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Reviews, opinions and market analysis of classic cars we can all afford — Affordable Classic Car Reviews

Reviews, opinions and market analysis of classic cars we can all afford

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Dave Knows Cars Blog Adds Classic Car Section, Buy, Sell, Trade!

I’m excited to announce my Dave Knows Cars Blog, dedicated primarily to Mercedes-Benz vehicles just got an upgrade. I’ve included a category on that blog that deals specifically with classic and vintage cars… and what are referred to as “young classics” as well. Cars that aren’t really that old, but cars that have a strong enthusiast following even if they don’t necessarily have huge potential as true collector cars in the future.

Here is a link the the first posting from that category “Classic Mercedes Category Added to Dave Knows Cars Blog!”

Check back often for new content here, and please let me know if there is something you’re looking for or something (a car, not arts or random car bits) that you’d like to sell, I get good, quality hits on the Dave Knows Cars blog everyday, it might be a good place to get some solid enthusiast exposure for that old car you’re trying to sell, especially if it’s a Mercedes-Benz.

classic-R107-Mercedes-Benz-SL-560

I helped a local gentleman sell this 1987 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL this week. It didn't meet reserve, but a deal was put together after the auction with the high bidder who drove over from Wisconsin to pick up the car.

I know several people trying to sell and trying to buy good Mercedes-Benz SLs from the 1960s through the 1990s. Please let me know what you’ve got or what you’re looking for. It’s a good time to be in the market for a car like this, prices are a bit depressed, but well maintained, well options cars are worth paying up for.

This 1980 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL Euro model with a fun 4 speed transmission is currently for sale in the Twin Cities... this is a really nice, unique car. Priced at $14,800, but all reasonable offers will be considered.

This 1980 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL Euro model with a fun 4 speed transmission is currently for sale in the Twin Cities... this is a really nice, unique car. Priced at $14,800, but all reasonable offers will be considered.

July 23, 2010   No Comments

Vintage Mercedes-Benz Deals Appear at 2010 Maplewood Imports Auto Fair

I attended the 2010 Maplewood Imports Auto Fair last weekend in Maplewood, MN, just North of St. Paul, MN. This was the second year I attended. It always seems to be a nice gathering of German cars… mostly Porsches, but also some Mercedes-Benz and Audis. There are also some other random collector cars that show up.

Drop me an email if you want this guy's number, I blurred it out to post here.

Drop me an email if you want this guy's number, I blurred it out to post here.

This year there was a nice Morgan +8 and a 1970s vintage Aston Martin Vantage. Last year there were a couple of cars in the lot with “For Sale” signs in them, but this year, there were at least 8 cars for sale. Almost all of them fall into the “Affordable Classic” realm. I’ll concentrate on a couple of the Mercedes-Benz cars that were for sale here.

The “For Sale” sign pictured above was taped in the passenger’s window of this car. It only had about 50,000 miles if I remember correctly and it was only $10,300. I’d call that even a little better than market correct… I’d say it’s priced very aggressively and a good deal for the buyer. The seller is a long time Twin Cities Section Mercedes-Benz Club member. The car it spotless, it’s never seen a winter, and I like the R129 in white too.
1997 Mercedes SL 320 Roadster for sale

Well cared for, looked good inside and out.

Well cared for, looked good inside and out.

This is a very well cared for 250S, I believe it’s a 1973 model. This car was for sale last year for $7,700, the original window sticker is with the car and that was the price when it was new, and that’s what the guy’s trying to get for it now. It hasn’t sold at that price for a year, and he’s in no hurry to sell it, he’s had it almost since new. It is in perfect condition, inside and out… the color doesn’t turn me on. I think something between $4,000 and $5,000 would be full retail money for this car. I think he’d probably let it got for about that too, if I asked real nice like.
Mercedes 350 SL Euro

This might have been my favorite Mercedes at the show. It’s a 1970s European 350 SL model with a manual transmission. It’s also owned by a long time Mercedes-Benz club member. This is one of a number of Mercedes-Benz cars that he owns. This car was not for sale, although it could be bought I’m told, for the right money. It’s a unique color, it’s got the small Euro bumpers and Euro lights, absolutely beautiful.

Interior of the 350 SL, notice the manual transmission.

Interior of the 350 SL, notice the manual transmission.

There were quite a few very new Porsches at this event, but just as many older 911 models. There were a handful of 356s, one being an SC 4cam worth a couple hundred thousand dollars probably in addition to a 356 Speedster ‘outlaw’ that was well done, if altering something from completely original doesn’t bother you too much.

I liked this very nice Porsche 914 and this early 928 with the phone dial wheels.

Porsche 914

Porsche 914

Porsche 928

Porsche 928

All in all it was a good day spent talking cars with some new friends. I’ll look forward to next year’s event to see what might turn up.

May 8, 2010   1 Comment

Affordable Classic Cars of Concepción, Chile

Many people heard about Concepción, Chile for the first time last week when one of the largest earthquakes in history’s epicenter was just a few hundred kilometers away in the Pacific Ocean. For me, it was startling news. Concepción, Chile has been like a second home for me since I was 17.

That's me at the beach a week before my year was up in early 1993. No haircut for a year! Sad to think what became of this little town of Lota post Tsunami.

That's me at the beach a week before my year was up in early 1993. No haircut for a year, pony tail and all! Sad to think what became of this little town of Lota post Tsunami.

I was an exchange student there in 1991 and 1992. I visited at least once a year from 1992 until my last trip in 2004. Real life and responsibility took hold of me, but I’ve always been in regular contact with my friends and host family there… even more since Facebook and Twitter got rolling.

Google Earth map of Concepción and Talcahuano. Arrow points to where the Bío Bío river meets the Pacific Ocean.

Google Earth map of Concepción and Talcahuano. Arrow points to where the Bío Bío river meets the Pacific Ocean.

Whenever I could cobble the money together for a plane ticket or talk my folks into springing for one, I would go to Chile, always back to my host family in Concepción. Most people go to Santiago, more than half the population of the country lives there, I’ve spent, maybe 10 days in Santiago total, Concepción was always, and still is Chile to me.

