By on October 15, 2013

Ringman1

Steve Lang might not be “thrilled by the shill”, but here at TTAC, we’re delighted to see him return. As always, he drove a tough bargain, but he’s back. Look for more “Hammer Time” articles from our rogue buy-here-pay-here specialist in the future! — JB

“Did he just try to run me up on a $500 car?”

The auctioneer had seen my bid, taken it, and then moved his body to a 90 degree angle from where I stood. He quickly took a bid. A bit too quickly for me to believe it.

Magically, a $600 bid had been taken somewhere between the sea of bodies and the coke machine, as he quickly went back to me looking for more. I saw the low mileage 1994 Geo Prizm with the banged up body slowly move away as the auctioneer tried to make eye contact and get me to bid again. Except I wasn’t watching from the same spot anymore. I walked away. The shill bidding that would have cost me at least $150 was now worth nothing.

I knew his trick because, a bit over 10 years ago, it was my job to help the auctioneer make it work.

auction1

I was a ringman. The guy who hooted, pointed, hollered and helped the auctioneer use his powers of persuasion to create a competitive market out of nothing more than thin air.

The bumping tactic this guy used was as common as kudzu here in north Georgia. You find the nearest crowd that the bidder can’t easily make out, bump the bid up with a ringman who knows how to create the urgency to buy, and then go back to your bidder.

I usually don’t mind this. It’s done a lot in our business, and for one unescapable reason.

The seller has a reserve price. If he doesn’t get a bid that is at least close enough to comfortably sell that vehicle, he won’t sell it. The auction won’t get a buy fee and sale fee, and maybe, the auctioneer and ringman will be as much in demand as that 18 year old Geo Prizm that looked like it got into a fight with a Volvo, and lost.

That’s what pissed me off. Not that I was bumped, because that’s just part of the wholesale side of this business. What got me all wound up was that the auctioneer had obviously tried to bump me after the reserve price had already been met. An unforgivable sin because he blew a deal that could have resulted in a win/win for all parties. .

Blown opportunities aside, there are times when a buyer and a seller need a bit of shill bidding to get a deal done. If I bid $10,000 on a low-mileage 2012 Honda Accord EX, and the seller wants $15,000, you can bet that the auction staff is going to simulate competitive bidding, You can also count on the fact that I, as a long-time car buyer, am going to have to use my judgement as to what I’m willing to bid.

This ability to see things and restrain myself didn’t come cheap. Some experiences in life require what can kindly be called, a tuition payment. You literally have to keep paying for certain things until the wool is no longer in front of your eyes. Shill bidding is just one of many, many tricks that come with buying vehicles at a dealer auction.

Shill bidding is especially common during the period after Labor Day and before Thanksgiving. This is the time of year when you have no spending holidays. Few if any tax returns, and the weather gets cold, which means folks spend less time shopping for used cars in the great outdoors. When demand is slack, the auction staff is under more pressure to bump the price of a vehicle into a sellable range.

This is also the time of year when I find some of my best deals; especially when it comes to certain types of vehicles. Want to buy a convertible on the cheap? Buy it between October and mid-November. Better yet, buy a non-running convertible with a bad engine. You may have to wait until spring time to sell it, But if you’re using your money, and only your money, you can invest wisely and yield a long-term return that would even make a loanshark envious.

There are other factors during this time of year that make shill bidding more common. The model changeover is in full swing. So late model vehicles, especially those that are unpopular, will experience their strongest drops in value and a greater risk of investment. A lot of dealers will bid (and not bid) accordingly. Then there is the biggest financial issue of all in the car business. Floorplans.

A dealer will typically have a certain number of days, usually between 60 and 90 days after the initial purchase, when a floorplan company will allow him to try to sell that car without having to pay for it in full. After that time period has come and gone, he will need to pay the initial purchase price of the vehicle along with a substantial fee and other related costs.

Dealers who rely on floorplans, don’t have the luxury of buying cars in October and then paying for the purchase price before the public at large gets their end of year bonuses and tax returns. The floorplan company will want their money on the date due and not a single day later.

So they can’t bid on as many cars; especially those cars that will require plenty of time and money to fix. With fewer dealers bidding against you, there is a better opportunity to buy that steal of the deal.

Which brings us back to the handiwork of that auctioneer. Most of the time when you take a bid that is sideways to you as an auctioneer, your motion is rigid. You need to first look (or hear the ringman), find the person in a crowd that was initially part of your peripheral vision, and then take the bid. Then you go back to the other bidder. This process usually results in a series of short, jerky motions.

