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A Roller, a Mercedes, and a Maserati for Credit Card Money? Be Afraid, Very Afraid...

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On: Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 2:24PM | By: Andrew W Davis

A Roller, a Mercedes, and a Maserati for Credit Card Money?  Be Afraid, Very Afraid...

There’s a joke that goes, “Do you want to know the easiest way to make a small fortune? Start with a big one.” And it just so happens that there are very few ways to do that faster than buying an aged exotic automobile at auction and then trying to keep it looking/running as-new.

Yes, a Roller, a Mercedes, and a Maserati can be had for MasterCard money. Just make sure none are ever sold to you.

Sure, these cars were lovingly assembled and packed to the rafters with only the finest in leathers, woods, and wools, but these businesses know from long experience that exotic cars—like any other rich persons’ fashion items—are not meant to be used year after year; it’s all about what’s new, next and never, ever used.

What it means for you, however, is that you can spend a pittance on purchasing a ride that will allow you to—honestly—tell others that you own a Mercedes, a Maserati or even a Rolls-Royce. [Just remember: The operative term here—as I will show you—is “tell”. This is a trio of funds-hungry vampires just waiting to bankrupt you in a thousand different ways, and they will impress no one that even glances at them…]

[All vehicles featured at Mecum’s Kansas City, MO, auction, Dec. 5-7, 2013. Model info set within quotations is taken directly from the auction company’s own information, printed, online or otherwise.]

T8 “1985 Maserati Bi-Turbo" [sale price: $2,000]
“Out of long time storage; Believed to be 38,500 original miles; 2.5 liter 192 HP 18 valve dual oil cooled Turbocharged V-6; Twin Weber carburetor; Electric ignition; 223 ft/lbs of torque at 3000 RPM; ZF automatic transmission; Power rack and pinion steering; 4-wheel power disc brakes; Italian leather and suede interior; Power windows; Air conditioning; Original AM/FM digital cassette radio and 4 speakers; Curb weight of 2,560 lbs; New battery and electric fuel pump; Original aluminum alloy wheels”

Is it on fire yet? How about now? Still no?... Amazing. Ask anyone with the (mis)fortune to have owned one of these Bi-Turbos—or know someone who did—and they’ll tell you that they are a four-alarm fire just waiting to happen. Seems that the folks at Maserati read only the first few steps in the “Add-a-Turbocharger Guide”, or just enough to know how to stick a turbo—or in this case, a pair of them—into their engine bays but not enough to get to the part that tells you that turbocharged engines really need additional cooling to function properly, that turbochargers and carburetors don't mix well, etc. You know, things that might keep a highly-stressed, small-displacement engine—and a hysterically bad electrical system—from bursting into flames. By the way, when you read “long-term storage” in an auction description, what it REALLY means is “Something broke and it’s so expensive and hard-to-get that I gotta dump this off for any price on some poor jerk before it gets so bad that nobody will want to take it off my hands. Or before it catches fire. Yeah. Mostly the fire thing.”

But I picked this particular car as an example because it’s scary for another reason: just look how nice it is! This thing looks like the definition of “gently—if not barely—used” inside and out. Normally I wouldn’t bid on a car like this with someone else’s paddle, but for just two grand? Hell, this thing is worth four or five times this much in parts alone! [Especially front-end and engine parts; you know, the ones that are usually charred/melted by, say, an under-hood fire…] Just say “Hell no!” folks. Cars like these will literally burn through your money. And your garage. And your house. And…

S196.1 “1971 Mercedes-Benz 220 sedan" [sale price: $2,000]
“220 Sedan; Traditional four cylinder engine; Automatic transmission; Sun roof; Deluxe leather interior”

Missouri was on fire—unlike that Maserati I mentioned above—with spectacular deals on M-word carmakers. Fourteen years older, but looking just as nice, this ’71 Mercedes 220 sedan looks—apart from what looks like masking tape holding the hood ornament in place—like only months have passed since its assembly, not decades.

The best news? This is a way better way to blow two grand on a car your significant other will hate, as there is practically no chance of any fire-related happenings happening with this motorcar. This is primarily due to the fact that something important—and insanely expensive—will always break at the worst possible time, thus leaving this bank-vault-on-wheels glued to the last place you parked it (and that’s usually in your driveway just after you’ve driven it home for the first time).

But as was made painfully and immediately clear on that drive, you aren’t missing much when it comes to driving enjoyment. See, the folks at pre-DaimlerChrysler Mercedes-Benz knew how to make only traditional Mercedes-Benzes, otherwise known as granite monuments that also happened to be cars. And when they put the absolutely largest and most powerful engine they could engineer into such cars, everything was peachy performance-wise. But they had absolutely no idea how to make anything fuel-efficient, light-weight, or the like. Instead, they scrounged around for the smallest motor they had and just installed it in the exact same car that was designed to operate with a passel more ponies. To top it all off they threw in a power-robbing automatic transmission that ensured that any of the horsepower that the tiny motor might muster were properly corralled and, well, you have a fantastically long-wearing and decent-looking piece of yard art, not something you’ll actually want to drive. You know, even after the new $7500 MotorenMacher that just broke and stranded you arrives from Stuttgart…

F116 “1978 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II" [sale price: $7,500]
“New tires, battery, alternator, voltage regulator, distributor cap, plugs, and wires; Oil changed; R&R right side accumulation and valve, flush hydraulic system; Actuator recharged and valve rebuilt by Whitepost”


No, seriously. You know that coworker or family member’s significant other or friend-of-a-friend who just gives you that “Is he/she a serial killer or am I just being oversensitive?” vibe? Well, say hello to one of the automotive world’s most brutal, murderous dictators, clothed in a very nice suit and wearing a gleaming smile.

Sure, at first you’re won over by how much everyone seems to like them, and how they can effortlessly get you into the best events. And it’s all smiles and sunshine until one day something doesn’t go quite right. It’s really nothing in the grand scheme of things, you think, but for some reason—despite a very nicely-worded and thorough apology—they make a big deal out of it. They start demanding more and more of your time and then your money and sweat and blood and then, one day, you realize with a start that those people you remember weren’t being nice out of courtesy… it was out of sheer terror! And all of those smiles and waves? They weren’t out of friendship; they meant “Better you than me.” But by now you’re too far in to ever get free, and you realize that for the rest of your life you will live in poverty and servitude all because you didn’t listen to that Andrew Freaking Davis guy whose article you accidentally found whilst you were searching for something “NSFW” when you were in fact still at “W”.

So the moral is, when you see an old Roller… you run. [And stop searching for that. It’s gross.]

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