Hammer Time: Where Twenty Year Old Cars Go…To Live Again!


(A hearty CC welcome to Steve Lang)

I just sold a 21 year old Tercel that came in with a blueberry paint job. This was followed by a 30 year old Mercedes 300D in ‘paint me again’ silver, and a 1982 Chrysler Lebaron Convertible that I never imagined would find a diehard Chrysler convertible enthusiast from two states away.

The year may be 2013, but some of the cars I’m selling these days are almost as old as an Atari 2600.


Not too far from leaving my barn full of oldies — I also have a 1993 Volvo 940 wagon, a 1988 Volvo 740 turbo sedan, and even a 1974 Chevy C10 pickup that I can’t bear to finance due to the prior owner’s upkeep.


Those old Toyotas, Volvos and Chevy trucks are well known for their durability at the wholesale auctions. Rarely will they make a second trip around the auction block. When I buy em’ there, I fix em’ quick for folks who need a reliable ride to earn their living.


In a market where the roads are smooth and rust is non-existent, the boogieman that is age doesn’t factor strongly into the buying equation. When folks come to finance a car, $50 a week is an easy payment for those who have 40 hours of work and 0 savings on a Walmart card. I take care of whatever hiccups come along the way and so long as they pay their weekly contribution, the relationship works.

In fact it’s starting to work all too well. The finance side of the market has come to the point where even unsellable 20 year old cars whose disappearance I would have prayed for in the past are now finding a home these days.


(Note: Mine was better looking than this one… by just a tad.)

A 20 year old Cadillac Deville with a landau roof, peeling red paint, and a trombone case red interior? Sold! Or at least financed for $500 down and $50 a week. I am arranging for monthly inspections by my mechanic and $20 oil changes for the customer to help that car ‘make the note’ along with the rest of my not so old vehicles.


That Cadillac of a deal from two weeks ago was followed by a far more pristine 1994 Infiniti Q45 which had perfect paint, an immaculate interior, and only 130k original miles. A little wear on the driver side bolster was the only defect to be had after 19 years of synthetic oils and high dollar dealer maintenance. That 1st generation Q45 went down the road for $700 down and $60 a week for 24 months.


Finally, I had a ’95 Mazda Miata that could have easily passed as a five to seven year old convertible. It only had 100k miles, and the prior owners had come a good three hours to pick it up. The fact that it didn’t have the common 1st gen lifter noise helped this Miata out quite a bit. I sold it for $3756 which was exactly how much I was owed by the prior person who had financed it from me the year before.


When I repoed that car earlier in May, I found out that someone else had been driving it. Sometimes my customers will either lose a job or move out of state. When that happens, the car gets farmed out to the next friend or relative that needs it.

To keep this in perspective, imagine if a person renting your house decided to let their deranged in-law move in, skedaddled out of state, and left your property in the complete care of a stranger. A kick to the groin may be a better outcome than a stranger with your valuable property.

In my business, few things can scare you like a ‘phantom driver’. They have no skin in keeping the car maintained since their name is not on the title. Thankfully I was able to get that Miata back quick and it didn’t even need an oil change. Phew!


The blueberry Tercel, diesel Benz, Deville, Q45s, and the Miata may collectively yield a $20k profit for me. Or, I may experience a constant stream of expenses that negate it all. Only time will tell.