This auctioneer simply bounced back and forth with the same steady motion, which let me realize real quick that he had no money at all. As soon as I saw the bump, I walked away and stopped making eye contact with the auctioneer. He couldn’t find any buyers and the vehicle was no-saled.

Later on in the auction, it was brought back in the barn and I got it for $350. I needed the engine in that Prizm for an older Corolla I had with a clean body. The net cost for the engine was nearly free since I could sell the remnants of this vehicle to a friend of mine who has a nearby junkyard. That engine, with all of 88k, is what I needed for the non-running Corolla I bought a few weeks before.

Thanks to paying my “tuition” in times past, I got the car I needed for good money. Which brings me around to your experiences as a buyer. Was there a time when your tuition, or your intuition, lead you to a deal or trap that most other folks wouldn’t realize? Feel free to make it car related, or life related. After all, stories like these can be the cheapest educations around.

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106 Comments on “Hammer Time: Not Thrilled By The Shill...”


  • avatar
    highrpm

    Welcome back Mr. Lang! I always look forward to your work here.

  • avatar
    50merc

    “Some experiences in life require what can kindly be called, a tuition payment.” So true, of so much. But each generation has to learn this at the school of hard knocks.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      Good judgement comes from experience.
      Experience come from bad judgement.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I call it Stupity Tax, of which I’m in the middle of paying after scraping a Jersey barrier with my nearly brand-new car. Wheel refinish: $150. Trim piece: $125. Four-wheel alignment: $100.

      Stupidity Tax on distracted driving: $375.

      20 years ago I paid $300 Stupidity Tax at an auction for not catching what Steve describes here.

      Anyway, welcome back Steve!

  • avatar
    mitchw

    At last! At last!

  • avatar
    scrubnick

    I see this at a certain “charity vehicle clearing house” in Gardena. The lot has a price on the car, a buy it now that you can pay at any time during the week. On Saturdays, they hold an “auction.” The starting bid is always 30-50% lower than that. I went to one to try and get a car I wanted that was listed at 7500. At the auction, there was little interest in it and I bid up to 5500. Someone then “bid” it up to 6000. I went to 6000 and they went to 6500. I walked away. That car was back on the lot the next day. And the auction the next week.

  • avatar
    vtnoah

    Welcome back Steven! Love your posts.

  • avatar
    DDayJ

    Welcome back SL!

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Yay! WB.

  • avatar

    I’ll read it in a second, I just also wanted to add my “Welcome Back!” to the chorus

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Missed your articles. Welcome back.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Can the seller bid against the ‘bidder’? I’ve seen every other 3rd car go across the line, 2 or 3 times. What a scam. By the time the hammer drops, the price usually exceeds retail. I don’t see the point of paying that much unless you’re a BHPH (scam in itself) or exporter netting 2 or 3X as much, on the other end.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Just like to point out that Steve runs a BHPH lot. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea, even if a lot of the operators use it to push horrible junk. If you don’t have a lot of money, and need a working car (even if it is a bit worn), not a lot of banks will bother financing a 15-year-old car, even if it is a Toyota with 5-10 years of life left.

      And not even the highest-volume exporter or shadiest BHPH operator has any interest in over-paying for vehicles. Lost profit is lost profit. Inexperienced operators lose out on that profit, end of story.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        I used to be an all cash dealer during the first five years of my business.

        However, the sub-prime mortgage crisis pretty much destroyed much of the economy out here in northwest Georgia. So I had to start financing folks. In fact, prior to then, I avoided the finance side of the business entirely because I had philosophical issues with putting people in debt over a consumer asset.

        If it were up to me I would still be an all cash dealer. But you have to weigh in your ideals with the practicalities of your work. A lot of cars at auctions now sell for close, at, or above the retail price, and the overwhelming majority of people where I live have trouble even coming up with $500 for a down payment.

        If any of you are curious to see the way I operate my business, feel free to click below. I haven’t changed my ways and I still can brag about having 100% Positive feedback on Ebay for over 10 years now.

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/02/hammer-time-forays-into-finance/

        All the best! Thanks to all of you for keeping the community together.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Selling older/overpriced cars for cash or even at high/usury interests, I don’t necessarily have a problem with. It’ the part where “buyers” are actually renting older cars until they’ve paid out more than 3X what they’re worth. Of course they rarely full fill the agreement and the BHPH “sells” them again.

          The “buyers” generally don’t have the cash for repairs to keep these old cars on the road, but the BHPH will cover the repairs and add them to the back of the agreement. That part especially irritates me. The repair bills are probably inflated too.

