I constantly make fun of Corolla owners….a lot.
So much so that I once told a Toyota salesman that he sold the automotive equivalent of a microwave. He didn’t think it was funny, and after finding myself sitting behind the wheel of our borrowed Corolla, I could understand why. If my job depended on selling something so awful I’d be in a horrible mood too. Yet there I was sitting in a future tenant parking spot in an apartment complex in Costa Mesa California waiting to meet the seller.
We heard the truck coming before we saw it, and just as I looked up at the rear-view mirror to see what the noise was, it rounded the corner and parked behind us. My girlfriend saw it in the passenger side mirror. Truck looked just like the pictures, flat black paint, sun cracked, past shades of red, white, and green showing through in spots, tired but still shiny chrome, a fake spotlight on either side of the windshield and a lovely healthy sounding rumble. It had a rather commanding presence in that parking lot. It looked out of place, but with that big looming grill it demanded respect and that it didn’t care how it looked. We both stared at each other and we knew we were hooked, we had to have it. Even in my novice head, I knew that was no way to buy a car. We had to hide the emotion, there was a deal to be done, and if the seller smelled blood in the water, this fool was going to part with way more money than he had planned.
I wasn’t exactly dressed to go project truck shopping. We had actually stopped on our way to the beach so I was wearing flip flops, board shorts and a t-shirt. I have not read the SAE manuals on mechanic safety but I am pretty sure I wasn’t ticking any of the boxes. I didn’t have any tools and I had no idea what I was looking for but I started going over the truck anyways. I am an IT guy, not a mechanic, I was really only looking for obvious issues. What those were was really anyone’s guess, but I figured I would know them if i saw them.
The motor sounded OK, there was no rust, and other then the accident damage on the front, which had a minor fender bender, it looked to be in pretty good shape for a 55 year old truck. The seller was a young kid, we talked a bit and I learned that he was selling the truck because he was moving to another state to go to school. He explained that he had a bunch of people looking at the truck but he had held off selling because he wanted to find someone who would appreciate an old truck. After I started telling him things about the truck he didn’t know, he quickly offered to let me test drive it. I should have taken him up on the offer, but at the time I was wearing flip flops and didn’t want to try to drive stick in a car that wasn’t mine with the wrong shoes. Instead I let the seller take me for test drive. In retrospect should have been a rather telling experience, but the truck was already mine in my head, so I wasn’t going to let pesky little things like a test drive get in the way of me buying it.
I decided to just believe that things like the hood popping up, or the accelerator pedal falling off its mounting point, and a lack of working gauges are super common issues on any test drive, and can just safely be ignored. I am pretty sure Ford has some TSB’s about this. The seller explained that the pedal fell off a lot, and he just drove it from its mounting bar, I mean that’s perfectly normal right? As I said, in my head the truck was already mine, so I soldiered on. I had never bought a used car before, let alone a project car, when it came to what to pay I really had no idea. I decided to go for broke and pulled the classic Craigslist negotiating tactic. Offering half. If the seller doesn’t take it as an insult and attempt to kill you, work up from there. After a bit of back and forth we agreed on a purchase price of $3500. It was a bit more than I wanted, and more than It was worth, but I wouldn’t realize that till several months later. But like I said before, It was already mine, and It seemed like it was a good rust free truck. I was happy. There was only just one minor problem, I had no way to pay for it. Thankfully the seller was cool about it, and agreed to hold it for me while I figured it out.
It had never occurred to me when I was packing for California to take my checkbook, I mean we live in a ultra-connected world, who needs a check book on vacation? So I did what any normal person would do and went to talk to my bank. This lead to a second problem, since I don’t use a bank, but rather small credit union on the east coast which with no branches in California, and no sister credit unions in California either. Nope, all of my money was trapped safely in my savings account back home. This should have been another sign but hey, that truck was MINE! I wasn’t going to let a pesky thing like no money get in my way. After a few calls to my bank, they suggested I try to pay with my debit card. They would up the limit to 3500 for the day, and I could see if there was a bank in the area that would charge it out to cash for me, and then my card would then be dead for the next 24 hours. Hardly ideal, but it seemed like a shot, so while waiting for a Sony movie studio tour to start I walked across the street to the nearest bank chain and sat down with them to see if they would help me out.
The blank stares and eye blinking didn’t give much hope, and after a quick chat with the branch manager I was back on the street sans cash. Quick call to the seller and low and behold he happened to work for a bank. Talk about information that would have been useful yesterday. After a few calls between him, my bank, and me, we set up a wire transfer to be completed over the next 48 hours. At this point reality started to set in for me. A large amount of money was missing from my account, It was headed to a guy I barely knew, and I had no paperwork if he just decided to take the money and run. Yes I am an idiot, but in my defense the truck was already mine so what did I have to lose. Thankfully he called a day later; the money had hit his account, and we agreed to sign the paperwork then next day on our way back from Disneyland.
Holy crap I own an almost 60 year old truck. Now I just have to go get it.
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