Monday, September 23, 2013

Auto auction brings deal seekers to wrecker yard

Want to buy a car? Don't have much cash? No problem. Grab a few hundred dollars and get ready to bid on an abandoned, theft-recovered or impounded vehicle. Many local towing and wrecker services hold auto auctions that are open to the public. Their storage lots fill up fast and must be emptied several times each year. Cars are sold to the highest bidder and the price you pay depends on who shows up and how much you are willing to spend. Recently, ABC Towing Inc., located in Trussville, Alabama, provided me a chance to drive or tow away a deal.

Jimmy Schatz, center, wearing white framed sunglasses, is the owner of ABC Towing Inc. and ringmaster of the auction.

Look early, do your homework
  I learned about the auction in the "Public Notice" section of a local paper. I arrived an hour early to look over the 59 vehicles up for bid. On the auction list were models manufactured by Ford, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Mazda, Hyundai, Honda, Kia, Toyota, Jeep and even a Mercedes.
  A quick scan of the lot made me think there were more than a few diamonds in the rough, but some of the cars were in less-than-stellar condition. The trunk of a forgettable 20-year-old foreign car was home to a box full of potatoes. The ancient potatoes, moldy but sprouting new growth, had been in the trunk for a long time. I didn't think twice about passing up this beauty.

Put on your game face
  The “good” vehicles got more than their fair share of attention from tire kickers. Many of my fellow bidders tried to keep a straight face when inspecting possible treasures among the abandoned, abused, wrecked or impounded vehicles. These shrewd buyers tried to limit the attention they were giving to a "good" car. Hoping their fellow bidders would overlook the vehicle they were eyeing.
  I attempted to play along with their auction antics. After a generous inspection of a 1990 Camaro Z28, I muttered “pile of junk” loudly for the pleasure of anyone within earshot. 

These auction vehicles were seized by law enforcement, abandoned on roadways or theft-recovered and unclaimed by insurance companies.

Put up or shut up
 Jimmy Schatz, the owner of ABC Towing, is an imposing figure with a muscular build and razor shaved head. Schatz becomes an auctioneer when ABC Towing decides to clear out their storage lot every 60-to-90 days.
  Schatz danced through the cars and marched down the auction list in less than an hour. An eclectic crowd of bargain seekers, scrap dealers, young and old, huddled around each numbered vehicle as Schatz called out the bid.
  While leading a throng of deal-seekers, to the first vehicle on the bid list, Schatz warned that they should be prepared to buy if they were brave enough to bid. Many heed Schatz’s warning. 
  Bidders with nervous feet shuffle away or turn their backs on cars when the bid reaches beyond the limits of their pocketbook or the fixed maximum dollar amount they set in their mind.

  Randy Carroll was a first-timer at the ABC auction. Carroll is a car guy, but he wasn't too serious about buying anything. Carroll owns a 1955 Chevy Bel Air and not too long ago he sold a mid-seventies Chevrolet Monte Carlo for $50, just to get it out of the yard. Randy was surprised that a scrap dealer was bidding $300 for anything on the lot. Burned or flattened. Carroll wished he had sold his Monte Carlo for more money.

Barbara Truelove got her truck back. The auction price wasn't as cheap as she thought it would be.

Rescue mission
  Barbara Truelove was one of the serious bidders. She came to the auction on a mission to buy her Ford Ranger back. Truelove’s Ranger ended up at ABC Towing due to a series of unfortunate events. Truelove recently bought the Ford and let a relative borrow the truck. Truelove’s relative was stopped by a county sheriff and cited for driving without a license. The sheriff had the car towed and impounded by ABC Towing. 
  Truelove could have paid the fees and got it out of impound but she waited, thinking she could buy it at auction for a few hundred dollars. She bought it back, but for much more. $1,800. Ouch! Truelove paid the price because she couldn't afford to let the truck go.

Winning bidder, Ralph Belding, revs up his $400 1988 Lincoln Towncar.

Fired up 
  Down on the lower half of the ABC storage lot sat a blue 1988 Lincoln Towncar. Ralph Belding knew it was just what he wanted. Belding planned to upgrade the fuel delivery system of his 1967 Mustang fastback by using the Lincoln’s EFI. Belding was the winning bidder, at $400.  
  After the auction, Belding fired up the Lincoln’s big V8 engine. The fuel injection was purring just fine.

Bring your wallet
   If you want to check out the auction scene, keep your eyes peeled and mark your calendar. Auctions are usually announced weeks in advance. Be prepared to work on or haul your “new” junk vehicle home.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

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This sexy 1988 Lincoln roared to life for bidder Ralph Belding.

The ABC Towing Inc. auction sold vehicles as old as 1983 and as new as 2007. This 1987 Saab was not popular with the bidders, selling for $300.

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