Piston Slap: The Hawaiian Shirt Finds Park Avenue Love

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap the hawaiian shirt finds park avenue love

TTAC commentator horseflesh writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Many moons ago you posted a question of mine on Piston Slap. As requested, today I can share the conclusion of the saga!

I actually wrote almost 1300 words on the story of Grandma’s Park Avenue for my own amusement, and to share with my friends. If you wanted to run all or any of the material on TTAC, you are more than welcome. I pasted it in below after the quoted old email. At the least, I hope you enjoy reading it!

Sajeev Answers:

I did enjoy it. And quite honestly, I’d be a fool to add any extra commentary to a perfect story. So here it is:

horseflesh writes:

In October of 2010, I wrote to TTAC with a simple question: what’s the easiest way for a private party to sell a car for a good price? Today, I can present the delayed but triumphant conclusion to the story of Grandma’s 2005 Park Avenue—white with beige interior, super low miles, and only driven to the cardiologist on Mondays.

I got a lot of great advice from TTAC’s readers, with many votes going to AutoTrader and Craigslist. Still, I let the great white whale languish in my driveway for ten months. As I have always said, “procrastination pays off now.

Plus, I have to admit that I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of poling the Detroit barge down Washington State’s freeways from time to time. The hull also featured a cavernous, 4-body trunk that easily engulfed my model airplanes and other man-toys. Sure, Grandma’s Park Avenue couldn’t have felt any more numb if it was fuel injected with lidocaine, it had brakes like a freight train, it wallowed through turns like a hippo with vertigo, and it delivered an alarming jolt of torque steer when you stepped on the gas… but I was still enjoying it!

From mile 14888 to 17780, me ‘n’ Grandma’s Park Avenue had some good times on the high seas.

For one, I’ll never forget the time that I gave a German particle physicist a ride. My highly educated guest–who was a friend of my regular carpool companion, also a German–was sinking into the back seat’s leatherette upholstery when the Dynaride Suspension kicked in. The wheezing MmmrrrRRRRrRRRrrrrRRRR sound of the ride-leveling technology was no lullaby to his Teutonic senses, and he began to look alarmed. Do BMWs have ride-leveling? If so, it probably sounds like an ocean breeze, not a garbage disposal.

“Don’t worry, mein Herr,” I said. MmmRRRRrrr… “The vehicle is just leveling the passenger cabin.” MmmRRRRrrr… “That sound is perfectly normal.” MmmRRRRrrr… “The Dynaride system is capable of accommodating the fattest Americans,” I proudly added as the mechanism wheezed to a stop.

Silence filled the perfectly leveled cabin. “This isn’t my usual car,” I continued. “I only drive it once in a while. It’s really a car for older folks… people old enough to still be upset about the war.” Thankfully, the other German in my Buick managed to turn the conversation to high-energy physics, salvaging what could have been an awkward moment.

The Dynaride’s anemic groaning accompanied every engine start, but Grandma’s Park Avenue had another feature that was less reliable. I refer to the automatic headlight system, ambitiously named the “Twilight Sentinel.” Unfortunately, my Twilight Sentinel was apparently drunk most of the time, putting a more sinister figure on duty… the Twilight Assassin.

The Twilight Assassin was a cunning and ruthless foe, with the patience of the grave. He waited for night to fall… switched on the headlights, as if all was well… and then, when you least expected it, he turned them off. In the event of an attack, standard procedure was for all passengers to put their hands up and scream “TWILIGHT ASSASSIN!” until I yanked the manual headlight knob to banish the night once again. Good times!

I could have gone on dueling with the Twilight Assassin for many more months, but selling Grandma’s Park Avenue was the smart thing to do, and I resolved to get it done while the car was still in excellent condition. And in the end, I didn’t have to deal with AutoTrader or Craigslist at all, because I found the absolute best way to sell a car:

1. Buy a new BBQ

2. Invite a friend over for BBQ. Also, make sure he is an experienced used car lot sales manager.

It was one of this year’s three nice Seattle summer days when our friend Ron came over to the house to eat meat cooked over fire. Ron saw the Buick and we got to talking about my plans for it. “Let me see what I can do for you,” Ron said. “You’ll have a hell of a time selling a car like that yourself, because only Grandma wants that car and she isn’t online. So, what are the adds?” he asks.


