2005.11.16 A used car fit for a Pope

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

Did you hear that Pope John Paul II’s 1975 Ford Escort was sold at auction last month? That’s the type of vehicle that isn’t at the top of very many want lists, but eight bidders pushed the price to $690,000.

For that kind of money, you could buy several hundred run-of-the-mill used Escorts. I’m not sure why the Pope connection makes it worth so much more. It’s not like it heals its own flat tires or anything. But if you waste time reading automotive classified ads like I do, you’ll come across many lame justifications for the asking price.

For example, one dealer recently advertised a truck with the selling point that it had been used by a sheriff’s department to aid Hurricane Katrina victims. This is a reason to buy a vehicle? Actually, I have another ad worse than that.

A dealership in Cincinnati that specializes in limos and hearses ran an ad last year for a 1985 Cadillac hearse, stating that it was previously owned by the funeral home that handled Martin Luther King’s services. Remember, it was a 1985 hearse. It had nothing to do with Dr. King’s funeral, it just happened to be purchased by the firm that conducted the funeral 17 years ago. Care to own it?

But enough of this morbid stuff. There’s plenty of entertaining ads out there. Like the one for a 1937 Citroen. “Made to look like a WW II German staff car,” the ad states. “Good for WW II re-enactors.” World War II re-enactors? You mean people dress up like Eisenhower, Patton or Hitler and re-run D-Day? Where will they find surplus tanks?

I enjoy the ads from people trying to put a positive spin on a bad situation. The ad for a 1973 Plymouth Barracuda says it all: “Rough and rusty, needs trunk and quarter panels. Piece of junk but who cares, it’s a Barracuda! $3,500.” I think I’ll pass.

I’ll pass on this one, too. “1992 Plymouth Acclaim. 147,000 miles, best car on the lot, $1,350.” They’re not kidding, either. You should see the rest of their inventory.

Some people turn to humor when there’s not much else to say about a vehicle. Like this one: “1996 GMC Sonoma Extended Cab. 4x4, it helps if you’re color blind.” Or “1992 Olds 88 Royale. Recent front end inspection.” Or “1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse. Must sell, moving to the moon.”

The woman who placed this ad may want more than a buyer: “1959 Dodge Coronet. 53,426 actual miles. Husband passed away, let’s talk.” About the car?

Some people just don’t have any luck, like the owner of this 1989 Ford Thunderbird: “Recent complete exhaust, shocks, complete transmission rebuild. Now needs head gasket.” Or this owner: “1991 Toyota Corolla. Lost battle with Dodge Neon. Everything worked before accident. $500 OBO.”

The owners of these next two cars realize some people might be scared off by their power: “2005 Dodge SRT 4. Use race gas and be close to 500 hp. Yes, it’s fast and no, your Mom won’t let you buy it.” And “1965 Pontiac GTO. 400 hp. Want economy? Buy a Honda.”

The selling points some owners decide to stress are sometimes a bit puzzling. Like this one: “2004 Chevy Monte Carlo. Never sat in back seat.”  Or “1997 Ford F350 Crew Cab. Complete with an extra fuel tank or perhaps you could store 80 gallons of lemonade or gravy.” Or “1986 Chevy Camaro. Graphic chick owned.” I’m not really sure what a “graphic chick” is. Any ideas?

Then there are the ads that make you think they really don’t want to sell the vehicle in the first place. Like “2001 Chevy 3500. 4WD is handy, 4WD is good. 4WD ain’t on this truck.” Or “2003 Ford Excursion. If your intention when you call is to point out the fact that it doesn’t have a moonroof, don’t call. We already know this and we don’t care.” Or “1997 Ford F250 Crew Cab. 183,000 may seem sorta high to you, but this one only has 182,000. Still seem high? Well, too bad, don’t call us then.”

And finally, an ad that says hardly anything at all: “1999 Something or Other. I can’t remember what truck this is, but I am sure that it is a terrific truck at a great deal, and in pristine condition.” Not much to go on, is there? Still, you might as well give them a call, it’s bound to be cheaper than the Pope’s Escort.

     - Nov. 16, 2005

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