Curbside Mechanics – The Kids Are Alright

One day a couple of years ago a late ’90’s Audi A6 Quattro appeared in my neighbor’s driveway.  It intrigued me, having been an Audi fan from way back.  Then a few weeks later, it was joined by another one.  Hmm.  And a few weeks after that, yet another one!  Suddenly it was like 1999 again at an Audi dealer, what was going on over there? 

So the next time their garage was open and I was mowing my lawn I decided to pop on over and introduce myself and find out.  It turns out that my neighbor’s two kids, one in high school, and the other just starting college, had decided to spend about $600 on a 1999 Audi A6 that had a few issues and warning lights illuminated, but it drove fine in general.  That was the blue one.  Then they stumbled across another one and bought that one as well, but it was a little different, being a 2.7l V6 twin turbo model.  That was the gold one.  And then the third, again a normally aspirated V6 like the blue one, was pearl white and joined the party too.

These two young men started to do some research online, figured out what was ailing the cars, and slowly started fixing them.  Some needed more “fixing” than others, but they started by cleaning them thoroughly, including removing the seats, steam cleaning the carpets, and getting every nook and cranny inside spotless.  They ordered some parts on ebay to replace broken plastic parts, and found other and larger items at Denver-area junkyards.

This gold one had an electrical issue that would sound the alarm at random times but only for a minute or so, however it would also lower all the windows at the same time.  That’s about as anti-theft as a Rottweiler rolling over and wanting you to pat its belly and hardly desired during our afternoon storm season.  But, eventually, they figured it out.  I’m not sure how they fixed it exactly but it did stop being so alarming.

The pearl white one had a badly dented door among other maladies, so they found another one in the correct color and swapped them out.  Obviously this was far cheaper than using a body shop.  On every car they went through the whole thing and replaced brake pads as needed, tires, fluids, and solved whatever codes were being thrown.

And, most important to me and the rest of the neighbors, they never once left a car outside overnight that was on stands or disassembled or with parts strewn about.  Anything that required a longer repair than could be done in one day was done in the garage while the other cars were neatly parked.  Every now and then they’d pop over and ask if I had a tool that they could borrow and always returned it promptly.  My jack stands stayed over there for a while after I saw them working with mainly floor jacks.  They’ve since invested in their own stands and recently even a two-post lift!

Anyway, then they started to sell them just by parking them with For Sale signs and advertising on Craigslist.  After a few more weeks, they had sold them all for several thousand each and went looking for more patients.

Since then, just off the top of my head they’ve turned over a VW Beetle Turbo, a couple of Subaru Outbacks (2006 and 2010), an early Audi Q7 3.6, a 2005 Audi S4, and several others of various manufacturers.  Subaru, Audi, and VW are pretty popular around here so they “specialize” in those but started to go a little more upmarket as their cash pile grew.

However, their most recent find is a 2012 Honda Accord as they realized that not as many people will quickly buy a used German car in the high four or low five figures.  This one came back from New York, a one-owner car with over 120,000 miles on it that has a few needs and was very underpriced compared to what they could find here.

For some of the last few cars they have been deciding to fly to distant locales such as Florida, New York and California to search out a good prospect.  Once found, they would drive it back Cannonball-style without stops and just switching off every few hours.  When you’re young and have minimal bills and overhead and are very motivated, this works.  They younger one getting his driver’s license helped a lot too.  He’s probably driven far more miles now than anyone else in his class.

Basically they identify prospects on the internet, ideally more than one in a location, then find a dirt-cheap plane ticket and Uber to wherever the car is; it helps when it’s near where relatives live to stay with for a couple of days if/as needed.  Sometimes it works out immediately, sometimes the car is worse than they figured and they regroup and find something else to come home in and work on.

Since Colorado limits the number of cars you can sell as a private individual per year (as do many if not most states), they are now looking into getting their dealer’s licenses and searching for a small shop and repair space for as cheap as possible.  But for all those people that say no young people are into cars anymore, well, these two guys would prove that wrong.  They live, breathe, and eat cars and know everything about them, as well as working on cars that are as often as old if not older than them and tech-laden cars at that.  And what they don’t know, they figure out, the laptop is as important and useful a tool as a 10mm wrench.

I’m sure they’ll be successful at this in the long run if they want to keep at it as they are being careful about not getting in too deep, and so far seem to be buying right (i.e. being very picky about what to buy for very little money) as well as not skimping on the tedious but important things such as cleaning the interiors very thoroughly.  I mean I’ve “cleaned” my cars but I have never removed the seats to do so, that’s just part of their procedure.  I still drive by there every once in a while since we moved and when they’re outside with an unfamiliar car, stop to chat.  Who knows, one day I may even be in the market for something they’re selling, I could do (and have done) a lot worse!