Friday, 20 February 2015

Nothing Like a Glimpse of Well Turned Ankle


When I had my dealership in Germany, I relied primarily on walk in trade.  Sure, I advertised in newspapers and occasionally got an article in one of the relevant magazines but these ‘adverts’ were really little more than ensuring those who perhaps had need of my services knew where to look for my contact details.  Don’t forget, these were pre internet days.  My business grew from one dealership in Berlin, to three dealerships in Bielefeld, Rheindahlen and Bratislava (I gave up on Berlin because the Wall coming down ruined the place). 

People would ring me from all over asking if I could get hold of this, or that and I usually could.  If a deal involved crossing borders, I wouldn’t turn the client away saying I did not export, or import, I would go out and find out what was involved in importing and exporting.  In this way, a very insignificant little dealership gained a bit of a ‘can do’ reputation.  To help out clients in a hurry, I have personally delivered vehicles to UK, Italy, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (as they were then), the south of France and elsewhere.  I have driven some very elegant cars and ridden exotic motorcycles along some of the most beautiful roads in Europe.  I have slept in the cab of my panel van, or in the back if it was a return journey, in the laybys of some of the smartest auto routes on the continent.

If I really could not help the client, my willingness to pass him on to someone I trusted without asking for a finder’s fee meant that, in due course, a good portion of my business came the same way and a good portion of my stock arrived as a result of tip offs, both from those I had fed clients and clients themselves.  It was good for everyone, dealers and customers alike.

Naturally, I occasionally caught a cold.  I referred one client and a year later he called me; me, not the dealer who had profited by his business, to say that on trying to sell his car, he discovered there was a lien on it.  So I immediately paid the lien.  Why?  Well it should be obvious.  One happy customer might mention his experience to perhaps ten acquaintances.  A pissed off client will tell hundreds, whether he knows them or not.  A year before the guy had come to me first, that was worth something, and I had referred him to someone else.  Whichever way you looked at it, I may not have been legally responsible, especially since I did not earn a penny out of it and was now about to lose more than just a penny, but I was morally responsible.  If I argued over a few thousand pounds, I stood to lose a hell of a lot more in the long run.  Besides, if I took it up with the real culprit rather than leaving it to a forlorn client, I would not be bound by the same rules governing normal social intercourse.  Of inestimable value to me was that the client went away thinking, ‘Shit, that guy’s honest’.  Don’t forget, even though I had to pay him money, he was still a red hot lead.  He was trying to sell his car, wasn’t he?  Why do most people want to sell their cars?  Because they want to buy another one.  Not only did I get my money back in the form of stock from the other dealer, I sold the customer a car.

I am not sure how well such a business model, largely based on trust, would work today but I think the huge advances in information technology are as much a hindrance to finding a decent car as they enable the search for one.  Anyone with a browser can find a million vehicles at the click of a mouse but this leaves the client rather like a child stood in the middle of Toys r Us and being told to pick one.  How do they know which represent good value and which are to be avoided?  Then, of course, there is the time taken to walk along every aisle examining in detail each item on every shelf.  Furthermore, the trust is all one way.  The client has to suppose that what it says on the box is in it.  Some people are still willing to pay a small premium to stand in a shop, feel the merchandise and be served by a human being.  I reckon there’s still a place for old dinosaurs like me.

So, just to keep my hand in, here is an example of the sort of thing I got up to all those years ago.  Back then, of course, it was by scanning international classic car magazines and auction reports, now it’s by using the internet.  I no longer have the resources to buy these two vehicles and ship them to the States but if someone does, then this is something which, in the words of RM Auctions the other day, should not be overlooked.

To illustrate my last post I just pulled down the first image of a decent BMW 3.0 CS I found on Google images.  Afterwards, I made up my mind to track the car down and discovered that it was a restored 1974 BMW 3.0 CS, Chassis no. 4310374, which sold for $110,000 at Fort Worth on the 27th April 2013.  With Buyer’s Premium, that would take it over $120k.  I was pleased; hadn’t I just been guilty of predicting the car’s rise in value?  I compared this with the average price being asked for other restored examples most of which are, not surprisingly, to be found in Germany.  €60,000 ($67,000) seems to be the norm for exceptional examples.  Already there is an interesting spread.  So I widened my search to find the best deal on a pristine 3.0 CS or CSi I could.  I found two, an example of each.  In Hungary.

Hungary?!  Why not?  I’d buy a carpet from an Arab so why not a car from a Magyar? 

Both cars are the result of a complete restoration using only genuine BMW parts to what is described as showroom condition, a claim substantiated with photos.  Given that the vendor is more likely to sell them back into Germany, he has priced them accordingly; there will be costs for anyone bringing them back to Germany.  At €45,900 ($52,000) for the 1972 3.0 CSi and €43,900 ($50,000) for the 1971 3.0 CS, you could have both cars for less than the price realised by a single example in the States.  And that is just on the asking price, no one pays that.  The fact that they are, apart from one being the fuel injected model, a matching brace in desirable Polaris Silver has to attract a premium when it comes time to find a home for them, ‘and one for her Ladyship, Sir?’.  Had I still my dealership in Bielefeld I would now be on a fast motorcycle tearing up the tarmac down to St. Kristof Garage in Pec (Fünfkirchen) to check them out before phoning a contact in the States. 

I might even have succumbed to temptation and just moved one on to subsidise the one I kept for myself.

