Just When you Think it’s in the Bag
(First published in the XK Gazette in 2008)
By Paul Abadjian
Just when you think its in the bag-you discover that- well- it isn’t! That seems to happen more often with car sales than most things, with the notable exception of UK house sales, where the placement of a deposit means little, and it seems to be a miracle that people ever manage to move house at all. Speaking as someone who has lived in the same place for thirty years,
I speak from the heart!
Anyway, where was I ?-oh yes, selling cars, or, for that matter, buying them. Now, the thing is, there is much more raw emotion attached to classic cars than there is to their modern equivalents. This can result in an element of unpredictability in trying to buy or sell one, which, at best, can be invigorating, and at worst, nearly bankrupt you. Sometimes, the final decision to sell, which you were under the impression had been made, appears to be suddenly removed completely from the person whom you thought was the actual owner/vendor/decision maker. For the sake of ease, we shall call him Bill. It disappears instead into an uncontrollable vortex which swirls between Bills wife, children, business partner, dog etc.
This can be particularly vexing (not to mention heart-stopping) when you are purchasing the car on behalf of a client, who has already sent you the funds for the purchase, a sum of money which invariably has suffered savagely through swingeing bank charges and unfavourable rates of exchange. The prospect of having to restore the total sum to the owner as a result of a car that had been committed to, and then subsequently withdrawn from sale by the vendor can be a daunting one indeed!
The usual reasons for these withdrawals (apart from gazzumping) often seem to boil down to two main issues:-
Bill’s wife deciding that if the car cost X+ to restore, then why is Bill accepting X- when it is being sold. The house had X+ Y spent on it, and that’s worth more now as a result, so why isn’t the car?
Bill’s children, dog etc. deciding that the car is so much ‘a part of’ Bill that he couldn’t possible sell it, under any circumstances, and piling on the emotional blackmail such that poor old Bill would be a traitor to himself and family should he ever contemplate parting with the car.
Life is sometimes equally unpredictable when you are selling a car. I once had a gentleman visit the showroom at least 5 times over a period of 4 weeks to inspect a freshly restored red XK140 ots. It was a lovely car, and his enthusiasm for it grew each time he viewed it. Finally, he paid a deposit , and, asked if he could bring his wife to see it, as a formality, on the coming Saturday. She walked around the car silently, as our would- be new owner extolled its myriad virtues. Reading her body language, I knew we were in trouble. Her gaze kept on straying instead to a rather ‘patinated’ 140 drophead that was parked next to it. This car belonged to an existing customer, and was definitely not for sale. However, it had chrome wing mirrors which, she felt, looked good against the black body work. I told her that if she liked the look of traditional wing mirrors, we could fit them onto the red car that her husband was contemplating.
She was convinced, however, that they would not look the same against the red, and, before I knew it, her husbands enthusiasm for the car evaporated and the sale fell through. The following day, I had a call from an Italian enthusiast who asked if he could come with his son that day to inspect the same red XK140 ots. He emphasised that he couldn’t come during normal business hours, but instead wanted to come at about 7.30 that evening. I told him that if he had serious intent, I would stay open especially for him, and duly re-arranged my plans for that evening. In fact he and his son finally appeared just after 9 and he proceeded to carry out a lengthy and minutely detailed inspection of every aspect of the 140, taking nearly 2 hours. Throughout the inspection, I could hear him making positive noises about the condition and presentation of the car. In the bag, surely? When he and his son finally emerged from under the car, he announced that it was exactly the car he was looking for………..….except he wanted it in dark blue.
On one occasion I received a call from a well-known London based classic car auction house who wanted to send over a valued Italian customer who was very keen to buy an XK120 fixed head to add to his extensive collection. We had an almost perfect left hand drive 120 FHC sitting in the showroom, so I thanked them for the intro. and awaited the arrival of said gentleman with interest. Now, as we all know, the 120 FHC is arguably the most exquisitely-proportioned of all the XK variants, but it is not over-endowed with room inside. However, the gentleman making his way over in a taxi was Italian-often rather a ‘compact’ people in terms of stature-potentially an ideal candidate then for the 120 fixed head -a sale was in the bag, just had to be?
When he finally squeezed through the door of the showroom, I could hardly believe my eyes-he was an absolute giant-at least 6’ 10”, with, shall we say, a ‘heavy’ build, and a huge bushy beard. He would certainly fit the 120, I thought, but what would he wear on the other foot? Clearly, this was going nowhere, but when I emphasised the problem disparity between his size, and the internal dimensions of a 120 FHC, his enthusiasm was undiminished. In fact, he seemed to consider it as something of a challenge. He pointed out that the car was not small, certainly in terms of overall length, so, by rights, he ought to fit easily. As he strode like a colossus towards the drivers door, I was gripped by a strong sense of panic-what if he got stuck in there? I guess it would mean he’d have to buy the car! Anyway, he carefully and laboriously threaded one giant foot and leg into the car, and then, doubling almost in half, squeezed in his head and one massive arm and shoulder.
He then got cramp, and was not able to carry on with the experimental insertion, but had stiffened up to the extent that he also could not easily reverse the process to extricate himself. The more stuck he became the worse the cramp got, and he was also starting to panic, and so was I! After some minutes of bending, pulling shoving and groaning, we finally managed to remove him from the car, and he retired to the office to have a lie down on the sofa, and a stiff drink. I guess the sale is never going to be’ in the bag’ if the buyer can’t get into the car in the first place!