My Chilean "brothers" where the Bio Bio meets the Pacific Ocean, the cars are their daily drivers... a Subaru and an Opel.

My Chilean "brothers" where the Bio Bio meets the Pacific Ocean, the cars are their daily drivers... a Subaru and an Opel.

I’ve always loved the cars in Chile. Sure, most of the cars we have here, they’ve got there, but they’ve got plenty we don’t get. Citroen and Peugeot are well represented, the Russian made Lada brand is fairly prevalent, Fiat, lots of Brazilian made Volkswagens… I thought I’d show you some of them. These photos were taken in Concepción, some were taken in the South of Chile, some in Talcahuano, the port city right next to Concepcion. Think of Concepción and Talcahuano like ‘twin cities’ similar to Minneapolis and St. Paul, seperate, but almost one.

A Russian made Lada 2104 wagon.

A Russian made Lada 2104 wagon.

One of the cool things is that some people drive really old cars, almost like Cuba in a way, they just keep them running forever, somehow. There was a handyman sort of guy that wold come to our house to fix stuff, plumbing or work in the yard, whatever, he drove a late fifties Chevrolet 2 door wagon that I was just amazed to see. Lots of really bad body work all over it, matte primrose yellow paint, but it was something you never see up here.

These photos were taken during two different trips, one for Christmas of 2001, the other was a week during February of 2004.

Late 60s / early 70s Peugeot 404 in Frutillar, in the lake region of southern Chile, about 5 hours south of Concepción by car.

Late 60s / early 70s Peugeot 404 in Frutillar, in the lake region of southern Chile, about 5 hours south of Concepción by car.

Unstable ground is nothing new to Chile, just look at the geography, volcanoes everywhere, the Andes mountains. It’s no secret as to how those mountains were made.

A bit out of focus, a Citroen 2CV we saw on the way to Talcahuano one day. Someone's keeping it on the road as a daily driver.

A bit out of focus, a Citroen 2CV we saw on the way to Talcahuano one day. Someone's keeping it on the road as a daily driver.

Peugeot 404 on the street in Concepción. ... some modifications here, has a whole boat thing going on.

Peugeot 404 on the street in Concepción. ... some modifications here, has a whole boat thing going on.

This Volkswagen Transporter ambulance was just down the street form our house in downtown Concepción.

This Volkswagen Transporter ambulance was just down the street form our house in downtown Concepción.

Side view of the ambulance... probably working overtime this past week. This is a rare sight, most ambulances are much more modern than this, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans or Toyota vans are often used too.

Side view of the ambulance... probably working overtime this past week. This is a rare sight, most ambulances are much more modern than this, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans or Toyota vans are often used too.

I was really into buses on this trip as I still had my Vanagon Westfalia in the garage. These are used as school buses.

I was really into buses on this trip as I still had my Vanagon Westfalia in the garage. These are used as school buses.

Almost all the Beetles are Brazilian made, this was at the University of Concepción, an honest driver.

Almost all the Beetles are Brazilian made, this was at the University of Concepción, an honest driver.

This looked to be a very new Beetle, really nice shape. In the mid 90s you could walk into a Volkswagen showroom and buy a brand new one of these, I'm not sure if you can still do that or not.

This looked to be a very new Beetle, really nice shape. In the mid 90s you could walk into a Volkswagen showroom and buy a brand new one of these, I'm not sure if you can still do that or not.

How about this? On the streets of Pucón in the southern lake region.

How about this? On the streets of Pucón in the southern lake region.

This is grandfather's little Datsun pick up. Bought it new in 1983. Today he's 98 years old, and doesn't drive anymore. It's kept at the family farm. It had been in the barn for months. We got in it, it wouldn't start, so we pushed it, popped the clutch and it fired right up. We drove it around the farm this day, down to the river for a swim. Everyone needs one of these!

This is grandfather's little Datsun pick up. Bought it new in 1983. Today he's 98 years old, and doesn't drive anymore. It's kept at the family farm. It had been in the barn for months. We got in it, it wouldn't start, so we pushed it, popped the clutch and it fired right up. We drove it around the farm this day, down to the river for a swim. Everyone needs one of these!

How about this for a tow vehicle? Modern Peugeot 405 in the lake region of southern Chile.

How about this for a tow vehicle? Modern Peugeot 405 in the lake region of southern Chile.

Hardley a 'classic' this is a Mercury Sable Wagon hearse. Funny thing is, at the time, my mother here in the states had a Sable wagon, the same color as this one, that early 90s teal. This was the only Mercury Sable I ever saw in Chile.

Hardley a 'classic' this is a Mercury Sable Wagon hearse. Funny thing is, at the time, my mother here in the states had a Sable wagon, the same color as this one, that early 90s teal. This was the only Mercury Sable I ever saw in Chile.

This was cool, spotted on the street in Pucón in the south... a little Diahatsu thing. My brother (from the states) had a mid 70s Toyota FJ40 at the time, this looked like a 3/4 scale FJ40. Tiny little thing, but was very similar to an FJ40 in it's design, almost a smaller version of it.

This was cool, spotted on the street in Pucón in the south... a little Diahatsu thing. My brother (from the states) had a mid 70s Toyota FJ40 at the time, this looked like a 3/4 scale FJ40. Tiny little thing, but was very similar to an FJ40 in it's design, almost a smaller version of it.

Rear view of the Diahatsu "FJ40".

Rear view of the Diahatsu "FJ40".

13 diahatsu FJ40b

So… those are some of the cars I’ve encountered on the streets of Concepción and southern Chile. It’s a great place. If you ever have the chance you should go, great people, great food, great scenery. You won’t ever want to leave, I sure didn’t. Let’s hope for a speedy recovery for all of Chile.

March 5, 2010   3 Comments

Craigslist Turns Up Modest Barn Find

A good friend of mine is looking to re-do his basement, knock out a few walls, re-arrange some things, and finish it off for his two kids… four and two years old. His idea was to find some astro turf sort of stuff to finish the floor with. He went onto Craigslist, searched for “turf” and got an interesting hit.

