Saturday, June 2, 2018

Bunk Coast Motorsports Birthday Truck Part 2

In the last instalment, I introduced a couple of customers and some special vehicles that were connected to a special birthday. Next up are two more, about the cars and the people and how they were special to me. 

2007 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged

There were actually two of these on the truck, one in Santorini Black and one in Cairns Blue. The blue one has a more interesting story, so let's start there. Gus had a friend who he owed money to, like pretty much every other human being he's ever known. We’ll call him Tyson. This story begins after this lofty blue baby Range had sat around for a couple of months. It was an interesting piece, great colour, Borla exhaust, RSC supercharger pulley and ECU tune, but a smattering of undercarriage rust. Not too many folks liked what they saw in person, except apparently Tyson. 

I remember a nervous Gus on the phone with Tyson before he shut the office door. When he emerged he went straight out to the wild blue Range and drove off. Me and Todd had no idea what was going on but resumed our normal activities. Gus returned 30 minutes later and the sporty Range had a nice spit shine. Gus retreated to his office and Todd and I immediately went to find out what was happening. 

Now, Gus controlled the business previous to the partnership put on paper between us. The mistake we made was initially leaving him in charge of the dealership’s bank activity and floorplan. Gus gave us a roundabout answer about the Range, simply stating his friend Tyson was buying it. But after some pressing he told us he was “selling” it to him in exchange for a debt Gus owed. Before we could fully lay into him three not very well dressed black dudes from the Bronx hopped out of a rusted out mid-90’s Oldsmobile Cutlass. One of the men, dressed in an outfit 50-Cent would accessorise with a bulletproof vest, walks in. He introduces himself to Jason as Tyson. He walked into the office and introduced himself to Todd and I. 

We managed to excuse ourselves while Gus finalised everything and slapped a 30 day plate on the car. Tyson left half excited, and Todd and I immediately hemmed up Gus in his office. He swore he would pay us back and he'd make sure it wouldn't affect the business. What he did instead was not take the car off our floorplan for 5 months. Which also means he never registered the car to Tyson. After Gus finally paid us our money and registered the car, Tyson decided he wanted a Quattroporte. Which means the Range came back from New York on trade.

Well that sparked another crazy story, this time not involving a customer, but me. In fact, it was my 23rd birthday. I decided the Range was the perfect car to drive on my birthday. It was fast, loud, brightly coloured and British. I left the dealership early that Saturday night to head to the ABC store blasting Migos on the stereo. I grabbed my favourite inebriant: a 750ml bottle of Hennessy. I cruised over to my friend John’s place blasting noise from the oversized pipes. 

I pulled the berry blue Range into my friend’s front yard (literally right in front of his porch) and stepped into night. Tons of people rolled into the house, ones I knew, some I never met. An hour and a half into my birthday party, the bottle of Hennessy had already been emptied in my body. I was on a whole new level of drunk and the rest of the night I don't remember.

What I did remember was waking up the next morning. My head was pounding, my shirt was unbuttoned completely, I don't even know what drugs I did the night before. What I do know is the Range was staring at me on the couch from the wide open front door. On top of everything it was Father's Day. I didn't forget, I just got far more drunk than I could've imagined. I stumbled out of the empty house to the Range. 

I opened the door to see the driver's seat reclined all the way back with the headrest touching the rear seat. I raised the seat back upright and hopped in. I called John trying to piece together the night and find out what the hell happened as I fled the neighbourhood. He answered my phone call in a daze, stating he was in the back of his car near a lake cuddling his fishing rod. The rest was a blur really. I remember hurtling down I-485 at a ludicrous pace, then handing my dad his Father's Day card, and waking up 12 hours later.

Fun times. 

