Sunday, May 30, 2010

How to buy and sell cars on Craigslist for fun and profit

Find the deal
Surfing Craigslist at the right time and acting fast is the key. I took a quick peek at the free online advertising giant and found a money-maker. A 1979 Pontiac Trans Am, priced at $400, sat at the top of the cars for sale list in the Birmingham, Alabama area. It was 11 p.m. I hammered out a quick email asking about the car’s location. A few hours later, at 6:30 a.m., I checked my email and received a response. The car was just a few miles away and they included a phone number. I knew I had to act quickly. How many others had seen this same deal? I was the first caller and set up a time to see the car just a few hours after the ad was posted on craigslist. Being first is half the battle. I felt like I had won a prize before I had even seen the car.

Pursue the deal

Photos can help narrow down your choices but don’t ignore ads without photos. Craigslist ads that include photos of the car can be helpful but also possibly misleading. Sellers may only include photos of the car’s best assets. Some sellers do not include photos on their craigslist ad. Maybe they are hiding the ugly, rusty, beaten corpse of a car or perhaps they aren’t tech savvy? I was lucky in this case, my ad had no photos but I was rewarded for my efforts. The Trans Am I found had been stored inside a garage for the past eight years. The motor and transmission had flown the coop but most of the body panels were in great shape for a neglected 31-year old car. The deal was sealed the moment I saw the Nocturne blue Pontiac Trans Am.

Think like a buyer and seller – buy low, sell high
Thoroughly inspect the car in person with the mindset of reselling it. Will that lumpy quarter panel and bullet hole in the door scare a would-be buyer? Take into consideration the price you’re paying and the market value of the car. Check price guides such as for older cars or and Kelley Blue Book for newer cars. If the car you’re buying has hard to find parts in good condition you can gauge your profit margin according to the value of a few parts. The fenders on this Trans Am were in excellent shape. On ebay, good, original ’79 T/A fenders sell for $300 each. My $400 craigslist find had a $200 profit in the fenders alone.
Buyer beware. Why are they selling cheap?
Be wary of sellers eager to dump their vehicle on you without a title. Follow your state’s motor vehicle title laws by checking your state’s DMV website. My Trans Am find was being sold to make room for a baby. The garage was being converted into a bedroom and the T/A had to go. It also didn't hurt that the car was a birthday gift from the husband’s former wife. His new wife was more than happy to see it hauled away. Be ready to act when you see a good deal but be wary of the inevitable scammers that lurk behind the computer screen.

Buy the cars you like to drive, have fun
Stick to buying cars you enjoy and you won’t get stuck. If you favor a certain make and model car, chances are you will be more knowledgeable about those specific vehicles. You will be familiar with problem (rust-prone) areas and driveline weaknesses. Turning a profit on cars you enjoy owning is a bonus.

Sell to sell again

To make money you must sell the cars. It is tempting to own a yard full of good deals but that will only stifle your momentum. A buyer from Georgia saw my ad on the Birmingham, Alabama craigslist site. He was looking for a good body to make into a drag car. I included my phone number and details about the car. The car sold two days after I placed my ad. I made a nice profit and all parties were happy with the outcome.

Make your Craigslist ad pop

To make your ad more appealing to craigslist buyers, post large photos via a photo hosting site (try imageshack or photobucket). It is simple copying and pasting of code into your craigslist ad. You can see how to do it on
I hated to see my bargain Trans Am hauled away but I know my driveway will be home to another one. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What's in your driveway, nuisance or future dream car?

You know you want to keep that junk car in your driveway. It will be worth big bucks one day. Your wife and neighbors don't care. They want it gone, as do your kids who just want room to play. What will your decision cost you? You weigh the pros and cons. More often than not you give in. You see the elements taking a toll on the paint and interior, not to mention that it doesn’t run and had a host of problems when you towed it home. Your automotive lawn ornament loses its luster and is sold. Hopefully, for more than you paid for it.

Almost 40 years ago my dad, Joe Potter, encountered the same problem. In 1972 he scored a deal on a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. Price $150. His buddy, John McElroy, originally scored a bigger deal when he bought the car for $75 from a service station near Birmingham, Alabama. The white Chevy with silver and red interior had lost its transmission and 283 cu-inch engine to the previous owner's hardtop. In the musclecar 1970s, the pillaging from heavier convertibles for lighter coupes was a common occurrence.

Must sell!
My dad paid John $150 for the car but had no room for it at his house. That's where my grandfather, his flowers and a camera came in. My dad moved the car to my grandfather's house in East Lake, Alabama where the '57 Chevy convertible quickly became a nuisance. My grandfather grumbled about having to mow around it. My dad had to sell it. He happily sold it for more money than he paid and moved on to his next project car – one that ran.