Half the Vikings end-zone, only half the story.

Half the Vikings end-zone, only half the story.

The person who put up this Craigslist ad bought this 15′ x 150′ piece of astro turf at an auction about a year and a half ago. It came from the Metrodome in Minneapolis, home, of course, to the Minnesota Vikings. Apparently they resurfaced the Metrodome about two years ago, they took up the pieces of turf, and this guy bought this piece from the end zone.

My friend was thinking he’d use just a small piece of the total roll for his basement, we’d figure out what to do with rest if it was in good shape, like cut it into 7′ x 8′ pieces and sell them on eBay as ‘area rugs’ for man caves to all the fair weather Vikings fans that are popping up now that the Vikings are doing pretty well in the post season. Timing is everything huh?

So we drove north of the cities about 40 minutes to this place. There was a long driveway that wound around eventually dumping us out in front of a big house on a rural lot with a gazebo and a couple of huge out buildings. There were about 8 different garage doors on these different buildings, a red Corvette from the late seventies sitting next to one of the buildings with six inches of snow on it, various cranes, bull dozers, back hoes, a line up of about 8 shipping containers. All sorts of cool stuff really. What was behind all of those garage doors, and how was I going to get into them?

The lady came out of the house and walked us over to the open trailer with this huge roll of astro turf. We pulled back the end of the tarp and realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t quite right for what my friend was planning to do with it. It was fairly worn and the foam backing was brittle. It did look pretty cool though, you could see the green and white and purple from the letters painted on the turf. It’s too bad it was in rough shape. It could have been really cool.

So on our way back to the car we got to talking about where they get all this stuff. The lady explained that her husband goes to all sorts of auctions and buys stuff. She said that they don’t need a lot of it and that she’s been selling a lot of stuff off on Craigslist.

“Yeah, I saw the Corvette over there when we pulled in” I added.

“That’s gonna go up on Craigslist soon too, we’ve got a couple of cars to get rid of” she added.

“Oh yeah, what other cars do you have?” I asked, trying to be all non-challant, what could she possibly say, what was lurking in the shadows?

“We’ve got a Volkswagen Beetle in the garden shed over there, we’re not really supposed to have any cars parked in there, for zoning, but it’s in there.”

“Oh yeah, what year is it?” I asked.

“It’s a 1964, it’s from Arizona” she replied.

“Do you think we could have a look at it?”

So we walked over and she opened the door and flipped on the light. You’ve gotta love the iPhone!

1964 Volkswagen Beetle, looks like an honest driver.

1964 Volkswagen Beetle, looks like an honest driver.

I walked around the car to have a look. I’ve always liked this putty sort of color on old Beetles. The paint almost looked original, not very shiny, but solid. Upon closer inspection I could see that it had been repainted at some point. The rubber bits between the body panels were painted over. It looks like it must have been a quickie repaint to tart it up for the auction, but it looked good and honest.

I opened the door to check out the interior which looked great, it certainly smelled right. The interior probably had been re-done, but the material was right. You see so many classic Volkswagen Beetles that are done all wrong with mag wheels and bad interiors. I opened up the engine bay, it was extremely clean, it looked ready to go. The belt was fresh, everything was tidy and good looking. Overall this little Beetle looked like an honest driver-quality car that could probably be picked up fairly cheap. I was so glad I went on this adventure.

So, it wasn’t quite “The Cobra in the Barn”, but it was a fun little affordable classic car. Who knew going to check out half of the Vikings end zone would have led to the discovery of an affordable classic car that hasn’t been put on the market yet? It’s weekend adventures like this that lead to the cool finds, always go when a friend calls you to go check something out that he found on Craigslist, you never know what you’ll find.

Incidentally… the other car she mentioned to me that was hiding in another building is a 1965 Ford Mustang. We didn’t get a look at that one, but it’s out there.

January 17, 2010   2 Comments

How I Sold a 1976 BMW 2002 on eBay for Almost Double What I Paid for it

It was probably mid July when I finally decided that it was time to sell the BMW 2002, I figured I would be able to sell it for maximum gain in the middle of the summer while car events were happening, while people weren’t thinking about what they might have to do with the car for the winter. I decided to try to sell the car on a national stage, I decided to list it on eBay.

One of 50+ photos from the eBay auction.

One of 50+ photos from the eBay auction.

I’ve done a lot of eBaying, hundreds of transactions, but I’d never listed a car for sale. There usually seem to be anywhere between about ten and twenty BMW 2002 models for sale on eBay at any one time. I see parts cars going for as little as a thousand dollars and really nice standard, non tii, cars going for as much as ten or eleven thousand. I figured I’d be happy to get twelve hundred. I hadn’t put any money into this car during my ownership, I mean, I didn’t even put gas in it. So anything over $700 and I guess I would be happy.

I listed it for a week long auction, at the time it cost me $80.00 to list the car, without a reserve, I started the bidding at just $0.99, hoping that would generate some interest. It was the summer of 2006 when all of this was going on, if you were to list a car today via regular auction it would cost 50% more than what I paid just a few years ago.

Bids trickled in over the first few days of the auction. There were six bidders during the first few days, by Friday there were 13 bids totaling $458.00. Hmmmm, I thought, is this going to end badly? Could I really lose money on this thing? Someone was going to get the car, it was a no reserve auction. I wasn’t completely worried, as most auction action occurs in the last hour.

Saturday morning the car had been bid up to $705.00 with a couple of hours left to go. I needed just a few more bids and I’d cover my listing fees and at least break even. It was more or less glued to eBay that whole morning and into the afternoon. As the last hour approached I kept refreshing the screen, no more bids. As the closing minutes arrived I kept refreshing, no more bids, the lat minute, my last chance to make a profit, no more bids came in. The auction ended at $705.00.