          • 0 avatar
            toxicroach

            My take on BHPH is that it’s actually a really good deal. Maybe you pay more than it’s worth, but if you’re in the BHPH socioeconomic demo, you’re going to pay more than it’s worth anywhere you go. At least at BHPH you can walk from a car you can’t afford, instead of having it repoed and then have your wages garnished for infinity or file bankruptcy after it get’s sold for 15g less than you owe on it at one of these auctions.

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            @Toxicroach — if you think BHPH customers can “walk away,” you’re mistaken. Many BHPH customers end up being pursued in court for ridiculous sums and their wages garnished.

            Check out this LA Times piece for some eye-opening anecdotes:
            http://articles.latimes.com/2011/oct/30/business/la-fi-buy-here-pay-here-part1-storyb

            Particularly the trail of this POS Kia:

            http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-buy-here-pay-here-timeline-interactive,0,4010877.htmlstory

            Eight buyers of a single car in three years, with the sale price at least 100% over KBB every time (and 20% interest on top of that). At least two of the eight ended up with court judgements for more than the car was worth when they bought it, despite having it repossessed. And that’s just the confirmed ones.

            I do not think every BHPH dealer is like this, and Mr. Lang certainly does not seem to be. But there are lots of BHPH lots for whom predatory would be a compliment.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Something that most don’t think about, but one thing is certain. It is very expensive to be poor. You get screwed on cars at the BHPH lots. No car? Then you overpay at the local bodega when you shop. Banks are not interested in your business, so you end up in accounts loaded with fees, and heaven forbid you overdraft. You will be slammed with charges that should be criminal. You are trapped in rentals that are overpriced for what they are. I am amazed that the poor don’t riot at society in general. Maybe they just don’t know how bad they get screwed.

        • 0 avatar
          jpolicke

          Steve, on BHPH lots, is there a cash price? Or are the terms finance only?

          • 0 avatar

            RE:”It is very expensive to be poor. You get screwed on cars at the BHPH lots.”

            Its not expensive to be poor. It IS expensive to have poor credit, regardless of who’s fault that might be. The BHPH or LHPH business knows it is facing 30% default and repossession rates and has to price for that risk. Those who do pay end up paying for those who don’t. Without the BHPH/Payday and Title Loan business, Tony and Guido from Kneecap Motors are back in business.

            Being poor, irresponsible, AND uneducated is what is expensive.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        It’s not that BHPHs and exporters want to pay more than the vehicles and equipment are really worth, but they’re short on ‘time’ and long on money. So they’ll buy 25+ units at a time. They don’t have time to scour the internets and drive everywhere. And then there’s the huge gains to be made. Everyone over pays, no exceptions.

        It is possible to get a good deal old beaters though, but then you competing with scrap value.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      I’ve been to a couple of Ritchie Bros. construction equipment auctions and they had very large signs stating “No Buybacks.” Basically a buyback was the seller or their proxy bidding on their own equipment to drive up the auction price. If Ritchie Bros. found out you were bidding on your own equipment your company was banned from their auctions (which are a huge worldwide business).

      This may or may not apply to automobile auctions, and would probably vary between the big auction houses (Mannheim and Adesa) vs. the smaller local operations.

      Supposedly preventing buybacks makes for a more honest auction with where the buyers are not competing with the sellers and/or the house. Whether or not this is true I really don’t know, particularly with real time online bidding.

    • 0 avatar
      olddavid

      I believe a well run operation should offer all services required by the public. This includes BHPH. This entails a geometric increase in risk and those costs have to be spread among all the users of this service. Mr. Lang wouldn’t still be in business were he not offering a fair value.How many of your locals have come and gone since he began this commentary? Besides, doesn’t the general tone of his posts reflect a genuine concern for his customers?

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      You’ve obviously got a good credit rating, or a good enough job that you can save up for your next car and then just plunk down the cash. Some people aren’t in that position. And they still need a car, even if their job is such that they’re barely able to keep food on the table, a roof over their heads, and a car payment current.

      BHPH lots aren’t automatically rip-offs. Yeah, their interest rates can verge on credit card high, but if you’ve got a credit rating in the low 500’s (like my girl friend), you don’t get 3-4% loans on used cars offered to you. You buy from where you can, do your research to find a lot with a decent reputation for honesty, take as low an interest rate as someone will offer you, and above all don’t buy more car than you can honestly pay even if things get a little tight.

      Fortunately, the girlfriend has found one like that in the Richmond area. Decent, higher mileage cars, an honest up-front dealer attitude, and an interest rate that’s about as low as you’re going to get when you have her bad credit rating.

      And then you work on the credit rating, so you can stop dealing there as soon as possible.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    So, you must school yourself in how to bid at an auction because the b*st*rds running it are actually cheating?

