By on August 1, 2012

I woke up bright and early on Monday morning, 7:00 AM. A wake-up time reserved for maniacs and those who have circadian rhythms that are the exact opposite of yours truly.

Just a 10 mile drive to a neighboring auto auction. A nice stroll to a back lot loaded with 91 cars for the 9:30 AM sale. The beauty of the day seemed to shine before me as I looked at what was supposed to be an immaculate 1987 BMW 524td that had all of 69,000 miles.


It turned out to be a BMW 518i with a broken odometer. Two disappointments in only one car.

To put this in reference, imagine a conventional gas engine that can outdiesel a diesel when it comes to disadvantages. The 518i was quite possibly the slowest BMW sold in Europe during the 1980’s. Nobody wanted an arthritic 1.8 Liter engine that had less forward momentum than the 1976 Buccaneers or the 1967 Arabs . Even ten years ago, you could buy one of these light on the throttle BMW’s for dirt cheap.

It’s also tough to find any good mechanic who can work on a grey market vehicle. A European engine that was never sold in the United States is even more of a deterrent. Unless you do your own wrenching, in which case, the 528i is an infinitely better vehicle.

So how much did this unter-achiever sell for this morning? Try $2425.

There is still plenty of crazy in todays market. Observe the following prices…

2004 Toyota Sienna: LE, Cloth, 153k, Big Crack On The Dash: $8600

2006 Chevy Impala: LS, Leather, 98k, Prior Rental: $7600

2005 Toyota RAV4: 4wd, Cloth, 160k, Interior Issues: $7100

2000 Toyota Camry: Leather, 39k, Automatic, Black: $6800

2007 Honda Fit: Sport, 199k, Auto, White: $5550

2007 Toyota Camry: LE, Cloth, 197k, Interior Issues: $7900

It’s virtually impossible for me to buy late model Toyotas, Hondas, and anything that may be on the short list of a large buy-here pay-here outfit. A lot of the notes on these cars will be sold to finance companies who will then in turn package these beautiful deals into asset backed securities that can be sold in the greater financial markets.

The market for these assets has nearly doubled in only a year. Like all other bubbles, there will be some popping at some point. But for now it means that I just can’t buy in certain markets.

I did buy two vehicles.

A 1996 Nissan Maxima SE with high miles (206k) but a solid powertrain. It was rarely on the road for the last two years due to it being an Atlanta car with emission issues. A lot of shops will quote $300+ for a knock sensor on these things and $700 for the cat without telling the buyer that both parts together can be had for about 15% of that price. That’s what happened here.

Maximas can make superb finance vehicles. But you have to bring the vehicles back to a state of condition that I call ‘Day One’. Replace the power steering and brake fluids along with any hoses under the hood that show signs of cracking. Get all the interior components working including the windows, radio and all dashboard buttons.

In essence, you want the new owner to get in a vehicle where everything works with ease so that they, in turn, will take care of any little problems before they become big.

If the car runs well, I got paid. If it winds up in the shop, I get nothing but grief.  When you use the ‘me’ criteria of, “I would buy this vehicle if I were in the market for one.”, you end up with several hundred more in the cars. But you earn thousands and often times get referrals.

The 2000 Ford Expedition XLT also had over 200k. However it was immaculate. No stains on the interior. Garage kept. Everything, save for the driver’s side window, was in good working order. That I bought for about $300 more than a run of the mill version, but it will wind up on the road a lot quicker than the common ones in average condition.

Turnover is a big deal in the car business. Hopefully these two vehicles will flip quicker than than my local commissioner who recently got caught trying to railroad a local fruit stand out of all things.

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20 Comments on “Hammer Time: German Fury, Easy Credit & The 1967 Arabs...”

  • avatar

    Your post today serves to illustrate how good modern cars have become (not to mention the importance of proper maintenance). I remember trying to sell a 1970s car back in the 1980s that had 136K miles on it, and people would hang up on me when I told them how many miles it had.

    I just checked the rear brakes on our 2001 Odyssey which now has 161K miles on it. These are the original brakes that I checked 30K miles ago and they still had 25% on them at that time. They still look to have 20% left. It just amazes me.

    I’m assuming that the Expedition has the gasser in it. That vintage with the 7.3l Powerstroke command a significant price premium.

    The Maxima is also a really nice car, although the fuel injectors can tend to be problematic at that mileage (esp. if low-detergent fuel was used).

