VICTORY IS MINE!
My awesome wife surprised me two years ago on my 55th birthday with a card that read “Let’s go pick up that classic hot rod!” I think it was more of a “I can’t find a decent gift for him, so I’ll just tell him to go buy a muscle car” type decision, but maybe I’m wrong. But she knew that I had been pining for an old car for quite some time, and she’s pretty awesome. Have I mentioned that she’s awesome?
I sold my 1971 Olds Cutlass 442 that I had bought in college when Kari and I got married in 1992 so I could finance a honeymoon cruise, and I have been wishing to own another muscle car ever since then. At one point I had even started a savings plan at the bank to throw $25 into every month, but then kids happened and the money got spent on a new house or furniture or something.
Flash forward to my 55th birthday and the hunt was now on. I began this search not really looking for any specific car, but I keyed on the year 1967 for some reason, and since I had a 442 back in the day, I started looking for that year/make/model. I soon came upon a 1967 Olds 442 convertible for sale about an hour away from me. A quick trip up to see it and take it for a spin made me realize that maybe this wasn’t the car that I was looking for and that maybe I better slow myself down a little. The 442 wasn’t a bad car, it was pretty nice. But I saw a couple little things that made me say I could find a better example. The glove/map box door in the console wouldn’t stay shut and the clasp was bolted loosely on with a wood screw instead of a machine screw. It was dirty inside of the area where the convertible top is stored. And it didn’t have power steering or power brakes. It drove like a tank. This car was listed as having a recent restoration and that’s the effort they put into the restoration? I was seeing obvious things and I started to wonder what I wasn’t seeing that could also be worrisome. I decided to keep my check book in my pocket.
I think Kari was somewhat surprised that I passed on it, seeing that I was pretty excited about seeing it. The car was soon shipped by the local guy to a dealer in Ohio and the last time I checked it was still for sale on their website. Maybe others had the same gut feeling about that car that I did for it to be for sale for so long.
Here’s a link to the blog post about that car: My Search For American Muscle – Part I
The next car that caught my eye was a Turbine Bronze Metallic, 1967 Plymouth GTX convertible located in California. This car was the bomb. It looked showroom new, had the look that I wanted, and was in my price range. My hesitation about buying it was due to it being in California and travel to see it would have cost me some money, and I would have to get it home to Illinois somehow, which also would have cost me some money. We made a trip to California for the Tournament of Roses Parade that my daughter marched in and I was hoping to go see it, but we just didn’t have the time. Upon getting back home I finally worked up the courage to contact a guy to go look at the car for me and inspect it, but when I contacted the dealer I was informed that it had been sold. Now I realized that being too slow to act may also be detrimental to my finding a car.
After seeing that car though, the 1967 Plymouth GTX and it’s B-body sister the Dodge Coronet R/T had clearly made an impression on me and I mostly tailored my search to those two cars.
The blog post for the above car can be read here: My Search For American Muscle – Part III
As I searched through the online listings nearly everyday, I was beginning to become pretty good at seeing which ones were worth looking into and which ones to pass on. I had started to learn some history of the makes and models, learning how to decode the VIN and fender/cowl tags, and sorting out which cars were the real deal and which were not.
There would be fakes, and “tribute” cars, that just took a little Googling to discover. There would be cars that were ideal, but way out of my price range. Some cars had very interesting back stories, and some cars were a complete mystery. There would be eBay bidding on cars that I would never reach the reserve price on. And eventually, there would be a worldwide pandemic that threw a monkey wrench into my search.
Here are the cars that I almost bought during my two year search but somehow wasn’t able to pull the trigger on.
But as I kept searching I learned some patience. I had seen several that I would have loved to own come and go, and I realized that sooner or later another one would become available. I just needed to be patient.
I had mostly limited myself to Hemmings.com for searches, but also searched other websites and eBay for listings. I had also searched Facebook Marketplace as well, but nothing was popping up that I liked.
I had joined a couple of Facebook groups devoted to Olds 442’s and also to the Mopar B-bodies. Recently, someone shared a Facebook Marketplace listing for a 1967 Plymouth GTX convertible for sale that I must have missed. It looked very nice and the motorheads on that page were drooling. I decided to look into it.
