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

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

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

Part III: BMW 2002 For Sale $1450 OBO – Test Drive and Brief Negotiations

At this point any smart car guy will tell you I’ve got two strikes against me in this transaction… 1) rusty car 2) sell it for a profit. Those two things just don’t work together… but what if I can get it for 700 bucks how bad can I lose?  I begin to pick the poor old car apart in my head. The mirrors are nice, chrome, those are worth something. A dash with no cracks, definitely worth something, the glass is good, I could sell that etc. etc. Forget the time and bloody knuckles it might take to pick it apart, take pictures and list everything on eBay. Maybe I’d just try to sell the whole car. Let me see if I can buy it first.

Pleeease can I take it home?

Probably okay if I can get it really cheap.

Chris pulled in as I was closing the trunk of the car. He got out of late 80s Volkswagen Jetta with a two tone custom paint job. He was a portly guy in his late twenties.

“Hi, you’re the guy who called about that yesterday?” he asked me pointing at the BMW.

“Yeah” I answered.

“Why don’t you take it for a drive and see what you think, it runs a little rough, but it drives fine” he insisted, “get your speed up so you can get up the hill there and onto the road” he added. There was a slight grade from the lot to the road, snow on the ground, rear wheel drive.

So I got in and started it up again and engaged first gear, the clutch felt fine. I pulled up the rise, spun the tires a little and got out onto the 55 mph two lane county road. What a great way to die, flipping end over end in an old BMW as the rear wheels crash through the rusty trunk shock towers on a snow covered road. There wasn’t really much snow on the main road.

The car actually drove fine. I was careful with it, the engine pulled well, it shifted up through the gears nicely. I went about a half mile down the road and went to turn around in a gas station. There was some grinding on the stick as I downshifted from third to second gear… synchro is shot… strike three for this little car… it will need a transmission rebuild probably sooner than later to really make it right.

I enjoyed driving it, the view out of the car was incredible, no blind spots anywhere, it was like driving a greenhouse. It steered like a go kart and even though I wasn’t going very fast in the turns in did pretty well, save for some creaking from the rear shocks… cracking rusty metal in the trunk probably.

When I got back to the lot I parked the car and went inside. Chris was sitting behind the desk with his entourage around him talking about cars.

“What did you think?” he asked.

“It’s all right I guess,” I tried to sound very uninterested, “but it’s got some real needs” I said.

“Yeah, there’s something wrong with that carb I think, that’s what’s makin’ it run rough” he shrugged.

“The shock towers are totally rusted through in the trunk, I mean it would cost thousands of dollars to have new metal welded in there” I said.

“It wouldn’t be that much, I got a quote from a welder in town that said he could do it for about eight hundred bucks” he insisted.

Bullshit I thought, no way. Maybe some guy he knows would get in there and weld something for eight hundred bucks, but that won’t fix the problem. To do it right you need to cut out the bad panels, buy good ones from a dismantler in Arizona or California who has panels that have never been rusty and have them welded in, painted, etc. etc. You can go buy a great driver 2002 for what all of that would cost and save yourself the headaches, not to mention the crunchy transmission. I figured the engine idle could probably be put right with a simple carb adjustment.

I just kept quiet for a minute, the guys standing around talked about a guy they knew who could probably fix the shock towers. Chris stood up and walked out from behind the desk and looked out the small window in the door out to the car on the lot. The guys who had been standing around meandered back to the garage area, we were alone.

“Look man,” I began “it’s November, there’s snow on the ground, that car’s probably going to sit there until the spring. What’s the least you’ll take for it if I drive it out of here right now?”

His brow ruffled, he turned to see where the other guys were, he thought for maybe five seconds and looked me right in the eyes.

“Seven Hundred bucks.”

October 15, 2009   No Comments

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

Part II: BMW 2002 For Sale $1450 OBO – Mixed Emotions

It was a cold Saturday morning in late November. I took my driver’s license out of my wallet and put it in my pocket and headed to the bank. I went in and withdrew the $700. I didn’t want any credit cards, my ATM card, anything that might tempt me to get more money if my $700 idea didn’t work. I just had my license and seven one hundred dollar bills.

Not bad from 20 feet.

Not bad from 20 feet.

It was a gravel car lot about 30 miles west of Minneapolis, on the side of a rural county road. Just 30 miles outside the city and nothing but cornfields and a car lot. There were some old Volkswagen Golfs, an Audi or two from the early nineties, high miles, all used up for $5000. The car looked great as I pulled in. Metallic blue was always a good color for 2002s and 3.0CS BMWs. All the chrome trim bits seemed to be there, the chrome bumpers were in good shape, it had a sunroof, collector plates, there wasn’t any visible rust from 20 feet… it had about 4 inches of snow on it.

I parked my car and got out to have a closer look. The badges looked good, I peeked inside. The seats were tired, in need of restuffing, the dash was perfect, no cracks, it had a cool aftermarket Momo steering wheel, it looked good enough. I walked towards the cinder block building that housed the sales office and garage. Inside there were a few guys in there mid twenties standing around a desk, just hanging out.

“Hi, I’m here to have a look at the BMW” I announced.

“Uh, yeah, Chris isn’t here right now, you’ll need to talk to him about it, he should be here soon. I’ll get you the key” one of the guys piped up.

He got the key and gave it to me. “You can go out and have a look at it, Chris should be here in a little while.”

