. But metro-Atlanta often has anywhere from 5 to 10 movie shoots during the spring season and yes, they do need old cars.

This was to be a shoot for the year 1983. It just so happened that I had that Mercedes and a 74’ Chevy C10 pickup that would be the perfect background vehicles for a set that would try to recreate an office park in Dallas right after the famous early-80’s oil crash.

The clincher was that it was only 15 miles away and the Monday auto auctions are horrifically expensive this time of year. Cars that sold for only $6000 this time of year now sell for $7500 thanks to Uncle Sam redistributing refunds and unearned perks to millions of people who usually get a big wad of cash only once a year.

Tax season is an incredibly difficult time to buy cars on the cheap. This is why I will buy as many as twelve a day in the final quarter of the year and fewer than 12 a month from January through late May. It’s cheaper to buy a holding yard and replace a few batteries than it is to pay a four figured price premium on a per car basis.

The pay for 2 extras on the set comes out to $120 each for 10 hours; plus $35 for each of our two glorified clunkers. The family revenue would be $310 in total for a short drive and interminably long waiting periods in a long line of small offices.

Would it be worth my time?

Well… you live life once as the old saying goes and since this is a minimal hassle deal, we take it. 5 A.M. buzzer. My wife and I eat our fruits and pack our coffees. I get the keys to a 39 year old Chevy with the 350 V8, while the wife gets the screaming ‘Eeeeeee!!!’ buzzer of the Mercedes Turbodiesel.

20 minutes later. No traffic. We’re there. A parking lot that will soon look like the 70’s version of American Graffiti.

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56 Comments on “Hammer Time: The First Set...”


  • avatar
    brettc

    That pickup and Mercedes would have looked totally appropriate for an episode of CHiPs. The truck is similar to what Constable Baker drove.
    You seem to have quite interesting experiences. Too bad that they just wanted to rent your vehicles for the day. Better than nothing I suppose since they’re undesirable to most people.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Welcome to the wonderful world of waiting around while other people work.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    You should have thrown in an AMC Spirit, Concord or two to really be authentic, as they were riding high at the time!

    Even being an “extra” in a movie requires hours of doing absolutely nothing. A colleague who was chosen as an extra found that out when Clooney was filming “Ides of March” in town.

    All scenes in which he was part of wound up on the cutting room floor, too.

    Go to Hollywood, and you’ll see how Lyle Waggoner makes his money now, leasing his “Star Waggons” to actors to pass the time in comfort.

    As for my colleague and other extras to pass the time – they got a Cincinnati Metro city bus to relax in! An interesting experience, nevertheless.

  • avatar
    WEGIV

    “thanks to Uncle Sam redistributing refunds and unearned perks to single parents with way too many kids”

    – unnecessary. This is a car website.

    “thanks to buyers flush with tax refunds” – there, FTFY.

    Seriously. Knock it off with the political trolling. As should have been clear from the response on the Guns and Ferraris article, not everyone on this site shares common political views, and I’d rather the B&B stick to arguing about cars instead of devolving into yet another endless political argument. Or at least keep the arguing about politics vaguely auto-related. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The truth is too political for you? He’s the one in the used car industry. He’s the one that sees who the people driving his market are. There’s a difference between people that haven’t figured out withholding and people on the receiving end of LBJ’s plan for creating dysfunctional people.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      What I described is a historical fact in the car business.

      A substantial number of car buyers during tax season will fit this exact description. There is nothing political about it.

      • 0 avatar
        otter

        Steve, “Uncle Sam redistributing refunds and unearned perks to single parents with way too many kids” is a personal opinion on the merits or lack thereof of government policies, who are and or not the beneficiaries and why, and how many children is an appropriate number to have – it has nothing to do with the car business.

        • 0 avatar
          Astigmatism

          Seconded. This phrase “historical fact” – it does not mean what he thinks it means.

          • 0 avatar
            Steven Lang

            What I described IS a historical fact here in the south. During tax season the single mom with brood in tow, and a hefty unearned tax refund in their pocket, is a common customer.

            Your inconvenient truth is a historical fact that has existed for decades in much of the United States.