The listing had seven pictures total, not the usual 100 or so that I was used to seeing on Hemmings, so there wasn’t much to be learned there. But in the description the seller had written the following:
She is up for sale. 1967 GTX Convertible. 440, automatic and approximately 60,000 miles. Mopar National Winner and one of 680 produced. Not sure how many are still left. Serious inquires only.
Since the poster’s name could be seen in the Facebook ad, I started in with my usual Googling and investigating. I wanted to confirm that it was a Mopar Nats winner, and Google easily provided that information for me. In 2007 the car won first place in the B-Body Modified division, 1967 and earlier. Winning at the Mopar Nationals is a pretty big deal in the Mopar owners world. One of the cars in the above photos had also won 2nd place at one of the events. So, yes this was a big deal for this car. Link to the Mopar Nats Results
The Mopar Nats info was great to discover, but it was easily outdone by what I found next. The car had actually been featured in a couple of articles. Both were “WOW” moments for me. Now I was pretty excited about this car, especially now after it was written about in Hemmings Motor News, the classic car magazine bible. In the articles, I read about how the owner came about the car and what it took for him to get it to the show quality ride that it had become. Here are the links to those articles:
And I found a couple more Hemmings articles that used the pictures of the car:
Some of the photos that were used in the Facebook Marketplace ad were the same as or similar to the one’s used in the “Three-Letter Terror” and the Cruise News articles. This was the same car as far as I could tell.
How often do you get a chance to buy a muscle car with that kind of pedigree? A low-production number car, featured in several car magazine articles, and an award winner, all for a great price? Not very often! And now, the car that the owner referred to as “she,” was for sale. I didn’t wait long on this one, and I messaged the owner.
THE RELUCTANT BUYER MEETS THE RELUCTANT SELLER
After seeing that the ad was about nine-weeks old, I messaged the owner and asked if it was still for sale. He replied that it was, so I asked if he could provide some more pictures and maybe a video of it running. That seemed to be something of an unusual request for him, as he indicated that he would have to find time to do that. He asked that I call him, so I did. He said that he wasn’t into technology and preferred conversation. I explained that I had been looking for a car like his for quite some time, and I wasn’t just kicking tires. I then asked if he would be cool with me hiring an inspector/appraiser to take more pictures and be my eyes for me. He said that would be okay. I got the feeling that he and his wife seemed pretty attached to the car and that he was somewhat reluctant to sell it.
I contacted a guy named Ronn who seemed highly regarded online, paid him the fee and told him about the car. Ronn contacted the owner and provided about 100 photos and some video of the engine running, the convertible top going up and down, and the car going down the street. And boy did it go down the street!
When Ronn finished the appraisal, he sent me the info in a timely manner but also took the time to call me. He could barely contain his excitement: “This car is one of the nicest cars I have ever appraised! This car is almost concours quality!” He recommended that it was one not to take a pass on. I admit, I was grinning ear to ear hearing all that, so it was pretty easy for me to decide to hop on a plane to go see it in person. Except, it wasn’t so easy. Meet the reluctant buyer.
Getting on a plane for Florida wasn’t something that I really wanted to do. Had it been within driving distance, all that I would be committing to was some time. Now I had to spend about $500 for a plane ride to Florida. And after two years of searching for a car to buy, I was nervous about actually pulling the trigger and doing it. Plus, I have had so much fun with the search part of it that I didn’t want it to end!
My wife Kari was the driving force behind giving me the push I needed. There’s a commercial playing on TV right now for an online/app based betting site called FanDuel, in which former NFL player Orlando Pace has to help a guy to commit by physically moving his finger on the phone and making the bet. That’s exactly what Kari had to do – make me message the guy that I was coming and book my flight for me. I’m pathetic.
I was really reluctant to part with my money without getting the title in return, and the seller and his wife were adamant that they weren’t giving up the title without making sure they had the money in their account. We finally decided that it was best for us both to meet and do a bank wire from my account to theirs. Fortunately, my bank had a branch about 10 minutes from their house, so that was our plan.