How much?
At Barrett Jackson last year, a similar, restored 1957 Chevy for $165,000. My dad recently found this photo of his 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. It's the only photo he has of the car and it was taken by accident. My grandfather's intended subject was his flower-covered fence in front.

Want it back!
The fact that my dad and his buddy doubled their money should have been a clue to its future value. Now, the $300 is little consolation for what might have been. My dad wishes he had kept that one.

Got a story about your car in the yard that you sold or kept?
Send it to junkyardlife.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Junkyard barn find: 1966 Mustang convertible

A red 1966 Ford Mustang convertible sits under decades of dust in a barn at King's Auto Parts in Birmingham, Alabama. Junkyard owner Lonnie King, opened the barn door to reveal a checkered flag waving ragtop with 54,000 miles on the odometer. A Dale Earnhardt poster, keeping with the racing theme, resting under a wiper blade. King says, “the ponycar is equipped with the 170-cubic inch, inline six cylinder and is backed by a 4-speed manual transmission.” 
Lonnie King surveys his 1966 Mustang convertible.

Ford built 607,568 Mustangs in 1966. Of those, 56,409 were convertibles. This barn find Mustang is mostly complete. The front bumper and the “F” emblem on the leading edge of the hood are a couple items you might want to search for in the junkyard. 

King has owned the Mustang for many years but would consider parting with it for $11,000. If your interested call him, 205-786-3256. 

Only 54,000 miles showing on this 1966 Mustang convertible.

Comment below or send your photos and stories to

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cars in Yards: 1946 Ford Super Deluxe Tudor

1946 Ford Super Deluxe Tudor

“You gotta see this. Its right back here! Don’t it look like a gangster car?” My excited host was showing me what was hidden behind a fence near his west Alabama home. He didn’t want his name mentioned or photo taken, so details about him will remain sketchy. I’m not saying my tour guide was or wasn’t on ‘America’s Most Wanted’ or a member of Al Capone’s gang but he had enough nervous energy to make me hesitant to follow him into a secluded yard. I went anyway.
Gangster car?
I stumbled over some extraneous barb wire and scanned the yard for a non-existent Rottweiler as I proceeded. Seeing a 1946 Ford Super Deluxe was reward for my bravery. The black, rounded shape didn’t say gangster car to me. I think of 4-doors and running boards but it would still make a cool project car.
Seek and ye shall find
It’s not everyday you are treated to a tour of old cars in yards. This happened when I stopped to ask for directions to a nearby junkyard. I flashed my business card and unlocked a wealth of help from a stranger who told me about the cars he loves. Life is good.

Have you got a old car or junkyard story? Send them to junkyardlife.

More cool stories

Have you got a old car or junkyard story? Send them to junkyardlife.

Friday, May 7, 2010

1955 Chevrolet 3100 pick-up truck, for sale in the rearview

For several years this 1955 Chevrolet truck was parked in front of a house along busy Highway 75 in Oneonta, Alabama. A faded for sale sign was leaned against the windshield. The bed was rotted out and it needed everything. It was one of the “second series” 1955 models. I passed on it because it looked too rough. That was 4 years ago. This 1955 Chevy 3100 disappeared not long after I took this photo. 

Today, I would buy that truck. Should have, could have. They always look better in the rearview mirror.

Have you got a old car or junkyard story? Send them to junkyardlife.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Harley Earl’s 1958 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight, king of chrome and junkyard rust

Automotive stylist, Harley Earl’s chrome-laden legacy achieved its peak during GM’s 1958 model year. One of his boldest creations, a 1958 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight, adorned in Festival Red awaits rescue at Jefferson County Auto Parts. The ’58 models, gaudy and overdone to some, would be Earl’s final designs after 30-plus years at GM. Ironically, Earl’s handiwork can be found in an Alabama junkyard more than 52 years later.


1950s GM vehicles are unique, in that each model year was redesigned. Styling changes were made to lure customers into showrooms to buy the latest creations. Pound-for-pound, General Motors’ vehicles had more chrome and trim than any U.S automobile manufactured in 1958. Sheetmetal and trim pieces are highly prized on low-production vehicle years, like 1958. This rusty, mostly unmolested Oldsmobile provides a good starting point for a project or parts car. 
A quick investigation of this 1958 Olds revealed the original 371 cubic-inch, Rocket V8 engine. In my book, the styling alone out-shined dozens of weather-beaten classics rusting in this Alabama junkyard. The $850 asking price was tempting. Check out my earlier post if your tempted too.

Comment below or send your photos and stories to

Comment below or send your photos and stories to