    • 0 avatar

      They never offered the diesel in the Expedition – only the Excursion. This era would have had either a severly underpowered 4.6L or a slightly underpowered 5.4L.

  • avatar

    I think the price on the BMW was rather high, but I suspect that there are people that would be willing to pay for the euro-bumpers, euro-grill with euro staggered headlights and euro valence panel with trim. Maybe someone intends to swap all the US-market stuff off their E28 535is and then sell the 518i with US cosmetics for something close to what they paid to a BMW newbie.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    My 1987 300SDL garnered $500 or less when I donated it. Granted, the odometer read a bit over 426,000mi, there was some collision damage in the rear, dings, paint scratches and rust in typical places, interior was beaten up, mysterious oil and steering fluid leaks, a radiator cap that would pop in the TX heat, and a failure to start when the tow truck came that likely could have been fixed in the driveway by loosening some fuel rail nuts and bleeding air out of the fuel line.

    It’s a shame really, as there was some pretty new hardware on it, I certainly hope it gets picked clean of exhaust, electrics and AC parts before it goes over to China.

  • avatar

    Love these articles! One of these days I want to find the Volvo 242/244 of my dreams. Do you see those in the auctions anymore?

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    Mr. Lang & Mr. Karesh maybe, I always wonder about the high demand prices for the 2nd gen RAV4. Is there a parallel universe where the B&B can’t get enough of this car? Am I missing some automotive gold mine? Gen 3 is so much more vehicle (& less girly). Your thoughts / experience?

  • avatar

    That 518i (assuming it is an i) has the same engine as any late US spec 320i or 318i. Minus a cat, most likely, but 99% the same. Slow but certainly worthy if you lived in a country that taxed the bejeebus out of big-dispacement (i.e. 2.0l and up) engines like Belgium or Italy. 120hp in that size car was not out of the ordinary in Europe in the ’80s. We Americans are so very spoiled.

    Also, no such thing as an e28 528i in the States, unless equally gray market. 533i, 535i, and 528e with the low-revving torque-tuned eta “mill”. There might have been a 528i in Europe, but I think the six cylinder 520i was a LOT more common if so. The big engines would have been SERIOUSLY rare. Afterall, gas prices in the states are STILL lower than they were in Europe in the ’80s, never mind the taxes on such a thing.

    The price was perfectly fine if the car is rust free.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      Unless you’re a badge snob, or a really die hard BMW/E28 fan, there’s no business in buying that thing. That’s the type of car that is best left to the Europeans.

      • 0 avatar

        Once shot a action video with friends. Thrilling car chase should be the climax of the thriller, but we only had a BMW E28 518i Automatic for the bad guys and a Mercedes W123 230T for the undercover cops. Resulted in the most ridiculous, slowest “low speed car chase” we have ever seen. Our audience almost suffocated from laughing at our first and only showing of the video. No animal was hurt in making this film, but the bimmer soon blew his head gasket, filling the scene with dense white smoke…

  • avatar

    How much would a 2007 Honda Fit with only 13.5k miles on the clock be worth in today’s market?

    My mother hated to drive and it pretty much only went to Publix and back.

    What would be the best strategy to get the most for the car with the least hassle?


  • avatar

    that is a pretty BMW.
    and how many of drive that fast anymore??

    • 0 avatar

      I still routinely drive like a madman, but only on the sparsely patrolled Federal highway (65)… the State roads (55mph here) are becoming fraught with bacon.

  • avatar

    I wonder how much my brother’s wife would have gotten for her 2003 Wrangler.. Probably a lot more than the $3k the dealership gave her for it.

  • avatar

    The 2007 Camry stands out to me. I’m still not sure I understand how this works. Wouldn’t that car need to sell to the public for at least $9,000 to be worth the trouble? There are really people who will pay that for 197k miles and interior issues?

  • avatar

    Would that BMW’s engines the same one as the engine in 318i? Which were sold in the US. So just treat it as a 5-series with a 3-series engine.

    BTW congrats on that Maxima. As former owners of two Maximas, I have fond memories of them. If I were buying a car and is in your neck of the woods, I would definitely check out that thing. Especially if it’s a 5-speed.

  • avatar

    Have to comment on the miles cars last. Bought a Nissan Cube (2011) 6 speed manual, 57k miles ago. It was a demo and looking back the back tires probably weren’t as new as the rest of the car. I find it hard to believe that the front tires still have plenty of tread. Have only changed oil and since I now have synthetic am doing that less frequently.

    Cars have really come a long way.

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