Buying a Post-COVID Classic Car

Mmaybe it’s just me, but I’ve never experienced a spike in weirdness trying to buy a car like I have for the past five months. I blame the craziness surrounding the recent global pandemic that my older parents call “COVIS”.

I just went through the COVIS madness sell my range rover (CPU, Number 453) but now a cashed-in shopper, I figured hanging on to a classic would be a breeze. In fact, I already had one online.

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Even well-worn pugs were pulling big during Covid

We all know that the unloved and tired old Aussie classic that Nan and Pop drove is now worth more than a modest bungalow. But the car I wanted was not nearly such a sought-after item. How hard could that be?

I am one of three people identified by UNESCO as coveting a Peugeot 604. At the end of January, I came across a Unicorn for sale.

Peugeot 605 UK Spec 37

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The ad didn’t include any photos, but an investigation revealed that the same car had been advertised – but not sold – 10 long years before. Why couldn’t the seller move it?

Maybe because the car was conveniently located in the middle of nowhere. It was a 20 hour drive. The seller had no cell reception to send photos, let alone a cell phone to send them. All I had to say after chatting with the seller via morse code was that it was “beautiful”. I agreed to buy it, if someone I trusted could see it and assure me, preferably with a photo or two sent by carrier pigeon, that it was indeed beautiful.

Peugeot 605 UK Spec 40

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The back and forth lasted six weeks. A friend offered to check it out as he was planning an expedition this way, but couldn’t. I couldn’t justify four days on the road to check it out for half an hour. Eventually, some fresh photos appeared via the bush telegraph.

The car had telltale signs of a paint job. On a 44-year-old car, that could be good or bad. Not sure what I was buying, I reduced my offer to an amount I was willing to lose if the thing turned out to be a freshly painted bucket of rust. This was rejected and to my surprise the 604 was immediately sold. Someone has to inform UNESCO.

I found a nice Peugeot 505 much closer to home. It was basically solid, but still needed about $3,000 for me to be happy. But then the salesman told me he had to raise the asking price by $500, with an “at least” in front. I was ready to make a tight bid, but suddenly got involved in a bidding process. I didn’t want to be part of it.

| Buyer’s guide: Peugeot 504 1969-82

Peugeot 605 UK Spec 36

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I then looked at more modern but equally bizarre cars, such as a Volvo S80 V8. I messaged the seller of said Volvo and waited. And waited again. About 10 days later, the seller sent a message saying the car was still for sale. We arranged a time for me to see him and when I texted for the address, no response. I tried later, waited a little longer, then gave up. This frustrating theme, “I want to sell but no, I don’t really want to sell” happened with two other cars.

I had my eye on a BMW 545i E60. It had been on sale for weeks. Just when I was supposed to watch it, it sold out. Then the new owner advertised the same car for $7,000 more.

Peugeot 605 UK Spec 35

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The style is conservative by French standards

Back when I was trying to buy the 604, a very low mileage Peugeot 605 appeared for sale in Melbourne. I spoke to a nice lady who said she was selling on behalf of an elderly relative. While my interest was piqued, the price was too high and the car was too far. Then the ad was taken down.

What was supposed to be the same car came back a few months later, this time with a much more realistic price but a different seller. This time warp car was not a 604, but was of the same lineage, and its very low miles were reflected in the photos.

The seller said he was negotiating the sale for an elderly friend, whose now-deceased husband bought it second-hand some time ago. He didn’t know who advertised the car a few months before.

Peugeot 605 UK Spec 32

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There were some pretty weird negotiations before getting the keys

Before continuing, I treat. I didn’t want to be part of it.

I then looked at more modern but equally bizarre cars, like a Volvo S80 V8. I messaged the seller of said Volvo and waited. And waited again. About 10 days later, the seller sent a message saying the car was still for sale.

We arranged a time for me to see him and when I texted for the address, no response. I tried later, waited a little longer, then gave up. This frustrating theme, “I want to sell but no, I don’t really want to sell” happened with two other cars.

Peugeot 605 UK Spec 29

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Kays low and fairly near mint condition – nice

I had my eye on a BMW 545i E60. It had been on sale for weeks. Just when I was supposed to watch it, it sold out. Then the new owner advertised the same car for $7,000 more.

Back when I was trying to buy the 604, a very low mileage Peugeot 605 appeared for sale in Melbourne. I spoke to a nice lady who said she was selling on behalf of an elderly relative. While my interest was piqued, the price was too high and the car was too far. Then the ad was taken down.

Peugeot 605 UK Spec 31

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They come with all kinds of electronic fruits

What was supposed to be the same car came back a few months later, this time with a much more realistic price but a different seller. This time warp car was not a 604, but was of the same lineage, and its very low miles were reflected in the photos.

The seller said he was negotiating the sale for an elderly friend, whose now-deceased husband bought it second-hand some time ago. He didn’t know who advertised the car a few months before.

Peugeot 605 UK Spec 27

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Before continuing, I wanted to speak with the current owner. So the broker arranged a call. Everything seemed kosher; the elderly-looking owner seemed lucid and hoped that I would take care of her Peugeot.

I have been burnt out buying cars without seeing them before so when making the deal the condition was that I would deposit by EFT but pay the balance after flying to Melbourne to collect the car. If the car was not as described, no harm, no fault.

Peugeot 605 UK Spec 28

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Then the broker said there was a problem. Another buyer had offered to pay the full asking price, and the little old landlady was upset that the broker hadn’t accepted it. What did I want to do? Not before stumbling upon some weirder side leads, we went on to finalize the sale – at the already agreed price.

Too busy with the hectic commute that was that Peugeot deal to watch the news, I had no idea the COVID bug was back in Melbourne. Lockdown would come, and did. If I wanted this car soon, I would have to buy it without seeing it. Although part of the deal was peculiar, I had a feeling the guts were good.

Peugeot 605 UK Spec 30

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Later I was able to contact the original owner. He knew the “broker” because he recently sold the car to him and his wife. I still wonder who that little old lady was.

Perhaps the explanation for the mystifying act of winning over Logie was that when the 605 arrived at Lord’s HQ it had an engine misfire. The solution was simple: new spark plugs.

Looking back, the surefire vaccine for buying or selling a car in this current post-COVID climate is obvious. Don’t!

From Unique Cars #464, March 2022

Originally published on our partner site, Unique cars

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