When you are in the car business and people you don’t know so well become aware of it, especially at social gatherings, they seem to respond in one of two ways. They will either shun you completely and leave you to talk to the local estate agent, investment banker or convicted murderer in some kind of club for social pariahs or they will greet you as a long lost friend. This latter variety will assume you know everything there is to know about cars and can’t wait to tell you of any experience or car they have owned or are thinking of owning, like you will somehow be the answer to their automotive prayers. Of course I, myself, have made the odd faux pas when a bit worse for wear, and much like insulting someone about their wife or girlfriend, telling someone that a certain car is the worse ever built or the kiss of death in the trade and a re-sell nightmare is a position you can’t really recover from. These days my wife insists we say that I am a “company director” rather than have to engage the people I meet and listen to them tell me about how much they saved on their latest purchase or how the dealer never even rang them back even though they had cash to spend. Much like a being a banker at the moment there are some arguments that you just can’t win, and if someone has gone out and bought a car and then wants your opinion on whether it’s a good deal or a good car, you are on very thin ice. Tell the truth and they assume you are slagging it off because you didn’t sell them it or, perhaps even worse, tell them what they want to hear and when something goes wrong they can somehow blame you.
Over the years I have tried to be all things to all men because, really, as long as you like the car you bought and were happy with the deal you got, who am I to question your judgement or taste? No it’s far better to sit on the fence and swerve the controversy whilst picking the splinters out of your backside, especially if you don’t want major earache from the wife in the car on the way home.
That is until the other day when I attended my umpteenth barbecue of 2009, and I have to admit that I am slightly sick of them by now, but on seeing an old friend who has always made me laugh I grabbed myself a cold one, checked the missus was OK and settled down to be entertained by my mate Dave.
Entertained I most certainly was when he told me he had bought the “car of his dreams”. This, bearing in mind, is a man who spent way too much money on something called a Liteace which is some kind of ancient mini MPV. It was a Japanese grey import, cost him fortunes and lasted less than one summer. I was intrigued, could it be a nice classic drop top or a lovely old jag or even a car from our youth like maybe an Opel Manta or Ford Escort Mexico? No he had bought himself, wait for it, a Gareth Cheesman special a Ford Probe in mauve with leather and no not the 2.0 but worse the perennial patient the 2.5 v6!
“Low mileage” he said,
“How many owners? I said,
“About seven” he said,
“That’s nearly one every year!” I said
“The man who looks after my cars seemed pleased” he said,
“Not surprised! I said followed by “kerching!”“
“Oh shit!” he said and I think you get the gist of the ensuing chat.
Needless to say a car called a Probe will always be a figure of fun and only very thick skinned people or guys and gals with a complete lack of self awareness and irony would drive one.
It’s not that which makes me laugh though. Why is it that so many of my friends take no advice from me before they buy a nail but when the tears are flowing and the bank account depleted they think I am the lone ranger and can make it all better, get their money back and replace it with something else that appreciates and will never go wrong?
Welcome to the wonderful world of the car dealer, well it has its moments.