Woodward Dream Cruise 2014

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It’s the biggest annual event in Michigan. It’s the fourth largest one-day event in America. It’s the biggest car festival/cruise in the world. It’s the Woodward Dream Cruise with over 1.3 million spectators and over 40,000 classic cars, antique cars and hot rods. This year was the 20th anniversary of the event and not many people outside of Michigan know about it (other than classic car buffs, hot rod enthusiasts, drag racers, auto restorers and car people).

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I had to be in Detroit the Friday before and it was crowded with cars and spectators already – a week in advance! I returned on Wednesday, picked up my friend Steve from California at the airport and headed to the hotel taking a longer route on Woodward. Woodward was packed. Four lanes going north and four lanes going south and it was bumper-to-bumper classic car traffic at around 4 MPH. Engines rumbled, an occasional tire squealed loudly and sometimes it was hard to hear with all that Detroit muscle revving up.

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With my new automobile advertising wrap about my novel, Dream Machines, I was getting plenty of attention. My goal with this trip is to get enough publicity to sell over 2000 books through Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com so I can attract a literary agent, who will sell my book to a big publisher. If that happens, then movie producers will be interested and that is my true main goal: to make my novel, Dream Machines, into a movie. If made (hoping some big rich Detroit leaders read this) a side benefit would be improving the negative perceptions and opinions about Detroit into positive ones. At least, that’s my plan. Know of any people like that with $5 million they would like to invest in a movie? I didn’t think so.

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Wednesday night was the only chance we would have of stopping at Duggan’s Pub on Woodward for a Big Chief burger, the burger they once served at the Totem Pole. Speaking of the Totem Pole, I stopped by the lot on Woodward where the Totem Pole was. It had turned into a Burger King for years and then they closed. They leveled the building and there is nothing but a vacant, empty lot left of what was the greatest drive-in restaurant in the world (my own opinion).

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Thursday had Steve and I cruising Woodward as much as possible (to show off my moving billboard). I had a very bad problem though. On Tuesday, my good friend and best man at my wedding, Dan Hurley died of a heart attack. Dan went to many Dream Cruises with me and his absence was a sore spot. That night we went out to dinner with his son, Neil and his wife Monica. We went to Birmingham, where the sidewalks were filled with people trying to get seats at the many fine restaurants in the area. The streets were also starting to be filled up with classic cars.

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Friday put me in a better mood. We cruised a very busy Woodward, but my friend Steve wanted to hear about actor/comedian, Robin William’s home area, because it was in the news so much about his death a few days earlier. Better than explaining, I showed him. We toured the neighborhoods and small lakes of Bloomfield Hills and the exclusive Cranbrook Institute of something or other. Robin lived in an extremely affluent part of Detroit’s suburbs along with his neighbors Mitt Romney and Lee Iacocca. In the ‘50s and ‘60s the area attracted big executives from Ford, GM and Chrysler. They let their teens play with the new demo cars they drove home from the factory. Many of those kids and their parents, drag raced on Woodward in their new GTO’s, Mustangs, Dodge Hemi’s, Corvettes and all the other muscle cars. Robin and Mitt had to have cruised all the drive-ins too. That’s a cool thought. I believe there are still a lot of auto execs living there.

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Friday night was an absolute zoo. Cars were crammed onto Woodward going about 2 MPH bumper-to-bumper for miles. It took hours to go a mile. The tree lawns, parking places and just about everywhere the crowd sat on lawn chairs or walked between the mini cruise-ins that were jammed with cool cars. TV crews were flitting around getting interviews and radio station guys were out in the street talking to people in their cars asking for a rev up (for sound).

Motorcycle police at WDC 2014

The police were out in a larger force than I’ve ever seen. At the shopping center at 13 mile and Woodward, where Chrysler has set up a ‘Mopar’ exhibit, there was a line of police motorcycles like I have never seen, other than in a movie like, ‘Blues Brothers.’ There had to be at least 30-40 motorcycles from police stations all over the Detroit area. There were cop cars everywhere as well as plenty of cops on bicycles and horses. At the Mopar exhibit, there was a lot of local hype and publicity about Dodge’s new 700+ HP Charger, ‘Hellcat,’ but it wasn’t at the exhibit…yet. They said it would be there on Saturday, but unfortunately, we had a different schedule for cruise day.

Dodge's 'Silver Bullet' ripped up Woodward in the '60s with over 600 HP.

Plymouth’s ’67 Belvedere GTX   ‘Silver Bullet’ ripped up Woodward in the ’60s with over 600 HP.

Down the street from the Mopar exhibit, and across the street from Duggan’s Pub, was GMs Corvette exhibit and next to that was a park area that was transformed into a classic car carnival. It was packed with food concessions/trucks, classic cars, hot rods, t-shirt tents, the truck from my friend Dana’s magazine ‘www.cruiz’news.com,’ several bleacher seats faced Woodward and the enormous crowd either sat and watched, or milled around enjoying the intoxicating atmosphere of motor city metal.

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It was quite an experience, but the show ended at 9:40pm when the huge presence of police blocked off Woodward and everybody had to go home. I mean, tried to go home. The small neighborhood road that the police forced people to take became jammed and it took us forever to make our way back to the hotel.

