Revcounter 379: How not to buy a car

By: Guy Allen, Unique Cars magazine

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It would have been a whole lot cheaper to stay in bed...

Revcounter 379: How not to buy a car
Uncle Phil's latest acquisition, even if I paid for it!

Over the years, I reckon I've bought somewhere in the vicinity of 60-70 vehicles. Not a huge number compared to some of the lunatics I work with, but enough to prove that I kinda know how to do it. Then again, maybe not.

You see I recently acquired a car (bought is too strong a word) while making absolutely no decision. None. I blame our resident wheeler-dealer, Uncle Phil.

We were driving back from Bendigo Retro Muscle Cars, having just visited our lovely Project HQ, when Uncle P looks at me and shares the joyous news that he has a mate with a really good car for sale. I responded with, That's nice, dear, or something along those lines.

Next thing I know he's on the mobile, to a bloke called Henry, finding out more. "It's an E39 BMW, a 540 Sport. And I know the car, it's mint," he reports, "I reckon we can get it for well under 20." Good to know - why are you telling me this?

"It's the perfect car for you. Ultra low miles, big V8, fairly modern - 2003 - so you can give the old cars a rest." It's about now that I point out were travelling in my modern car, a perfectly functional C280 Benz, circa 1997. Some of the cosmetics are a bit tired, but it's still a really nice thing to ride in. There is no, repeat no, intention of buying a car in the foreseeable future. I know my lips are moving and there's sound coming out, but I'm getting no response.

He's back on the phone to Henry, badgering him for a better price. Seriously?!  What part of not interested was confusing? The negotiations meanwhile become increasingly heated. "Henry," Phil shouts, "he's not going to pay that, you have to come down!" I'm sitting there, attempting to keep the Benz on the road while desperately signalling to Uncle P that muggins is not buying a goddamned car at any price.

While I briefly contemplate putting the Benz into a ditch to get his attention, Uncle Phil hangs up looking terribly pleased with himself. "Mate," he says, "This is a beautiful car and it's a bargain at $17k. You'll love it. He's just getting the roadworthy and you can pick it up next week." Wow. He hasn't heard a damned thing I've said. Worse, he genuinely believes he's done me a favour and now I'm in the awful position where I don't want to let him down. That's what wives are for.

Here's my evil plan. Instead of saying sod off, I don't want the damned thing after all that effort you put in, I take the cowards way out: blame the missus. "Mate," I say, "that's really nice of you but we already have plenty of cars and I've said nothing to Ms M Senior about this. I'll give her a call, but there's no way she's going to go with it. What a pity, eh?"

So I ring Ms M, in Uncle Phil's presence, and explain the situation (leaving out my brief consideration of running the Benz off the road as a less expensive option). Her first response? I was expecting, "you have to be joking, no way" or "have you been drinking (again)" -  something along those lines. Or maybe even, as an outside chance, "what do you think, dear?" Nope, it's "what does Uncle Phil say?" Seriously?

It's clear I'm not part of this transaction, but dutifully point out that Uncle Phil is the madman who suggested the idea. I leave out the question of how he knew we had some money in the bank, given we could rarely summon up 17 cents. Has the man got cash radar?

Satisfied that Phil is happy (?!), she says "Lets do it" and hangs up. Eh? How in hell does that work? Within nanoseconds Uncle Phil is on the blower to Henry and seals the deal. Next thing I know I'm transferring money to a man I've never met for a car I've never seen. And just to rub it in, a colleague wanders up to congratulate me on the purchase (Phil has broadcast it, as the proud father of the transaction) while politely enquiring what colour is it? I had to confess to having no idea.

What makes the situation most aggravating is Uncle Phil was spot-on, it is a nice car. Mate, what you should know by now is no-one thanks you for being right...

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