“Add-ons. Options,” he says. I tell him the car is actually pretty light on adds, but describe the fun and excitement of the Twilight Assassin.

Ron checked out the car and quickly got in touch with a few used car dealers. “First, we’ll call Bob,” said Ron. “Let’s see what the light money is… Yeah, hi Bob, this is Ron from so-and-so of Seattle. Hey, I’m standing in front of this 2005 Park Av… White with beige guts, in the wrapper… The owners are friends of mine, an active young couple. Grandma left it to them, but they just don’t need a car like this and I wanted to help them out with an easy deal, and get them all the money in the world for this thing… Clear title, yeah. OK, I’ll text you the VIN.”

Bob’s offer was indeed the light money, but after five minutes and a few similar phone calls Ron has me another offer for $10,500, and a backup offer of $10,000. All I have to do is wash Grandma’s Park Avenue and drive it to a dealership where Keith, the used car manager will be waiting for it.

I’m happy with the price, but also curious about the business. “How much will Keith resell the car for?” I asked Ron.

“He’ll probably sell it for $14,000-16,000,” Ron answered. “If he has the right buyer, someone who really wants the car, it’s win-win-win!”

A few days later, I drove Grandma’s Park Avenue to the dealer to meet Keith. By chance, I parked next to a salesman with an older couple who were eyeballing some other bland sedan. Before I even stepped out of Grandma’s Park Avenue, the 60-something gentleman shopper in a Hawaiian shirt excitedly said, “is that car for sale?”

“Yes,” I said as I exited, “but I’m actually here to sell it to the dealer.”

“Wow, honey, look,” says Hawaiian Shirt, motioning to his wife. “It’s not even an Ultra, so it’ll run on regular gas!”

A moment later, my contact Keith was standing by my side. We introduced ourselves, and Keith gestured towards Hawaiian Shirt and said, “Can they take a look at it?”

“Sure,” I said, and gave the other salesman the key as I went inside with Keith to do paperwork. Fifteen minutes later, my business with the dealer was done. I had a big check and no more Buick.

While I was waiting for my ride, I watched Grandma’s Park Avenue pull in from a test drive. Hawaiian Shirt, his wife, and their salesman spent a long time walking around the car and talking. I took that as a good sign. I hope the dealership got $14,000-$16,000, and I hope Hawaiian Shirt and his wife got a car they love. Despite all my jokes about boats and occasional attacks from the Twilight Assassin, Grandma’s Park Avenue was a pretty good car.

That afternoon I called my grandma to tell her that I had sold her Park Avenue, and to thank her again for giving it to me when she stopped driving. I made sure to tell her that I thought the new owners were really going to love it. Grandma was happy to hear that. But I’ve never told her that I gave a couple of Germans a ride in her Park Avenue… After all, she might still be upset about the war.

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2 of 14 comments
  • Dvp cars Dvp cars on Oct 07, 2011

    .........some great tales....TTAC should consider a sub-site exclusively for car dealer stories.....I've got dozens, but some are unprintable, some self-incriminating, and the rest no-one would believe anyway.

  • Brettc Brettc on Oct 07, 2011

    That was one of the funniest things I've read in a while. This guy should be a regular TTAC writer. My 92 year old grandmother is still driving her 1995 Buick Regal. Not sure how much it would get on the used market as it has quite a few battle scars. I loved the 3.1L V6 in it though. Always felt really powerful to me when I'd take it to the car wash for her. And she does still remember the war because that was a huge event in her life. She's not a fan of our Volkswagens, which is understandable since Hitler created them initially. But she does ride in them.

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