Black '57 Chevy MSU

The Saturday morning of the Dream Cruise had a chill in the air. The temps had dipped into the 40s the night before, but there was a crowd on Woodward at 8am. We headed to Ferndale. At the corner of 9 Mile Road and Woodward, 9 Mile was blocked in either direction for blocks and blocks for Ford’s ‘Mustang Alley.’ Ford and many after-market suppliers like Saleen, Rousch, Shelby and many others showed their newest Mustang designs. A large parking lot was filled with only Mustang Cobras. Then there were blocks and blocks of Mustangs of all years and models owned by private owners. In all, we figured there had to be at least 1,000 mustangs. It was unbelievable and overwhelming for this ardent Mustang fan. My Mustang was stolen, but that’s in a previous blog.

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Ford's Mustang Alley  9 Mile at Woodward

Ford’s Mustang Alley
9 Mile at Woodward

We then headed to Birmingham to see GM’s offering to the Cruise. It took us a long time to go 6 miles, but lots of people saw my mobile billboard along the way. Tee shirts under a tent dotted the sides of Woodward for miles as well as a bunch of ‘radio towers’ so people would know a radio station was broadcasting from there. Crowds surrounded various cool cars parked everywhere and anyway they could. I could tell by the crowded boulevard that this was the biggest Dream Cruise ever. Along the way, there was a row of around ten DeLoreans like the one in the movie, ‘Back to the Future,’ all with their doors open and pointing skyward. What a blast!

Radio tower WDC 2014

In downtown Birmingham, Old Woodward Avenue was closed off and wow, they had quite a show of classic cars. Since this was Birmingham, with it’s affluence, there were a lot of classic foreign cars that cruised Woodward in the ‘60s, like MGs, Triumphs, Austin Healeys, Jaguars, Rolls Royces and even an old Bentley. There was a long row of Cobras, Thunderbirds and Corvettes. On the other side of the sidewalk, in parking lots full of parked cars, there were a number of exhibits for after-market companies that do a lot of business with GM.

Ken Lingenfelter and I at the Dream Cruise

Ken Lingenfelter and I at the Dream Cruise, I’m in the Hawaiian shirt.

An old friend of mine, Ken Lingenfelter, owns one of those companies, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering. They make GM cars like Corvettes and Camaros go faster and make race cars go faster too. They build race car engines and components like superchargers. Ken showed me a new product of his; trucks he named, ‘Reapers.’ He gives trucks a go-over, performance and custom looks wise, and calls them ‘Reapers.’ They are already in some GM showrooms in Texas. Ken also showed me his personal ‘everyday car,’ a gorgeous ’67 Corvette with over 600 HP. I want to go the grocery store with him.

Ken Lingenfelter's daily ride

At the end of the street where it meets Woodward, forms a triangle where Chevrolet, this years Dream Cruise sponsor, has a large exhibit of their coolest new cars and classic Chevys. There was also a TV station, WXYZ (ABC), which is a sponsor, doing live broadcasts as well as the oldies radio station, WOMC, with their funny radio hosts, Bobby and Stacy doing a live show. Add in all kinds of food trucks, huge crowds, live music stages and you’ve got a pretty wild scene with hundreds of thousands of classic car buffs oo-ing and ah-ing  every cool car that drives by.

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When we headed back out onto Woodward we heard my radio interview. The day before, I had done a radio interview with WWJ 950 am all news, and we heard it run several times in the day and once at night. We didn’t really get all that far on Woodward, because again it was wall-to-wall classic car traffic going at a snail’s pace. At 9 pm, we saw the lights on all the police cars go on like it did Friday night just before they closed Woodward down. I hurried (you really couldn’t hurry) as fast as I could to get off Woodward. I turned the corner at 13 Mile Road and just then the cops shut down Woodward. I thought, ‘9 pm?’ I guess they wanted to end the happiness earlier that usual. Back at the hotel, I heard people moaning about the long ride back in the traffic. I felt lucky, where can I buy a lottery ticket?

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The Big Chief Burger

The Big Chief Burger

On Sunday, we finally got our chance to eat a Big Chief at Duggan’s Pub. We sat at the bar and I saw a very hard working guy, Larry Payne, owner of Duggan’s. Larry said he heard my interview that morning on WWJ, so maybe I sounded better than I thought. I said goodbye to Steve when I dropped him off at the airport. This was his second Dream Cruise year and he said it was, ‘great.’ I headed back to Cleveland, with a big smile, great memories and it helped me get over the tragedy of my friend, who loved the Dream Cruise, passing on. I’m sure that now he’s in a real, ‘Dream Machine.’

More pictures -

'59 Edsel Wagon

White '56 T-Bird

A really big unknown car with Canada plates

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CRAIG’S LIST/EBAY SCAM ALERT!!!

FRAUD/SCAM ALERT!

I’ve been writing in my blog about my search for a good used car for my son, who’s a senior in high school. This is the third and final chapter on this subject (thankfully).

BUT FIRST – I have to address this CRAIG’S LIST/EBAY SCAM ALERT: Craig’s list has a used car scam that is hitting the entire country. It’s not the doing of Craig’s List, but some piece of crap loser has come up with a scam on Craig’s List to steal your hard earned money from any town, and send it to this human piece of manure (can I say shit?). There may be more than one scam and may come from some group/gang, but here’s how this scam works.

You’ve been looking for a good used car and respond to an ad on Craig’s List by owner, for a car that is perfect for you and at a price that you can’t believe; a one-owner creampuff.  It seems like it is ‘too good to be true.’ It is, but you need a car and send an email inquiry hoping for the best. An email comes back to you from a woman (yeah, sure) with a hard-luck story. It’s either, “My husband died and I’m moving with the kids,” My husband left me and I want to just get rid of the car because it reminds me of him,” or “I’m in the military and about to be shipped to Japan (or wherever) next week and really need to sell this car.” If their sales pitch comes with a hard luck story, beware.

