Have a story where you were glad the car got away?

By Colin Wood
Sep 20, 2021 | Selling, Buying

Almost every enthusiast has a story of the perfect car that got away–the timing wasn’t right, the money wasn’t there, the list goes on.

But what about a car that you are glad so see get away? Perhaps there was something iffy with the title, possibly there were more issues than the seller let on, or maybe the car simply didn’t appreciate like everyone said it would?

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Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
9/20/21 9:22 a.m.

Nothing readily comes to mind. Now, if you ask about before I met my wife...

noddaz GRM+ Memberand UberDork
9/20/21 10:03 a.m.

In hindsight, the Pantera I mentioned in the other thread would be that car.


Wally (Forum Supporter)
Wally (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/20/21 10:24 a.m.

My first car in high school.  We were looking at some awful used car lots in Queens NY in 1992 and had about $7000 to spend. One lot had a red M3 for $6500. Being a kid I was all over it. I ready to buy but my father was going in on it with me and his stipulation was it had to be an automatic in case mom needed to borrow it. We had to pass and ended up with a like new Monte Carlo SS. The M3 floundered around the lot for a while and I stopped to look at it one day after a storm and it was filled with water. 

NickD MegaDork
9/20/21 10:25 a.m.

I've got two: 

One was a Honda Civic EF sedan. I really wanted one of those and one popped up locally with no rust, in a dark green color that my friend the EF cognoscenti said made it some rare edition or trim level, almost all stock except for EP3 wheels, really nice, in the ads at least. Just had a cracked windshield and they guy wanted like $2100. Set up an appointment to go look at it and it was in a really rough section of Utica. I get the full amount of money out of the bank, drive out there to go look at it and there is some huge block party going on in the neighborhood, streets are filled with people, and I really stick out like a sore thumb. I did not feel like it was a good idea to get out of the car there with $2k worth of cash on me. So I texted the guy that something came up and just kept driving and got out of there. The next day the guy texted me and said that the car was still available but that he had to warn me, it had badly overheated yesterday on the way home from work and most likely hurt the engine. I dodged that bullet.

The other was a 1990 Miata that popped up on craigslist before I bought mine. The guy said he had bought it in Texas, shipped it up to NY for his granddaughter as a gift, she drove the car once and hated it and so he had tucked it inside a garage and it had never moved since. It was spotless in the photos, good paint, no dents or dings in the body work. But he said it didn't run. I figured, after sitting for like 8 years, it just needed fresh fuel, fuel pump, plugs, wires, battery, the usual. I contacted the guy and he never responded. Then, jump forward a couple months after I bought my Miata and I was purchasing some used parts off a guy in the area. I mentioned that there had been a nice one that didn't run on craigslist and he goes "The white one? Guy bought it from Texas for his granddaughter?" Yep, that's the one. He says "I bought that car, thinking the same thing as you. Turns out mice had devoured every spare inch of insulation on the wiring harness. I hooked a battery up and the car nearly caught fire. So now I'm rewiring the entire car."

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/20/21 10:58 a.m.

Before I bought my '79 Power Wagon, I had a verbal agreement to buy a low mileage 1995 Ram 1500 4x4. It was his grandfather's and the definition of "put away wet". Guy sold it and I got mad. While it only had 59k miles on it, it had significant rust scale on everything underneath and would've likely needed the body pulled and the frame blasted. And since everything was rusty, that would have led to many months of cursing and busted knuckles due to fasteners not moving and the like. Plus, if I bought that, I wouldn't have the Power Wagon today!

RadBarchetta New Reader
9/20/21 11:23 a.m.

After about ten years of waffling around, I finally decided I was in a good place to buy a Triumph GT6 that I'd been dreaming about ever since I saw one. A few weeks later, I thought I had really lucked out: one popped up on eBay right in my hometown. I went to go check it out, and although it wasn't running, it looked like a winner. No (apparent) serious rust, recently rebuilt transmission (documented), and the engine looked good despite not having run for a while. A great project car. I went home expecting to win that auction.

Long story short, I didn't. Sniped at the last second. Even the seller was surprised how much it sold for to someone that hadn't ever contacted him or otherwise expressed any interest. Oh well.

Fast forward a month or two, and I'm scanning Craigslist nationwide at my desk instead of working, and there she was. Not a perfect specimen, but running and driving, and about a day's drive away. Best of all, it was nearly half the price I was going to pay for the eBay car. That car now sits in my garage, and after two years of tinkering and fiddling, it's a great running driver-quailty car. Just what I wanted. So glad that first one got away!

MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
9/20/21 1:43 p.m.

