Hammer Time: The King's Rule

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time the king s rule

“Don’t bid on that. I’m on it.”

Normally I wouldn’t be so mouthy and blunt with my competitors. But this guy was a rare breed. A large scale buyer and owner of five different car lots who maybe, just maybe, would give me the break I needed with buying this partricular vehicle.

Of course I would return the favor whenever it was asked of me. I just didn’t expect it to be the very next car.

After about seven seconds of futility trying to find a higher bid, the auctioneer laid down his hammer. I had bought this…

A 2001 Volvo C70 HT with only 91k miles VIN# YV1NC53D21J021446. It was the first one out of the chute at the Carmax sale this afternoon and thanks to my friend and a motion with one finger and a fist to the auctioneer which meant, “I’m in at $1000”, the Volvo was now mine.

It needs a new engine which I have found for $600 a few hours a sale. If everything works out, I’ll have about $2000 in a unit that can easily sell for more than twice the price.

My work wasn’t done though. The very next car was a 2005 Dodge Stratus SXT in Black. 130k miles. Cloth interior. Alloy wheels with no roof. I can tell by his body language that he wanted the car and sure enough, he soon made the same motion as me, but with three fingers.

“Put me in at $300” was the sign language of the moment. The bid started at $300, and it stayed there. Five seconds, ten seconds, nobody else. Sold. $300 plus a $60 auction fee. He had just bought an 05 Stratus for less than the value the steal would bring if it had been crushed.

It was an outstanding deal with just one small problem. The engine. This Stratus came with what may very well be the least reliable engine of modern times. The Chrysler 2.7 Liter engine. Dealers, owners, consumer advocacy groups, and even The Salvation Army have suffered the under-engineered and virulently denied failings of this engine.

“Steve, did you happen to catch the engine in that thing?”

I told him that I hadn’t, which was true. The vehicle hadn’t even been on my list of cars to look at that afternoon. But later in the auction when there was a lull between vehicles, I walked over, opened the hood, and sure enough, it was the 2.7 liter engine.

Sometimes the king’s rule is the one thing that can save you from burying your money in a bad car that will never make you a dime. In the case of my friend, he will likely spend about $2000 on the engine if he wants to retail it. But something tells me that he’ll just as likely use it for a parts car, and crush it once he finds a use for the tranny. At $360 for an 05′ model, even the absolutely crappiest of late model cars can break even.

Which reminds me, have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? A car that was poorly purchased, and poorly engineered? A beast of burden that you just happened to get rid of without costing you more than time and extreme heartache? Feel free to share.

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  • Sector 5 Sector 5 on Oct 18, 2013

    Why we got a portrait of a king who lost his head to a warted general? Are you converting to surplus?

  • Anti121hero Anti121hero on Oct 19, 2013

    Years back I bought a 84 plymouth reliant, dark grey 4dr with red interior/vinyl benches and the "electronically carburetted" 2.2. It had only 90k and I paid 800 for it with an extra set of winter tires. The second day I drove it the choke started sticking, so I had to either drive it at full throttle or idle or else it would stall out. It constantly stalled at stop signs and lights, I had to putter the gas with the brakes, in the middle of intersections and just going down the road. To top it off the exhaust broke off while I was in reverse so the whole thing twisted and wrecked itself. I got brand new exhaust from the cat back but it never fit right so it constantly came apart when I hit the smallest bump, and this thing was LOUD with no exhaust and a stuck choke. The alternator died on me while I was driving home, I replaced that, the battery, starter, all belts and hoses, did front end work and more that I can't recall at the moment. It handled like a shopping cart and almost killed me a couple of times, nearly careening into trees and spinning around a few times. The vinyl would burn or freeze your ass depending on the season. A rear tire blew out going 40, so I had to replace that. It was atrociously slow especially up hills, and only returned about 20 mpg. The last day I drove it both benches were packed with five of my buddies and the exhaust came apart conveniently in the city as my choke was stuck wide open, and I just so happened to pass two black and white crown vics. Immediately pulled over, they were questioning my two year overdue inspection (I had been pulled over probably ten times for this before) and told me my car sounded like a tank and that hey were surprised my friends weren't sick from the exhaust fumes. My charming charisma got me out of that without a ticket, and I drove it to my friends house where I pulled into his driveway and a huge rock completely destroyed my catalytic converter. At this point I was so fed up it sat in his driveway for a month and I finally sold it to for 400, not running, in various states of disrepair and with about 120k on the clock. In hindsight, that was the worst vehicle I have ever owned but I loved every minute of owning it. It was a beast in the snow, when it ran good, it ran great, and nobody knew what it was. The salt belt and cheap engineering killed most of these off years ago, but mine was almost perfect cosmetically. I bought a loaded 98 intrigue after this for 500$ which turned out to be the best vehicle I have ever owned, until it hit black ice and ended upside down in a field, as seen on my avatar.

  • Tassos ask me if I care.
  • ToolGuy • Nice vehicle, reasonable price, good writeup. I like your ALL CAPS. 🙂"my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there"• If you press the Dummy button, does a narcissist show up spouting grandiose comments? Lol.
  • MaintenanceCosts These are everywhere around here. I'm not sure the extra power over a CR-V hybrid is worth the fragile interior materials and the Kia dealership experience.
  • MaintenanceCosts It's such a shame about the unusable ergonomics. I kind of like the looks of this Camaro and by all accounts it's the best-driving of the current generation of ponycars. A manual 2SS would be a really fun toy if only I could see out of it enough to drive safely.
  • ToolGuy Gut feel: It won't sell all that well as a new vehicle, but will be wildly popular in the used market 12.5 years from now.(See FJ Cruiser)