x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

eBay luck turns into a Tempest for seller

Luck plays a large part in the collector car market, and most times, luck favours the buyer.

Luck plays a large part in the collector car market, and most times, luck favours the buyer. Consider that old legend of a car hunter finding a long-lost classic in the barn of a farmer who hasn't a clue what it's worth. But in the case of a man from Harrison, Michigan, in the United States, luck favoured the seller for once. The man, who only identifies himself by his eBay seller name "3dogsatlarge", posted a 1963 Pontiac Tempest for sale on the website with a starting price of US$500 (Dh1,800) on Oct 30. As the pictures attached to the sale proved, the car didn't seem worth much more than that - it was just a plain white two-door coupe in dismal shape with no engine or transmission. So how could the final sale price come out to a whopping US$226,521.63 (Dh832,100)?

It had no options, bald tyres and rust on a quarter panel. The seller wrote on his sale that he acquired the car after the owner passed away last year, and he didn't even have the keys for it. But certain elements of the clunker raised some questions with readers of the posting: the car sported long torsion bars from a rear axle that didn't seem original; the side windows were replaced with Plexiglass; both bumpers were thin steel and dented; and there was a plate on the dashboard from an old racetrack. It wasn't long before the price of the Tempest began to rise. And then it skyrocketed.

Charting the comments and questions on eBay, it was around Nov 3 that 3dogsatlarge realised his rusty Tempest was in fact one of six factory prepared race cars that ruled American drag racing in 1963. In the 1950s and 1960s, drag racing was how General Motors, Ford and Chrysler proved their mettle with young buyers. With every success on drag strips - and at traffic lights - around the country, word of mouth was worth more than gold to the automakers. But in 1963, GM was planning a ban on factory drag racing, a move that prompted some Pontiac engineers to take matters into their own hands.

According to Hemmings.com, a group of GM engineers took 12 Pontiac Tempests - already renowned for their light weight and unique rear transaxle - and spent their Christmas holidays beefing up the drivetrains and dropping in highly-modified, heavy duty 421-cubic-inch V8s for power. The engineers also added aluminum front bumpers, Plexiglass side windows and lighter rear bumpers for even more weight savings.

The 12 cars - six coupés and six estates - were sold to racers across the country, who went on to blow the doors off almost everyone they raced against. Today, two of the original race cars sit restored, and one front end was recovered from another, but until this eBay sale the fate of the other cars remained a mystery. This sale car, in fact, belonged to a racer by the name of Stan Antlocer, and the recovered front end is actually from this coupé.

But apparently, this bit of luck for 3dogsatlarge is bittersweet. Calling the phone number that was once listed on the eBay sales site (it has since been taken down), a woman answered the phone and stated that the seller had no interest in talking with anyone about the car or even giving his real name. According to her, he has been inundated with calls and e-mails about the car from either people who want to know more of the story, or people who just want money.

"It's just bringing all the crazies out of the woodwork, and we can just not handle it," she said in a gruff voice. "He's got a pacemaker and a defibrillator and he's got all kinds of heart problems and everybody's just got their hand out and it's driving him crazy." nvorano@thenational.ae