There was one time I test drove a Challenge priced mid '80s 300ZX. The engine quit so quickly into the drive that I simply walked back to the seller, handed him the keys, and told him were to send the tow truck.

jharry3 GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/20/21 4:57 p.m.

A guy down the street from where I grew up had a Henry J sitting in a garage in the back of his lot.  My dad and his buddy decided that would be the perfect car for me to rebuild and then it would be my car.   

This is 1973.  I was 15.   

I was thinking I want a car now, not in the year it would have taken to get that monster working.      So I told them I didn't like the car.    I ended  up with a $200 '66 Mustang that needed work like brakes and a tune up.  I could handle that...

ShawnG UltimaDork
9/20/21 5:29 p.m.

I nearly bought a 1953 IHC 5-ton grain truck to build a car hauler out of.

So glad the owner could not find the title.

Tom1200 SuperDork
9/20/21 6:08 p.m.

I have so many that I'm glad got away from me; most notable would be the 1963 Porsche 356C. All of the rust had been repaired and it had a fresh engine, all for a steal of a price $2,500 (1986). 

Had I bought it I would have never been able to go motorcycle racing; I'd spent the last 8 years lusting after 125cc GP bikes. Shortly after I'd passed on the Porsche I found a Honda 125 for $1500 and spent the balance on a mini pick-up.  When I was done motorcycle racing I sold the Honda which funded my SCCA racing. 

Buying the Porsche would have meant giving up 35 years of wonderful racing memories and making lifelong friends. The kicker; I drove a 356 at a PCA track day about 15 years ago (students car) and discovered my 1200 is just as fast and just as fun.  

thatsnowinnebago GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
9/20/21 6:38 p.m.

The only one I can think of was a Z32 I went to buy when I was 19. Looked great in photos, and was a garbage specimen in person. One of my friends owned a '90 Miata at the time and he kept pushing me to get one, and I wasn't budging. Luck would it have it that we saw a white 91 Miata for sale on the ride home. I figured "why not take a look?," took it for a test drive and immediately understood why everyone loves these dumb little cars. So I handed the dude $1800 ($1600? It's been a while) and drove it home. That car is what really got me hooked on the car hobby. I have a '99 now and it's the only time I've bought a second version of a car I've already owned. 

wspohn SuperDork
9/21/21 12:57 p.m.

I was selling this:

Now I think that the majority of people here would have run out and got a loan to buy another car of one came along  that you wanted, and pay it off when you sold the existing car, but no, I took the high road (with a fair bit of wifely encouragement) and said that I would sell my existing car first.

Then I came across this:  a Maserati fairly rare 4.9 Ghibli at a great price (it needed some work.  But I did the honourable thing and held off, and sold the Interceptor....by which time the Ghibli had gone South (to the US).

But then within a couple of months I came across this - Lamborghini Islero S, which was considerably rarer (100 vs 250 made) better spec (no beam axle like the Ghibli, plus a DOHC V12 with more power than the larger displacement Maserati V8) and snapped it up.  My wife still tries to take credit for forbearance being a good think with automotive purchases.



P3PPY Dork
9/21/21 11:41 p.m.

In reply to wspohn :

I had no idea there were understated, classic Lamborghinis. And I even have a huge book all about Lambos. I probably skipped those chapters when I got the book in 4th grade.

Rodan SuperDork
9/22/21 10:33 a.m.

Way back around the turn of the Century, the local upholstery shop had a 1966 Ford Cortina sitting in the shop.  Body work done, in primer, but engine disassembled and interior in disarray.  It was sitting on 13" Panasports, and pushed ALL of my buttons.  The owner of the shop dailied a worked over XR4Ti, and was a former road racer.  I spent years trying to talk him out of the car, to no avail.  Finally, one day he called and said he had decided to sell it, so I brought it home.

I planned to either swap in a 2.3 turbo, or 302, and really wanted to modernize the suspension for track work, but the super narrow track width kept getting in the way of any plans I came up with.  I just wasn't comfortable with the level of fabrication required at that time.  It also had a somewhat dodgey title situation, with nothing but a bill of sale and scrap of paper that might have been an east coast title 30 years earlier.

So I sold it, somewhat reluctantly.  The kid that bought it was moving to North Carolina, and said he planned to do a simple restoration and paint, and get it running stock.  I ended up selling the Panasports, and a set of side draft Webers that came with the car separately, for almost as much as I got for the car!

Later, I was talking with an acquaintance and the subject of the Cortina came up... turns out he had done all the body work on the car.  He told me that Cortina had more bondo than any other car he had ever worked on.

A couple of years down the road, I got a note and a picture from the kid that had bought the car.  He had it running and was driving it regularly with a nice BRG paint job.

I figured him enjoying the car was a much better outcome for the Cortina than languishing in my garage for another few years.

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