Selling you car privately can have it’s problems as Colin Hall found out. The article below is reproduced from the MG owners Club magazine circa 1985 (from the descriptions it sounds like Surbiton in the 70’s!)
How old is she?
Has she driven many miles?
Has she been doted on?
Has she ever been in an accident?
Not questions from a buyer. But a checklist of questions we owners should ask those people who phone up about the advert when we’re selling the MG. Certainly I should have asked all these questions about Lavinia when her father phones to say he was helping her buy an MG. When they’d been and gone it all became clear: The 17 year old trainee hairdresser had been doted on and had inconsiderately passed her driving test and was now desperate to spend her last 6 months savings on an MG. For Dad the thought of his darling daughter driving around in one of those things was not what he’d had in mind as he spent the last 17 years trying to produce a refined young woman, so he’d stepped in to “help” her find one.
At £1100 for a 1973 B Roadster in good condition (of course) my car sounded “about right”. About right for Dad’s purpose for he wasn’t actually buying anything: Well, that is except peace and quiet. And so the charade got under way starring Lavinia and her father on stage in my front garden props. The moral of the story is simple: if anyone suggests bringing another member of the family to look at the car replace the receiver firmly. Have nothing to do with them unless you wish to become privy to the oldest problem known to mankind---the family dispute.
Having declared to Lavinia that the trouble was with “the brakes”…the sills…”that engine’s knocking”…”it’s an unusually high mileage”… the hood won’t last much longer”…Dad played his trump card. It seems that if you stand with your back to any object about 15 feet away, legs apart and then bend over and look back at the object upside down through your legs any dents or crooked lines can easily be seen. Lavinia’s father had us all in the front garden frogmarching around the car, much to the amusement of the next door neighbour’s cheeky children who at that moment contrived (I am quite sure) to ask if they could get their ball back.
The shocking truth was that the “go faster “ stripes were not quite straight and Lavinia’s father had the opening he was looking for. “Darling it’s obviously had a little accident. Perhaps we could let you know, thank you for letting us look. “ And they were gone, leaving me to hope for better things from Terry.
I should have realised Terry was a no-hoper when he said that he was looking for an MG for his wife. Now that all the children were at school Rita was feeling redundant and what the last 15 had all been for. Other wives would have started writing a novel or done voluntary work or got a part-time job. But alas, it was Terry’s luck that his wife had dreamt up the idea of an MG. Terry didn’t like it. An MG would only be the start. Where would it all end? He was confused. Wires were getting crossed. There’d be more rows about oil: engine this time and all when they were just getting over the difficulties caused by his fanatic insistence on spreading everything with polyunsaturated vegetable oil during his own mid-life crisis.
Attack being the best form of defence it was quite clear that my MG was a mere prop in Terry’s campaign of attack. The battle he chose was on the size and practicability of MGs. Round they came with all three children and the largest cornflake box Terry could find at the supermarket. Nothing more than a cursory inspection and then the command for all the kids to get in the back of the MG. One can imagine. The next ten minutes were spent with the roof up and down trying every single permutation they could think of.
Then, at the call of his name, Sammy, who’d been doing a wee wee against the neighbour’s gate post, came racing tail wagging, straight through my geraniums and scrambled up the side of the car on top of the children.
“Now the box”, said Terry. Soon we were all, including my neighbour by this time, treated to a spectacle of Rita struggling to load the cornflake box; first in the boot and then in the front passenger seat.
“No” he declared in a decisive tone which had Rita (poor thing) naively, believing that the decision he’d really made weeks ago was a reluctant conclusion he’d been forced to reach on seeing her present difficulties. “It’s no more use than your moped. You’ll be far better off with one of those Renault 4s in the brochure I brought home the other day. Thank you for letting us look. Come on kids, Sammy Rita. “Now 15 years of obedience are not quickly overcome, even if you are on the brink of an image change. So without so much as a squeak Rita was back in the Cortina and they roared off down the road.
After that onslaught I cleaned the car before Nigel arrived…with his Mother. I needn’t have bothered. In fairness to her it wasn’t so much that she was against MGs but she was determined that for Nigel’s own safety he wasn’t getting a second chance. Nigel saw it differently. Even if the other fellows Insurance Company didn’t pay up (a certainty in my view judging by the way he handled the test drive) Nigel was quite sure he could repay his mother’s loan in a matter of weeks from his Saturday day job at the Greengrocers.
But in reality mum knew and so did I that there would be no loan and no new MG. So, there we were, like the others before, getting it out of the system.
Having seen off a trendy burgundy and grey tracksuit carrying a continental gentlemen’s handbag who arrived in his Volvo Estate, (Ski racks fitted) with a terribly restraining wife who throughout the demonstration (as they persistently called it: probably is at a Volvo garage) had talked only of the money being far better spent on a Neff Kitchen, I was still left with the car and wondering how I could possibly have been so foolish to have bought it in the first place. Still all’s well that ends well. If it really is going to cause as much difficulty and aggravation as they make out it’s got a far greater value than I ever imagined. He… He… I’ll give it to my mother-in-law.
COLIN HALL MG OWNERS CLUB MEMBER