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    • 0 avatar
      davidziff

      Another crushing revelation from Steve. I was sure that the one place in business transactions that existed without cheating, corruption and an unfair playing field could be found at used car auctions. Say it ain’t so Steve !!

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @davidziff, lol! My step grandfather used to attend auctions with great frequency in the Fort Wayne, IN area. The kind of auctions that would sell anything they could get their hands on from furniture, to toys, to appliances, to cars, trucks, and tractors. The only good deals I ever felt he got was when someone cast off a box of something and he got it for free. I attended once or twice and couldn’t figure out what the cons were (being only 17 at the time) but I sure could figure out that something didn’t “smell” right about the whole operation.

        He once purchased a 1977 Malibu Classic sedan with the 305 two-barrel carb, white exterior/red vinyl roof/whorehouse red interior. Don’t remember what the purchase price was but I’m sure he got hosed. It was also the most pissed I’ve ever seen my grandmother. He kept it 3 years and sold it to the man down the street for his son’s first car. This would have been about 1995.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Well, these auctions are generally open to professionals-only; they aren’t even open to consumers.

      So yeah, if you want to compete with the big boys, you have to have some clue what you are doing. Even without a shill bidder, it’s rather easy for an inexperienced buyer to get caught up with “winning” an auction by paying too much. You need to do your research and be confident in your conclusions; there’s no way around that kind of schooling, even without shill bidders.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I guess your tuition analogy would be my own “credits” system toward my PhD in automobilia. Without some unfortunate losing propositions, you cannot recognize the wheat from the chaff.It speaks to your personal credibility that a BHPH can obtain a flooring line. Always good to hear from the veterans still plugging away on the front lines. Especially the professionals.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Welcome back to TTAC Steve! Your articles were one of my favorite parts of the site!

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Just when I was asking myself “Where the hell did that Lang guy go?”. Life on a BHPH lot must generate a story or two a day. Can’t wait to see more from you.

    From what I am told, there is a public auto auction here outside of Chicago that takes what you talk about here to the next level. What happens when you call these guys on their BS?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      Nothing. I keep my money. The keep their car.

      Of course there was that one time where I kept on yelling to the auctioneer, “Sell it to the other guy! Sell it to the other guy!” But that auctioneer is a good friend of mine and he could take the joke.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    Wow am I surprised to see this. I loved Lang’s work, but I was a bit mired by the rants over at Jalopnik / Kinja. Never stoop to the level of your aggressor and you will be better off for it.

    I’ve been happy with the direction of the site, so in TTAC I trust.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I didn’t think Steve stooped at all. Someone had to smoke out the hole.

      I’m glad Steve is back in whatever role. I’m glad Robert is back in whatever role. I hope someday Bertel will return in some way. And I’m very thankful Jack et al navigated tricky waters as beautifully as they did. I’m a school administrator….pulling this off wasn’t easy, certainly when dealing with fragile egos.

      Kudos.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Made my day, Steve. great to see you back.
    If I’ve learned anything in my nearly 60 years on this planet. After you have been burned a couple of times, ya think long, and hard, before you before ya too close to a fire.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Steve, glad to be able to read your stuff again!

  • avatar
    billfrombuckhead

    Welcome back!

  • avatar
    Waterview

    ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED TO SEE YOU BACK STEVE! Keep the great material coming. I’ve heard the term “chandelier bidding” used to describe auctioneers who run up the bid without actual support (as in “they’re staring at the chandelier and making up bids”). Apparently, it is legal for an auctioneer to increase the bid up to the reserve price. Would love for someone with more knowledge to actually confirm it. Unfortunately, it’s wildly immoral and doesn’t help the seller if his car doesn’t move.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Back in the day, I used to accompany my MIL and futrue wife to estate auctions. No reserve on anything – furniture, dishes, linens, appliances, tools, etc. The goal was to clean out the property so it could be sold. MIL did well buying antiques this way until the dealers drove prices way too high in her opinion. Similar to the car actions, the dealers were looking for stock for their stores that they could sell at 4x the action price.

    • 0 avatar
      67dodgeman

      Antique shopping with wife. First, find out what she wants. Second, tell her to go wait outside. Third, negotiate. Fourth, never tell your wife what you paid, just say I got a little bit of a deal.

      Learning step 2 was critical both to getting a good deal and staying married. My wife hates haggling because she thinks it’s beneath us. I have no idea where that came from, but I haggle all the time, usually not successfully but I at least try.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Couldn’t step 2 be interpreted as a bit condescending?

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Depends on the price and whats being haggled over, if theres a sound reason behind it (poor shape, inflated seller price) it makes sense, but if the price is already cheap then its plain greedy to haggle.

          I can guarantee that when it comes to selling used cars you can expect hagglers galore, smaller items like video game systems are usually more straight forward to sell.

