You’re slow, old man: Missing out on cool cars and good deals

Rob Siegel

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about reading Dick O’Kane’s classic book How To Repair Your Foreign Car while I was sitting in a hospital waiting room. What I didn’t say was that I was there because my wife was having cardiac surgery. She’s now home and doing fine, but in both the lead up to the surgery as well as during her recovery, it’s no surprise that my priorities were, uh, re-prioritized. I did virtually zero work on cars, and obviously I didn’t run out the door on the usual oh-my-Lord-I-need-to-drop-everything-and-buy-this-car-RIGHT-NOW or it’s-probably-nothing-but-you-never-know-unless-you-look reconnaissance exercises on potential new additions to my not-quite-a-car-collection (or, as I call them, “content generators”).

However, that’s not to say that I didn’t continue to look. Old habits—like coming downstairs in the morning, pouring a cup of coffee, and searching, as well as giving it one last look at night in bed while my wife is asleep—are hard to break. Plus, in trying times like this, old habits function as absolutely essential stress-busting diversions and little slices of normality.

But I have to say that looking without the realistic possibility of being able to pull the trigger on anything became challenging when actual cars of interest came on the radar. (I’m far too risk-averse to click-and-buy something on Hagerty Marketplace or eBay or BaT; I almost always buy locally where I can see the car with my own eyes, meet the owner, size up the car and owner, and drag the car home.) I’ll walk through them below—in order of price, since, as you know, I’m an inveterate bottom feeder, and thus it’s the cheaper cars that I was most likely to have actually done something about.

(I doubt I need to say this, but just to be clear: I adore my wife more than anything in this world, and any jokes I make below about running out on her during recovery from cardiac surgery to look at a car are just that—jokes. I hung with her constantly during the week before the surgery, was there during all visiting hours the week she was in the hospital, and was her caregiver the first week of at-home recovery. The was zero chance of me running out on her to look at a car, or me even being preoccupied by something I saw online when she needed me. What I’m really talking about here are the periods before it all hit the fan and after she’d recovered enough that a semblance of normality returned to the house. Even if I hamstrung myself by saying I wasn’t going to click-and-buy and commit to any sight-unseen purchase, and even if I couldn’t go see a car in person at the time, in theory there were still options—such as a trying to negotiate a sight-unseen electronic deposit to hold a car for a week or two, or convincing someone that you’re serious enough that if they bring the car to you, you’ll likely buy it. So, when I joke in the headline “You’re slow, old man,” what I’m really saying is that the circumstances were still too extraordinary for me to feel right about acting on something, and the cars weren’t extraordinary enough for me to want to.)

#1: 2009 BMW 128i 6-Speed ($3300)

BMW 1 Series #2
Was it real or a scam? Ethan Esquivel

The lines of BMW’s E82 1 Series two-door coupe (the 128i and 135i) never did anything for me, but it is one of BMW’s last small rear-wheel drive platforms, and as someone who will go to his grave believing that front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive simply feel wrong, it did hold some academic interest to me. A few years ago, I helped a friend in Virginia buy a 128i that showed up on Facebook Marketplace (FBM) here in Boston, and I was surprised by how much I liked it, so occasionally I search for stick E82s. This one showed up on FBM with 113,000 miles and a price so attractive that I thought even-odds that it was a scam. It didn’t matter, because by the end of the day its status was changed to “sold.”

#2: 2006 BMW 3 Series 6-Speed Wagon ($3800)

E91 wagon interior
Oooooh. Assaad Zogheib

I daily-drove BMW wagons for a decade. I get away with my current daily—a 2003 530i sedan—because it has fold-down rear seats that allow me enough of the utility of a wagon to fake it (e.g., it can fit a set of wheels and tires), but I search regularly for an E91 3 Series wagon. Most of the ones out there are automatics with all-wheel drive. Stick E91s are rare, rear-wheel-drive wagons are rarer, rear-wheel-drive stick wagons are unicorn-rare, and rear-wheel-drive stick sport-package wagons only exist if someone ordered them that way. So the ad titled “2006 BMW 3 Series 6-Speed Wagon” that appeared to show a sport package interior with beautiful dark-brown, deeply-bolstered seats certainly piqued my interest, even with the reported 180,000 miles.

I messaged the seller, asking if the car was rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, and I asked him to send me the VIN so I could run it through a decoder site and verify the option package. He responded, “This was all-wheel drive but now 2-wheel drive.” It’s not uncommon for owners to disable the front drive on AWD BMWs by unplugging an electrical connector when the plastic gear on the transfer case actuator fails, but his answer wasn’t the one I was hoping for. And he didn’t send the VIN. As much as I swooned over the dark brown interior and the sport seats, a closer look at the photos showed that that “M” on the steering wheel is way bigger than it should be, the wheel’s two-tone leather was someone’s personal installation and not a factory option, and there were a number of odd gauges stuck onto the dash, as well as boy-racer-style aluminum pedals and dead pedal. So, in order to know what it was, I’d need to go see it, and that wasn’t going to happen. It was gone the next day.

