Fear and Loathing in Auction Lane 'A'
Say hello to my rather large, V8-powered, go-anywhere friend.
With my usual speed and dexterity, the time had finally come to shed the driveway of the Chevy HHR, in favor of something that could actually deal with the workload that comes with a 200-foot backyard. The H certainly had its moments, though the thoughts of topsoil and quarter-down loads in the hatch area didn't register for my Honey Bunches of Oats. What did register was The Plan; to shed our living-in-sin ways for those of Mister and Missus. Ms. HBO is already caught up in the flurry of activity that invades all brides, even those bent on shabby chic backyard weddings. While the 2013 nuptials will be a simple family and close friends affair, the backdrop is in serious need of pruning. I wonder if I can still rent a hall.
The H wasn't a tough sell, with only 47,000 kilometres on the 2007 model year odometer. A steady supply of press cars has a tendency to do that. As a lover of all things automotive, there is nothing worse than letting any car sit, be it vintage or late model. After replacing the somewhat-warped front rotors, the H left the driveway. I waved as I clutched the bank draft for $9,000. Nine grand. Unfortunately, not nine grand to spend. You'd be surprised what decorating with shabby chic costs, ever since someone gave broken furniture and peeling paint an attitude.
Here's where the Obsession started. That's what HBO called it; I prefer Truck-Related-Stress, or TRS for short. I decided on $6,000 as the max purchase, plus tax and incidentals. That would still leave plenty of cash left over for my new toy; a Coen Brothers-savvy wood chipper, plus quarter-down, patio blocks, and some hasty carpentry work of sorts for the Justice-of-the-Peace to stand under (Please, no leaning). As most used vehicle lookers do, I made continual checks of local inventory. Lots of kilometres, lots of rust, and lots of issues. I'm not afraid to drive the Old and Creaky, but this one had to be good. HBO would be behind the wheel at some point, and whatever the choice, the last thing this truck could have would be a 20-point checklist before engaging Drive.
I attempted one Private Sale, a '99 Silverado in a lake community in Southern Ontario. Now before you shake the wagging finger of rust lobsters, be assured that this low-kilometre unit had never seen a winter. What the owner had seen was too much bad TV. After informing him who I was, and that two AJAC journalists from Ottawa would be attending to pick up and pay for it, he put two and two together, and came up with a Scam. To be fair, there are plenty a used car scam to be found. While cruising one of the larger used vehicle websites in Canada, I came across the prettiest '99 Silverado you've ever seen for $5,000. The number called went to a fax line. When the email was returned, I was told that the truck was actually in Atlanta, and if I forwarded the money to his Uncle in — wait for it — Nigeria, they would ship the truck right to my door. Now that's a Scam, with sweet potato fries on the side, and chipotle dipping sauce.
I was starting to get The Fear. The Fear that I wouldn't find the truck that I was looking for, or worse, having to settle for rusty rocker panels and non-existent cab corners for my budget. Why do old trucks command such a premium? Catch a private sale on the right day for a 1999 Anything, and you'd be surprised what a wave of Borden's and it's-out-of-your-hair-today will have on the price. Not so with Truck. The rustiest truck with a worthy frame can still pull its weight. Even the ones that can never be certified for on-road use still find their way to farm yards or industrial compounds, to live out their final days.
South of the border
Was the dream truck in Texas, New Mexico, or Pasadena? Well, maybe. Plenty of interesting older trucks online, with plenty of interesting old technology just waiting to get interesting at the side of the road, in East St. Louis, at four in the morning. There were trucks in the budget, with pretty bodies to boot, with an average of 400,000 kilometres on the clock, plus the drama of having to go get. Americans use their trucks, and while babied, and driven on glass-like roads, it’s hard to get your head wrapped around that kind of usage. Mind you, engines are a lot cheaper than cab corners. That vintage truck time will come, for that C-10, D-150, or Ford Unibody for Sunday cruising. In time.
What was the best used car I ever had?
You're not going to believe this, but it was a 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier station wagon, purchased in the year 2000. An ex-Provincial government unit, for $1,500. It came with new Michelin's, $14,000 in post-warranty service bills, and a finish that had never seen carnauba. My ex-wife drove it for five years, did literally nothing to it, then passed it back to me because my name was still on the title. I used it as a back-up until the transmission imploded.
This is the main issue with anything used with wheels; was it loved? If it was, they're usually asking $3,000 over Black Book, and they tend to get it. Government vehicles are seldom loved for interior or exterior, though their service intervals border on some form of religious fervor — your tax dollars at work. Much of the Federal government vehicles are sold as is, through online bidding at gcsurplus.ca. If you really like well-abused RCMP Crown Victoria's, this is the website for you. Budget at least $2,000 to fix what's broken. In the case of the Provincial units in my region, the good ones are auctioned off, with full safety certification. All it needs is license plates, and a nice hot bath.
If you've never been to a public vehicle auction, you're missing out on a cast of characters that could rival the bar scene from Star Wars. There's the sketchy mix, replete with bad teeth, bad hair, and varying degrees of self-stench awareness. That's not his wife; that's his Old Lady. The other side of the spectrum includes a broad range of ethnicity. A good deal is a good deal, even if you need an interpreter. Then there's the baggy pants lads, convinced that their 50 Cent bravado will pay dividends when the auction starts. It never does.
The cars start rolling in. There's something for everyone, and every budget. Did I mention they're all running as they roll past the gavel? Even with the overhead doors open, it must have an effect on increased bids. The floor staff are relentless, looking for the nod, the gesture, or the cliche YUUUUUP! of the reality world. I'm waiting. Lot Number 69, and yes, that is the real number. A 2002 Chevrolet Silverado Extended Cab 4 X 4. Redneck Brian at the Unlicensed Garage has done a fine job of pounding the GM LS family of V8's into my head. He also won't work on anything else. Always make your wrench happy. Always.
The auctioneer always starts high, so it's a real bad time to stretch your arms. "Who'll give me $10,000?" Uhm, nobody. There's a problem though. This Number 69 is at the back end of the auction. Filtering in from outside is a new group, a group of interest for this truck, and this truck alone. Time to get Caveman. We can't club each other, or potential mates over the head anymore. We can bid, with purpose, crossed arms, and flexed biceps somewhere beneath the Triumph T-shirt I wore for effect. (The bike, not the band.) I tapped the floor man. "$3,000 to start," I said. He yelled the number to the gavel man. The new group got going. I knew it would be a bargain, but not a stupid one. Nothing good at an auction goes for cheap, but boy, do they dream. The 50 Cents stalled at $3500, with complaints of "Too much", as they fumbled for their bus passes. $4000. $5000. Please, I thought, PLEASE don't go over $6,000. It didn't. The gavel fell at $6,000. That's when the gavel man asked for my bid number. 69 was mine. All mine.
The best part was the service records. Even though the printout was basic in scope, it was pretty easy to figure out values, labour costs, and obvious shiny new parts underfoot, like the brand-new Hankook skins, water pump, and rear brakes. The total of post-warranty work? $17,133.06. Now that's what I call loved. It still needs a polish, interior detail, plus debate as to how much of the body gets hit with tinted bedliner goo. The goal of this Honey-Do-List Edition is simple add-on's and useful updates, not just the creation of a truck that looks like an accessories catalogue threw up on it. Hopefully, they're ideas good enough to steal.
What would you do to the Honey-Do? Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.