          • 0 avatar
            Astigmatism

            “tax refund”/”brood in tow” – historical facts. “unearned perks”/”way too many” – opinions.

          • 0 avatar
            otter

            Steve, are you meaning to refer to the Earned Income Tax Credit?

          • 0 avatar
            Detroit-Iron

            Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            Hmmm…so if being flush with cash at this time of the year enables this class of car buyer to flood into the market and drive prices up during tax time, does it also stand to reason that demand then drops (saturated market) for this kind of car the rest of the year, driving prices down and enabling you to buy on the cheap and then sell for much more…during next tax season? At year’s end, this cycle is actually benefiting you, right?

          • 0 avatar
            wstarvingteacher

            Steve: Thanks for having the berries to state your opinion and spice up things just a bit. If not for your opinions the columns would be far less readable.

            I am pushing 70 years old and have seen the political climate change back and forth for years. The commenters need to understand that political players do not run out of a sense of altruism. I am a card carrying independent and in my lifetime I can think of only one who might have. Really though, power was probably the coin that wealthy politician pursued. You are all defending things that might best be left alone. If you want to know how things work, watch the money flow.

            The people who would crucify you for saying something about our journey to socialism are probably the same ones screaming “Bush lied, soldiers died”. I have watched some of my grandchildren who are in the young adult period of their lives and the way they squander the sizable tax refunds they do not earn. I have to admit that I don’t approve. Unearned things you get seem to have little value.

            If you don’t care for the package, don’t read it. You know what you are getting and
            it isn’t a pig in a poke. You guys have spent more time criticizing his politics and none that argues what he said was untrue.

          • 0 avatar
            WEGIV

            and wstarvingteacher demonstrates why I called Steve on this. Precisely the sort of rambling, ranting, off-topic argument I’d rather avoid here, because it won’t ever end, and has very little to do with fact, and NOTHING whatsoever to do with cars. It’s a distraction.

            As an aside, what exactly made you the arbiter of whether anyone’s (your grandchildren or otherwise) tax return was unearned?

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            @WEGIV,

            Steve made a plain enough statement of fact that nobody other than you made a single comment about it until you opened the door with your misplaced attempt at censorship. You were the one distracted by your intolerance for other people observing reality. You were the one that shifted this discussion from cars and movies to denial of unpleasant realities. Get it?

          • 0 avatar
            WEGIV

            CJinSD I’m not going to waste time rehashing fact/not fact, the definition of reality, and who is denying it, as I think everything’s already been said, and I’m not likely to convince anyone of anything different at this point.

            But accusing me of censorship and intolerance goes a little far. Censorship is preventing someone from speaking their mind. Intolerance is saying they’re not allowed to have that viewpoint. Calling someone out when they insult a group of people with an exaggeration (even if it is rooted in fact) is neither.

            We all have our trigger issues. As one of three children (is that too many, SL?) of a single parent who worked her ass off to avoid the welfare line and provide for us, but on more than one occasion used her tax return to repair or replace a broken car, you might say that this is one of mine. When someone implies that single parents with kids are taking advantage of the system to get something they didn’t deserve, then I’m within my rights to call them on their overgeneralization (or if you prefer, disagree with their opinion), and keep calling them on it when they claim that they’re only stating a fact.

          • 0 avatar
            CamryStang

            @CJinSD

            Curious how opinions are only facts and stating disagreements are only censorship when it’s about YOUR views.
            Give up the act already.

            If you want a political blog, go start one. Last time I checked this was a car blog, and ascribing to your brand of politics is not a requirement for joining.

            I for one see enough talking-point wannabe politicians pontificating on Facebook, I don’t need to see it here. Judging by the other comments here I’m far from alone.

        • 0 avatar
          FuzzyPlushroom

          It’s the phrasing that chafes, I think. The truth presumably is that single parents are a higher-than-usual proportion of buyers at this time of year, but “thanks to the legions of single parents simultaneously receiving tax refund checks from Uncle Sam” would have made the same point without injecting any real bias. Of course, it seems silly to complain, since a) I glossed over that line on my first read-through and b) Jack gets away with a /lot/ more than that. ;-)

          • 0 avatar
            EchoChamberJDM

            Its a blog people, if you are incensed by Steve’s ranting about tax benefits to single people with many dependents, you need to stop surfing the internet because thats all there is out there now. Anyone who publishes a “just the facts ma’am” website will soon realize there is no audience. Same with CNN, FOx News, etc. If you want a true take on the wholesale market, get a dealers license and log onto Manheim’s website. Steve is showing the reality of the tax refund season and how is drives the used car market.