Then, they say the car is in a different town far away in a warehouse ready to be shipped to you. They want the deal to go through ‘eBay Motors’ because it’s safe and you have 7 days to inspect the car and if you don’t like the deal, you get your money back. Then another email comes from what looks to be eBay Motors (including eBay logos and pictures of the car and description like a car dealer, to look real) explaining what you have to do. They want you to go buy some MoneyPaks from a drugstore and load them with cash: thousands of dollars of cash. Then you give eBay Motors the scratched off numbers on the cards to make the money transfer. DON’T DO IT!!!!

HERE’S THE BOGUS INVOICE – It’s long, but look at how legit it looks. People get fooled by it. Article continues after you see the work of this POS:

eBay sent this message to Ron Lundmark Your invoice for eBay Buyer Protection Purchase – 2004 GMC Yukon Denali AWD
Invoice for eBay Buyer Protection Transaction Case ID 6P28D654V43 between Erica Armstrong, the Seller and Ron Lundmark as the Buyer. Please follow our instructions to complete the transaction safely. eBay’s got you covered. Your purchases are now covered by eBay Buyer Protection Program.
Seller: Erica Armstrong Address: 31 Joshua Dr Ramsey, NJ 07446

How to make the payment; To complete the transaction you must send the payment via MoneyPak Service.
Once you bought the MoneyPak, ask the cashier to load them with cash and Reply us the following details from the MoneyPak:
MoneyPak Number and Debit Load for each MoneyPak card and scanned copy off the back of your MoneyPaks. NOTE: You can    add only up to $1,000.00 onto a MoneyPak card, so buy as many cards as you need to complete your payment for item purchased.
Fax the MoneyPak payment receipt to eBay Financing Center Department at: +1 (206)-426-7263
For security reasons please DO NOT release the payment details to the Seller or any other unauthorized person.
Case ID: Mileage: 121,925 *Note: Payment must be made within the next 48 hours. 1 $2,000.00 Inspected YES $0,00
*Please check the details for an accurate delivery in order to avoid delays
Payment must be submitted via MoneyPak to eBay Financing Center. We will secure the payment until the Buyer receives, inspects and accepts the vehicle. Or, if it will be the case, eBay will refund the payment to the Buyer.
* All the transaction details, payment and personal information are confidential and will not be released under any circumstances.
* eBay Buyer Protection program security measures are constantly reviewed and modified given evolving circumstances globally.
* Our main and constant priority is the safety of our customers.
Go with cash or debit card to any provided store and pick up a MoneyPak from the Prepaid Product Section or Green Dot display and take it to the register. The cashier will collect your cash and load it onto the MoneyPak. It costs $4.95 or less. There are no hidden fees or charges. Just purchase your MoneyPak, use cash to fund it and you’re ready to go. Once you bought the MoneyPak and loaded the debit:
– reply us the MoneyPak Number (14 Digits Number off the back of your MoneyPaks) – send the scanned copy of your payment receipts by fax or email and a scanned copy off the back of your Moneypaks, where we can see the
MoneyPak Numbers, so we can add them to the files and validate your payment.
Note: Please be very careful to buy Green Dot MoneyPak, and not Green Dot Prepaid Credit Cards ! It is very important !
You can add up to $1,000.00 onto a MoneyPak card so buy as many MoneyPaks as you need to complete your payment for item purchased. (Ex: If you buy a vehicle that costs $2,500.00, you must buy two MoneyPaks loaded with $1,000.00 and another one loaded with $500 and so on). When payment is received, it will be verified and secured into a non-interest bearing trust account. Payment verification process usually takes less than 24 hours. After payment is secured, the Seller is authorized to ship the vehicle. The Seller has 24 hours to send the Buyer and eBay Financing Center Department the tracking number of the shipment. If no tracking number is provided, a full refund is immediately sent to the Buyer. The Buyer receives the vehicle and has 10 days to inspect it. If it is complete and as described, the Buyer should accept the vehicle. If he refuses the vehicle, the Buyer must ship the vehicle back to the Seller within 10 days. After the inspection period is over, the Buyer must contact eBay Financing Center Department with the result of the inspection. If the Buyer refuses the vehicle, the refund will be sent to the Buyer after the tracking number for the returned shipment is verified. If the vehicle is accepted, eBay submits the payment directly to the Seller within 3 business days.
Purchase protection and refund: The eBay Motors Vehicle Purchase Protection (VPP) is a subsidiary of eBay Inc., dedicated to      insuring safe and honest transaction between online buyers and sellers, especially for deals involving large amounts of money. Each of our seller clients is required to open a Purchase Protection Account (PPA) which is managed by VPP department. The amount of the account provides protection up to $50,000 against certain losses associated with some types of fraud.
When a seller initiates a transaction with his/her corresponding buyer, VPP checks the seller’s PPA and, if it’s value is equal or greater than the transaction price, automatically locks it for a period of 90 days from the day the transaction was started.
Conditions to be met before you may ask for a refund:
1) If the item doesn’t get to its destination after the payment is received; 2) If the merchandise you receive doesn’t fits its description; 3) If your merchandise arrives in a much longer period than the one you agreed on (more than 3-5 business days from the payment clearance day);
For situations 2) and 3) you have to send back the merchandise to the seller prior to ask for your refund. Seller will pay the shipping to receive it back also.
Notice that each of the transaction has a method of payment which is selected by the eBay Buyer Purchase Protection, taking into account the seller’s location and background check. The selected method of payment is always the one which offers the most reliable protection against fraud. Please, be advised that if you did not pay the seller by payment method required by us, your refund request will be declined.
If you need answers to your questions, just reply to this email !
Best Regards, eBay Customer Support (Trust and Safety Department)
Copyright 1995-2014 eBay Inc. All Rights Reserved. Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners. Use of this Web site constitutes acceptance of the eBay User Agreement and Privacy Policy.
CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS? If you do, you are exactly the kind of person they want to steal from.