#3: 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk 4-Speed ($7500)

Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk
Not really in my wheelhouse, but way cool. Mark Visaggio

I’ll admit that this one’s a bit of a stretch, as it’s a car that I literally had on my FBM “saved” list for nearly a year. But still, I’m sure I’m not the only one who saves listings for things like this, and when they sell, thinks “Damn, I would’ve bought that!”

While the Studebaker-related ventricle in my heart really belongs to an Avanti, this ’62 Gran Turismo Hawk had serious mojo. From the four-on-the-floor stick to the slit-like tailpipes of the twin exhausts, to the factory Studebaker floor mats with the diamond motif that would’ve looked at home in the original Sands hotel and casino, I thought it just exuded cool. Unfortunately, it didn’t have factory air, so it didn’t exude cold. Still, even after saving the listing for a year without taking action, when you see that red “Pending” label show up, you know it’s game over, and that’s sad.

#4: 1968 Triumph GT6 Mk1 ($12,000)

1968 Triumph GT6 Mk1
Yes, my GT6-related neurons from high school still fire. Greg Reynolds

As I wrote about here, the 1970 GT6+ I owned after I graduated high school was, by far, the worst car I’ve ever owned (it was the car that taught me that everything bad I’d ever heard about British cars was, in fact, true), but it was also quick and beautifully proportioned. The word got out years ago that these look a bit like a 3/4-sized E-Type Jaguar and cost a small fraction of the price, so the days of solid cheap ones are long gone. Having a solid largely-original first-generation GT6 show up just 40 miles from me made me start to think things that just weren’t right. Of course, I do have my limits. I would’ve loved to bring the car home to my driveway, but twelve grand wasn’t anywhere near cheap enough to make me run out on my recuperating wife while I yelled upstairs to my kids, “Watch your mother and make sure she doesn’t bleed out on the couch.”

#5: 1973 Corvette 4-Speed ($17,500)

1973 Corvette
It’s all about the stripes, baby. Brian Robles

During the pandemic, I wrote about being seduced by a C3 Corvette, a bronze ’73 that had brown stripes down the center and along the sugar-scoop rear window buttresses, a brown-painted tail, and curved brown accent stripes over its hips and shoulders that evoked images of an illicit romance with an overly-made-up woman from the wrong side of the tracks. It was a sea-change moment for me, as C3s never really blew my skirt up, but I suddenly developed an appreciation for that Coke-bottle-shaped body. Ever since, I’ve kept my eye open for another C3 that might light my fire in the same way. In my humble opinion, ’73 is the inflection point on the C3 cost/value curve. That is, the earlier C3s have the thin chrome bumpers on both the front and rear, but the ’73s tend to be less expensive because they still have the rear bumper but not the front (the bumper was made integral with the nose). This was a one-year configuration; in ’74, the chrome rear bumper was deleted and the cute upturned rear end was changed to a slant-back design with an integrated bumper.

This 65,000-mile car was just north of NYC. The combination of the blue paint, the double white stripe down the center, the black interior, and the four-speed made it the first C3 that came remotely close to triggering the pleasure centers that that bronze-and-brown-striped car did. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was smitten, because after the seller dropped the price from $29,500 to $17,500, the car was gone in a week.

#6: Mystery Car

A few days ago, a car I’ve lusted after showed up on FBM for an attractive price. The ad had only been up for 34 minutes when I stumbled across it in my evening search, giving me that buyer’s adrenaline rush that I might actually be the first to respond. The seller isn’t in Boston, but he’s within a day’s drive there and back. I looked at the ad, thought about the situation, decided “Well, there’s no way I can actually act on this,” and went to bed, assuming that it would be gone in the morning. Surprisingly, the ad was still there. That day, I couldn’t put it out of my mind, so that evening I pulsed the seller, told him my situation, said “All’s fair in love and classic cars; I’m sure it’ll be gone by the time I can get serious, but let’s hold onto each other’s contact info.” I’ve since talked with the seller on the phone. As my wife’s recovery continues—and as two of our adult sons live with us—the possibility of my going to see it becomes less and less out of the question.

We shall soon see whether or not this old man really is too slow.