I walked outside, pretty giddy inside really, just at the prospect of the whole thing. I brushed the snow off the car. The paint looked really good until I got to the leading edge of the hood… some big rust bubbles on the front edge and front of the hood, I’m talking like 6” across 4” wide rust bubbles. I got inside, it smelled fine, I pulled up the carpet, no rust in the floors. I started it right up with the door open looking for smoke out the back, none. That was good. It did idle rough and at very low RPMs, it barely stayed running without a little gas, chuga, chuga, chuga, the RPMs bounced around but when I revved it lightly and kept the RPMs at about a constant 2800 it sounded fine. I shut it off and popped the hood.

Big surface rust bubbles on front of hood.

Big surface rust bubbles on front of hood.

When I opened the hood I realized it had a Weber downdraft carburetor. That’s cool, a very common aftermarket upgrade for 2002s. There wasn’t any rust to speak of in the engine bay, a little dirty maybe, but nothing bad. There weren’t any of the manufacturer labels or stickers in the engine bay either though. 2002s have a black label with the official paint color printed on it in the engine compartment in addition to a variety of other labels. Those weren’t present. I had a look in the front wheel wells, behind the tires were baby blue and yellow Billstein shocks, another good thing.

Engine bay was okay, Weber carb.

Engine bay was okay, Weber carb.

I walked towards the back of the car looking down the doors as I went. There were a few rust bubbles at the bottom of the doors, almost under the car, nothing crazy from where I was, but some bubbles. I got to the trunk, remembering what I had read a week earlier, I opened the trunk and saw it… foot long rust cracks right across the shock towers with rusty water stains coming down from them like dried blood coming out of an old, nasty wound. In my heart of hearts I guess I expected it, but hey the original spare and jack were in there, that’s good, right?

Completely rusted out shock towers, not uncommon in a BMW 2002.

Completely rusted out shock towers, not uncommon in a BMW 2002.

So what was in front of me? What was this car’s story? It looked to me to be a car that someone probably spent a lot of money on about five or seven years earlier. The carb could have been put on then, definitely new paint, new Billstein shocks all the way around, who knows what else, but it looks like it had been parked outside or somewhere with plenty of moisture because it was a rust bucket rotting from the inside out. It looked great from 20 feet, but those are always the most dangerous “affordable classics” because in the end, they’re anything but affordable.

Maybe I should have given the keys back and hopped in my car right then… BUT… I’m a hopeless car guy and I figured if I could just buy it cheap enough I’d be alright. My strategy changed right then, from looking for a fun weekend car to work on and drive in the Summer to a car I would buy really cheap and sell on eBay for a hefty profit! Right?

October 14, 2009   No Comments

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

Part I: BMW 2002 For Sale $1450 OBO – A Diamond in the Rough?

The BMW 2002 has interested me since I was a kid growing up in Cincinnati. My brother would crane his neck and point them out to me as we drove by Just Blau Mit Weiss, a local BMW repair shop that wasn’t far from our house, it’s still there, in a different location, but they’re still in business in Cincinnati.

They’d have a bunch of BMWs parked outside and there would always be a few 2002s. There was always a 2002 racing car or two outside as well, with numbers on the side, we always thought they were cool. It’s the car that started it all, the first sports sedan BMW made that paved the way for the 3 series cars that have been the standard by which all others are measured for the past 30 years. They’d always interested me, but I’d never been serious about getting one.

I was at the grocery store one night and, as usual, I picked up the three different free local used car publications by the door on my way out. I was flipping through them at home… the usual stuff, late model cars, three, four, five year old used domestics, ads from most of the local franchised dealers. Then I turned the page and saw it: 1976 BMW 2002, good condition, manual trans, runs rough, $1450 OBO.

There was a phone number and website listed, it was at a small used car lot in west of Minneapolis that specializes in late model Volkswagens. Huh, that would be cool I thought, that sounds cheap, I wonder what I could really buy it for? I love seeing “OBO” after a price in a classified. I went on eBay to see what they were going for. I saw non running parts cars for more than $1500, it seemed like a good deal, what if I could buy it for $1000?

That night I got online and had a look at the BMW 2002 buyer’s guide at bimmers.com “watch out for rust, especially shock tower rust in the trunk” was the most important lesson I think I took away from that read. Rust (trying to repair it) is the best way to absolutely bury yourself in a classic car project. I didn’t think too much about the car after that night.

A week went by, coming out of the grocery store again, I picked up the next week’s used car ads, flipping through, there was the 2002, still for sale $1450 OBO. I had to at least call, right? So I called the place on Friday afternoon.

“Yeah, it’s a blue ’76, it’s in good shape, runs a little rough though, I don’t know what’s wrong with it, it’s a nice little car” the young guy on the phone sounded like he was reciting the classified.

I spent the rest of Friday afternoon wrestling with all the usual questions that arise when such an opportunity pops up out of nowhere… Should I buy this car?  How much should I pay? What if it’s junk? Can I get my money back if I need to sell it? One of the key questions was already answered… Where will I store it?

My company was subleasing warehouse space from a trucking company, those guys would let me park it in their warehouse for free. I was single at the time, so I didn’t have to sell the idea to a significant other… it was about the money, how cheap could I get it? I decided Friday night that I would take out $700 from my checking account Saturday morning, go out to have a look at the car, if I could buy it for $700 and not a penny more I’d do it. I mean, I could part it out on eBay for more than that, right?

October 14, 2009   No Comments