I’m Ethan. Nice to meet you. I sold drugs and did various other crimes as a young adult, but I let it go so I could sell cars to North Carolina’s finest criminals. That S550 on Forgiatos in front of a housing project? I sold it. Your weed man just pulled up in a $60,000 QX80? Money in my pocket. That 7-Series blowing out blue smoke near a luxury shopping mall? It was me. This is a deep game—and the game is sold, not told.
Episode 7: Everybody Wins
Best Coast Motorsports attracted all sorts of characters from the streets surrounding it. It was on one of Charlotte’s busiest thoroughfares, down on the end that they called “urban” with a wink and a nod. You had to drive by all the big franchise dealerships all the way to the hood if you wanted to see our selection, but the customers kept coming nevertheless—and there was one particular reason. Back in 2014 the way to the heart of every local street pharmacists was simple: make sure you have a 2007 Mercedes-Benz S550 in stock. Yes, specifically the 2007 vintage; it was the cheapest way into a nearly-new “big-body” Benz. At that point, as long as it was under 100k miles on the clock a S550 sold for at least $30k in our market—and like they say about some other things on the streets, this car sold itself. What that meant in practice was that my partners and I would buy up every one we could get our hands on cause they were a guaranteed sale.
Most conversations with customers at Best Coast Motorsports started next to an S550. The W221 was the most popular thing on the streets at the time because the W222 had barely rolled out. The Mercedes dealer a couple of miles down the street knew this fact too ,and kept plenty of used S550’s in stock. What helped us move just as many as Rick Hendrick did every month was the fact that we’d find financing for just about anyone.
The other thing we had going for us was this: We knew exactly what the streets wanted. The W221 S550 came with a lot of different packages and options but we had our sights set on the sweet spots. The easiest-to-sell S550 was Black over Cashmere with the sport package. White vehicles in this combination also sold well. The Sport package was the most important piece—and it needed to come with the factory 19-inch five-spoke wheels. There were a couple options for the W221 that we’d gamble our recon money for also. The panoramic sunroof was one of those. It made a S550 sell quicker than it took to open the roof. The big risk came if said sunroof decided not to open after you bought it from the auction at point you either had a few grand to replace it or the car would scoot back to the auction with all fingers crossed.
We were a dealership that catered to a large—diverse, if you will—range of customers. We had Ferraris, Lamborghinis, McLarens, and Porsches right beside much more accessible luxury cars from all of your favorite European and Japanese brands. The latter were just as important as the former. Obviously, I couldn’t justify placing a McLaren MP4-12C on my floorplan if I couldn’t quickly sell cheaper cars to lower-class degenerates. As soon as we caught on to the S550 wave, though, that wasn’t a problem. We couldn’t keep enough of them in stock. I remember a time where we had five delivered on a Thursday and got them all ready to sell by Saturday morning. By the end of the day all five were sold.
We would buy special W221 variants for fun when one of us were bored or we needed to mix up our inventory. I personally went for the S600 because the auction transaction prices were similar to the S550, it offered the performance of a S63, and had every option I could think of. My partner Gerald went for Designo color options often, figuring that “different was attractive to some folks.” Tom, on the other hand, went for the super clean cars out west. They had no rust and usually came equipped with aftermarket wheels.
We had other hot products in the mix, like the E60 5 Series and the E65 7 Series, but they never did the numbers the S550 could. We could pick them up at auction for $21K to $27K and advertise them all around $30K. It was a slam dunk almost every time. The drug dealers got a great value for their money because it was still a hot car in the streets. We had fast turnover and no-questions-asked transaction prices. It was one of the few times at Best Coast Motorsports where everybody won. Heck, even the regular citizens who had bought the cars new benefited from the situation, as their dealers were eager to take their trades. Isn’t the free market great?