Rob’s latest book, The Best Of The Hack Mechanic™: 35 years of hacks, kluges, and assorted automotive mayhem is available on Amazon here. His other seven books are available here on Amazon, or you can order personally-inscribed copies from Rob’s website,

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    The car market is great for window shopping when waiting in places like the hospital. …i think the GT6 stands on its own; i like it and had never thought Jag

    Rob, I know I give you a hard time on occasion, all in jest. However I really hope your better half fully recovers and your routine returns to normal.
    Now you mentioned your adult children still live at home. Let me offer you the policy that my father enforced. The summer after HS graduation was the last that I and my siblings lived at home. His rule was you children are 18, you get a job, get married, join the priesthood or the military but you are an adult now and you are responsible for taking care of your self. And it worked out pretty well. We ended up with one career navy seaman, a house wife, a priest, a truck driver, and a college professor. Just saying if you do don’t ask for your children to succeed, they won’t.,..

    He said nothing of the sort, all he said was his kids were home. Isn’t it reasonable to expect they were visiting at home because their mother recently had major surgery? Helen, your comments here are often insulting and just plain rude.

    Best wishes to your loyal spouse for a speedy recovery! I too believe the ’73 was the best looking combination of body panels for the C3. Front chrome was dated, and the really ugly rear plastic was a travesty (with a center seam, no less). And, one of my Grandfather’s salesmen drove a black & gold (WW & the Dixie Dancekings?) Hawk that forever grounded me on Lowey’s design genius. Happy hunting!

    The BMW is no deal. Like the other article on third owners these are money pits that will cost more to fix than it is worth.

    No need to apologize for joking about one’s spouse – to me, the whole point of life revolves around being so comfortable with loved ones that anything that evokes a smile, snicker, giggle, or outright guffaw is allowed. If your wife has put up with you for this long, she certainly understands your sense of humor!
    Anyway, as a fellow gearhead who enjoys looking at the ads and playing ‘what if’ as much if not more than actually buying vehicles, I enjoyed the article, Hack, and I second the well-wishes from others for your Luvvie’s speedy and full recovery.

    Agree whole-heartedly – the fourth para was great. Been there, down that – sitting at my wife’s side for nine days in hospital as she was fighting Covid. Any reading (little) was simply to rest my mind.

    I own a E82 128 coupe with the 6-spd manual. It’s wonderful and I will miss it when I’m forced to offload it

    This could be an automotive urban legend but I believe Larry Shinoda once said the 1973 was his favorite C3 based on the soft front and chrome back bumpers. Hard to argue with that.

    Zora once said the 74 was his favorite. I always figured he must have been losing his eyesight at that point, lol.

    Car guys (and gals) are like fishermen (fisherpersons?): we both have “the one that got away” stories…Mine run the gamut from a 41 Buick Limited Brunn Town Car conversion to a ’51 Porsche sunroof coupe…and lots in between.

    Lots of interesting cars in the article. I can see why they would attract your attention.

    Best wishes for recovery for your wife!

    The BMW is of no interest and it would take a better C3 to get my attention.

    As for the wife I wish the best but I get the Humor after dealing with my Parents and my Mother in law for 8 years with strokes and cancer.

    I recall my father was losing his leg and stoked in the hospital at the same day my Mother Inlaw went in for pancreatic Cancer. Both were in the same ICU unit.

    I told my wife walking in that at least we were getting two for one parking. My dad never really recovered fully but enough to see my grow from a baby to an 8 year old and my mother in law only had 5 % to make it 5 years and is still cancer free today after 15 years,

    A little dark humor may sound cruel but it is how many of us deal with this. I worked for a medical company and that is how it was as most of out clients were terminal. You really had to numb yourself or you would lose it. I lost 3 in one week I had gotten close to and it really hurt.

    Great article, my story is not that I was too slow, just couldn’t arrange to sell my 67 442 during the Arab oil embargo in the early 70s to afford to buy a GT350 that I’d already test driven and wanted badly.

    BTW, it is so cool to find that someone knows the word is “normality” and not the “normalcy” non-word that Warren G. Harding supposedly made up. Way to go Rob!

    E82 might be worth it as an experiment if one falls into your lap. If legitimate, that price sure was a steal.
    Personally, I had a Stick Sport 128i. It was fine, just fine. Second coming of the e30 as the fanboys would have you believe? Eh, I dunno. My biggest regret is selling it a bit too early, before the market began to appreciate the n/a versions.
    Maybe I’m just not that into modern cars (‘08 modern, ha!)
    They’ll have to pry my e30’s keys from my cold dead hands.

    When was out of high school my first car was a1968 mgbgt. I was some mechanically inclined but I learned quick to do my own repairs. Friend and I got bored and rebuilt the engine. Carbs were some trouble but with right tools it’s a breeze. Main issue was two 6 volt batteries under rear jump seat. They were exposed to elements and cables needed to be cleaned constantly. Kept in no longer ran and slowly rusted. Really miss that car.

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