Garage-sale bargain bites back - Faine 438

By: Jon Faine

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mg tc mg tc

Confession: I recently bought a car in a garage sale. There. I have got it out, and I feel much better already!

Years ago we were on Christmas holidays at a coastal fishing port. As we wandered around the shops, there was an MG TC in glorious British Racing Green. She had her pitted chrome trying to glisten in the sun, windscreen folded and the Brooklands screens winking, skinny tyres half flat, cream vinyl-covered seats kissed with some wind-blown leaves and a hand-drawn cardboard sign propped forlornly across the grille: "For Sale – 1948 MG TC" and a phone number. My call was swiftly answered by a friendly man suggesting a sensible price and offering me the keys whilst cautioning "there’s no brakes, by the way…" She fired on the choke, exhaled a puff of blue smoke and there I was hurtling around the streets terrorising Devonshire tea-seeking tourists on my quick appraisal. My beloved looked on disapprovingly, her arched eyebrows acting as more of a deterrent than the oil-stained grass where the car had been parked, or the slight irritation of the absence of anything other than the handbrake to slow the jalopy down.

I thanked the optimistic vendor and went about perusing artisan candles, embroidered pot holders and lavender-filled heat packs.

A month later, we were back on the Australia Day long weekend in the same seaside village. There was the MG, still astride her oil patch. Still winking at me, still waiting.

Occasionally as the weeks rolled by, plotting how I could rearrange the garage to squeeze in one more car, my thoughts would fondly wander down to the coastal TC, by now sagging no doubt even lower on her exhausted leaf springs, or maybe she had been sold and nestled into a cosy new home or stripped for the inevitable restoration attempt.

And then came the Easter holidays. We went again to our old haunt, and lo! there was the MG TC in BRG with folded screens and vinyl seats still covered in leaves. Now my thoughts turned to destiny and similar Shakespearean invocations in order to persuade my beloved that this was a sign from the car gods. I nervously rang the seller, inquiring about the MG without admitting to a previous dalliance. With little to no prompting, he told me that the car "must be sold… no one has offered anything but if you made an offer…" and a long pause left the sentence hanging unfinished.

I confessed that I had months before been for a spin around the block. "Oh, it’s you… well you are the only inquiry I have had," he explained, suggesting that I was not dealing with the worlds canniest negotiator.

The following weekend, equipped with tandem trailer, I collected my prize and enjoyed many years of MG TC ownership, albeit with brakes.

And so to last month’s garage sale. I had spent my morning fettling the Citroen DS23 and fixing the suspension leak. On a triumphant test drive, checking that speed humps did not shake anything loose, I stopped to check the absurdly late but still going street stall.

Clothes, books, kids’ toys, crappy bikes and hiking gear that ought go straight to the opp shop were dismissed with a curt glance. As I climbed back empty-handed into the DS, the garage seller, glass of wine in hand,  admired my French classic and drew my attention to the sign in the window of the Smart Car parked nose first into the kerb. "For Sale – Todays Special $500" was the message in black texta on brown card.

The story emerged. The car had been for sale for $4000 with RWC and registration, then the price dropped to $3k, then when the registration lapsed to $2500, eventually $2k. The owner had bought another car, and it was off to the wreckers unless sold today in the garage sale!

A quick spin around the block – there is a pattern here, I know – and I was hooked. Now, in case it needs to be said, I have too many cars. I do not need a Smart Car. I always thought they were cute but have never aspired to own one. But my good mate Dom had just become a grandfather and his son needed a second car – cheap. Hey, I had the solution. A quick phone call, sight unseen approval, and an offer of $400 was gobbled up by the owner. Before I could change my mind, my hand was seized, shaken and the deal was sealed.

Which is more than can be said for the Smart Car motor. An oil leak and blown main seal means a rebuild, which threatens to cost more than the "sticker" price. Caveat Emptor, encore.


From Unique Cars #438, Apr 2020

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