So where were we? Oh yes. After wandering the earth (and working in a call center) for the first few months of 1995, I ended up at a very small Ford dealership located in the heart of Columbus, Ohio. On my first day, I was paired with another fellow who was also starting out at the dealership. I’ll call him… Rodney. He was an outgoing, cheerful thirty-one-year-old man who looked remarkably like the Colt 45-commercial-era Billy Dee Williams. Rodney was very interested in the dealership’s demo program, because he didn’t own a car. Every day he walked from his apartment a mile or so away, and every night he walked back home. The general manager took pity on him and broke the thirty-days-of-service-before-a-demo rule to put him in a Ranger Club Cab.
I started slowly at the dealership but by the time the 1996 model year rolled around I was regularly one of the top two or three guys on the board every month. More importantly, I was the most effective advocate in the shop for the Red Carpet Lease 24-month program. One month I moved 16 units and leased 14 of ’em. At least three of those were people I’d had to dissuade from writing me a check for the whole car on the spot. That’s right, I converted cash buyers to lessors. Why? There was a fifty-dollar spiff.
I was eventually rewarded for my performance by being permitted to order my own demo, just like the 55-year-old Brylcreemers who had been serving at the store since before ‘Nam. I knew exactly what I wanted. Start with a 1996 Thunderbird LX, black with beige interior. Add just three options: Compact disc player. Power Moonroof. And, most importantly, a 4.6 “mod motor”. The order was accepted at the factory. I was four weeks away from my ‘Bird. But Rodney had some other plans involving Ford’s aging coupe…