I checked with eBay and they confirmed the part about a 7 day return policy if bought on eBay. But here is the nitty-gritty – IT’S NOT THE REAL EBAY MOTORS! They add something like, “Y&R eBay Motors” for their email address. Ebay does not do business that way. I called eBay and they confirmed that this is a scam. Absolute fraud. I got a hold of Craig’s list and they took the scam off their listing. But I found another scam just like it when I looked at Craig’s List from a different town. Then, when I went to Florida, I found another scam just like the other scams. This is either a punk or a gang of fools who are hitting every Craig’s List in the country! These pieces of human trash are targeting people looking for a car around $2000, which are people who saved their hard earned money and these cold-hearted morons just want to steal it away. Human garbage.

Should you shop on Craig’s List? I did, but you have to look at every ad very closely and be vigilant for Scams. I contacted Craig’s List and they don’t really monitor anything or any ad. I guess that’s why there are a lot of weird things that have happened with Craig’s List. Hey, Craig’s List is free and they don’t have the resources to monitor every listing, you have to do your own research on who (whom?) you are buying from. That’s why Craig’s List has a FRAUD WARNING at the beginning of their home page. Here’s how my search went and how your search might go:

Let’s say that you want a good used car for your teen son/daughter, wife or yourself…or whoever (whomever?). You do all the groundwork and analyze what your needs are, the budget, and you go on line searching for the perfect ‘cream-puff.’ You over-analyze by finding out what the resale values are per brand and the reliability factor, then readjust your search to fit your slim budget. You think you are on the right track.

Then you start going through all the sites for used cars like, www.autotrader.com, www.cars.com, www.usedcars.com, www.carguru.com, and www.craig’slist.com. Those are the big on-line sites. Then you can cruise through your local dealer’s inventory. I didn’t do this that much because of my budget on this particular car; new car dealers can’t make enough money on a cheap used car to bother with. They usually call in a wholesale dealer to take those cars off their hands. So now, if your budget is under $4000, you have to do things you should do, like asking all your friends and relatives if they know of a good, well taken care of, used car. No? Then it’s time find used cars from some private owners, or search the inventory of all of the small used car dealers for your ‘diamond in the rough.’

On Craig’s list, if you only want to search for ‘used cars by owner,’ you can click that. If you want ‘dealers only,’ you can click that as well as a button for both. On many instances I called a private owner, only to find out that it is a small used car dealer. When you ask them, they respond that the car you called on was his, ‘personal’ car. Yeah.

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As I’ve mentioned before, I have purchased things on Craig’s list with no problems. The car I bought for myself, a low-mileage Lincoln Aviator, cost $12000 and it’s definitely worth it. A year and a half later, and I feel that I got a good deal. But this search was for a much cheaper used car to get my son through his senior year of High School and a few years in the US Marines. The budget for this car grew from $1000 to $3500 very quickly. I decided to look in Florida for a car without rust, while on a business trip. I flew one-way free by cashing in some airline frequent flier miles, and hoped I’d find a car and drive it home.

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My search took me all over the Sarasota/Bradenton/Venice area and I had good food, music and fun with some old friends that live there. Thanks to my friend, Rod, I was able to search for a car and if I found one, I could pick him up and go back for the car. So, he lent me his fairly new Hyundai Sonata (nice ride). The search was harder than I thought and saw a lot of bad used cars…with no rust. Hey, $3500 and under apparently doesn’t buy you much anymore, used car wise.

On the last day, I was prepared to buy the very first car I looked at the first day because it only had 113,000 miles on it and no rust. However, at $3000 I just didn’t feel it was worth it because the car did not look or feel like it had been taken care of very well. On Sunday night at midnight, the night before I was to buy a car and drive it north to Cleveland, Ohio, I saw a new ad by a private owner for a car that, if true, would be perfect for my son. I called first thing in the morning and made an appointment to see the car.

I made one stop on the way, to a new car dealer that advertised a good-looking car that was $3990 and thought they might go down a bit. The salesperson couldn’t find it so they brought in ‘Mr. Slick’ who told me that, “he just sold that car yesterday” (despite the fact that they are closed on Sunday). He went on to smoothly say, “I’m looking in the wrong price range because of a State Law that says car dealers can tack on and extra $800 to every car as a fee. You should raise your total price to $6500 and I have a bunch of nice cars that would work.” This sounded a little phony, so I thought I’d call a friend, who is a wholesaler for a used car store in Florida.

He told me that car dealers can charge a ‘dealer’s fee…up to $800. He said only “Greedy dealers” charge as much as $800. With low price cars he can play with the price of the car and the fee, because the profit is so slim. This told me a lot about that new car dealer’s used car salesman and the dealer (assuming he likes to hire dorks).

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At noon, I met the private seller at a gas station close to the seller’s home and it looked good. It’s a ’02 Jeep Liberty Sport with a V6 and 4×4, just what I was looking for, but it was $4200. I took it for a ride and it was smooth and quiet. She was honest and told me that the electric rear windows each needed a new motor and a few other very small cosmetics. That’s not a big deal and an inexpensive task. The price then lowered and reached the critical $3500. I bought it on the spot.

