Friday, January 8, 2010

$250 1972 Cutlass Supreme for sale: Buy or not to buy?



A 1972 Cutlass Supreme sounds like a bargain at $250. My friend spotted the car at the end of a dead end dirt road in Cullman County, Alabama. ‘It looks like a decent project car,’ he said. He sent me on my way with this threat. ‘If you don’t buy it, I will.’ My task was at hand. A possible classic project car for chump change. Was it too good to be true?


Hot trip
Driving alone for 50 miles to see a car on a hot August day in Alabama is no fun. So I took my dad along for a sweltering ride in my latest ‘box’ Caprice. Vintage 1986 General Motors. Uninsured driver essentials such as random body dents, sagging springs, a droopy headliner and nonfuntioning A/C were along for our trip. Twenty-plus years of decay and neglect rolling on shiny wire wheel covers. Making matters worse, the foam headliner backing material was crumbling and blowing into our eyes with the windows down. We lowered the windows just enough to prevent suffocation from the stiffling heat eminating from the Caprice’s ‘air’ vents. Sweat ran down my shins. The pea green velour seat, our couch-like sponge. I mentioned to my dad that our long, hot trip to a dead end dirt road was wearing on my enthusiasm. 


The car
The Cutlass was dutifully planted behind a house at the end of a dead end road. An overgrown single-wide trailer also graced the backyard. The owner paused from picking vegetables long enough to tell us her Cutlass was parked due to transmission issues. Decals decorating the back window glass told more of the Oldmobile’s story. ‘B!tch from hell’ and ‘Calvin’ peeing on the word ‘ex-husbands’ stickers were proudly displayed. Rust holes oozed beneath the rear window and splattered sunlight into the trunk. Moisture trapped by the tan vinyl top had caused the only damage to the otherwise flawless creme-colored body. Its brown interior contained the junkyard smells of mold, assorted papers and discarded memories. The driver’s seat bore the brunt of years of wear but otherwise the Olds’ upholstery could be cleaned up. Raising the hood to look at the Olds 350-cubic-inch engine proved to be a difficult task. Pulling the latch and gently rocking the hood side-to-side a dozen times freed the stagnant hinges. I didn’t expect the swarm of wasps I laid eyes on when I lifted the hood. My dad had already backpedaled, years of junkyarding taught him to beware. I jumped away and we waited for the swarm to calm. A quick glimpse of the dirt-glazed engine bay revealed the original 350-V8 engine and 2-barrel carburetor. 




Deal or no deal?
I didn’t buy it. I should have.


Car buyers remorse in reverse
Looking through these pictures is painful. I missed out on a deal. 1972 and older models are like money in the bank, even if they are projects. Its always a good idea to make photos when you check out a car for sale. I should have looked at the photos the day after our trip. My decision would be different today. With a bit of research I would have known that the fenders go for $200 each. Selling a few parts would have covered the cost of the car if I had gotten into a financial bind. I would also have been the proud owner of an Oldsmobile, another GM make that has ceased production.



Gone for good
The car is gone. My buddy, Michael, drove to the dead end road for another look. The dead spot in the grass was all that remained of the 1972 Cutlass. The owner likely scrapped it out for a few hundred bucks.

Plan your purchase options before you go
Without a buying plan, I turned tail without a Cutlass. Maybe I was crazy from the heat? No, I just failed to see the potential of the car.


Buyer’s checklist for cheap cars

  •     Research the values of vehicle and their parts online. Try sites like these link, link, link
  •     Will cost of vehicle and repair costs total exceed market value of vehicle?
  •     Most of all — is it a vehicle you love enough to live with on your lawn?
  •     Asking price too high? Make an offer before you walk.
    Be prepared to haul it home
  •         Buy a car trailer if you plan on buying and selling vehicles frequently.
  •         Factor in the cost of a towing if you don’t have access to a trailer.

 

 
VIN # fodder see this link. First digit is a 3, its covered in photo.