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Buying a Car Online; Ups and Downs

Fresh out of the trailer, the Wrangler was no disappointment.

Purchasing a car online whether if be from an individual, auction site or a reputable dealer can be a stressful process. Over the years, I have done it a few times with mixed results. I must say, the results are usually less than I expected if not downright disappointing. I eventually made a pack with myself. Me, myself and I agreed to never purchase another car online without first inspecting it. The only exception to this is that the cost of the trip to inspect the car must be substantially less than the cost I thought I could lose if the car was junk. Arguably, that can be a difficult number to calculate. Generally, it means I won’t buy a car for more than $5,000 without first seeing it.

I recently broke that pact with myself.

For sometime I have been wanting an early 70s to late 80s Chevy Monte Carlo or Pontiac Grand Prix. I have owned a number of these cars over the years and found them enjoyable road cars. The goal was to have a nice driver car with air conditioning to use for our local touring club. Every other month we spend a Saturday on the back roads of Tennessee visiting car collections and eating at small “mom and pop” restaurants. We all like to drive an older collector car. Although we have some very nice cars, none are intended for lengthy road trips.

I have also been contemplating the build of a street legal NASCAR tribute car from the 1960s, 1979s, or 1980s. I really wanted to build a 1968 Bobby Allison Coke livery Mercury Cyclone. However, that really doesn’t fit the easy to drive air conditioned goal.

What I found.

As usual, in early December I was tripping through cars for sale online when I spotted what could be the perfect fit for my needs. It was a 1987 Chevy SS Monte Carlo Aero Coupe all dressed out in Dale Earnhardt Wrangler livery. It was factory stock under all the terrific NASCAR race car tribute modifications. I thought about it for a few days; the price was good but not great and the car was an expensive flight and long, almost two day, drive away.

In a weak moment, I called the seller. I got lots of wonderful photos and a good detailed verbal description. After some strong negotiations, we arrived at a price I just could not say no to. I again bought a car I had not seen! Will I be sorry?

The exterior body has the NASCAR style modifications, but the running gear and interior are all stock and very road worthy.

This was taking place over the Christmas Holidays, I was in no mood to travel nearly 800 miles just to look at it and I had no desire to travel during Christmas time to go get it. In the past, I have had cars shipped to me and to others without regret. I prefer to go pick them up or deliver them myself, but it was winter, and I hate to travel up north during that time of year. I lived in Iowa for many years, traveling all over the State in all kinds of weather. I no longer want that risk or hassle. Therefore, a shipper was selected, and arrangements made for a delivery in mid-January.

As soon as we were into the New Year, I grew more and more anxious to have the car delivered. I was beyond thrilled to receive a call from the shipper saying he had the car in his trailer and would be delivering it to me the next day! Yea!

I didn’t sleep well that night in anticipation of soon seeing my new addition to the collection. It was like the night before Christmas when I was a little kid!

The delivery day arrived, and I was standing by the roadside with great anticipation. I wanted to make sure the driver did not miss the driveway in our rural neighborhood. As he pulled in, my excitement continued to grow.

After some brief casual conversation, he opened the trailer’s ramp rear door to unload my new toy. As he opened the door, he asked what I intended to do with the car. I didn’t reply immediately because my breath was taken away in shock. Once I regained my composure, I said “I hope you have another car in that trailer. That isn’t the car I bought!” As I did so I walked up to the trailer and looked inside to see if my new ride was in the front of the trailer. No, it wasn’t, and the driver had a worse look on his face than I did!

My mind immediately jumped to: “I’ve been screwed!”

The car in the trailer was the right make and model but not the right year, color or options. And, it was not an Aero Coupe! My first thought was that the dealership sold me the wrong car. I had received the paper work and title weeks earlier. I immediately ran into the house and grabbed the title. We compared his paperwork to mine and the car in the trailer WAS NOT the one I had purchased.

My cell phone immediately jumped out of my pocket, and I dialed the seller. The sales agent at the dealership was as shocked as I. His first comment was, “I have a big problem! You don’t. but I have several right now!” It seems who ever oversaw loading cars put the wrong car on this trailer. This car was sold to someone else and supposed to be in Texas. My car was still in the dealership.

Note the slopping rear window and the shortened trunk lid. These are the key changes that make a regular SS Monte Carlo an Aero Coupe.

There were a lot of phone calls and changes in plans. The driver was supposed to be headed back to his home in North Carolina, but now he was headed to Texas to deliver the car he brought me. The second car in his trailer would be delivered a little late in GA. He would then head back to Pennsylvania, pick up my car and deliver it to me in one week.

Second try.

One week later, to the day, the correct car arrived. I will give you more details on it soon. For right now, I will simply tell you that I am confident that I made the right decision this time. I am happy with the car. There are things to be fixed but I would have bought it for the same price knowing what I know now so that is a good deal. Stay tuned for updates.

The tribute Wrangler is now at its new home and comfortably sitting next to its younger sister, a 2001 ZO6, also in yellow that I have had since new.

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I grew up and lived in Iowa for a good portion of my life before moving to Southern California. After 20+ years we now live outside Nashville Tennessee. I have been into cars since I was old enough to remember. I don't have a brand loyalty although I do prefer American Muscle especially the 1969/1970 NASCAR Aero Cars. (Check out our other web site at site) As long as it has four wheels and an engine I get excited. Few men are lucky enough to be able to share their passion for cars with the woman they love. Fortunately, my wife, Katriana, is also a gear head and many of our activities revolve around the cars. We have a small collection that includes at least one car from each of the Big Three. It includes a Best of Show winner, a survivor, a driver with lots of patina and several others. Katrina prefers all original cars while I like to modify them so we have a few of each. When we aren't playing with cars we are out working with or showing our miniature donkeys. You can see more about that part of our lives at

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