          • 0 avatar
            360joules

            It may only be anecdotal from Mr Lang, but he reports what he sees in his market.

        • 0 avatar
          360joules

          Your avatar is Che? Even with the cliCHE tag in your avatar your avatar is a statement, too. Now Che on a Triumph crossing the Andes=cool. Che trying to lead a violent communist revolution in a country where he is unwanted = not cool.

          • 0 avatar
            otter

            360Joules,

            Indeed, my avatar is a statement. I think the romantic veneration of Che that exists among certain strains of leftist thought is ridiculous. When I saw that image I thought it was a pithy twist on Korda’s famous photo.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        I might be a bit slow but I never put 2 and 2 together in regards to tax refunds until I read one of Steve’s stories a while ago that talked about it. So now if we need a new vehicle, it likely won’t be purchased during the spring months. It’ll probably be November/December based on Steve’s excellent advice.

    • 0 avatar
      jvossman

      While I share the author’s opinion, it is in fact an opinion, not a fact and I probably wouldn’t share it with the masses.

      The suggestion “tax refund”/”brood in tow” instead of “unearned perks”/”way too many” – still makes the article awesome without distracting.

      Wondering if there is a part 2 to this story… hope so.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        Thank you. I agree that the article was, by and large, great.

        The following is an opinion: There’s a right way and a wrong way to run a car blog, and unless that car blog is hosted on RedState or HuffPo, the way that drags unrelated matters of fiscal policy and gun control into it is the wrong way.

        • 0 avatar
          WEGIV

          +1
          I’m not bothered by the truth. I’m bothered by the author’s overgeneralization/editorializing on the truth. If you’re still convinced that this is all “historical fact” and can’t see the distinction that we’ve made here, I’m unlikely to convince you otherwise, but I expect the site’s editors to help with that in the future.

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            What if we just aimed to piss both sides off? Something to the effect of, “single parents, product of an overly Puritanical Abstinince-only society, flush with unearned tax cash?” Everyone wins/loses!

    • 0 avatar
      dts187

      Take a step back for a second, everyone.

      These are editorials. He is editorializing. It seems like just a little caustic jab at something frustrating in his line of work.

      I don’t understand the amount of butt-hurt.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      FWIW, discussing the Earned Income Tax Credit isn’t partisan in nature — both parties agreed on it and agreed on expanding it. It’s been around since 1975 or so (not LBJ-related) and was expanded in Reagan’s 1986 tax code. Generally speaking, politicians of various stripes like it because it helps the working poor — in order to get the credit, you have to be working.

      • 0 avatar
        wstarvingteacher

        Corntrollio, this is the best response yet. Also dts187. Btw WEGIV, I hated sticking my oar in the water but I see another brouhaha about politics shaping up. I have pretty much learned to not become emotional about ideologies and that is what this is regardless of how you shape it.

        Now I will explain my definition of the difference between earned and a gift. If these folks give nothing to the IRS and still get money back it is not a return. It is a gift. You can frame it how you want but that is my opinion. Having an opinion does not make one an arbiter. You have a right to your own opinion. You have the right to disagree and you did so with both SL and I. I would recommend leaving it alone next time. BTW you left out geriatric as a description of my statement and I must point out that you are the stick that stirred the s**t. If you take offense at my approach, I am sorry. I don’t expect to respond again.

        Ignoring bad behavior is the quickest route to extinction.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      By telling Steve what he shouldn’t write, car blog or not, you are by definition making an attempt at censorship.

      Protip; if you don’t like what someone wrote on the internet, and don’t have anything valuable to add to the conversation, scroll or close the window.

      • 0 avatar
        CamryStang

        Perhaps you should abide by your own tip.

