On a Thursday morning two weeks before Thanksgiving, I saw the kind of ad that normally makes me drop everything and swing into full-on buy-this-car-right-now mode. It wasn’t really even an ad, it was a post on the Nor’East 02ers Facebook page that said, “Posting this for a member who is not on FB—a ’72 tii project that came to a stop a few years ago. He says ‘Looking to sell my car due to unforeseen circumstances.’ And he reports that he has all the parts to complete the project, as well as all service records from day 1. He’s asking $15k.”
The ten photos showed a Malaga (maroon) round-taillight 2002 sitting on vintage BWA wheels. Other than the round taillights and the bumpers, the car had been stripped of its trim, including the headlights and grilles.
The car’s interior was disassembled as well, with the door cards and rubber seals thrown inside. A wooden stool was present, presumably to allow the car to be moved.
And yet, amid this carnage was a photo of a fairly clean-looking tii engine with plastic intake plenums, as you’d expect to see on a ’72.
Well, it certainly had my attention.
I pored over every photograph, paying particular attention to indications of whether the car was an authentic tii or a tribute car. The nose had a “snorkel” for the cold-air intake of a carbureted 2002, but many tii’s have that, as the correct non-snorkel noses were unavailable for decades, so if a car needed accident or rust repair, the snorkel nose was all you could get. The VIN was difficult to make it out in the photos, but it looked like it began with 276, which is correct. The cowl didn’t have the half-trapezoidal notch that later cars have. The mounting tabs for the tii-specific airbox were visible. In a photo of the back of the car, I thought I could just make out the tii dashboard clock visible through the windshield. I didn’t see any obvious fakery.
And in a final pheromone-dabbed-behind-the-ear to ensure attraction, the last pic wasn’t a photo at all, but a video of the engine running, doing that beautiful sewing-machine thing that a tii engine does.
While I was looking at the post, a comment popped up from the owner, reporting that he had regained access to his Facebook account. He said, “It’s a two-owner tii from California via Colorado. Recent poor paint job but solid California car. Rebuilt Kugelfischer, new seat covers and headliner from world upholstery, BWA wheels with center caps, also have original wheels, new carpet (partial), new battery, Recaros, Nardi wheel, Euro turn signals. I also have all the receipts for all the service done on the car back to 1972.”
At the end of the post was contact info for the seller. He was in Milford, Connecticut; at the right time of day, that’s an easy two-hour drive from me. Maybe two and a half with traffic.
I texted the seller, asking the obvious question of whether there were any rust holes on the car, and whether anyone was ahead of me in line to see it. The seller responded, “Hi, Rob! You’re the first. It’s a two-owner California car with absolutely no rust ANYWHERE.”
Well, then. A reportedly rust-free round-taillight tii a few hours from my house, running but needing reassembly. Not publicly advertised, just posted in a private Facebook group. And I was the first one to respond. This is the kind of thing that makes you swing into full-on pounce mode, right? I mean, you’d have to be an idiot not to get in the car and drive down to Milford right bloody now to check it out for yourself, right?
There were, however, a few problems with dropping everything. The first and largest was that after my wife’s and my big should-we-stay-or-should-we-go decision regarding moving (we’re staying), the painters were scheduled to come that very morning and begin replacing shingles, then sanding, priming, and painting my house. Even the general need-to-be-there issues notwithstanding, my wife and I still hadn’t selected a color, and needed to do so immediately.
The second problem was that really, I had nowhere to put the car.
I’m already one toke over the line regarding cars and winter storage. Zelda the Z3 has been sitting out in the driveway under a cover; she really needs to come inside the garage or face a ruinous winter. That means doing the thing where I slide one car sideways on wheel dollies to sardine in a fourth car. This configuration leaves zero room for me to do projects in the garage. Seriously, how could I even consider picking up a project car?