        • 0 avatar

          Yes, but it’s still a reasonable policy. There’s a few reasons, but a key one is that you have one person doing the negotiating (and in Dodgeman’s case, the most dispassionate person, another win).

          Both my wife and I happily haggle and deal-seek, but as a rule I wouldn’t interfere when she was making a deal, and when it came time to buy our last used car (from a used lot, paying cash, and the experience was overall very good), the final negotiations were between me and the dealer alone in his office.

          Missus was pleased with the resulting deal, as was I. I don’t know if I got the best possible deal, but I’m content we got the car we wanted (backed up by three years of reliable service so far) at a good price, well within our budget.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’m glad to have you and your HT articles back Steve!

    My latest good deal was a junkyard Mercedes W123 dash cluster for $30, sold it for $111 about a week later on ebay for a good profit, otherwise theres far too many dealstraps I’ve made over the past 10 years or so.

    Probably every car I’ve owned was more a “trap” than a deal, save for my low mileage Volvo 240, but that was after 5 “traps” I fooled myself into that taught me plenty of lessons, like that Toyota can make bad cars (Tercel DX), ’90 Plymouth Horizons are terrible compared to earlier models, cheap air-cooled VWs require commitment that a high school can hardy give, and ’84 Fox Mustangs are difficult to get trim parts for.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’ll add this, try not to look at “old lady owned” 20yo Panthers and B-bodies with rose colored glasses. Sure they are awesome but father time has ravaged even the cleanest examples that haven’t had all of the regular maint these cars need. If your in the market for the good ole’ 5.0 Fox/Panther (as I was in 2008) go into with both eyes open and be prepared to do as much DIY as you can.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Thanks for the advice, I’m more interested in maintained and driven examples with some miles on them, running an old pampered low miles car is like taking a long jog before breakfast.

        I’m more so looking at 90’s models with the 4.6 before bean counters cut them up, with even a one year old used car I go in with wrenches ready. Maybe a 5.0 Town Car.

        Only problem is, I haven’t heard great things about working on 80’s-90’s Ford interiors with plastic rivets, arbitrary yearly changes and generally weird design choices abound.

        With getting a Fox interior its not easy, I had a plain ’84 Mustang I tried getting little bits to like better sun visors and hardly anything would match due to differing bolt patterns and other idiocys.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          “I’m more so looking at 90′s models with the 4.6 before bean counters cut them up, with even a one year old used car I go in with wrenches ready. Maybe a 5.0 Town Car.”

          I thought the same thing, and when I was first learning to drive (1998) the 5.0 was in its teenage car heydey, friends had 5.0 Cougars, Mark VIIs, Vic Coupes, and Townies. By 2008 the newest 5.0 Town Car was the ’90 on the Aero body, and I found a two tone cream/brown Signature on a beige carriage roof. Second owner little old lady owned, had documents from 1992 including an AOD trans replacement three years prior. Certainly a wonderful looking and riding car, then you’re told there was some obscure throttle body recall in 1991 on ’90 5.0s that yours somehow missed. You start getting electrical gremlins and can’t always get it started. Then your air ride won’t come back on and work properly after you hit the trunk switch on a tow, and during the same tow your e-brake physically breaks when you try to use it on a hill. Oh and then your mechanic tells you about all of the deferred maintenance the old lady didn’t do, including needing a rear main seal on the transmission you have receipts for being replaced three years prior, and my favorite, that there is a random quarter sized HOLE on the frame on the passenger side your mechanic’s late father found while doing the most through inspection possible, which of course fails PA insp. Two grand and a spot weld later you’re $1200 toy then breaks a brake line driving on the first nice day in March and you barely make it up the giant hill back to your apt before all of the fluid leaks out of the system.

          Keep your eyes open on the vintage iron. My ’93 Volvo had been regularly maintained when I purchased it, unless you have the inside track on a purchase assume worst case scenario on deferred maint and prepare to spend money or put in that sweat equity.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Recalls are some of the biggest headaches with Panthers, I’ve read up on them and it seems that regardless of the year there will be several and all of them result in expensive repairs, late Volvo 240s only had a very minor recall from what I know.

            That transmission seal is what often makes “old lady” cars duds, if a cars not driven enough the transmission won’t be lubricated right and the seal will leak.

            That hole in the frame, was it rust or just there?