I got the “Congratualtions! You’re item sold!” message in my email and saw that a guy in Arizona won the auction., he was an experienced eBayer with 102 transactions under his belt and a 100% feedback score. I sent him an email reminding him that a $100 deposit for the car was due within 24 hours as per the fine print in the auction description and asking him what his payment intentions were. I was a little annoyed that my first foray into “flipping cars for profit” wasn’t more profitable, in fact I had lost money when including the eBay listing fees.

On Sunday morning I checked my email, nothing from the winning bidder, I checked my PayPal account, nothing there either. I checked once more on Sunday evening, nothing, no communication. I went to bed very annoyed at this point. Am I going to have to relist this car and chalk up the first $80 listing fee as a loss?

On Monday morning I checked my email and I had a message from the winning bidder. It was a long message about how he now realizes that he shouldn’t have bid on the car, that he couldn’t afford to ship it to Arizona, and he didn’t really have the space for it either, so he was not going to be able to go through with the transaction. The best part? “If I send you a check for $100, the deposit you requested for the car, could you please just leave me positive feedback for the transaction, I’m really sorry I can’t go through with it.”

I figured I could live with that, if he sent me a check for $100 I’d recover my listing fee and actually make twenty bucks. I emailed him back and told him that would be fine, I’d leave him positive feedback when I received his check. I immediately relisted the car that same day, now anxious to unload the car once and for all.

The second auction shaped up nicely. Again I began the bidding at $0.99 to create some early interest, with no reserve. By the third day the car had been bid up to $550.00 and things cooled off the last few days. I had a few questions about shipping the car… how much to ship to California, how much to ship to Tennessee. Dumb questions in my opinion, aren’t people better off just calling a shipping company with both zip codes to get a rate? I was amazed I got as many of those questions as I did, at least five of them.

The day before the auction was over I got a phone call from a guy in Miami, Florida asking about the car, I had included my phone number in the eBay listing. The guy was originally from Colombia. He had all sorts of questions about the car, the paint, the extent of the rust and what not. I was completely open with him, I’m all about full disclosure in the beginning, it will always save potential headaches in the end.

BMW 2002 replacement panels for sale in California.

BMW 2002 replacement panels for sale in California.

I told him that if I were going to put this car right I would order all new sheet metal from a place in California I found on the web. This company cuts panels out of good, dry, solid cars and offers them for sale. You’d be much better off just doing it all right the first time as opposed to trying to patch the damage and having to deal with it again in the future.

This guy worked in the shipping business, for an air freight company based in Miami. He explained his plan to me. He was going to put the car into a cargo plane his company had extra space on bound for Bogotá, apparently he got some great rate and was almost getting free air freight to South America. He was shipping the car to his brother and dad back in Colombia who have an automotive repair business and auto shop. They would restore the car in Colombia much cheaper than he could restore the car here in the states. A tough plan to execute in my opinion, sounded like a lot of hassle, and you can be sure parts for BMW 2002s in Colombia are very difficult to find.

He wanted me to give him a “Buy It Now” price, but I told him the auction had to run its course. By the last day, Sunday, bidding was at $1140.00, during the last hour bidding reached $1275 and that’s where it ended. I couldn’t have been happier, almost twice what I paid for the car. I sent off the obligatory email to the auction winner, it was the guy who had called me the day before. I explained that I expected to receive a $100 deposit via PayPal within 24 hours and that I’d help him set up ground transport from Minnesota to his air freight warehouse in Miami. I got his deposit via PayPal a few minutes later and we emailed back and forth. He was going to contact me on Monday and let me know when he was going to have a truck pick up the car form my warehouse.

I was really happy about this transaction. I had spoken to the buyer, had his deposit, how cool is this? This car will have a whole new life in Bogotá, Colombia. On Monday he emailed me and told him he was working on everything, he’d be back in touch on Tuesday. Tuesday morning came along and my phone rang. 305 area code, Miami.

I’ve got to go off on a tangent here and at least touch on the humor I found in the whole situation… a Colombian was calling me from Miami to ship something down to him that was eventually going to end up on a plane and sent off to Bogotá, Colombia. I was always such a big Miami Vice fan as a kid… I just had to laugh at the whole thing. It was like I was Johnny Depp in “Blow” but I was ‘moving product’ the wrong way. Hilarious.

What wasn’t hilarious was what they buyer had to say to me. He was really sorry, but he lost the space on the plane that was going to fly the car to his brother and dad, and he didn’t have anyplace to put in it Miami. I was a bit put out by this news, was I really going to have to relist this car, a third time? He apologized profusely and told me I should keep his deposit for my trouble and that he was really sorry.

So here I am, just collecting deposits on this car. Unfortunately my profit was only $20 per deposit collection because I was paying $80 to list the car each time… but really, if I increased my non-refundable deposit amount I could rack up more cash from winning bidders who couldn’t go through with the transaction than I paid for the car.

This time, instead of re-listing the car I contacted the under bidder to see if I could sell him the car. His last bid was $1250, but the best part was that he lived in Minneapolis, a local buyer! How could this go wrong? I emailed him and got a response the next day. He was interested in coming by the warehouse to have a look at the car on Thursday about 4:00.

Just as I was pulling the car out of the warehouse two Mexican guys got out of an old Volkswagen Golf. This was the under bidder and his friend. We exchanged pleasantries and walked around the car for a while making small talk. They went back and forth in Spanish as they opened and closed the doors, popped the hood to have a look underneath.

BMW 2002 shock tower rust in trunk... ouch.

BMW 2002 shock tower rust in trunk... ouch.

“La oxidación no es tan mal como dijo” (The rust isn’t as bad as he said) the guy’s friend noticed.

They had no idea I could understand every word they said, how could they know that I had been an exchange student in Chile?

I guess I described the car as a real rust bucket in the eBay listing, but it really was… maybe the fender edges weren’t rusted out and there weren’t rust holes on the bottoms of the doors, but it was rusty where it counted, real structural rust. I decided to keep my bi-lingual abilities a secret and just see where all of this led us.

View of rust from underneath wheel well.

View of rust from underneath wheel well.