The third was that while fifteen grand is a very good price these days for a (reportedly) rust-free, partially disassembled, running round-taillight 2002tii, it’s still fifteen grand. That’s a lot of cash to be pulling out of savings when we’re about to drop big money pulling our house back from falling over the precipice where it was beginning to resemble a crack den, and a lot to plunk down when I already own another ’72 2002tii (Louie, the car featured in my book Ran When Parked).
Still, in this time of my life, when 100% of my income is derived from car-related activities (writing and occasional sales), isn’t this exactly the sort of thing I should pounce on, something that would give me a few months of content and a profit at the end? It sure sounded like it.
But then I examined the photos again and noticed something very strange: In the trunk, between the left shock tower and the quarter panel, was what looked like a fat bead of foam. And I mean fat, like nearly the size of my forearm.
I was about to text the seller when I noticed that someone else had posted the question in the Facebook ad. The seller responded, “It was put there by the previous owner. I looked up inside and see no issues. I took some off and it was a metal repair that was done well. Not sure why they put it there.”
Someone else asked whether the car had a numbers-matching engine. It reportedly did.
So: I had responded first, but others were onto the scent as well. This car was going to be gone unless I acted immediately; it was now or never. Even with morning traffic, I could hop in the E39 530i stick sport and probably be down in Milford in two and a half hours.
I heard a rustling outside. Then a banging. It was the painting crew. They were positioning ladders against three sides of the house. My wife, Maire Anne, wasn’t even awake yet, but she was certainly about to be.
Now, Maire Anne’s saint-like qualifications have been rigorously vetted in my 35 years of writing these pieces, but those of us with long-term happy marriages know that there are limits. And running out on my wife when there’s a full-scale assault on the house exceeded them.
Anyone who looks at cars knows the one-trip-or-two question: If a car is five miles from you, you simply jump in your car and go have a look at it, and if you buy it, you come back later with a truck. But if a car is four hours away, you hate to make the trip twice, so you get as much information as you can, and if you think you’re going to buy it, you finagle a truck and a trailer, pull out the cash, and go prepared to stalk, kill, and drag home your prey in a single trip. But between the two is this gray area.
Now that I own the largely-formerly-mouse-infested 2008 Silverado 3500HD, I do have a vehicle I can use to drag cars home with, but I still need a trailer. U-Haul auto transporters are only about $60 for a one-day rental, but there’s rarely one available in a town adjoining Newton, where I live, so the pick-up and drop-off always wind up adding a surprising amount of length to the day.
While dealing with the painters, I began running the logistics of what it would take to buy the car. I searched U-Haul and found an auto transporter about ten miles from me. I even searched Bank of America and found an office in Milford where I could pull out the cash if I decided that the car was a go. Really, I thought, the trick thing to do would be to contact the guy in Monson, Massachusetts—on the Massachusetts-Connecticut border—I wrote about a couple of weeks ago who had affordable over-winter warehouse space, pull the trigger on a space, rent the U-Haul transporter, load up Zelda the Z3, run it down to Monson (which is on the way to Milford), drop it off, pick up the tii, and sardine that car in place of Zelda in the garage.
It was actually a pretty good plan.
But none of it happened. Between the needs of being around for the painters and preparations for our rebooted Thanksgiving, the rent-a-transporter two-cars-two-spaces plan collapsed of its own weight. Even the quick stealth attack in the E39 fell victim to the home ownership and holiday prep. By Sunday, the seller reported on the Facebook post that the car had been sold.
Really, it’s okay. I’ve joked for years that these things are a test from the Automotive Powers That Be, and if you don’t respond appropriately, they convene the APTB high council and decree, “Well, we were going to drop that ad for the rust-free ’63 Series I E-Type on him for five grand, but he didn’t respond to the tii, so to hell with him.”
But, hey, whatever. There’s more to life than cars. Sometimes you have to be realistic.
Yeah, I totally should’ve just hopped in the E39. But the house looks great.—Rob Siegel