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.


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.



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).


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.


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.



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.


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.

Future Car

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: or check out this one:

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:

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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:

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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:

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’’ and drove it that night, with the top down. I tamped down my envy emotions and complemented his good fortune.


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.


So I Google it and a bunch of websites came up with lots of links to classic car brokers. The first was 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.” 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.” 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, was the next big classic car source. Then I found a bunch of others like

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!




‘American Graffiti’ times a thousand

In the 1950s and ‘60s in Detroit, Michigan, Woodward Avenue was considered ‘the biggest illegal drag strip in the world.’ In the northern suburbs, above Nine Mile Road, on Friday and Saturday night, Woodward was like ‘American Graffiti’ times a thousand.

Totem Pole Poster

Four lanes north and four lanes south with a large grassy median, Woodward is like a grand boulevard. The large median has created what many call, the ‘Michigan left turn.’ The intersection of Woodward at the Mile Roads and the half-mile roads are so large with big volumes of traffic, if you want to turn left on Woodward, you have to turn right and quickly there is a U-turn turnaround to get on Woodward going in the opposite direction.

Ted's Drive-in out front

During the ‘50s and ‘60s, this 15 mile stretch of Woodward had dozens of drive-in restaurants and regular restaurants that served unique food. But on Friday and Saturday night, that’s when the magic began. This was Detroit, and Motor City people love their cars. All the big three auto manufacturers executives lived in the suburbs of Ferndale, Royal Oak, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Berkley, Huntington Woods and several other quaint villages. They all had the hottest and newest cars as exec demos and they, their sons and daughters, and just about everybody drag raced on Woodward. Everybody.

Maverick's on Woodward

The cops couldn’t keep up with all the drag races. Tens of thousands of people cruised Woodward and cruised all the drive-ins as well. There were two large drive-ins at either end of this 15 mile stretch, The Totem Pole and Ted’s Drive-in. In between were many drive-ins, some featuring roller-skating waitresses and they all had their special burger with their own special sauce.


The most famous burger was the Totem Pole’s Big Chief. The sauce is incredible and like biting into history. The Big Chief can still be had now at Duggan’s Pub on Woodward, between 13 Mile Road and Normandy (13 ½ Mile Road). Duggan’s also has Ted’s 5 x 5 cheeseburger and a number of other ‘signature dishes’ from the old drive-ins, like the ‘Suzie Q fried fish.’ Larry Payne Sr. had the forethought to buy the recipes and serve them at Duggan’s.


The favorite sport that guys loved was, ‘chasing skirt,’ and a nice car would act like a ‘babe magnet.’ Nice cars included old cars that were fixed up to be hot rods and the people who worked on these cars were called, ‘gear-heads.’ There were plenty of new hot rods too. Not just Corvettes, but Mustangs, GTOs, and so many that I’d have to have a whole blog to identify all of them, and still wouldn’t get all of them. However, there was one hot car that made them all look slow; The Silver Bullet. 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX, affectionately known on Woodward as, The Silver Bullet.

Silver Bullet of Woodward

The Silver Bullet was the baddest street machine on Woodward and won more than it’s fair share of glory between the lights. More can be found out about the Silver Bullet in this excellent article on at:

Whether men and women want to admit it or not, they judge one another based upon the class and power of the car they drive. That’s been a part of America’s love affair with the auto since Henry Ford started mass-producing them at a cost that most people could afford. Costs have sky rocketed for cars, but people still love them, and they love Detroit muscle cars especially.

Duggan's Pub on Woodward

The annual Woodward Dream Cruise in August is getting closer. Soon over 1.3 million spectators will descend on Woodward and it will be time to cruise or just watch all the ‘Dream Machines’ cruise by. I can hardly wait.

Mid-west classic car season begins


This year has been harsh on mid-westerners. 6 months of winter followed by a week of spring. It is finally June, the month where you usually expect mid-80s weather with the back yard grill working overtime. We all hope that is true.


But what is true, is that there are a number of mid-western cruise-ins scheduled in June and the weather can just be damned if it’s bad. This weekend was calm with a smattering of cruise-ins at smaller venues, like the big sports bars like, Quaker Steak & Lube. Usually their cruise-ins are just bikers, but many times they have classic cars and hot rods as well. You just have to look in a directory. What directory?


There are many mid-western sources of cruise-ins and events with classic cars and hot rods. One is cruisin’ times magazine out of Cleveland, Ohio: Another is Cruisenews magazine out of Detroit at:

There are a number on online lists for mid-west cruise-ins as well:

In Chicago you could go here:

In Columbus, Ohio go here:

Cincinnati car fans can go here:

In Louisville, southern Indiana, go here:

In Pittsburgh, go here:


St. Louis FB users go to:

This online list has cruise-ins all over the country:

And this one also offers a nationwide source of various classic car and hot rod events here:

There continues to be an amazing source of cruise-ins in every town in America. Google or Bing “(Your city) classic car cruise nights” and I think you’ll find cruise-ins, auto collections, auto museums, and auto shows everywhere. That’s because America still has a love affair with their automobiles. It’s their personal ‘Dream Machine.’

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