I flew into Fort Myers, and my in-laws picked me up at the airport. I felt like that was a good move, but didn’t realize that their home near Marco Island was about two hours from the sellers in Bradenton. But they were used to going up toward Tampa to visit friends and didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. Darla had something planned that day that I was going to meet them, but Gary didn’t and I offered to take him along.
I must admit I had some sleepless nights leading up to the day to go give the car a quick look over and hand over my money. But once I was actually down in Florida, I was ready to get it over with.
When we pulled up the car was already sitting outside, shining in the midday sun. Seeing it in person made all the difference. I knew that this was the one. The seller Alex and his wife Wanda came outside and we greeted each other. I spent maybe 5 minutes tops walking around the outside of the car and asked to take it for a spin. He was reluctant to let me drive it and Wanda gave some “insurance reasons” excuse, but he said he would take me for a drive. At that point I didn’t even care, I just wanted to make sure the car drove down the road okay. I didn’t make the effort to come all the way down there to walk away just because he wasn’t comfortable letting me drive the car. So I jumped in the passenger side and we went for a spin. He barely got from his driveway to the road before he hammered it and put me firmly into the back of the seat. This thing was flying! I couldn’t keep from grinning.
As we drove, we had a nice conversation about the car and what it meant to him and that he was glad that it was going to someone who would appreciate the car like he did. When we got back, we found Gary and Wanda sitting in the garage where the car was normally parked having a nice conversation of their own. Everyone was feeling pretty good. No more reluctance from either side.
All that was left to do was to exchange the cash and get the title signed. We headed to the bank and did the bank transfer and the banker said the money would be in their account by the end of the day. I knew that would make them squirm a little as they were expecting the cash transfer to be immediate. I was thinking, “C’mon, the bank wouldn’t have done the transaction if I didn’t have the money in my account. ” I think they realized that and after getting a bank confirmation of the transaction in their hands, they were okay with signing over the title.
We headed next door to a UPS store and had the Bill of Sale notarized and then that was it. I was now in possession of the ownership papers. The car on the other hand…
I had debated with myself on what was the best way to get the car from Florida back to my home in Illinois. I would have loved to drive it, but can you imagine driving a 54 year old car that far. If something broke or got damaged I would be screwed. Plus, I didn’t have it registered/licensed yet. I gave some serious thought to driving down and trailering it home, but I thought better of it. It would have been a solo trip doing that and I would have worried about it the whole way.
I decided to use a car shipping company and did some searching online. Of the three quotes that I got, it seemed like I was Goldilocks dealing with the Three Bears. The big name carrier was expensive but well regarded. The cheap carrier was way below the other two in price and I realized that they just take the order and then put it up for bidding with other shippers. I decided to go with Passport Transport from Missouri. They were a little cheaper than the big name guy, and had great reviews. They were the only one to follow up with me as well.
I was advised that it could take 10-14 days to get it to me, but seeing that they were delivering cars to Florida for the “snow birds,” the chances are good that they would get it to me quicker. It took about a week.
For my money I got the car shipped to me in an enclosed trailer and the driver, Beau, kept me updated from the day before he picked it up to about four hours out from delivering it to me. The first time Beau called me, we had an awesome conversation about the car. He loved it and I felt like he was going to take good care in getting it to me. I’m glad I chose Passport Transport.
As Beau got to Mokena he said his rig was too big to go down my street, so he said he would drop it as close as he could. He called and told me he was at the day care building about a 1/4 mile from my house. I said “I’ll be right there!” and I sprinted out the door and met him within a couple of minutes. He already had the car off the trailer and sitting on the turn lane of the day care, which made me a little nervous. I signed some papers, thanked Beau, and hopped in to drive it home!
And now I’m finally the owner of a fine example of American Muscle – a 1967 Plymouth GTX convertible. My patience paid off. I got the make/model of the car I wanted, a rare 1 0f 680 convertible, a Hemmings Muscle Machines magazine featured car, and all for the price that I was looking to pay. I can almost not believe my luck.
The search was long and fun, but I’m sure the miles to come in this beauty will be very enjoyable.
Thanks to everyone who followed along on this fifteen post, two-year journey with me. And a huge thank you to my loving wife Kari, who started me on this quest and will be riding along in this time machine. Love and thanks.