My name is Peter and I have been obsessed with cars my whole adult life. When I was 16 years old, I signed up for an auto tech shop in high school and the teacher suggested each student buy a fixer upper to bring to the class. I found a 1970 Pontiac Firebird for $500 and spent the entire semester completely rebuilding it. But instead of keeping the car when it was finished, I sold it for a profit and bought a bright red 1971 Chevelle Malibu and souped it up to make it into a hot rod. My next car was a 340 Plymouth Duster, then a 1969 Nova SS and a 1967 Camaro convertible. After I rebuilt and sold the Camaro I had enough money for a mint 1966 Corvette Roadster with a 327 4-speed in it, which was my all-time favorite car.
During the summer, I worked the night shift at an ARCO station. The boss said it would be OK for me to use the tools and the service bay as long as I cleaned it up each morning, so my business was expanded even more. By the time I graduated I had bought and sold over a dozen cars. For the next 30 years, I had a series of other careers, but I always kept going back to buying and rebuilding and selling cars. Twenty years ago when I married Kelly, she joined in with the family enterprise, writing the ads, answering the phones and even occasionally driving the tow truck. Eventually, Cape Car became our only business.
Kelly and I have a ten-year-old daughter Lindsey and two funny-looking mutts Zoey and Star. When Zoey rides in the truck she races back and forth across the seats, barking at every passing car and almost causing an accident. Star remains relatively calm, but she always throws up. So now the dogs stay at home.
Lindsey loves cars too, but she is sad every time one of her favorites is sold. She especially likes minivans and will turn them into clubhouses. A customer will come to see the car and find it filled with stuffed animals and toys. Then, when he decides to buy the car Lindsey will plead, “Daddy please don’t sell this car. I love it.”
I provide a car removal service and most of the time the cars I tow away have a burned out motor or blown transmission and won’t start. Sometimes they can be fixed and sold but often they are so far gone I have to tow them to the junkyard. Most of these cars are in someone’s back yard. The neighbors are complaining that the car is an eyesore, but the owner doesn’t want to give it up because he keeps thinking one of these days he’ll have time to get it working again. We negotiate a purchase price and then I back up my truck and take it away. This isn’t always easy.
A couple of years ago a guy called me to pick up his Ford F-150. I told the guy I would come by and offer him what I thought the truck was worth. When I arrived, I didn’t see any pickup truck, but I knocked on the door and was told that “it was down behind the house.” It turned out that it was 100 feet down an embankment, behind some trees and buried in the mud. I suggested the owner ought to pay me because it might take all day to remove it but his truck was really heavy so we eventually agreed I would pay him $100 if I could get it out of the woods. The problem was that if I backed the truck over the edge it would have gotten stuck as well, so I had to hook a huge tow rope to the trailer hitch, wrap it around a tree and slowly drag the truck through the ooze, inch by inch, until it was free.
As bad as this job had been, at least it was outdoors. The worst tow job happened last year. An auto dealer who had gotten my name from one of his customers called me to say that he had three late model cars that needed to be junked. He was willing to sell them to me for only $150 apiece. This seemed like a “too good to be true” offer since these cars would be worth a whole lot more than that. Even if they needed substantial repairs, I expected to make a huge profit on the job. But when the dealer said I would need to wait a week before the cars would be available for towing I knew something was wrong. About ten days later the dealership called me. The cars had been stored in a basement garage and during the previous week’s torrential rains, the city sewer system had backed up and completely flooded the garage. The cars had been soaking in raw sewage for a week and black goo was still ankle deep on the garage floor. We renegotiated the price downward and it took a lot of sweet-talking to convince the junkyard to take them.
My most painful towing experience was the time I tried to tow two cars that had been stored in a farmer’s field. From a distance it looked like an easy job, but there was a huge hive of hornets (or maybe yellow jackets) living in the cars. When we tried to move them, a thousand stinging insects descended upon us. I got stung a dozen times but my helper got stung even worse. We had to come back with several cans of spray and wait for the insecticide to work. Then, when we unloaded the cars, we got stung all over again by the stragglers. No fun.
This can be a strange and sometimes unpleasant business, but every so often, I encounter an amazing opportunity. I was asked to tow away a 1999 Toyota Tercel by a new property owner who had just purchased a house with this car stored in the barn. I expected it would be a piece of junk since the former owner had just left it there, but when I opened the barn door I could see it was in mint condition. There wasn’t a single dent, no rips or tears in the seats and only 38,000 miles on the odometer. When I turned the key, the car started like it was brand new. I ran an ad and right away there were 100 calls. I sold it to the first customer for $2500. I probably could have gotten twice as much.
Another time I answered an ad for a Ford F-150. It was owned by a family that had four other pickup trucks. Their 19-year-old daughter drove this one but she was going off to college in California. The truck looked like it was brand new without a scratch on it. Although it was not running when I towed it, it turned out that the only problem was a loose ignition wire. I sold it for $3200 to a very happy construction worker.
The cars that are most in demand are four-door sports sedans, such as a Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or Nissan Maxima. We do our best to find these cars in good condition and then fix any minor faults before selling them at bargain prices. In a good month, we will only find three or four such cars but the people who buy them are always grateful to get such a good deal. So, if you have any cars you want to sell, or if you would like to see your car story on our website, give us a call at 617-538-7070.
Cape Car is located in Bourne, Cape Cod, but our territory also covers the Massachusetts South Shore area and Southeastern Rhode Island. You can call us at 617-538-7070 (Peter) or 617-538-1124 (Kelly) . . .
|Copyright © 2014 Peter H. Boynton, New Seabury, Massachusetts|