            Thank you for the insightful posts though, when I brought my 240 it had been regularly serviced as well (if a bit worn on the inside), junkyard visits have fixed that though (thank goodness for Volvo keeping the same basic interior design for all 19 years).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            You’re quite welcome. My experience with Panthers at that point had been vicariously through friends 8-9 years prior so I don’t think I fully understood what I had gotten into. Regarding the hole Chuck theorized it was caused by water dripping down on the spot over time while the car was parked crooked. This particular lady parked her then current car (late model Century) one wheel on the driveway one wheel off so he may have been correct (perhaps she didn’t see well?). The benefit of the experience though was using my current mechanic for the first time, we knew each other but had never transacted business. Despite having to give up on the Panther, the eventual result of having to own it was finding someone to keep my Saturn on the road long after I prob could have otherwise and picking up my Volvo.

            I think if you buy a late model car that you know had been at least partially driven and serviced every year, you can have some faith in it. I also agree it was nice of Volvo to ride the same basic design for decades.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Its a possibility that water goofed it up, though B-Bodies are more prone to rusting than Panthers from what I know.

            My biggest issue with getting a Panther is that the one I want would be an utter frankenstein, it’d be a modern cop frameenginetransmission, but 90’s Marquis suspension, 90’s Town Car interior, and the body of the 80’s Town Car sedan.

            That and I’d never get the steering and road feel like what comes with a 240.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I like the low miles “old lady” examples just because the interior and trim is normally in good shape and IMO that is the hardest part of a car to rehabilitate.

        Plus it isn’t like a well-worn Panther or Caprice is going to need zero initial work in the first place.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          My mistake was I didn’t understand the scope of the work that would be necessary. Tires, brakes, fluids, I “got that”… its the obscure stuff you have to watch out for, IMO.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          True, but with lightly worn (I never meant well worn) at least the engine and the other parts of the car have been regularly lubricated.

          Interior and trim bits are regularly available at junkyards, its the yearly changes made on Panthers that makes it hard to get the right bits.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Speaking of mid-80s Fox Mustangs…how bad of an idea is buying a running but rough ’85 GT for 800 bucks that needs fresh paint, rust repair, and a good interior refinishing?

      The interior would be easy, I would just need to find another Fox ‘Stang in a junkyard with a decent interior, but who knows how extensive the rust is under the car…

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        I think finding that decent interior will be a lot harder than you think. At least at price you could probably part it out, sell the hulk for scrap, and break even.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          Well it does at least have an interior already, that gives it an advantage over so many three-digit lot paperweights. =P

          It might have gotten worse since I looked in it, but when I last looked it mostly needed stuff like dashboard trim, a radio, and some work done on the seats.

          The guy was trying to sell his heap for two grand last year before giving up, I thought maybe he might take 800 just to make SOME money off the car.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Also, I want a cheap RWD V8 car for fun transportation. Parting out a car and having NO transportation is the exact opposite of what I want to do…

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            @NoGoYo Are you dead set on the Mustang? Lots of other Fox bodies out there to bolt Mustang parts onto.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            If you could find one and have your eyes open to it, I’d go Mark VII. Style and class all the way.

  • avatar
    kenwood

    Welcome back Steve, I hope all is well and you got a nice big fruit basket for your return as well as a nice big fat apology. Looking forward to more of your posts.

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    Welcome back Steve, nice to see you all kissed and made up!

  • avatar
    A09

    Glad to see you back.

  • avatar
    the_yeti

    I’d love to hear more about swapping engines into cars and then selling them.

    Do you disclose that its a different engine from a different car? Do they run well?

    In my (limited backyard mechanic) experience engine swaps never lasted very long and always had a bunch of quirks. Granted, I am a crappy mechanic, so that could be why.

    Is engine swaps and re-sells common? Is there a way to see if this has happened to a car I am looking at? Does CarFax know anything about that?

    Thanks !

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      The Prizm and Corolla of that era (pre-Vibe) were badge-engineered twins that rolled off the same line at the NUMMI plant in Fremont simultaneously. It’s no more troublesome than taking a Sable engine and putting in a Taurus of the same vintage.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      For years that is what I did with most of the cars I drove. Find one that had a blown engine or maybe transmission that was in good shape otherwise and swap in a junk yard unit or find a wrecked car with the parts I needed and part out and then scrap the rest of it. Then my wife or I would drive it for 6-12 months depending on how much I liked the car or if someone offered me the right price. All said and done I’d usually sell it for enough to cover my costs and pay my labor at a reasonable rate. Personally I’d disclose that it did not have the original engine or trans.

  • avatar
    pb35

    In the words of Marv Albert, YESSS!

    Welcome back, Steve.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Steve,
    It’s great to see you here! Please jump in on the Piston Slaps too, missing your perspective has left it just a little thinner. I do my best to let others pay the tuition to gain my intuition, learning from seeing others take hard knocks. You have helped a lot, especially with the how to buy a used car series. Thanks!

