Thursday, March 28, 2013

Long Distance Run Around – Buying My 300M Sight Unseen

The salesman must have thought I was nuts. I could hear the incredulous tone in his voice, "Some guy calling from Okinawa wants to buy a used car that we put on Craigslist? When does he want to come and look at it? He doesn't? How's he going to pick it up? He isn't?" Fortunately for the both of us, money talks.

By the spring of 2010 I had spent six straight years in Japan and I was worn out. Although I wasn't exactly eager to return to the United States, whether I wanted to believe it or not, it really was time for a change of scenery and the closer my departure came, the more comfortable I became with the idea. A return to the United States meant a lot of good things, I realized. My wife would get to experience life in the land of the free and my kids would get to hear someone other than their dad speak English for a change. It would also be a return to live football games on TV, real bologna sandwiches and, best of all, I might even get the chance to own a cool car again.

As soon as the thought entered my mind, I knew what I wanted, a great American sedan. I spent a lot of time hemming and hawing about the various ones on the market but, when the time came for me to put my money where my mouth was, reality reasserted itself and took control of the situation. As an auto enthusiast, I'd like to say that I refused to settle, but the truth is a couple of my dream cars went out the window, foremost among them the Pontiac Bonneville GXP I had long dreamed about. Then an old memory tickled the back of my skull, what about the 300M?

From the days of the Eagle Vision, I have been a sucker for the LHS cars. Now, of course, I know that some of them have transmission issues, but from the day photos of the Eagle Vision hit the magazine stand those cars have featured large in my own personal vision of the future. Each iteration of the design, the New Yorker, the LHS and eventually the 300M represented another step towards a better, brighter tomorrow. So the 300M really didn't have 300 horsepower? It looked so good to me that it didn't matter.

With my departure from Japan just a month away, there was no time to be lost. After reading as many old road tests as I could, I set down a list of requirements so thorough it resembled the build sheet for a brand new car. I chose the 300M Special, a slightly sporty variant of the already good-looking 300M that featured a few more horsepower, fake carbon fiber interior trim, special body work, lower stance and special wheels. I decided too that I wanted the white/grey two-tone interior, a sun roof and all the other options. Finally, I decided that it had to have less than 70K miles and be in perfect condition.

Thanks to the internet, I had a whole world of 300Ms at my finger tips. Thanks to my list of demands, I had very few choices. I found a nice black one in Salt Lake City that looked like it met the criteria, but it was sold when I called. A gorgeous blue one in Sandusky Ohio was long gone, too. Eventually, thanks to a Craigslist search aggregator, I found a dark grey 300M in Tucson, AZ. This time when I called it was still there.
The salesman was shocked, but when I told him I was a cash buyer he jumped at the chance to sell a car. He sent me dozens of pictures and promised me, under threat of a major beat down, that the car was in great condition. From half a world away I held my breath, took the plunge and bought the car sight unseen. Then I had to get it up to Seattle.

Fortunately, I am from a big family and my older sister Connie needed a vacation. For the price of a one-way ticket to Tucson and a few dollars pocket money I was able to solve that problem. I watched her progress via Facebook as she picked-up the car and then headed across the high deserts of the American Southwest, then Northward through California, with a stop to visit the wine country, Oregon and finally Washington state. When I arrived at the airport two weeks later, Connie was there to meet me and the big Chrysler was waiting for me in the airport garage. It was a thrill to step right off an airplane and slide right behind the wheel.

The car was and still is immaculate. I used it to travel from my home north of Seattle across the country to my new assignment in Buffalo. Later I used it for a trip to New Hampshire and another trip to Washington DC. It has, thanks to the birth of my third child and the subsequent purchase of a mini-van for my wife, slipped from daily driver status but considering the winter road conditions here in Buffalo, that isn't a bad thing. Even now it sits hunkered down safe and snug under its cover and a layer of early spring snow in my driveway. I may have had to move heaven and Earth to get it, but it was worth coming home for.

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

from The Truth About Cars

Put the internet to work for you. via Personal Recipe 680102

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