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This was what I would call luck, based on a lot of work. Okay, an incredible amount of work and travel. Did I really do that? The only thing I didn’t try, when looking for a good used car, was auto auctions. There are auctions around, but they only sell to the public on certain days, and I didn’t know enough about it to try. Who knows? I may have found what I was looking for the first day, but there’s only so much energy that I have left. It felt good to have made a good deal on a good used car that will last for years, assuming my son takes good care of it, like his father takes care of his cars (did I somehow slip into third person? Aren’t I, him, his father?). Forget it. I got into the car and headed north on I-75.

I had to stop and see a friend in Gainesville, Florida, Chad, who invited me to stay the night and share some good authentic Cuban food; Pork roast. It was delicious, but I was worried about the air conditioner on the car because it was making a noise. My friend said, “Go see Jerry” at a local air conditioning repair shop, so I did the next morning. The air condenser needed Freon and some oil. After that, it worked fine with ice-cold air.

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I had a great ride home and even stopped at the seafood place in Darien, Georgia that my kids and I stopped at on another trip. Skipper’s Fish Camp had the blackened scrimp and grits and it was delicious, once again. The car ran smooth and when I got home and my son saw it, it was in love at first sight. My long search was over and thank God.

 

Skipper's Fish Camp Shrimp and Grits

Skipper’s Fish Camp Shrimp and Grits

Lesson’s I learned:

Many people lie about their cars for sale, especially used car salesmen. I don’t hold that against them unless it is an outright blatant case of fraud. Besides, lying is part of their job, like lawyers and politicians.

When people say their car is in ‘great shape’ they may be talking about the actual shape of the car if you drew it.

When possible, take it to a repair shop to have them inspect it (they might charge $59, but it’s worth it if you don’t know about cars).

Low mileage cars that looks rough with a lot of rust, might have more miles on it than it shows (don’t know how they would do this, but it probably still happens).

Be wary, be skeptical and ask a lot of questions. What looks good online, may not be the way the car actually looks in person. Pictures can be photo-shopped easily.

Shop all the ways you can and be persistent and picky because you don’t want to end up with someone else’s problem car.

Now, if I can only notify all the websites like cars.com and carguru.com that I already bought a car and to stop sending me ads through various news websites all the way to Facebook. They put spinning ads that distract you, with cars just like you looked for on all those websites. They keep that information and probably a whole lot of other information about you, then use it to advertise to you…then eventually sell that info to other online sales gimmicks. These websites keep sending you ads for cars you’ve been searching for, for a long time and it’s annoying.

Was it worth all the work and travel for the perfect used car with a budget of only $3500 for my 17 year-old high school senior and future US Marine? I can only tell you that yes, especially when I see the look of love in my son’s eyes… when he looks at that Jeep. I will know that I was part of the very excellent and great memory of his very first car ever. His first, ‘Dream Machine.’

 

 

 

 

More on buying a used car, for cheap

Didn’t really get any pictures for this particular week’s blog, but will next week.Okay, this searching for the perfect used car for my son has taken on epic proportions of lies, fraud, scams, more lies, more scams, exaggeration, poor judgment, and time wasted. Well, maybe not time wasted because I have learned a lot about buying a good used car.

With new car prices approaching the price of homes, and sometime exceeding them, a good used car can be a good way to save money on transportation. Us 50 year-olds and up have to consider ways to reduce our expenses, unless you’re rich. I’m not and wish I were. But that’s a whole different subject.

I have generally had a good experience buying a used car. In past posts of this blog I have explained my last purchase that I flew to Florida to get; an ’05 Lincoln Aviator with 43,000 miles. I can drive this gorgeous SUV AWD V8 that is fully loaded, to include a DVD player for the back rows, for years and go well over 200,000 miles. The best part is it only cost $12,000 and is a great luxurious ride.

The search for my son’s car is trickier because there is a smaller budget (he has to pay half) that has been busted several times. The first was a $1000 piece of junk from a relative that we luckily got out of. The second budget moved to $2000 and was an incredible deal on Craigslist.com that turned out to be a scam. There are used cars that looked okay for under $2000, but not for an SUV that would last my son next year through his senior year of high school and last at least a year or two of his dream job since he was 5 years-old; The US Marines. Yes, he goes in right after graduation in June, 2015.

So, the budget moved up to $2500. Most were high mileage (150,000+) and most had rust. I saw a ’98 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer Edition that had only 64,000 miles. But it had rust. How does a car with only 64,000 miles on it get rust? I had numerous Ford Explorers and drove each over 225k miles; none had rust when I sold it or traded it in. My thoughts are that I received more lies; no way does a designer SUV get rust at 64,000 miles, even in the snowy salty, pot-holed roads of North East Ohio. I’ve become too savvy a buyer to fall for lies.

So now what do I do? I’m taking the advise of a friend in Florida. In Florida, retirees sell well-maintained cars and SUV’s with low miles that have absolutely no rust. So, I’m cashing in some American Airlines miles and I’m heading to Florida this Thursday. I have done a lot of research on used cars down there, that are available right now, and there are about ten cars that I’m going to look at. Then I’ll buy one of them, cash right on the spot, then head north. I will drive the car back to Cleveland and hopefully I will have made a good used car decision so I don’t break down getting home. Next week; what I bought and my final conclusions on buying a used car.

 

 

 

 

Buying a used car

Trying to find a used car under $2500 is easy. Trying to find a decent reliable used car under $2500 is not easy. Almost impossible.  My search for a good used car for my son has revealed a few things about buying a used car. One fact, is that any car under $2500 is under suspicion. I have searched through thousands of cars listed on online websites and have some conclusions about the cars and the people that are selling them.