2008 Mercedes CLS550

I'm not even using a fake name for this one. In fact, this story is mildly incriminating but I can't resist telling it. The car itself was interesting a Capri Blue over grey leather car on 22” wheels. It was was tacky, but nothing can really ruin the classic lines of the first-gen CLS. It didn't sit very long before one of the area drug dealers appeared, putting his hands all over the freshly detailed car. He stood there, his full set of gold teeth shining staring at the car. It didn't take long for the normal drug-dealer-who-wants-a-Benz narrative to start. 

“I got money down, and my girl got good credit and shit bruh. What them payments looking like?”

I made sure he liked the car and told him to bring his wife back with him later. Before he left we had some conversations about his life. One that stuck out was him recounting getting shot nine times. It's one of those things that was hilarious at the time because he was so amped to tell us about it. Also, he had only been out of prison for 9 months. 

That was unimportant though. He had cash, and plenty of it and I wanted it. Later that evening him and his wife arrive and we get to work. He's got about $7000 to put towards a purchase. His wife turned out to have a credit score in the mid 600 range so we had multiple bank calls to work with. We ended up being able to put “her” in the Benz for $5000 down. Then the conversation came up about her wanting a car for herself also. She picked out an Infiniti FX35 we had just received with a shipment of S550s from Arizona. He put another $2000 down for her and soon they rolled away with their new cars. 

The story should've ended there but I'm not that fucking lucky. One day soon after we noticed we had a dealer plate missing. This was a regular occurrence when you have 80 cars all around and only three people responsible for them. Usually the plate showed up in the back of a car or somewhere in the dealership. We weren't in such good luck this time. 

It was the middle of a normal weekday when two detectives stormed into the dealership and approached Todd. They quickly backed him into his office and shut the door. I got as far out of the way as I could. While I was off in the distance, Todd was being interrogated about the CLS customer. They asked if his wife purchased the cars cash or actually financed them and asked for all the contracts. They asked if she provided the down payment money or if he did. Of course, Todd told them she put up the money. The detective replied in disbelief:

“Really? Cause she only had $0.64 in her bank account the day before.”

Todd could feel the heat and tried his best to escape but they kept him in that room and the door closed on him. Finally they revealed the real reason they came: our dealer plate was attached to a vehicle involved in a robbery the night before. After a lot of combing through paperwork to make sure our deal was legit, the detectives left with us still visibly shaken. 

The next day as I was going over paperwork in my office, Jason yells for me to come see the TV. There it was a midday breaking news report and our customer in a standoff inside his home with CMPD. The two cars were in the front yard with the East Coast Motorsports promotion plates affixed to the front of them. The standoff ended peacefully and somehow him and his wife both were in and out of jail within a week awaiting trial. 

I didn't see much of either of them after that, but it was hard to forget them. 


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Bunk Coast Motorsports Birthday Truck Part 1


It was another hot NC summer, I was fucked up on a variety of drugs like any other day at East Coast Motorsports. I started work at my desk late by logging into Central Dispatch and grabbing the phone number to the transporter arriving later. My partner Todd’s friend, Tony owned three high-line used car dealerships in north NJ and sent us the trade-ins he didn't want or need at his stores. It was a beneficial relationship for both parties, we received easy to recondition inventory regularly and he quickly warehoused his trade-in cars on our floorplan without him worrying about the auction at all. 

This particular day we were receiving a batch of 8 cars, mostly benign European luxury vehicles. This was also my 22nd birthday, hence the early drug induced fog. It was a long day spent working hard and getting these new vehicles prepared for sale. These cars as a part of our inventory weren't particularly spectacular, but a few introduced me to some of the most interesting customers I've ever encountered. Most of them are criminals, and some became friends I still see to this day. Obviously, I won't use any real or full names in this piece, so don't go looking for these folks. 

2006 BMW 750i
This one was actually interesting the moment it rolled off the truck. The driver backed it off the trailer first, then it immediately cut off. Thankfully, it just ran out of gas but I was enough to cause alarm. It was a black on black shorty 7-Series with 55k miles, a car reserved for the buyer with a 5-Series budget and 7-Series taste. It received a ton of attention online due to its low entry price, but most who were interested didn't have the credit or the money to buy. 

