Everything you’ve heard about used car salesmen is probably true, especially if you knew my father. People who bought used cars from my father proved Barnum right about a sucker being born every minute. My father was selling muscle cars decades before the term was popular.
My father had a used car lot in Bayonne, N.J., right after World War II. It had the simple name Tim’s Auto Sales. He also had a genuine huckster’s slogan: “Bring In A Lemon, Take Out a Peach.” All things considered, those who bought cars from my father deserved what happened to them.
Looking back, Tim’s Auto Sales was full of muscle cars. Not the muscle cars auto enthusiasts savor today, real muscle cars, because there was a good chance buyers would use a lot of muscle to push their recent used car purchase back to the lot before they got very far.
My father had been involved in things automotive all of his life including auto racing cars, taxi cabs, and buses. Sharing the same vision that Preston Tucker had, namely that all those returning war veterans would want cars, my father had a different solution. Tucker created a totally new automobile. Dad, on the other hand purchased hundreds of used surplus military cars, usually sedans, revamped and reconditioned them, albeit slightly, with new paint and cosmetics, and sold them.
A friend once asked why Tim’s Auto Sales, replete with a locked gate and high chain-link fence festooned with a generous number of various color Christmas Tree lights all around the top, was never open during the day? And why the silly little holiday lights instead of normal lighting?
“These used cars look good at night, especially with this lighting,” was his honest response.
All the used cars on Tim’s Auto Sales lot were Battleship gray because he had purchased hundreds gallons of paint from U.S. Navy Surplus for pennies on the dollar. After the sale was a done deal, my father would routinely ask the proud new owners of used, but “fine reconditioned cars” if they wanted any of the options.
Options on used cars? buyers would inevitably ask.
“Certainly,” my father would respond with an edge of surprise in his voice that the buyer would even ask that. “A trunk key, battery, heater, spare tire, they’re all ‘extras,’ he would proclaim with a straight face. “You bought a used car, not the options.” He had broken ground in the used cars market.
For “good faith,” and a display of his generosity, my father would sometimes throw in a free, but also used, bumper jack.
You’re probably thinking, “This is a joke. What kind of son would imply such things about his father?”
I assure you it is not a joke. And if my father were here today, the beloved charlatan would consider this story about Tim’s Auto Sales a compliment and endorsement.