I HATE SELLING a car. It is not just the loss of a treasure that distresses me. Having invested a fair amount of emotion and energy playing with and fixing up a classic, I get stressed by the actual process of advertising, waiting and then, worst of all, answering sometimes baffling questions.
How long have you owned the car? Why are you selling? Is it original? Has it been smashed? What have you done to it? Has it been tested for roadworthiness? Is there much rust? All are legitimate and fair questions. Indeed they are the very same questions that I would ask if I was a buyer.
Then these: Could I drive it home to Cairns? Will you give me my money back if I have any problems with it after I get it home? Have you got the full history back to new? Is this the same car that my Uncle owned in the 50s ? Will I be able to get parts for it here where I live in the back of Woop Woop? What if my wife doesn’t like the colour? Even though I have not seen it, will you sell it for half of your advertised price? Can you hold it for me while I try to sell my car first?
These are not reasonable questions and suggest a somewhat loose connection between the asker and the real world. But all of these I have been asked. Is there a special place in hell for tyre kickers? I have no problem with people who want to genuinely inspect. But what motivates someone to spend their spare time using up all of my spare time with zero intention of buying?
I have contemplated putting “No joy rides” into an ad. I have had to caution people who come around, ask stupid questions and then suggest they be allowed to go off on their own for a drive. “Yeah, sure… take my precious asset worth tens of thousands of dollars and go thrash it on the back streets and crunch the gears and slip the clutch and go too fast over speed humps and burn some rubber off my new tyres and slam the doors and break some knobs and buttons and then come back and say nope – not interested,” is what I want to say but I am far too polite.
So I humbly submit to the old car community some simple guidelines when selling a classic car.
Rule One: all test drives are done with me. No exceptions. None. Ever. Yes, I know your son/brother/ cousins best friend has come along to help you but I am going to be in the car with you all the way. If I am selling a two seater, your son/brother/cousins best friend can follow in their own car.
Rule Two: Show me your drivers licence, and I am taking a photo of it. I have not had this happen to me personally, but a mate was selling a classic Japanese sports car that jerks your head when it accelerates and the test jockey left him responsible for a red light camera ticket. The penalty notice arrived a month after the test drive and he could not name the test driver to make him pay for it.
Rule Three: no taking things apart. Test lights, torches, magnets, spark plug spanners… no problems. But we are not pulling rocker covers, body panels, instruments, trims or any other bits off the car. You can do whatever you like once you buy it, but you have not bought it yet.
Rule Four: If you want a pre-purchase inspection, I require a non-refundable deposit of at least a few hundred bucks. And no – I am not lending you the car to take it to your mechanic on the other side of the city, even if he is a good mate.
I once trusted a potential buyer with a rare BMW R51/2 motorbike. It was out of my sight for two hours, but came back minus several irreplaceable parts. The original 1951 steel fabricated battery carrier that had survived all those years did not make it through a pre-purchase inspection. Somewhere along the way the impossible to obtain battery holder and frame was substituted with a rubber strap. Small beer, I know but it was part of the charm of the bike.
Fifth rule: You can totally refuse to let people come and even look. If you have to explain that a 1950s Messerschmitt bubble car is not suitable as a daily driver in grid-locked Melbourne [I swear on a stack of repair manuals I was asked that exact question], you are within your rights to tell them to not even bother inspecting. I have timidly suggested that a 1949 MGTC is unlikely to be the ideal second car for a growing family, and also that a barn find Citroen Light 15 will need more than an oil change, some plugs and some air in the tyres after sitting unused for over twenty years.
These are my suggested guidelines. Or is it as the golden rule of retail says – the customer is always right?