I have been lied to so many times by these used car sellers, that I’m getting very skeptical about anything these people tell me. Even the pictures can be very misleading. Descriptions that say, “good running, starts well and awesome,” are not necessarily true. In fact, they could be wild exaggerations. Go figure. I will try to give you my honest opinion on searching for and buying a used car.

I will start with my experience a few years ago when I wanted a Lincoln Aviator with low miles. Aviators were only built for a few years, 2003-2006, and looks just like a Lincoln Navigator, only it’s the size of a Ford Explorer, with a lot of improvements and with even more ‘bells and whistles.’ I drive on business sometimes as much as 3000-4000 miles in a month on Interstates through every kind of weather condition and road conditions there are. I had a ’03 Aviator that I put 225,000 tough miles on and liked it so well, that I bought another one. But it took a long time to find one that fit my finicky requirements.

I went to several Lincoln dealers to look, but most didn’t have any used Aviators on the lot and the ones that did had a very large price tag or a lot more miles on it than I was willing to accept. This Aviator I was looking for needed to have under 50,000 miles for me to be interested. I figured this car would last me the same 225,000 miles and if I bought it right, I wouldn’t have to spend over $14,000.

I searched on Craig’slist.com, cars.com, autotrader.com, and a few others I found on the Internet. I looked through at least 3500 cars because I widened my search to over 1500 miles away. Now the choices expanded a lot. I pretty much drew the line at the Mississippi River, but if I had the extra time, it wouldn’t be a bad deal to drive all the way across the country. Yet, if the car didn’t match up to what was advertised, it would have been hard to get a cheap flight home, not to mention the potential of a broken down car in the middle of nowhere.

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On autotrader.com, I found an ’05 Aviator with only 43,000 miles in Florida. Not only that, but there was another ’05 Aviator just 30 miles away with 58,000 miles, just in case the other deal went bad. I made the deal with the dealer for $12,000, $2000 under my max price, crossed my fingers and got a cheap three-leg flight and flew down. It turned out perfect because the car was beautiful, other than the tires looked to have maybe another 5000 miles on them. I bought the car, spent some time visiting with friends in Florida, then drove it home. All in all, it was a good experience.

If you read my blog last week, I was in the middle of a search for a car for my son, and had three terrible attempts; One was a relatives car that was about to blow a head gasket, a scam deal on Craigslist.com that tried to pry my money away by posing as eBay motors, and then there was a bid on eBay for a “good running condition Acura” that turned into a trip to Jacksonville, Florida to buy a that turned out to be a beaten up piece of crap.

So now what do I do? Well, I went back over all the steps I had learned, and started at the beginning. First I went to relatives and friends asking one more time if anybody had a good car to sell. Nothing, but one guy told me it’s a bad idea buying a car from a relative. I told my story and he just laughed.

My search this time had some differences because now I was looking for a $2500 or less car. New car dealers don’t typically handle these cars because they have high mileage, so they usually wholesale these cars and wholesale dealers need to make a profit on a small sale. That’s why I thought first of buying from an individual seller instead. Somebody’s ‘cream puff.’

So, the next step was searching through the ‘owner/seller’ list on Craigslist.com and it came up with a lot of cars, but I needed to see even more. So I expanded my search on Craigslist.com to bigger towns that were only a few hours drive, and would have a good selection. I found a number of cars and have emailed many of them. Nobody has emailed back today, but sometime I don’t check my emails everyday. Well, that’s not true either because I do check it everyday.

So, during the wait to hear back, I went on cars.com and autotrader.com as well as checked the classified section of our local newspaper. I searched through thousands more cars. Interesting tactic, because I got a good feeling for the car my son should get and the price we would pay for a dependable one. I emailed to a lot of potential sellers asking for more information, but it’s Sunday night and no response so far.

It’s now Monday afternoon, way past my posting deadline, and I have only received two responses thus far, and one of them is a three hour drive. So the tedious search goes on for a reliable used car, only now I have raised the spending limit to around $2200 in order to get a reliable used car, despite my son only contributing $750. Hopefully, next week he will have his first, ‘Dream Machine.’ Tune in, because it will happen soon.

The search for a good $1500 used car

I’ve been trying to find a good dependable used car for my 17 year-old son. I have failed miserably. He has to pay half and the maximum he can afford is about $750. My half is $750 so that pretty much makes it an under $1500 car. I tried to buy a dependable car for him three ways and failed at each.

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The first attempt was a natural; call all your relatives and see if they have a well cared for, older car for sale. Only one relative responded with a ’98 Jeep for $1000 dollars. I didn’t mind the high mileage because it was only $1000 dollars, until we saw it. I didn’t look bad, but it had an engine light on. He told it was just a couple of small things. We brought it to an automotive repair business and for $59 they would look at it. They told me they wouldn’t even want to work on it because the head gasket could blow at any moment. Hmmmm. We returned the car.

The second attempt was from an ad in Craig’s list, a popular website for selling all kinds of stuff over the Internet, like automobiles. I looked quite a few cars and found a great deal, but it was over our budget at $2000. But, it was a really great deal; a 2004 GMC Tahoe Denali, loaded, 124000 miles, which is nothing for his fine SUV. I contacted the owner and she, Erica, was in the military stationed in NJ and was being shipped out to Japan the next week, so she really had to sell it. Wow! What a deal.

Oops. The car was in NJ too. But, for that deal, yeah. I figured we could drive the 8 hours, buy it, and my son could drive his car back. So, in an email, I asked Erica if she could call us to make the arrangements. She said that it was hard to find a phone on the military base and we’d have to do it by email. She told me that she wanted to do the deal using eBay, which I’ve used in the past and have an account. I said sure and she wrote back that eBay would send me the paperwork necessary.

