Sometimes in the car business we have to be resourceful when looking for cars and most dealers have a network of “bird dogs.” These are individuals that bring cars or contact information to us and if we buy the car then we pay them a finder’s fee. They can be colorful characters ranging from Gypsies to convict types to retired doctors and everything in between.
My bird dog/friend/acquaintance Louis, who has a long history with meth abuse and the resultant periods of incarceration, called me about a friend who inherited a 1967 Camaro from his father who was recently deceased. Louis is well known among Los Angeles used car dealers and has worked for many of them. He is a good looking guy, very funny and a brilliantly persuasive salesperson. His problem is showing up everyday and being reliable. He also has a persistent knack of threatening his employers with physical violence during minor disputes which has placed a slight damper on his workplace longevity.
Knowing Luis the way I do, this lead could only mean one thing; one of his low-life druggie cohorts came into this car in some fashion, thinks it’s worth a million dollars and is desperate for cash.
“Listen, Luis. I am going to be showing up at this guy’s house with maybe 20 grand on me, cash, and the last thing I need is to be walking into a situation where I am going to be talking to this guy and suddenly his “friends” start showing up and out number me.” “No way! There is no way I would do something like that. I have known this guy and his father for twenty years,” said Louis.
I make the trip to Oxnard with my son Sam in case we made a deal and knocked on the guy’s door of his one room hovel. The jittery, skinny guy who answered was straight out of the eighties with a huge, curly, shoulder length mullet hair cut. Clearly visible from the front doorway was a Confederate Flag replete with an accompanying German Reich flag, Swastika and Iron Cross. His face was totally covered with scabs and open sores which are typical of ultra heavy meth use.
Next to emerge was a huge guy with a shaved head who was covered in tattoos from head to toe. One friend I can handle but I am on guard and on the lookout for more. This was going to be interesting.
Mullett Head brought me to a garage area where there was a car under a cover. With a dramatic flair he slowly removed the cover to reveal the shiny blue 327 Camaro convertible. It was clear that it had been owned by an old man. It had skinny tires with white walls, the suspension had been raised comically for ease of entrance and it had hubcaps that looked like they came off a family sedan. It had handicapped license plates and Mullett Head demonstrated a bar-like device that his father used to use to pry himself in and out of the car. Everything else about the car was almost perfect and of course I wanted it.
I asked him how much he wanted and he said $30,000. I offered him $12,000 and as if on cue people started arriving. First was a 300 pound monster with a huge tattoo, and I swear I am telling the truth, of a swastika on his temple. He was followed by a host of fat women and assorted boyfriends all of whom were wearing wife beaters and hundreds of tattoos. I was now the proud owner of a white power peanut gallery.
“That car is easily worth $50,000 and he offered you $12,000?” said Swastika Head.
They all started grumbling that I was crazy and that I was trying to rip off poor Mullett Head. The air was getting tense and I needed to diffuse this situation quickly.
I grabbed Mullett Head firmly by the elbow, told him I needed to talk to him privately. I led him a full forty feet away out of ear shot of the genetically incomplete throng, flashed him a huge wad of cash and offered him $14,000. “I will not take a penny less than $15, 000,” he said adamantly with a finger in the air for emphasis. I got the car for $14,500.
Now were back in his Nazi den to complete the paperwork. He was so nervous and scattered that he kept losing track while counting the money and had to restart several times. Finally, I had to help by forming stacks of $1,000 but even this process was punctuated by his need to disappear around the corner presumably every few minutes to take hits from a speed pipe.
I asked Mullett Head if he wanted to keep his father’s license plates he said; “Nah, I hated the bastard.”
Louis later told me that the father was a multi millionaire with a huge estate and they gave him this car to keep him quiet.
Finally, when we got about a mile away I motioned to my son who is half Asian to pull over and I asked him, “Sam, how tense was that?” “Dad, those guys wanted to kill me.”