        No, sorry, you can’t just play fast and loose with the c-word. Objecting to inserting political opinion as fact is not censorship. Questioning the appropriateness of doing so given the site’s format is not censorship.

        Expressing opposing views is not censorship; freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom to not be opposed.

        In order for it to be censorship, readers would have to have the ability to delete the article

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    That is pretty cool. Just the fact that your cars got to be in a bona-fide movie makes the whole ordeal worth it.

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    You selling that pick up?

  • avatar
    ajla

    I have a feeling you’re going to make some decent cash on that truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      Lordy, that truck is beautiful.

      You could name your price up Nort’ here.

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        Yeah, the rust is devastating anywhere that uses salt. These seem more common than Dodges, and about on par with Fords, but I don’t know how much of that is corrosion resistance (or a lack thereof) and how much is explained by original sales figures.

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          Having paid keen attention to trucks since the early 70′s, I’d say that corrosion resistance was effectively non-existent prior to the mid-90′s, at least resistance sufficient to be noticeable in the salt belt.

          Nowadays it’s pretty unremarkable to see clean 8-12 year old trucks anywhere in Wisconsin. This is definitely a new thing.
          And since I do pay attention, I must say that Dodge products seem to succumb a few years sooner than do Ford or GM.

          Funny thing is, the transition period from rust-bucket to resistant seems pretty abrupt. It’s very rare that I see anything older than a mid 90′s truck, but there are plenty of those still on the road.

          • 0 avatar
            Carl Kolchak

            Have to disagree. Here in MN, the land of Rust, you still see rusty Chevy’s and Dodges 8-12 years old. Granted better than they used to be, if Steve’s ’73 were here, it would be a drivetrain and frame by now.
            As for Steve’s comments,the same thing happens in Real Estate . This time of year there are a lot of home purchases where the downstroke is the tax refund.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            @Carl

            Yeah, I won’t say that those 8-12 yr old ones here are all pristine, but the rust is usually pretty minimal compared to what trucks of the same age would have looked like back in, say, 1990 or earlier. And many of them *are* completely clean, though that may in part be because they’re enjoying much gentler lives than trucks usually got in olden times and many are garaged and otherwise pampered. Mine were.

            I almost never see the totally rotted out rockers, fenders, headlight wells, door bottoms…etc., nor the flapping body/bed panels because the struts have broken loose with trucks of that vintage.

            So, though I despise most current trends in cars & trucks, I have to admit that big progress has been made in a few things and corrosion resistance is one.

          • 0 avatar
            FuzzyPlushroom

            The only trucks I see (in NH/MA) from the past 10 years with any rust are Dodges, usually around the wheel arches of the bed, as in days of yore. Fords and GMs tend to be clean.

  • avatar
    CV Neuves

    I agree with the readers here that dissented the authors right-wing utterances in this – to boot over-all rather pointless – article. This is an editorial matter and should be daelt with pre publication.

    If I have to deal with this type of quasi hate-speech again I will speedily cancel my account and remove TTAC from my bookmarks. I am from a single-parent household and I feel thoroughly offended.

    • 0 avatar
      360joules

      Don’t let the back door hit you in the kiester. It’s not politics, just market activity. Lots of retail activity is stimulated by this income transfer payment. It passes money to honest-hard-working-folks-in-a-pinch, welfare breeders, honestly disabled folks, dishonest SSDI recipients, etc. Regardless of politics and ideology, if the right numbers are entered on a form, money results. If the recipient’s current car is dying, dead, or at risk of dying, then the influx of 2,000-7,000 cash might induce someone to roll the dice on a new ride.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    I wonder if the non-dealership market also has this issue re: tax returns. I’ve noticed that prices recently on Craigslist have been higher than I remember 6-8 months ago.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    By the way, the other thing I’d note about the EITC is that you can get it if you are single without kids in some cases (although only if you meet the age requirement and have fairly low income), and you can also get it if you are married in some cases. Historically, there was a one kid category and a two-or-more-kids category, but now it’s one kid, two kids, and three-or-more kids on a temporary basis for 2010-2013. The three-or-more category has only slightly higher maximum than the two kids category does (slightly more than 10% difference). The difference between the one kid and two kids category much larger.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Interesting debate here folks…

    First off, I do apologize for the fact that sometimes the generalities of what I experience and write about can apparently ensnare an undeserving soul or two into the same net.