  • avatar
    challenger2012

    Since there are plenty of car types here with used car experiences, I have a question on a used car selling business practice that I don’t understand. I live in Houston, and while calling a few phone numbers on cars that I was interested in, I got several sellers stating they are selling the car for their, (mother, brother, cousin, sister,( who were out of the country). What is gained by this rouge, other than to prevent you from coming back to them if something is wrong with the care? I have to say I have found this practice to be people from what I would guess would be from the Middle East, India, Pakistan etc. What gives?

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      These were from Craigslist posts or similar private sellers, I assume? Any offer to sell a car (or house, etc.) on behalf of someone outside the country should be assumed to be a scam. This one is depressingly common right now.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      The trick is there is no car (at least, not one for sale or one you can test drive) and they’ll try and sell the car as “a bargain” in return for the cash/money order/wire transfer and offer to mail you the keys they don’t have. (Because their “cousin” accidentally took the keys home.)

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Sometimes it is a pure scam, IE there is no car but in other cases the people are what is known as curbstoners. They buy a car cheap, possibly fix it up a bit and then sell it w/o ever transferring the title into their name. Many states have a limit as to how many cars an individual can sell in a calender year w/o obtaining a dealer’s license. So sometimes it may actually be in their brother/sister/mother’s name in other instances it may be still in the name of the person they bought it from yesterday or last week. The other advantage to not putting it in their name is that doesn’t create a paper trail of them making income, useful of course for avoiding income taxes as well as for staying eligible for assistance.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Except in some cases (mine, for instance) they aren’t. I am currently assigned to Saudi Arabia and my wife will be joining me shortly. US military/DoD civilians are not allowed to bring their personal vehicles, so we’ll be selling her 2011 Scion tC. She’ll attempt to sell it while still in the States (of course, if she does, then that leaves her without a car). But if it doesn’t sell in time for her departure, then we’ll have to give power of attorney for somebody else (family, close friend, etc..) to sell on our behalf. Not the most ideal, but we’ll do our best to assure potential buyers that this is legitimate and not a scam.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Nice to have you back, Steve. Somewhere in the back of my head is the notion that shill bidding is fraud . . . and is prosecuted as such. I have a dim recollection that the feds busted some people doing that on E-Bay, but I could be mistaken.

    The fraudulent part comes in when the seller and the shill bidder agree that, if the shill bidder wins the auction, he doesn’t have to buy the product.

    Obviously different rules may apply in North Georgia. Some of us are old enough to have seen “Deliverance” when it was released theatrically.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I really used to like going to the auction with my stepson who was a dealer. I really enjoyed him sharing what he knew. He is out of the business now, so you took his place till you left. Glad you are back.

  • avatar
    KennethofGA

    I don’t have much experience with auctions but I do remember reading about a practice known as “bidding to the chandeliers”. My reference for it is a book called The Dragon Sea that details the recovery and auction of rare Vietnamese china. Long story short the auction house made fake phone bids on items so they wouldn’t no sale and that the numbers would look good in the news the next day.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    It wasn’t quite a trap, but I had a salesman pull the whole “what would it take to get you into this car trick.” I would’ve appeared ripe for the picking – late 20 something car guy guy looking to actually buy his first car, shopping for used BMWs, had driven from Central to South Florida just to look for cars, and I clearly liked the 325i I was driving. I was hesitant. This was the first car I’d seen on this trip, and had a whole list of cars ahead of me that I planned to look at. I also wanted to do some more background research into the cars maintenance history. The sales guy worked hard…really tried to find out how low he would have to go to get me to take the car home that day. I finally told him that there was no price that he could lower the car to that would get me to take it home. If he offered me the deal of a lifetime, I would wonder what was wrong with the car that made him so desperate to get rid of it. He had no response.

  • avatar
    DenverInfidel

    Couldn’t be happier to see Mr. Lang back. Far and away my favorite writer here at TTAC.

    I have friends who work in or have grown up in the auction world, and I’m always fascinated by the whole circus.

  • avatar
    dtremit

    Mr. Lang — I’ll add my voice to those very glad to see you back here!

  • avatar
    Acd

    Wow first Farago and now Steve Lang! Jack was serious about mending fences and bringing everyone back. Steve brings a unique perspective to the site and it is stronger with his contributions. Welcome back Steve!

  • avatar
    fiasco

    Happy for Hammer Time’s Return!!!!

  • avatar
    HeeeeyJake

    I used to work at a BMW dealer as a detailer and part-time salesperson. Three years later, in 03/08, I bought an 04 BMW 330cic for $25,700. It was low miles, an Oct03 build date, driven fair weather, lease return. It had been returned from lease in 10/07. Sat for months over the winter, and Dublin (Columbus), OH, where I bought it, had just had the second nice day after getting several days of snow. I live in Indiana and the trip was a breeze.

