Category: Hammer Time

By on October 23, 2013
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A working-class song, “Lawyers, Guns And Money” pierces my mind like a mantra as I wander around a place known here in Georgia as “The Gold Dome.”

Everything around me is marble and exquisite, with the exception of the Romanesque D.C.-styled dome on top, which is gilded in gold leaf. Expensive suits are ubiquitous. Formalities are only surface-deep, and the money passes from corporation, to lobbying group, to lobbyist, and finally to the congressman’s election campaign quicker than an auctioneer like me can say all these words.

This swarm of money is designed to enshroud the legalities of big people screwing the little people. Forty-nine state legislatures have prostrated themselves to franchise dealer lobbies. The faces bow and the rears spew out the stink that is government-sanctioned, legalized theft.

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By on October 21, 2013

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One thousand, nine hundred, and fifty two dollars.

That is how much the average Georgian is supposed to pay in tax, title, and registration fees every year according to Bankrate.com.

When I read that factoid, my eyebrows almost flew off my head. The amount had no cents, and the statement made no sense because I happen to be the guy who collects the taxes from my customers and sends them to the state. Only a $28,000+ car purchase every single year would make this possible, and Georgia is a notoriously poor state. Out of a population of nearly 10 million, our state registered fewer than 300,000 new vehicle sales in 2012.

I quickly concluded that Bankrate.com had done little homework except to launched a PR campaign, under the guise of a study, that was heavy on the numbers and light on the facts.

I also decided to read through the list since 49 other states were also given their daily dose of tax calculations. Immediately, I saw enough red flags to warrant a bit more detail.

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By on October 15, 2013

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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.
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By on July 18, 2013

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Starting back in March, the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles started to quietly sell off parts of its ~400 car collection. When a lot of more than 100 cars was announced to go on the block at Auctions America’s Aug. 1 sale in Burbank, California, it caught the attention of collectors and curators across the world of collector cars, and the museum made a public announcement to the Los Angeles Times this week that the sales are to raise money to renovate and reconfigure the museum. Also announced was the fact that the museum, which was originally endowed by Robert Petersen, who founded an enthusiast magazine empire including Hot Rod and Motor Trend, and Peterson’s wife Margie, would be changing its focus to include more motorcycles and prewar French cars from the Art Deco period.

The museum says that many of the cars they are selling are duplicates or not suitable for public display, critics, though, aren’t happy with the changes and say that the changes reflect the personal tastes of Executive Director Terry Karges, who owns Champions Moto, a motorcycle company, and new museum board Chairman Peter Mullin, whose own museum in Oxnard, CA is one of the world’s finest collections of Bugattis and other French classics.

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By on July 14, 2013

Image courtesy of the author.

After the leadership change last week, we opened up some communication with Steve Lang about returning to TTAC. Most of our readers would like to see the man behind the gavel back in action here. Unfortunately, Mr. Lang is as tough a negotiator behind the scenes as he is on the gravel of a buy-here-pay-here lot. We’ll continue to work with him to return “Hammer Time” to these pages, but in the meantime Steve’s asked us to print his “final goodbye”. While we haggle with the man, you can find him at Curbside Classic. Cross your fingers! — JB

“Wow! How many people have you helped?”

My father was looking at an article I wrote about car buying during the last few months of his life. He was shocked to see how many folks here at TTAC left their insightful comments and ideas within a matter of a few hours.

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By on May 3, 2013

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Steve,

You often write about the importance of evaluating a car’s history before purchasing it. We all have access to Carfax and Autocheck reports, but what are some things on those reports that trigger your red flag?

Here are five red flags that always give me a sense of caution whenever investigating the history of a vehicle.

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By on May 2, 2013

25712A

Year: 2003

Mileage: 212,914 miles.

Running condition: Unknown

Exterior: Saturated with dust, dirt, and blurry as hell

Would you place a bid on it for $750?

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By on April 19, 2013

Within 50 feet of getting out of my old 74 Chevy C10 I hear a familiar voice.

“Hey Steve. How are ya?”

A 6 foot 7 inch monstrosity of a man pats me hard on the back and dislodges the few cobwebs that remained from a 5 AM wake-up call.

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of the series. The first can be found here.

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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…

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By on March 26, 2013

Good, Fast and Cheap. 

Feel free to pick any two when it comes to all things cars. Consumer. Retailer. Rebuilder. Doesn’t matter. You always get a choice of two out of the three.

Don’t believe me?

Good. Cynicism is always a solid first step in buying any used vehicle. Whether you are kicking the tires at a lot as the end consumer. Or listening to the urgent chant of an auto auctioneer trying to sell the mediocre remnants of a rental fleet at a wholesale dealer auction. Everyone pretends to offer you a great deal.

But truth and reality in this business, at all levels of this business, are two very separate things.

Let’s take all those great deals I get from the auctions… good, fast and cheap. Sure. I do get them all. Just almost never in the same car. 

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By on March 14, 2013
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A lot of folks may look at their early teenage years with fleeting moments of fondness.

Friends, birthday parties, fun and games. Not to mention a healthy variety of mischievous activities to help keep life interesting between the endless classroom lectures and local social drama.

I don’t remember 99.9% of it… which is no doubt a good thing since my life was pretty much in a counterclockwise hormone ridden tailspin by the time I hit the big 1 3.

But I do vaguely recall one unfortunate thing I never could avoid.

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By on February 14, 2013

I live in a nice quaint small town called Powder Springs, Georgia.

The sidewalks are paved downtown and even partially bricked for artistic value. Thanks to a generous donation by the taxpayers. The streetlamps are ornate and well lit thanks to the same contributors.

The old closed down ACE hardware store is now the new police station. The old city hall has been replaced by the new city hall.  Even the vehicles that get too old to keep get replaced with shiny new ones thanks to American taxpayers far and wide.

How many miles do you think would it take to replace a car owned by the local city government?

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By on January 30, 2013
 
I must have been a kibbutznik in a past life. Whenever I buy something of value, I never have the urge to keep it for myself.

Perhaps it’s due to too many bouts of suburbia. A neighborhood with twenty lawnmowers. Thirty The Lion King videos, and fifty to seventy vehicles. All this redundancy seems to be a bit much for a guy who hates to see things unused by my family 98+% of the time.

Yeah. I know that most folks aren’t willing to share their ride. Some won’t even loan you Simba. But if I lived in a place where we all put a smaller chunk of our change into a ride, I wouldn’t go cheap . . . except for possibly an old Volvo wagon.

These would be my top picks. All used of course!

By on January 25, 2013

100 Cars are lined up for next week’s sale. Every single one of them is a repo from a very successful title pawn company… and every one has a story to tell.

The histories on many repos really begin with the license plates. Disabled Veteran… Educator… it’s amazing how many cars and trucks were once owned by folks who really made a difference in this world.

It doesn’t matter though. After 25 percent monthly interest rates and numerous attempts to get their clients to borrow even more money… their car is now forfeit. And so is their freedom.

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By on January 24, 2013

“Aaahh Steve? My rig caught on fire.”

At first I thought about oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico engulfed in an endless torch of black smoke and molten metal.

Then I realized that the repo driver was talking about his own truck. In all my years of dealing with repo companies, I had never known an auto recovery company, big or small, that was neglectful enough to turn their money maker into an ashen shell.

Before noon I would be awakened by another surprise.

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