I opened the trunk for them, so they could see the shock towers. “This is the real issue, right back here” I pointed. They came around for a look.

“Podemos reparar esto, no es tan mal” (We can repair this, it’s not that bad) the one said to the other.

They went for a drive around the parking lot, I was praying the shocks didn’t go all the way through the trunk. They got out of the car and we talked money.

“It’s $1250 then?” he asked me.

“Yeah, $1250, with free shipping” I joked.

“Okay, I’ll take it” he replied.

It was the quickest car deal I’ve ever seen from anyone from Mexico, I was really surprised he didn’t try to bargain or talk me down. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a wad of money, fifties and twenties mostly, a couple of hundreds. He counted out $1250 and handed it to me. I had a Bill of Sale form ready so we printed our names and both signed. I ran inside and made a photocopy. I came out and gave it to Jose, that was this guy’s name.

He had a big smile on his face as he pulled away, I suggested he go very slowly the mile or two back to his garage, he lived really close, which was a really good thing in this case. The smile on my face was pretty big too.

The smile on my face was there because I was able to pass this project on to someone else, better suited to really do it themselves, Regrettably, I don’t know how to weld. Jose welds all sorts of things, so I’m sure he will do just fine. I also sold the car for more than I paid for it, for more than I had in it, which is always a big reason to smile.  The smile on Jose’s face was the smile of acquisition. He was taking home a new automotive project, he had big plans, this was going to be his baby, he was going to restore this car to its former glory. You see,  smiles even make the collector car world go ‘round.

In the end, I got $1250 from Jose for the car, plus $40 total profit from the two eBay deposits the non paying bidders gave me so their eBay feedback ratings wouldn’t suffer. I got almost $1300 for a car I was able to store free for a winter and I never even had to put gas in its tank. A very solid $600 profit on my first such outing… I couldn’t wait to do it again.

November 23, 2009   2 Comments

How I bought a 1976 BMW 2002 for less than half the seller’s asking price Pt IV

Part IV: Finalizing the BMW 2002 Transaction, Clean Up and Winter Storage

I couldn’t believe he actually said “seven hundred bucks.”
“Well, that’s good, because that’s exactly how much I brought with me” I said as I reached in to my pocket and pullet out a wad of twenty dollar bills.
“I’ll take it”
We shook hands, to you know, fully solidify the deal, in that old fashioned sort of way.

Good looking BMW 2002, from a distance.

Good looking BMW 2002, from a distance.

I must say, I was awfully proud of myself as he went over and sat down at his desk to get the necessary paperwork together. The tax and any title fees were included in that $700 figure. It was $700 OTD (out the door), the very technical car industry term for ‘all taxes, title fees, and any other fees that might come up, everything included’.

In a little less than twenty minutes I had the paperwork in hand and was driving away in a very cool, if terminally rusty, BMW 2002. I would have a friend drive me back to the dealer the next day to pick up my car, the car I drove there in, the next afternoon.

Bad up close.

Ugly up close.

I drove gingerly back to the warehouse where I would store the car for the winter, the idle was still very rough due to the poorly tuned Weber carb, but it was a fun car to drive and it handled well, despite the very weak shock towers in the trunk. I could actually hear creaking and cracking as I drove or hit any bumps. It was just a matter of time until the shocks came all the way through the trunk and the rear wheel wells sat on the tires.

Luckily I made it back to the warehouse. I pulled it in and spent the next few hours working on the car. I found a Weber carburetor manual in the trunk. The instructions seemed easy enough. I let the car run and adjusted the carb with a screw driver, after a few minutes it was idling smoothly. I’m NO mechanic, I’ll tell you that, I wish I was, but I just don’t have much experience, so I was really happy I was able to tackle that project. I was really surprised the guy selling the car didn’t take a few minutes to do the same thing. I guess he was more comfortable with the Bosch fuel injection systems in all the water-cooled Volkswagens littering his lot.

Tuning the Weber downdraft carburator.

Tuning the Weber downdraft carburator.

I washed and detailed the car inside, outside, lots of cleaning under the hood. When I was all done I just stood back and looked at the car. The metallic blue color has always been a good color for BMWs of this era, 3.0 CS cars look great that same blue color. If I squinted at the car from about 20 feet it looked perfect, but it clearly had some needs if you stood next to it with your eyes wide open, but it presented well. It had Bilstein blue shocks front and rear, a Momo steering wheel, someone had really cared for it at one point. It had the look of a car that someone put a lot of money into about ten years ago, lost interest in the car and then just let it sit, probably outside, for a long time.

It was a few days before Thanksgiving, the Minnesota winter was on its way. My plan was to hold onto it until the spring and then put it on eBay. Present the car to the national market, disclose all of its shortcomings and hope there was more good than bad about the car so someone might buy it and bring it back to its original glory.

Over the next few months I’d go to the warehouse on the weekends and start the car up. I’d open up the dock doors where trucks would back in to load so I wouldn’t asphyxiate myself and do laps around the warehouse. There was a big clear ‘track’ around rows of pallets in the middle of the warehouse. I could shift out of first gear, into second and then just into third before I had to shift back into second and slam on the brakes to make the turn around the pallets. It was basically a big rectangle I would lap in this 40,000 square foot warehouse. By early April I had put about 8 miles on the car, just doing laps in the warehouse.

November 22, 2009   1 Comment

1976 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC: Price Reductions on Craigslist… Going, Going, Gone!

1976 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC: Price Reductions on Craigslist… Going, Going, Gone!

While trawling auto classifieds online this weekend I started to notice some things that I touched on in Friday’s article, the growing desperation of some car owners to sell their cars, and fast, because economic times are tough and they need the money. I spent several hours searching local Craigslist classifieds and then expanded my research to other cities and states. Things like “Must sell now, rent is already late and I must pay it by the 10th” or “Must sell this weekend” are popping up in more and more ads. I’ve been noticing one particular car, a 1976 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC, on the Twin Cities Craigslist for a little more than a month now, that’s the specific example well explore here.

