I got the car home and started doing an inventory of the good and the bad. From a distance, the car looked great. Up close, not so much. The previously mentioned paint blemishes were disappointing given the description from the seller and while the interior had new leather and new carpet, it did not include any fixes to or maintenance of the dash or switchgear. The seller’s kind inclusion of a fire extinguisher in the foot well of the passenger seat was not awe inspiring either.
Of even greater concern were the mushy brakes, wailing power steering pump, rattling exhaust manifold, imprecise shifter (What gear am I in? Will it stay in that gear?), an odd stance of the car indicating that there were suspension issues on one side (probably both) and noticeable lack of power being produced by the motor – climbing hills required crushing the go pedal to the floor in order to maintain speed. With 430 CID, the car should have propelled itself easily.
Popping the hood revealed an engine compartment that looked in fairly good shape for a 51-year old vehicle, but it had clearly not seen a tremendous amount of love. On a quick check, the radiator and fan looked new and there were clearly some wiring changes, but everything else looked pretty much stock. It looks like they spray painted the air cleaner housing and the tops of some of the dipsticks – a crappy job to say the least. The vacuum lines looked in bad shape. I could immediately see where several of them had been just pinched off. That’s going to be a problem since these cars use vacuum to do a lot. There was what looked like coolant on the block between the carburetor and the firewall. I’m going to have to look at that. Oh yeah, when I opened the hood, I could hear metal shards moving around inside it as it went from horizontal to vertical. Rust? Probably. More indication of the cursory paint job that had been applied.
A quick look under the car revealed leaks at the oil pan, transmission and differential. Oy vey! On the plus side, I couldn’t find any rust on the chassis at all on. The exhaust pipes and mufflers didn’t look original, but not new either. The brake lines I could see did look original, but appeared to be in good shape.
I had purposely put off the moment of truth – testing the windows and top – mostly because I was scared of what I would find. The windows worked, albeit slowly, but two of the door locks didn’t. They are vacuum controlled and given the problem with the vacuum lines I found in the engine compartment, I think this may be a harbinger of some major vacuum issues in the car. I found the switch for the top and with fingers crossed, I flipped it. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No clicks, no whirring, no complaining. Just silence. Shit. Maybe I bought what will be a permanent open-top car. Gonna have to come back to that.
The rest of the inspection went no better. Brake lights didn’t work, nor did the reverse lights, the dash lights or any of the instruments. In fact, the only thing that worked in the dash was the radio (although not the antenna). Who knew that music was still being broadcast on the AM band?
To even get this car inspected and on the road I was going to need brake and backup lights. The shifter would have to be addressed and probably the brakes. I had certainly paid for a car in better shape than this. It’s amazing how one can be both excited and depressed at the same time.
I called the seller who told me how to get the convertible top going, which I have yet to do, and claimed he knew nothing of the other problems, of course. As I rewound our previous conversations in my head, I realized that I never asked the specific questions that I should have. The guy marketed the car well; he never made an specific claims about things aside from the working top and windows, new paint, lack of rust, overall maintenance and new leather. The car did, in fact, run. I feel like an idiot. Let my mistake be a warning to anyone reading this. Ask specific questions or, even better, go look at the car yourself.
I belong to a local car club and told my story to many of its members. For the most part, the responses were like, “yup, that’s what happened to me the first time I bought a car online.” Or, “I’ve already made that mistake three times and I’m hoping not to do it again, although I suspect I will.” Their comments made me feel better. Misery loves company. This appears to be how these things go down frequently. Still, no excuse.