I realise there are a lot of boring technical photos  below but we dealers, see, know what a pretty BMW looks like on the outside so, rather like a tart’s punter, we want a peek up the skirt before parting with our money…
 
Even if you aren't interested in old cars, you have to marvel at how the mechanical bits of two forty year old cars could be so clean.

You can contact the private seller on: +36 2059 52020.  If you do call, don't bother mentioning my name.  Hard to believe but there are still people in the world outside Interpol and Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs who haven't heard of me.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


22 comments:

  1. Beautiful machines but those are so far out of this slob's reach as if they were on the moon. The closest I will ever get to one of those lovelies is three of those intake U bends I scrounged from the junkyard for possible use on bodging an intake for the Mazda Wankel Jodel engine.

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    1. How is your aircraft building coming along? Been a while since we had any updates.

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    2. That's because it is frozen solid like the glacier we removed off the roof on Thursday. I really haven't touched the Jodel for at least six months. Nothing really worth telling. Struggling to find motivation. After the daily routine of over exertion battling the snow drifts you just want to crawl in to bed and go to sleep for a a couple of months. Then you wake up after a couple of hours and realize you have to face it all again.

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  2. "I realise there are a lot of boring technical photos"
    You ain't wrong there!
    Xxxxx

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    1. That comment hardly justifies your handle 'The Gay Welsh Raconteur'! Henceforth you shall be known as 'The Gay Welsh Luddite'.

      Back in the dark and very distant past, your Berlingo was as clean as these cars...

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  3. There's nothing like a clean machine. Even the tyres are impeccable.

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    1. And I would add to that, "there's nothing like a clean car salesman". Honesty and integrity count for so very much, as you proved then Hippo, and something everyone who his himself of the same persuasion, would value highly. The only trading I do is in art, (pictures, aka paintings), and just as I pay immediately, I expect payment upon sale to be executed without a hitch. Of course in the latter the big houses, like Sotheby's have much better terms of trade - they pay 30 days after sale!

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    2. Regarding these particular cars, I'm in awe of the dedication, hard work and attention to detail lavished upon them.

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  4. All this highbrow automotive elitist commentary. What about the Borgward? I bet same folks over there collect the random Borgward as collect the wayward Studebaker here. (Folks like myself)

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    1. The first ever restoration project I worked on was a Borgward Isabella Coupe which, at the time, was an unusual choice. Happily, they are increasingly being considered worthy of restoration as values rise. This is the positive aspect of rocketing classic car values - as restoration costs have not risen at the same rate, more cars become cost effective to restore thus preserving what otherwise might have been lost.

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    2. I must say I was trying to be funny. I like the Borgward trucks although I have never seen one in the USA. The Isabella is a nice looking car but I have actually never seen one in real life. It was an interesting company.
      I have a couple Studebakers. Studebaker quit making cars in 1965 but for some reason collectors immediately started saving cars. There are a lot of parts for them and they are cheaper here than name brand cars of the 1960's. The Studebaker was neat in that you could order one from the factory with a Paxton supercharger. In theory, you could have a four door family sedan with a super-charged V-8. My unrestored, rustbucket 1964 Studebaker cruiser does not. Sometimes I pretend it does, but I suppose that is just too much information.
      My respect for you has gone up immensely now that I know you restored a Borgward.

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    3. Oh I took it in good humour! What with you calling me highbrow and elitist and Yorkshire Pudding saying on my last post I sounded like Jeremy Clarkson, I'm quite pleased! Could you also order the Studebaker with padded moonshine racks in the back?

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  5. I agree, they both look good. I've always enjoyed driving BMW's. The only problem for me has been that of comfort. More than a couple of hours behind the wheel and I would get a bit of backache. I had to look it up but the Borgward looks interesting as well.

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    1. A fully restored Isabella Coupe will set you back the same as a 3.0CS! Obviously, the cars are more than a decade apart and the Borgward only has a 1500cc in line 4 so dynamically there is no comparison. The Borgward was over engineered for the time and Karl Borgward refused to cheapen the product (as he saw cost cutting) so ultimately went bust in the same post war depression that nearly did for BMW. You can see a fine Isabella Coupe, identical to the one I worked on here:

      http://suchen.mobile.de/auto-inserat/borgward-andere-isabella-h1500-coupe-ap-brummen/197093696.html

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    2. I have looked at that although I did spot a B611 van for sale for £15k up your street, a Borgward mpv that would suit your community needs as well as 2 vehicles for £5k on the Car and Classic site.

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  6. I didn't know what you did in your previous lives…..apropos nothing much….one of my sons is project manager for the BMW web site. We sold our Jag estate yesterday for cash……thank goodness, much more room in the drive now!

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    1. The only Jag estate I have seen in the flesh was a Lynx Eventer. I did see a modern one on TV, that was towing Jeremy Clarkson on skis behind it. So there you have it; some people would rather have a space on the drive than a jag estate.

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  7. Weren't they known as batwings or something? Look lovely...had to turn the page quickly before I got myself into trouble

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    1. The race spec CSL lightweight with all its wings and spoilers was known as the Batmobile and did battle with the Ford Capri RS3100s. Shame DTM isn't as big on TV as F1, I know which I prefer!

      Go ahead, do something silly, reading your last post it might cheer you up...

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  8. DTM fan here as well. I liked your post and the photos of the BMW's - beautiful cars :)

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    1. Ah, someone with taste! Where were you when I was single?

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Please feel free to comment, good or bad. I will allow anything that isn't truly offensive to any other commentator. Me? You can slag me without mercy but try and be witty while you are about it.