    The issue of having way too many kids does not apply to any responsible parent. My wife happens to be the oldest of six and her mom was unfortunately widowed with a large family to raise about 20 years ago.

    Her mom did an absolutely outstanding job and the family is pretty much the best I ever met. Every one of them is a success and though I rarely express it, they are the best uncles, aunts, and grandma my kids could every have.

    But, let me reiterate the literal asterisk and drive this point home. That comment I wrote about had nothing to do with responsible parents or good people in general.

    The truth is that there is a burn out factor when dealing with people who don’t know how to raise kids, and often abuse your property. About 90% of my customers are truly wonderful people that I would gladly help out in their time of need. I often do and not once have I taken advantage of someone who has been kicked by an unpleasant reality.

    Life happens to all of us.

    A big expense comes into the family coffers. A repair needs to be done. I never charge late fees if the folks I deal with are honest about their circumstances, and if a repair needs to be done, I’ll put it at the back of the loan at my cost.

    However, there are some people out there who simply get paid without having to work or maintain anything and have not even the slightest interest in doing so. What I mean by that is they are by in large, human hurricanes, that eventually destroy everything in their path.

    That also includes their own kids. I can’t STAND how these f’ers will come in with music blaring, and within two minutes of parking the car they’re busy yelling at the poor kids. To be frank this is one of the reasons why I try not to spend too much time at the lot. You have a society now where millions of people no longer feel any obligation to be mothers, fathers and role models.

    Those of you who haven’t dealt with this element will never understand the reality of it. No matter what books you read or how many reality TV shows you watch, you’ll never understand the totality of this horrific behavior. I hope you never do. Let’s just say that this has nothing to do with the myth that is race or the usual shallow hate mongering on both sides of the superficial political divides.

    It has to do with an utter lack of self-reliance and self-determination. Poor habits. Poor upbringing. Poor understanding of how the world works, and a poor willingness to live beyond the moment.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “That also includes their own kids. I can’t STAND how these f’ers will come in with music blaring, and within two minutes of parking the car they’re busy yelling at the poor kids. To be frank this is one of the reasons why I try not to spend too much time at the lot. You have a society now where millions of people no longer feel any obligation to be mothers, fathers and role models.”

      Yes, this is quite noticeable. Those who have done studies on this have noted that low income people often don’t get married to have kids because they don’t see kids as a barrier to the rest of their life. Often it’s because grandma or someone else is actually raising them, and then school functions as free babysitting. They only want to get married when they’re “settled”, but kids have nothing to do with being settled and are seen as a minor inconvenience. It shows.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    Is there going to be a Part II? I was all set to read about your experiences on the set and that was precisely where you stopped!

    Last July a movie about the CBGB nightclub was filmed here in Savannah, and I spent a day as an extra along with my ’64 Corvair. Most of the day was spent going back and forth on an overpass filming multiple takes of three or four scenes in which my Corvair and a group of other 60′s and 70′s cars served as background traffic. Actually, most of the day was spent sitting around waiting for the next take or next scene to be set up, punctuated by a few moments of actual shooting.

    It is an interesting exposure to what is involved in making a movie and to certain “tricks” of the process. However, the one word of caution I will put out there is that it is not necessarily the kindest thing to do to your vintage car. This was one of the hottest days of the summer and because there is so much “hurry up and wait” involved, all the cars spent a lot of time idling in the baking sun. A couple of times we had to back all the way across the overpass to set up a scene, and after one of those runs a ’69 Mustang was boiling over. The extras were boiling over too — after 12 hours spent mostly sitting in an un-air-conditioned car in the sun, I stank and desperately needed a shower!

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Odd controversy here about tax refund season. Most products have a seasonal sales pattern. It was once commonly based on harvest season when farmers and ranchers sold their crops/herds and had a pocket full of money. Now it is a little bit based on tax refund season for some products. Just a simple fact, but one that seems to have brought the fools out in the open.

    Merry Xmas to each and every one,

    Jimbob


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