The red car in question, and the seller's silver illusion.

The red car in question, and the seller's silver illusion.

The Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC is a rather unloved car to begin with. Most of them will always be worth less than an equivalent SL, despite the fact that there was only one more expensive Mercedes-Benz model at the time it was new, the W100 series 600 model. Today most people would rather have something they can take the top off of in the springtime.

It will always lag behind the rare Euro version 450 SLC 5.0 liter cars, some of which made it to the states as grey market cars. These were the cars produced to homologate the model so Mercedes-Benz could compete in road rally competition in the late seventies and early eighties.

Despite the fact that the 450 SLC occupies one of the lower rungs on the Mercedes-Benz collector ladder today, they’re still unique, they do have somewhat of a following, and I guess if I could buy one cheap enough I would.

First price reduction, mid October.

First price reduction, mid October.

I first saw this particular car for sale on Craigslist in early October, price: $6000. The seller claims it has had over $1000 in recent maintenance work and it’s ready for the next owner to get in and go. In the ad the seller makes a case to potential buyers that you could take his red car and build a ‘tribute’ car to look like the “silver 450 SLC pictured” along with his red car in the ad “and be worth a easy $25000 to $35000”. I think we all know that would NEVER happen. So you’re looking at a run of the mill 95,000 mile SLC for $6000.

Another price reduction, seller getting desperate.

Another price reduction, seller getting desperate.

A week or so later he “reduced” the price down to $5000. He clearly wasn’t getting enough action on the car over those three weeks, as the car was listed again on November third, this time at $3500. In my opinion $6000 was never a realistic number for this car. $5000 is probably a little high as well, $3500 not only sounds reasonable to me, but it seems like a bit of a deal.

Friday evening the 6th of November I saw the car listed one more time. This time the price was reduces all the way down to $2500 and the ad had been revised to say “Must sell car this weekend”. By the time I sat down at my computer on Sunday to write about the ongoing saga of this car and take screen shots of the listings, the last ad had been removed from Craigslist. It looks like the $2500 price was attractive enough to someone to pull the trigger on this car. The seller got his money, less than half of what he was originally asking, but he can put it in the bank and get on with his life.

The moral of the story here? Sellers always want more money than someone is probably willing to pay them for their car, but if you’re diligent and watch a car for a while deals like this do present themselves. If I had the space for this car I probably would have offered the guy $3000 for it when he was trying to get $3500 and still come out alright. This particular model is at the bottom of its depreciation curve and as long as the new owner maintains the car and there are no catastrophic failures he can probably drive and enjoy the car for a couple of years, sell it, and probably get out of it what he’s put into it And any true car hobbyist that’s honest with himself understands that if you can do that you’re doing very, very well indeed.

November 10, 2009   No Comments

Why NOW Might Be the Best Time to Buy an Affordable Classic Car

We’ve covered much of the ‘where to buy a classic car’ question recently, but how about the question of ‘when to buy a classic car’? I don’t know that there’s a golden rule as when to buy your next affordable classic, it depends upon the car and the opportunities presented to you.

In my experience there are two huge factors that influence a potential purchase… money and space. Do you have the money to buy and do you have a place to put your new acquisition? If you’ve got those two things it’s just a matter of finding the right deal. Permission from a significant other could be a factor, but you’re on your own when it comes to getting your wife on board. So you’re ready for a new car, how can timing allow you to get a great deal on a great car?

The classic car market does shift seasonally, especially in northern states or states where people cannot drive their classic roadsters year round. In places where people are forced to store their cars away for the winter the question as to whether they should mothball the car for one more winter always comes up. If the owner has to pay for storage over the winter he must decide if it’s worth the money or if it’s time to sell the car.

I did a quick search in the Minneapolis / St. Paul area for self storage units about 10’ x 15’ in size. They ranged from between about $75 and $200 depending upon location. I’m talking the drive up kind, not heated or anything fancy. To store a car through the coldest winter months of November through February will cost at least $300, probably more. I took this into account when I bought my 1976 BMW 2002 for $700 one November knowing I wanted to eBay it in the spring. If I had not had free storage available at a friend’s St. Paul warehouse I would have never bought the car. I would have paid half what I paid for the car in storage for the winter.

Covered BMW 2002, free winter storage.

Covered BMW 2002, free winter storage.

This is the kind of storage issue that leads a lot of people to put their cars on the market in the fall. Most people don’t get the urge to buy a fun convertible as winter approaches for the same reasons people look to get rid of them. People want to buy fun cruisers in the spring, to enjoy during those first really nice weekends after the long winter, and on into the summer. In the fall you’ve got the potential for a lot of cars on the market and not too many people looking to buy them. They’re harder to sell and prices drop quickly when sellers become impatient. When a seller just wants to get rid of their car you can really capitalize on a good deal.

Another thing a ready and willing buyer has on their side these days is a generally poor economy. In this regard the affordable classic car market is much like the stock market. In these lean times those with the cash have more opportunities for bargain shopping, snapping up cheap stock and cheap cars that have flooded the market.

The affordable classic car market has been especially affected during this brutal economic down turn. I believe it’s the little guy who was on a budget a few years ago who finally sprung for a neat affordable classic that might find himself in an economic position today that forces him to sell his baby. He probably doesn’t have a 3+ car garage, he may not have a surplus of cash that allows him to continue to maintain, license, and insure a purely fun, indulgent second or third car. The top tier car collectors who buy the blue chip collectibles like Mercedes Gullwings and 12 Cylinder Ferraris continue to pay up for the best cars, mostly oblivious to what’s happening on the low end of the spectrum. It seems to me it’s the casual hobbyist on a budget that’s been especially hard hit.

I was reading through some local Craigslist classifieds last night and saw quite a few listings citing economic woes as the reason for selling. It used to be “baby on the way” or “buying a new house” “wife says the car’s gotta go”. Now there’s a lot of “lost my job, can’t afford to keep it” or “downsizing, must sell”. A lot of people are hurting, a lot of people are cleaning out their garages.

Who knew the affordable classic car market was so Darwinian?