A couple weeks in, a large, class 8 truck pulls up on the sideroad next to the lot. Out hops 4 guys dressed in county uniform shirts and utility pants looking at all the cars. The manager of the crew was called Jarrell and like most of the people I encountered during that era he was looking for a W221 Mercedes-Benz S550. 

At that specific moment we didn't have one in stock, but I encouraged him to stop by after work so we could find one for him. He agreed and around 6:30pm a white Dodge Ram on 24” wheels rolls onto the lot. Jarrell hops out, an about 6’2” black guy in his late thirties with braided hair. We started to talk about finding him an S550, but slowly manage to talk him into buying the 750 as a temporary car. 

Jarrell needed me to follow him in the 750 as he didn't have another way to get it home, plus he had the rest of his down payment money there. As we walked out the door, he hands me a half ounce of decent weed as a tip. I followed him to his house which was only a few minutes away from the store. As I walked in with him to collect the money, he revealed this wasn't his only home. It started to dawn on me then that this guy wasn't just a county employee. On the ride back he revealed his money came from dealing weed, but his secret to being able to enjoy it was keeping a reliable job and strong credit. 

I ended up selling him an S550 three weeks later after the 750 decided to blow out a VANOS solenoid. He ended up being a good friend I still hang out with from time to time. I've sold him more cars and even some of his family too. Plus, he always has free weed whenever I see him, so I guess that 750 made it my birthday everyday. 

Mercedes GL550
The partner we originally bought out to save the store had his own group of friends he'd occasionally sell cars to. These were some of our rare buy-here-pay-here deals, because we knew these folks were good for it. Well this car was purchased by one of those guys. The GL was painted a rare Designo Mystic Blue, with a Designo Sand interior and the sport package with 21” AMG wheels. 

I drove it around myself for a few days after we fixed the two blown front air struts. It was parked in the showroom the day Micah showed up asking for my partner Gus. A skinny six foot tall white guy in board shorts with tattooed arms. He was driving a green Lexus GS350 Gus had sold him the year before. He had already paid it off months before and was ready to trade it in for a SUV. 

Well first off we went and took a look at the Lexus to discern a trade-in value. Mind you it was a 95 degree day in NC during late June, as soon as I opened the door the strongest weed smell smacked the shit out me. This smell isn't what you think either, it wasn't the smell of weed smoked, but the smell of pounds being transported within. We offered him a fair value assuming we might be able to get the smell out. He put down $5k in cash on top of that and agreed to a $2500 monthly payment after that for 12 months. 

Micah was an interesting dude, very into organic food and holistic living. He was also very open about his prison stays. He would come every month and usually drop a lot more than his structured payment on the GL. His wife would come in occasionally to make payments, she had a variation of Bobby Brown jaw that could tell anyone what her drug of choice was. Once he came in asking me about a squeak in the suspension, so I went with him on a quick drive. Before I even managed to get the door open, I was accosted by the incredible stench of weed. I openly wondered about the smell as we drove, and he told me he just came back from Texas with 20 pounds of high grade tree. 




This was just the tip of the iceberg of interesting characters buying these birthday cars. In the next instalment you'll learn how a couple of these cars almost got us in trouble with the law. Also the story about one of the vehicle’s involvement in my next birthday. These cars were a special bunch and I can't wait to tell you more about them. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Miami Stories Vol. 6 Part 2

“Paul I love you too and all, but what are you doing here?”

“You gave me a key... Did you not hear what I just said to you? They dropped all the evidence in pretrial. I’m about to be free.” 

“Holy shit that’s awesome! You should go in the kitchen and make us a drink.”

“Yeah, what do you ha-”

“What?”

“Is there someone in your bathroom?”

