A journalist buys a car – part 1
When my gig of 22 years with the Gazette Publications of Long Beach (CA) ended in late 2011, I realized it was time to buy a car. I didn’t want to sponge off the manufacturers when I had no placement opportunities, so I started shopping early in December. When the final press car lined up went away right after New Year’s, I was on foot.
Not a problem when you live in a downtown environment (that has a farmers market) and have been to the drive-only Trader Joe’s, Costco and World Market to stock up on essentials. Like wine and cheese.
What did I look at? Every car was small – but it sure was a diverse list. There was the Mazda Miata – choice numero uno – but I never found one without a wobbly front end. And the original Scion xB box, but no factory cruise? Sorry. Same for the original Honda Insight, a car I really liked every time I drove one (particularly at length) but a race engineer friend that owned one said he always worried about getting stuck somewhere. Nope.
I scoured lots, looking at anything available but the one thing that was essential was a manual transmission – funny how few there are available out there in the unreal world?
Finally, I saw a 2002 MINI Cooper on Craigslist and decided to take a look – it was silver with a black roof and mirrors anti appeared the only time it had seen water was when sprinklers went off. I drove it and kinda liked it but the asking price, at $7500, was a bit steep for me.
Kept looking, looking, and looking some more. My friend JZ offered to schlep me around on the first Saturday in January and I told him about the MINI, so we went, together, to look at it a second time.
I still liked it, especially after learning that it had a new clutch, driver’s window regulator and had the oil pan gasket replaced – a problem for those cars. The tires were bald, particularly the left front, but I figured that wasn’t too expensive. And it had all the bells and whistles MINI could put on a car back in those days: leather, sports package, 16-inch wheels, sunroof – you name it. So we haggled and left when my best offer of $6 grand was refused.
We arrived back at Casa Annie and discovered a text saying the guy would take my price and deliver. So that afternoon the MINI, now named Rayder, came to stay with 123,321 miles on the odometer. I thought that was a good numerology omen.
First thing Monday she got a full detail and we discovered a few dings that weren’t apparent. Nothing major – she was straight and true. In the meantime we’d found out the former owner had only the valet key as the master had been mashed. (The photos here were taken immediately after the detail).
Thanks to a member North American Motoring, I was able to get that fixed. Inexpensively, too. I go everywhere with Leah, the hearing dog and didn’t like the idea of having to pick her up and put her inside the car from the driver’s side rather than opening the right side door with a remote and stuffing her in her bed on the seat.
It took a few weeks to get the Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval Indy 500 tires from my good friends at BFUSA, but man was that worth it. In the meantime I think I might have done maybe 3-400 miles because I wanted to be sure there wasn’t a blow-out. I got a pair of seat covers because the leather was so slick after the detail job and I didn’t relish the idea of Leah slipping and sliding – they’re gone now.
I took the MINI to Mickey at Bullet Performance just to make sure I did the right thing – no recourse on Craigslist obviously but it’s nice to know – and he blessed the whole deal.
More to follow…
By Anne Proffit