Who knew the affordable classic car market was so Darwinian?

Taking into consideration the time of year and the general state of the economy it is an excellent time to find some real bargains on the low end of the collector car market. If you can cobble the money together in the next couple of months, you’re bound to find some great deals on an affordable classic car. As harsh as it may sound, the collector car savanna needs vultures too.

November 6, 2009   No Comments

Affordable Classic Review: Mercedes-Benz SL 320 Roadster (Series R129)

Mercedes-Benz SL 320 Roadster (Series R129)

1996 Mercedes-Benz SL 320 Roadster

1996 Mercedes-Benz SL 320 Roadster

The SL has been the car that all would be Mercedes-Benz owners have aspired to for more than 50 years. While SLs from the 1950s and 60s have skyrocketed in price over the past 10 years putting them well out of reach of many casual car enthusiasts, there are several SL series cars from Mercedes-Benz that are quite affordable today and offer a huge fun factor in relation to their overall cost of purchase and ownership.

The R129 Series SLs from Mercedes-Benz built between 1989 and 2001 represent a lot of car for not a lot of money. They are more or less fully depreciated at this point and good ones can be purchased for a fraction of their original selling price.

The R129 was available with a variety of engine choices. Initially the two engines offered were a straight 6 cylinder in the 300SL and a V8 in the 500SL, by 1993 an SL600 12 cylinder model was available. In 1994 Mercedes-Benz broke with 40 years of tradition and changed the naming convention for their cars.

SL 320 straight six engine bay.

SL 320 straight six engine bay.

For the 1994 model year the SLs were changed to SL 320, now carrying a slightly larger straight six than was previously installed in the 300SL making 228 hp, the SL 500 V8 with 302 hp, and the SL600 12 cylinder boasting 389 hp. Of course horsepower isn’t why you buy these cars, they are grand touring machines, not drag racers. I would go as far as to say they’re not even sports cars, they’re comfortable grand touring cars that handle very well. If you want a car to auto cross or take to the track you should buy a Porsche or BMW.

The car pictured here is the SL320 model, while the smallest engine offered during this SL run, the straight 6 is smooth and more or less bulletproof according to Mercedes-Benz Master Technician Rick Engman at Feldmann Imports in Bloomington, MN.

“Nothing really goes wrong with that engine” says Engman, “you might have to replace the head gasket, but other than that, it’s a strong engine. It’s what they put in most of the E Class cars back then, you can also get it in the old C class, it’s a great engine.”

The R129 cars were a great leap forward from the previous R107 series SLs. The R107 series was produced for 19 years, and therefore holds the distinction of longest production run of any Mercedes-Benz body style. The handling of the R129 cars was a great improvement over the R107s thanks to its multi-link axle that replaced the R107’s diagonal swing axle. Engines improved greatly with variable valve timing, five speed automatic transmissions were available in the new generation of SLs giving them greater fuel economy.

Mercedes SL, looks good with the hard top on.

Mercedes SL, looks good with the hard top on.

The R129 series SLs are complex, modern cars. They contain the first fully automated soft top in the auto industry, no levers to move or mechanisms to unlock. You simply push the button on the console and the top disappears into the trunk of the car. R129 series SLs were equipped with detachable hard tops made of fiberglass. When looking for one of these cars yourself, be sure to get one with the hard top. It’s perfect for cold months, when fixed it’s like you’re driving a coupe, you’d never know you were in a roadster. There is virtually no road noise, and the car looks great with the hard top fixed.

Inside is neat and tidy, plenty of amenities.

Inside is neat and tidy, plenty of amenities.

The car pictured here was acquired locally in the Twin Cities for a client in Kansas. It’s a one owner car, with about 54,500 miles, originally purchased at Feldmann Imports Mercedes-Benz in Bloomington, MN as a new car back in 1996. It was purchased and driven to the owner’s second home in West Palm Beach, FL where it remained until 2002 when it was repatriated to Minnesota and driven as a “Summer car”. All the maintenance records were present with the car, it has a clean CarFax and is well known to the service writers and technicians at the dealership. They have gone to the owner’s home each spring and fall to take the hard top off and put it back on the car.

The straight six doesn’t make this an exceptionally fast car, but it merges onto the highway perfectly fine, you won’t want for more power. The straight six cylinder engine is plenty for cruising on the highway, around town and out on country roads. It is smooth and comfortable to drive, the cabin is intuitive and easy to understand, overall a great car to cruise around in on the weekends.

This car was purchased recently with a brand new set of tires and a completed major service for $11,800. Given the full book of records with the car, known history and it’s honest, original condition, in this case, the buyer did very well indeed. Is it a classic? That’s debatable at the moment, it’s only 13 years old, but there is no doubt it will be a classic eventually, after all, it is a Mercedes-Benz SL.

It certainly is affordable at this point, included in this car’s records was the original window sticker from 1996, $79,490! Purchased for about 15% of its original value, if the new owner maintains this car and drives it casually a few thousand miles a year he could easily sell the car for the price at which he bought it.

Original window sticker... big money in 1996.

Original window sticker... big money in 1996.

When looking for an R129 series SL be selective. Resist the temptation to buy that $5,000 SL “mechanic’s special” advertised on Craigslist. There are few things more expensive than a “cheap” German luxury car. There are plenty of these cars out there so don’t settle for a car if the buyer can’t produce a complete service history. Just over 200,000 R129 SL roadsters were produced world wide, about half of them came to the U.S. market. They will never be rare cars, or blue chip collectibles like their forefathers from the 1950s, but they are solid cars that can offer many years of happy motoring if you do your due diligence and find a well cared for example.

November 2, 2009   8 Comments

The 10 Best Places To Find An Affordable Classic Car Pt 12: Word of Mouth

Part XII: 1. Word of Mouth

We’ve covered a lot of good places to find affordable classic cars in our countdown, but how do you find those unadvertised hidden gems that no one else knows about? The truth is, some of the best classic car deals I’ve ever hear about were for cars that were never advertised anywhere, the buyer was found through word of mouth, or perhaps an old car story was told, someone investigated, spoke with the owner and put a deal together. But how do you get plugged in like this?