Before I could rethink it, Will walked out of the bathroom in a towel with sad glare upon his face. I stared at Erin who had a buried her face in her palm. I immediately turned around and walked back out of the room. She ran out behind me, grabbed my arm and said:

“Paul, don't.”

“Tell yourself that next time.”

“What was I supposed to do?”

“Don't worry about it, I'm gone anyway.”

“Paul!”

I kept walking out of the apartment without looking back. I was coming to tell her I was leaving for Miami in a couple days. But now all I could tell her is leave me alone forever.

I made it back home as the sun sat just over the horizon. I dragged myself quietly into the house and up the stairs. I removed my tie and draped it over the banister as I progressed up to my bedroom. I immediately walked in and stripped off my suit. I heard my phone ring but couldn't bring myself to grab it as I unbuttoned my shirt. 

I laid in the bed and stared blankly at the ceiling. My black Volvo wagon disappeared as the horizon went dark. My life in Charlotte was over and I was ready to move on. I drifted off sleep thinking fondly of Miami. As I awoke in the afternoon, I could hear my iPhone blaring on the floor. I picked it up to see it was Liz calling. I answered half awake:

“Hello?

“Paul, I heard the news! I tried calling you all night last night.”

“Yeah I went to bed early.”

“Do you need anything from me today?”

“Yeah, move some money for me. That special account I gave you. I need about half a mil. Use my instructions precisely, okay?”

“Of course. Anything else?”

“Get me a plane.”

“To where?”

“Miami.”

“I thought that wouldn't be for another couple weeks?”

“Well the plan changed.”

I hung up immediately and walked to the bathroom. I started the shower and turned around to stare in the mirror. I wasn’t even embarrassed or ashamed, I was annoyed. In the same breath that she told me she loved me, she was plotting on sleeping with another man. I know we didn’t have a defined relationship, but the sheer lack of respect for our friendship was too much. I just wish I didn’t have to find everything out this way. 

I walked into the shower and sat on the floor as the water washed over me. I just couldn’t grasp why she would hide anything from me. Where both of us were in our lives it just made no sense. It was the last sign I needed to receive that it was my time to leave Charlotte. I shut off the shower and walked back into the bedroom 

I heard my phone buzz on the bed and grabbed it. It was a text from Liz “There will be a plane waiting for you at Wilson Air Center at 6pm tonight. Have a safe trip.” I called Ho Ho Cherry House and ordered some food to be delivered. I walked into the closet and put clothes into my black Chanel barrel bags. I slipped into a pair of sweatpants and a tshirt then walked downstairs to find a drink. 

The delivery man showed up at my at my door as I poured my third tall glass of Jameson. I stumbled to the door and handed over a $100 bill and slammed the door before the delivery man could offer me change. I briefly glanced at my phone it was already 4:17. I took some bites from my crispy scallion chicken as I requested an black sedan on the Uber app. I went upstairs to my closet and grabbed a grey Hart Schaffner Marx suit and a white Ike Behar oxford. I quickly dressed myself and as I was slipping on my Sandro Moscoloni loafers my phone buzzed. 

I grabbed my bags and walked out to my awaiting ride. I placed my bags in the trunk of the Mercedes S550 and quickly got inside. I sat quietly in the back of the big German sedan, as I watched the city I called my own pass by. We pulled in front of Wilson Air Center and I quickly grabbed my bags and walked in. I got led to the lounge where I waited for my plane to be ready to board. My breath smelled of alcohol as I asked the concierge for a glass of champagne. As I relaxed myself in the chair I heard it:

“Paul!”

“I'm not going to turn around. Why are you here, Erin?”

“I had to call your assistant to see if you had done something stupid. I find out you're leaving for Miami already.”

“I am.”

“I'm sorry, I don't know what I was thinking.”

“Yeah.”

The concierge walked over with my champagne, I thanked her as Erin sat down across from me. 

“Paul I lo-”

“Erin. Please. Not now.”