Sure enough, an email from Y-R eBay Motors comes in and explained how it works. First I’d have to get cash converted to MoneyPaks, which are cards you can buy and load them with a cash amount. They told me where to buy it too. It looked pretty legit, but I had a nagging red flag go up in my mind; everyone has a cell phone and if you don’t, you can borrow one from a friend or associate, especially at a military base. I’m a vet and I would know.

I decided to check out this deal with a phone number I looked up on the official eBay website. When I called, the eBay rep told me that there was no listing for the seller on eBay and the whole thing was a scam and that eBay deals are legit. That made me so pissed. If I hadn’t of called and actually went through with this scam artist’s ploy, my son and I would be without the money for his car. I get even more pissed every time I think of it.

Would I love to get a hold of this little (expletive deleted) and wring his (expletive deleted) neck? Oh, yeah. I can’t stand lazy people that don’t want to work and find ways to steal it from others, just like the (expletive deleted) (expletive deleted) (expletive deleted) jerks that stole my Mustang, a few years back. So… no car.

The third attempt is a real doozy. I decided to find a car on eBay, because the eBay rep said that eBay deals are legit. I scrolled through about 2500 cars on the site and found a couple that I thought, were perfect. One was an Acura. Acuras are great cars and known for their dependability. Acura owners take care of their cars and it was described as a “good running car with a few blemishes and ice cold air.” The bid was only at $1100 and the picture didn’t look bad. I jumped on it like a hungry dog. I won the bid at $1500!

Woops! Did I read the fine print? Apparently, I didn’t. The car was in Jacksonville, Florida! That’s even more miles away than NJ. Only now, I already bought the car and the nice thing about eBay is that you have 7 days to cancel the deal, if it’s not what was advertised and you want your money back. That works for me, but this time I needed another accomplice to help; my 17 year-old daughter. Yes, my son and her are twins. This could be fun. Besides, I know a few people on the way down and some around the Jacksonville area.

ROAD TRIP!

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We left on an early morning on Friday and had to be back on Sunday night. We took shifts driving, with me driving through the mountains and big cities, and them driving the long fairly straight parts of the Interstates. We took I-77 south out of Cleveland. Major traffic jams in Charlotte, NC, but pretty clear through Columbia except for a weird incident (cue strange music).

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We drove through an area entering I-26, where many cars were at the side of the road with flat tires. Some of the cars had all four tires flat because of something on the road. I think I heard a collective (expletive deleted) in the form of a scream. I stayed in the middle of the lanes hoping all the unlucky cars picked up all the ‘whatevers’ in the road already. There were dozens of cars on the side of the road. We made it through unscathed and stretched our day of driving to Savanna, Georgia, stopping for dinner at a real nice Carolina style BBQ restaurant that had delicious ‘Apple Cider Vinegar Mustard BBQ sauce.’ Delicious.

We arrived at the car dealership around 11 am. Well, car dealership would be overly descriptive. This was a fenced in parking lot for an odd assortment of used cars and had a small building for a sales office. In the back was a Jeep, at least, the parts that we recognized was a Jeep. The Acura was right out front and right away we had doubts. Kind of like Clark Griswald, in the movie, ‘National Lampoon’s ‘Vacation.’’ Remember when he trades in his car for a new car, but they had to substitute it for a clunky weird station wagon? Yeah, that feeling.

We immediately took it for a drive, hoping the scrapes, dings, scratches, ripped seats and hanging running board completely hid a well running car. It started, but didn’t sound like any Acura I’ve ever heard. A little jumpy, but a friend of mine said those models eventually need a timing belt. We took off and we didn’t get a hundred feet down the road before we noticed a bumpy ride with a grinding sound coming from beneath our feet. It wasn’t the bumping from the almost gone tires because it had a grinding noise that sounded like it came from the transmission.

We stopped and came to a unanimous decision; no way we were going to attempt driving any further down the street let alone back to Cleveland. That piece of (expletive deleted) wouldn’t make it across Jacksonville. We returned the car, called off the deal and made some rude remarks to the guy who ran this circus, and demanded that he rescind the deal through eBay and his bank would return our money. We left there with our heads low, our tail between our legs and feeling really taken advantage of. Not only that, but my friend in Gainesville couldn’t make it over that day and another friend in South Carolina must not have gotten my message.

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We headed north on I-95 and made a wrong turn and ending up having to go over a large suspension bridge at the Port of Jacksonville when we saw a long line of motorcycles, led by motorcycle cops as part of a national safety program on motorcycles. Cool. We got turned around a went and started going up the coast on I-95. After a while, I thought a good lunch might cheer us up and I had just spotted a highway billboard advertising a seafood oyster bar that was on the waterfront in the little coastal town of Darien, Georgia. Skipper’s Restaurant was picture perfect on the waterfront next to a bridge with a shrimp boat moored at the dock. My daughter had Gator Bites, which she loved. My son had a broiled Mahi-Mahi sandwich, which he devoured and wanted more. I had fresh large Georgia shrimp, blackened and nestled in a bowl of grits with cheese and bacon bits. I couldn’t believe how good it was and we were now in a much better mood.