Get plugged in by immersing yourself in the car hobby. Attend car shows, subscribe to magazines, sift through eBay auctions, but above all talk to people. You need to let people know that you’re into cars. Tell your friends, family, neighbors that you’re always looking for something interesting, different, old, classic. I’m one of those guys who comments on the old classic filling up at the gas station and ends up talking to the guy for 15 minutes. That’s the kind of guy who says “My buddy’s got a ’56 he’s been talking about selling, do you want his number?”

People need to think of YOU when they go over to their great uncle’s and he tells them he’s finally going to get rid of that old convertible that’s been sitting in the garage since the 1970s. People need to think of YOU when they’re driving out in the country and see an old British sports car with a for sale sign in front of it. Exude this sort of genuine interest and before you know it, cars for sale will start coming to you.

It’s no secret to my friends, neighbors, countrymen, that I’m a car guy, it just seems to what I end up talking about with people. If someone can relate a subject to cars, it will always hold my attention. I’ll mention a few examples of how word of mouth has presented me and people I know with several great opportunities recently.

1958 Triumph TR3A, needs a new home.

1958 Triumph TR3A, needs a new home.

Most recently, just this week in fact, I got an email from my neighbor’s ex-girlfriend regarding a 1958 Triumph TR3A she was given by her uncle some years ago. Now, my neighbor and his girlfriend went their separate ways the better part of a year ago, but she remembered several conversations we had about her little TR3, I told her to let me know if she ever wanted to sell it. Wells, she wants to sell the car now so she got my email from my neighbor and sent me some photos of her TR3 via email this week.

The fact that I don’t have the $20,000 the car is probably worth or any garage space for it is another story entirely. The point is, after a brief conversation across the back yard fence almost a year ago, she thought of me first when she started thinking about selling this car.

I was glad to hear from her, apparently they have been “kinda, sorta talking again… and are maybe going to give it another try” with the relationship. I wish them the best of luck, I thought they made a great couple, and they were fun to grill out with in the summer time. Who knew you could have such hope for romance here at Affordable Classic Car Reviews? Just wait until my wife and I co-author the series “Best Back Seats – Classic American Sedans 1955 – 1959”. That should be a steamy series.

The second story is about I guy I met at work. He came in to Feldmann Imports in January of this year to visit the parts department. He came in driving a mid 90s Mercedes-Benz sedan, he needed to go to the parts department. I walked him over that way as we started talking about cars. He mentioned that he had an old Porsche 911. Of course my ears perked right up. He described a 1982 911 SC Targa, red with a tan interior. He had an old 1970s era Mercedes SL as well, my kind of guy. I told him that I’d love to get a 911 SC, it’s a great starter 911, relatively inexpensive and the engine in those cars is thought to be one of the most robust of the era. “Well, how about I bring it over for you to have a look at this summer?” he offered.

Fast forward to mid June. Just another day at work in the early summer. I walk outside and see a little red 911 SC Targa in the parking lot and another sales person says to me, “Hey Tobin, the guy who drove up in that Porsche is looking for you”. So we finally found each other and had a look at the car. He wanted to put his 911 on the market to make room for something else he wanted to buy, he remembered our conversation six months earlier and came to me.

He offered me that car for $12,000… 88,000 original miles, Carrera chain tensioner upgrade had been done to the engine as well as the air box upgrade. He said if I didn’t want it he was going to list it on Auto Trader and Craigslist for $14,000 to see if he could get a little more for it, but it was mine if I wanted it for $12,000. Again, the space / money continuum was not properly aligned for me at that moment. I thanked this gentleman profusely for thinking of me and for letting me take it out for a test drive with him. That’s such a great handling car, and fast. I have no doubt that was the right car for me, it just wasn’t the right time.

MGB: Original, low miles, no rust, less than $3,000?!

MGB: Original, low miles, no rust, less than $3,000?!

The last story I’ll tell here is how my father bought a completely original, rust free MGB, with 28,000 or 32,000 (something really low) original miles for less that $3,000. It’s pretty simple really. Anyone who knows my dad knows he’s as into cars as I am, that’s where I got this wonderful affliction. A friend of my parents tipped him off that their neighbor had an old British sports car in the garage they wanted to get rid of. It had been advertised in the paper for weeks with no interest. British sports cars aren’t necessarily a hot commodity in the small town in central Kansas where they live.

My dad decided to go over to the seller’s house with his friend to have a look at the car, it was just down the street. What he found in the garage was, in his words, “The driest, most rust free MGB I’ve ever seen” and believe me, he’s seen a lot of them. He’s probably owned 5 of them over the years. This was an original car, this was the original owner, the lady was selling it for her daughter.

It’s a 1974 model, the last year with the good looking chrome bumpers but it didn’t have wire wheels. It’s not the best year for an MGB with all the smog equipment it’s got on it, but it isn’t the worst year either. I don’t remember every detail, but the lady offered it to my dad for $2000. He actually felt bad paying so little for such a great car, so I think he paid her like $2,500 for it, started it up and drove it home. It had been sitting for a long time, so he had to do the brakes and some other things to the car, but it’s an incredibly original, low mile, rust free car.

He got this car thanks to his friend that knew his neighbor was trying to sell “an old car”. He wasn’t even looking for an MGB, but when a great opportunity comes along, sometimes you just have to take advantage of it.

By letting people you come into contact with know you’re always looking for another fun car, they will think of you when they see or hear of an opportunity. These are generally opportunities that don’t come up for others, you can often get to cars before they go on the market.

These cars will likely be close to home and easy for you to go look at… and in the end, as much as we think the car hobby is about cars, it’s really about people. The friends you make while searching for fun classic cars, the friends you make while driving them. It’s all about people. I love being the person my friends think of when they see their neighbor push an old covered car out of the garage, and over time it’s put me in contact with some nice cars and even nicer people.

October 29, 2009   1 Comment