“Fine, I'll go. But I'll always be here for you if you need me. Always.”

I stood up and grabbed my bags and was led out to the ramp to the plane. I didn't look back. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Who's Going To Stop Me

We all know we fucked up and continue fucking up. The problem is that if we continue this pattern we will let the bottom fall out of the American auto industry. Start with the numbers --- and what they don’t tell you. The global outlook is still very healthy, showing 2.7% growth in 2017, while sales in the United States dipped just 1.75% for the year. Those metrics are both irrelevant to the “plateau” the US auto industry is expected to face from 2018-2019 though, and the reason is because they were generated by pulling out every last ethical, legal, and tactical stop.

It’s not that we have nowhere else to go but down; it’s a case of having no further down to go. Everybody has accepted and acclimated to the way we generate new auto sales, from the desperate desk manager who will do anything to get a deal bought to the customer who has no ability to think beyond a payment and a new-car smell.

This dark momentum could strangle the industry, but everyone refuses to stop it. Every time a customer accepts a $500 monthly payment on another overpriced compact crossover, they are feeding that momentum. When dealers structure deals for far more than the car is worth, they are feeding that momentum. The problem is: who is going to actually tell anybody no? Customers want their cars and refuse to put money down to get them. A large number of dealerships are fighting to attain sales numbers the market can’t currently support.

I get cursed out every month when our store misses the targets set for us by the manufacturer, even though I’m fighting against larger stores offering deeper discounts on new cars. On top of that, it’s not just your credit criminal customer that isn’t reading what they’ve signed anymore. When you have consumers with 700+ FICO scores rolling over portions of debt they already couldn’t handle on top of new debt and financing the whole thing over increasingly long terms at interest rates they arguably no longer deserve. The problem is that prime credit customers are slowly becoming credit criminals.

Let me tell another story. I’ll leave the name of the lending institution out of this one due to how recently this all happened. About a month ago a couple came in the store with a 2017 Pathfinder in fully-loaded Platinum trim. They had an $750 per month payment, and wanted to see if they could move to a cheaper vehicle to reduce that. We sat down to put everything together, I figured out they just bought the vehicle from us six months earlier. Their payoff exceeded $52k on their six month old Pathfinder that was realistically worth $37k.

They seemed very anxious to get out of the car; I figured it was the high payment that had them nervous. Once we had already assumed that they were at least $10k flipped we took a look at their credit information. That’s where we found out the real reason they were nervous: they were four months behind on their 84 month loan. I walked over to the customers to break the bad news that I wasn’t going to be able to save them from the inevitable. In the middle of my first sentence, the wife screamed, and we looked out the front glass to see their Pathfinder gliding away behind a repo man’s tow truck. I told my manager the situation. He told me to grab a service loaner and take them home as a courtesy.

I didn’t hesitate to break the silence on the somber drive back to their home. WE began to talk, and they quickly opened up about their situation. They both had 800+ FICO scores when they bought the car. They agreed that they bought more car than they needed after they dealer made them believe that a fully loaded Pathfinder was the smart way to get out of their 2015 Rogue in which they were $8k upside down. When I asked the husband why they did it, his response was disheartening: “Honestly we just wanted it. We knew the payment was too high when we had to go to 84 months to get it. But we just couldn’t stop ourselves.”

That’s the root of this whole fiasco. No one's stopping to think about what they're doing to themselves. Instead, people are walking into dealerships with the mindset that not one soul will keep them from being able to buy the car they want. Those same people are running into a desperate dealer staff that will stop at nothing to try and sell them a car, because they are under immense pressure from the manufacturer to move product. It just seems like everyone is asking: “Who’s going to stop me?” Who’s going to stop you from taking out a 96 month loan on a car you truly can't afford? Who’s going to stop the sales manager from shoving the monthly payment down your throat? Who’s going to stop approving loans for people that they simply cannot afford? Who’s going to stop the madness?