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I decided to call my friend, Herb, who is an old Army buddy of mine and lives in the Columbia, South Carolina area. He said to stop by and stay the night in his apartment over the garage. Turns out it was pretty nice and he lives on a small cove on a large lake that in the 1930s was created out from a damn. It reminded me of the lakes I’ve been on near Nashville, Tennessee, with beautiful homes and cottages lining a lot of the shoreline. We went out on the lake with Herb’s family and watched an early Fourth of July fireworks display. That was enough to get rid of our blues and gave us new energy to get home and continue the search for a good, dependable $1500 used car.

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Number ‘four’ used car will be found this week because I’m tired of my son borrowing my car. The car that we will hopefully find this week, whatever it will be, will be my son’s first car, and his first ‘Dream Machine.’ I’ll let you know how it all works out…next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream Machines that blew me away this week

When I was in my teens, I went every year to the Detroit Auto Show, which is now called the, ‘North American International Auto Show.’ The one thing I looked forward to the most was the concept cars. That’s where automakers looked forward a few years ahead and tried to come up with the most modern looking machine with the not-even-a-product yet type accessories.

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One design that I thought for sure was coming was flying cars. Flying cars are still coming, but it really is just a plane with the body of a car. If you Google ‘flying cars,’ you will get a bunch of responses like this one: http://www.terrafugia.com/ or check out this one: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/flying-car.htm

Then there was a car/boat like the Amphicar, built in the 1960s. They made them years ago then stopped. But it’s such a cool idea, another company is now making car/boats again, only it’s also like a very cool dune-buggy. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/embed/2150iFXF5Vc?rel=0

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In a previous blog, I wrote about the concept car, Dia, that singer Bobby Darin bought in 1960. Bobby drove the car, with his wife Sandra Dee, to the 1960 Oscar awards in Hollywood. It looked like something out of the old TV show, ‘The Jetsons,’ only it didn’t fly, but it looks like it could.

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You can also see a bunch of pre-1955 cars that look like they are concept cars, only they are real cars off of an assembly line somewhere. Check them out on my Facebook Page for, Dream Machines, here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dream-Machines/560475744012570?sk=photos_stream

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But this week, the ‘Dream Machines’ that really blew me away was at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, exhibit. I can’t make it in person, but you can look at the incredible pictures.

Just go to: https://www.high.org/Art/Exhibitions/Dream-Cars.aspx?gclid=CjgKEAjwt4-dBRCDnaTUn-mC_0oSJAC4Q6kGU8Qe3j4WkPy-92fonXsv0B-Ax4FuqTXjxzmh2bKhWfD_BwEk

Dream Machines come in many forms. All I know is that there is a reverence for Detroit Iron made before 1974. I’m sure there are a lot of foreign cars made at that time, but nothing like our ‘Dream Machines’ of the ‘50s, ‘60s and early ‘70s.

The search for a good classic car or hot rod

My '88 Mustang GT

Ever since my Mustang was stolen, I’ve been thinking about buying a classic car or a hot rod, or turning a classic car into a hot rod, to replace the Mustang. It’s a real dilemma for this former Motor City boy. I love cars. I’ve been in advertising for many years, advertising cars on TV and radio for local car dealers all over America. But I continue to think about it every time I go to a cruise-in, car collection, car museum, car show or watch a restoration project.

I really thought about it last Friday, the day before Flag Day. There was an American Flag retirement ceremony at a local American Legion Post and since I play Taps on trumpet, I attended and played. One of the Legion guys just bought a ’64 Ford Galaxy convertible off of an ad on ‘www.Craig’slist.com’ and drove it that night, with the top down. I tamped down my envy emotions and complemented his good fortune.

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The next day, I decided to really search for that classic car that I can own… at a budget price. So I went where everybody goes now-a-days; Google. I thought of what kind of car would I want, what year, and in what condition. I immediately thought of a ’68 GTO convertible. I don’t know why, but the GTO was a gutsy manly car, with a deep rumble and the looks alone demand people’s attention. I also thought about a ’58 Thunderbird a saw once.

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So I Google it and a bunch of websites came up with lots of links to classic car brokers. The first was www.classiccars.com. I went through the site and there were a lot of nice GTOs some with prices and a lot of cars that were listed as, “To be sold at auction.” http://www.Hemmings.com came up a number of times on Google with ’68 GTOs. On their site, they list over 160 GTOs of various years. Many had prices, but many were tagged, “Auction.”

Oldride.com showed up on Google with a lot of listing for all kinds of classic cars. I spent a lot of time there re-thinking what I want. A ’57 Chevy looked real good, but the price tags were huge. Although, when you compare it to new car prices versus classic cars that have been restored properly, it’s something to really consider for what will become a good-weather kind of car that you only drive occasionally. Now I’m thinking about the pitifully small size of my garage. This is an affliction of many classic car people; garage envy.

After that, http://www.autotraderclassics.com was the next big classic car source. Then I found a bunch of others like

www.carsforsale.com

www.ebay.com

http://gatewayclassiccars.com

http://www.haggleme.com/

There’s a lot of other sites I couldn’t get to because there are so-o-o-o many. It all depends on what kind of classic car you want. Do you want to drive it all the time? Keep in the garage only for parades? Lock it up in the garage and protect it until you sell it? The condition of the car has an enormous bearing on the sale price. The top quality conditioned cars are investments and based on what has happened to classic car prices by these collectors, TV auctions and investors, prices have been driven up sharply. The other day I watched a Mecum TV Auction where a ’68 Plymouth GTX in unbelievable condition, went for $3.5 million dollars. WTF??? My American Legion friend paid $4000 for his Dream Machine He went to to a local source like Craig’s list, or could have gone to your local classic car/hot rod magazine or website, or even to some cruise-ins. Whatever price and car you get, you will be buying your own personal ‘Dream Machine.’ Good Luck!