They say that dogs are like their owners. As the owner of both a rather angry looking German shepherd and a stupidly daft floppy-eared mongrel, I’m not sure what that tells you about me.
But it is true that certain things appeal to certain people, be it in the form of a dog, a cat, a house or a car. There really is no accounting for taste, at least not if you look at the glut of furniture adverts on our televisions at the moment, where some of the sofas on display would look a little overdone even in a footballer’s wife’s boudoir.
When it comes to cars, taste is a little more variable. I like most of them, even some of the traditionally rubbish ones like pre-VW Group Skodas and 1970s Fiats. I draw the line at some of the overtly flabby American stuff, especially from the 1970s onwards (though I would make an exception for a Boss Hogg Cadillac), and find it hard to enthuse about anything Japanese or Korean with the odd notable exception. But, by and large, I’m a car enthusiast.
And being an enthusiast has been a huge bonus to me in the past few months. With mainstream dealers falling over each other at auction to bid secondhand prices through the roof on all but the most unsaleable of ordinary rubbish, I’ve spent a good few months specialising instead in finding immaculate, low mileage older cars that are on the brink of becoming classics.
We’re talking late Eighties, early Nineties stuff here, where the enthusiasts are of the age where they no longer live with their parents and earn enough money to throw some disposable income down Memory Lane, while there are sufficient cars still out there with owners who don’t yet realise they have such a following.
If I can find a rot-free Mercedes 190E, BMW E30 3-Series, Saab 900 or Audi Coupe, I know straight away that I can sell it at the drop of a hat, often for at least double what I paid for it; the key being to describe it well with warts and all, stick it on a well-known auction website (bet you can’t guess which one?) and wait for the techno-savvy Thirtysomethings to get a little bit drunk, get sucked in by your waffle, and outbid each other (Tip: about 11pm on a Saturday evening is always a good time for your auction to end…).
One thing I have learned, though, is that you have to very careful what kind of car you sell. Not once have I failed to make a profit (Big Mike doesn’t do that…), but sometimes it has been much harder work than it should have been. And it’s not quite how you’d expect.
For example, a couple of months ago I came across a gorgeous Citroen XM. How often do you see those on the roads these days? Said car was a lovely one-owner example, low mileage and well maintained, and I picked it up for pennies. Within a week it had attracted more than 30 auction bids and was sold for three times the price I paid for it to a very charming and polite man who was more than willing to accept my description, and to buy one of the most technically complex cars ever made without ever having clapped eyes on it.
He was exactly how you’d expect a buyer of an overly complex big Citroen to be – eccentric, effeminate, intelligent and a little bit bonkers, but at the same time incredibly nice and easy to deal with. Job done. Big Mike gets his money, and another happy customer to enhance his reputation.
Skip forward a couple of months and I found a very basic, but clearly well loved Ford Sierra for sale locally. The thing was lovely, a couple of very small parking dings and some minor marks to the interior, but you don’t see them these days and overall the condition was incredible.
Unfortunately, the people who were interested in it were not so lovely. At risk of sounding like I’m making a sweeping generalisation (I am, after all, doing just that), nearly everyone who was interested was an illiterate, rude and thoroughly unpleasant buffoon, capable only of writing in phonetics and text speak.
Examples (all genuine): ‘Alrite M8, wud u consider px 4 a gold ring and a pedigree pitbull?’ No.
‘Nice Siera (sic) M8, had 1 b4, I’ll give you 2hundred 4 it no bullshit pick it up tomoz n save u the hassle.’ What hassle?
And ‘Itz not as gud as it looks I bet – u want to much 4 it’. Tosser.
In the end, I sold it to a very nice man who battled his way through ice and snow to come and pick it up (lord knows how he went on getting home, what with that live rear axle…), but for considerably less than I wanted just to avoid having any more contact with these human dinosaurs that came out the woodwork in pursuit of my Dagenham dustbin.
I had a similar experience once selling an old Vauxhall, and while the old Rover and BL cars I’ve sold in the past have attracted a slightly more articulate class of human being, they did tend to err on the a little bit boring and rather smelly side of normal.
BMWs, Mercs and VWs attract, on the whole, reasonably pleasant bidders, but there’s the odd one, especially where Beemers are concerned, that can be a touch arrogant. So if I can help it I’m going to stick to Saabs, Volvos and Citroens. Lovely folk that buy those…