    Just last month, a couple in my neighborhood pulled up in a higher mileage twin of mine to say hello and remark and the similarities (I guess?). They told me that they bought it locally as a retirement present for themselves, and they paid $19k and put $3k into it.

    Considering the tuition aspect of the article, I figured I was knowledgeable at the time of purchase. I always wondered if the deal I found was as good as I thought it was.

    Those nice folks stopping by confirmed my notions. At least that it could have been worse.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Thank you all so much.

    I wish I wasn’t so downright exhausted at this point in the evening. So I guess I should at least pass on my recent Facebook posting which pretty much summarizes my feelings towards the TTAC community.

    “After a day filled with more waiting time than a Soviet bread line, and more quirky issues than Roseanne Barr when she’s off her meds, it was just plain fantastic to go to The Truth About Cars and read all the wonderful comments from so many familiar folks. Thank you guys SO much for giving me the rare opportunity to write about my life as a car dealer. It’s great to be back home again.”

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    @dtremit: No…but it seems that every decent example of 80s V8 coupe-itude is twice over my budget…so I might have to buy a running POS and try and fix it up for less than a high quality example.

    @28: Unfortunately around here Mark VIIs are harder to find and more expensive than Mustangs…I can’t go scouring the entire state or buy a car off eBay that gets shipped in from some other part of the country, not until I start making a LOT more money.

    Point is, my Buick is getting worse and worse the longer I drive it and I’m about ready to pay someone to burn it to the ground and make it look like an accident so I can be free of it. What a lemon.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Welcome back Hammer.

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    Pretty sweet article, learned a lot of useful stuff in a short period of time. Bookmarked.

  • avatar
    April

    My auction story. In 1983 I was in the market for a replacement car (my 1977 Chevette was just about worn out) . I tagged along with my Dad and his friend to a dealer only auto auction in Springfield Missouri. My Dad’s friend had a used car license so he could bid on some of the auctions. The plan was find something decent and have my Dad’s friend bid for me and hopefully I would end up owning a late model car for a reasonable price. I recall they were running a Ford dealer only auction of late model executive cars. That day there wasn’t enough Ford dealers around so they allowed used car dealers to bid. Anyway, they ran a loaded yellow 83′ EXP with (if I recall correctly) something like 9K on the odometer. It sold for $6250 to a nearby Ford dealer. I tracked down the winner and offered him a quick $200 profit. He wouldn’t bite so I left empty handed. Looking back I’m glad the deal didn’t happen. ;)

    P.S. I ended up buying a leftover new 82′ Chevrolet S-10 extended cab pickup. Swanky silver and black exterior with a cushy black cloth interior. :)

  • avatar
    April

    One more auction story. In the late 70’s I took one year of Auto-body repair class in High School (I was flirting with the idea of making that my career). Anyway, at some point I discovered there was a unusually high number of body shops nearby. Turned out wrecked/totaled late model cars and trucks were being rebuilt and afterward they would retitled them in the adjacent state. At that time one could “wash” them (a replacement title did not list the vehicle as totaled or rebuilt). After the title was changed they would run them through auto auctions. While I’m not sure if they were doing the shill thing they sure knew they were dealing with vehicles with questionable histories.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Back in the early ’80s, they had these used car lots for wrecks. All were ‘totals’, but many were rebuildable. No test drives and cash only, but I did find exactly what I was looking for. For $800, I bought a ’79 5.0 Fox Mustang. It was an ‘easy fixer’ hatchback Ghia and I bought a $500 base Mustang (hard T-bone) for the front clip I needed. With my labour, plus paint, I built the $4,000 5.0 Mustang I couldn’t otherwise afford as a 1st car. Sold some excess parts too.

  • avatar
    Scribe39

    Let me add my appreciation for seeing you here again.

  • avatar

    I am curious to know why the issue of “shilling” would be a topic of interest to private citizens who don’t have dealer licenses, a dealer business, and access to dealer auctions? Certainly everything in this post is true and factual. Its why buying at auction is not for the naive and/or faint of heart. It is what it is.

    The auto auction is the heartbeat of the auto business, both new AND used. Its about as pure of a market as exists. Non market participants don’t understand used vehicle values. Most think it is simply a matter of looking up the value in a book. One could look at a run of identical models run through auction and be amazed at the difference in the prices they bring depending on where in the auction those vehicles sell, who is representing them, and a variety of other factors. There is a reason they are called “guide books.” A guide book in the hands of someone without real auction experience is a dangerous thing.


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