The Un-Flip: When You Keep The Car You Were Going to Sell
I purchased a 1986 Corvette in April of 2016. Here was the story: The previous owner bought the car in the early 2000s on eBay. Since then, he procured himself a shoddy mechanic, and proceeded to invest more than $10,000 into the car in parts and labor over the course of the last 10 years. How do I know this? He provided a thick manila folder which housed all of the receipts from said purchases. I decided to do the math myself and corroborated the 10K+ investment he talked about when I bought the car.
Holy crap. This thing was clean.
It has about 75,000 miles on it at time of writing, and only about 20,000 of those had been put on the car in the last 10 years. It was his second weekend cruiser, behind his cherry old Ford Thunderbird.
I didn't know any of this when I saw the ad. I was sitting at my desk at work (consulting at the time) and ran across the simple, imageless ad on craigslist. "1986 Corvette, needs new engine. Beautiful condition, just don't want to invest any more into it. First 1500 takes it."
Within about 5 minutes of seeing the ad, I get a text from two different people: one was my at-the-time girlfriend, who came across the ad and said I should check it out. The other was my brother, who also wanted to look at the car. Since I was the only one with a schedule flexible enough to drop everything and go look at a corvette at 8AM on a weekday, I walked into my boss's office and said: "There's a cheap corvette on Craigslist. I need to go buy it." He said OK and I was on my way (that's what it's like to work for yourself and have kickass clients).
I emailed the guy with the ad because he didn't have a phone number. I told him that I was on my way and if he held it for me for 15 minutes, there would be an extra $100 in it for him. I got a reply that was something along the lines of: "Sorry, I won't hold the car. Two other people are already on their way to look at it. First $1500 takes it."
The race was on. I blasted over to the bank and pulled out $1600 just in case, then furiously drove toward his address on the other side of town. I figured that there was a good chance that I wasn't going to make it there before the other people he was talking about had already done so. Either way, that didn't stop me. I rolled up on the house, the vette sparking in the sun outside, and noticed no other vehicles around the house. The gentleman greeted me as I got out and I asked a few questions about the car, its history, etc while poking around the outside and inside. My assessment took about 90 seconds, and the cash was in his hand. I didn't want someone to roll up and throw money out their window then claim they bought it first.
Once that was settled, I reminded him that he might as well call the other people and let them know the car was already sold, to which he agreed and made a few calls. The then proceeded to pile into the car a massive amount of goodies, such as two custom car covers, one for rain and one for sun, injectors, a giant binder full of service records, a brand new throttle body, nose bra, and any other parts he had lying around for it. I could have probably sold the wheels and all of the accessories he gave me for $1500. A deal of a lifetime would be an understatement.
As good of a deal as it was, the engine was run for several miles without oil. It wasn't seized yet, but the main bearings were severely worn and the engine was in desperate need of a rebuild before it would be reliably driveable again. So began my 8 month journey in fixing this car. The long fix time was mainly due to an agreement I made with my then-girlfriend that we would fix the car together. We were both so busy that our schedules never really lined up to get a lot of work done together, so it sat for a long time with the engine removed, as I slowly rebuilt it without her. Things came to pass and that relationship ended, which is where the repair accelerated rapidly. In the last two weeks I dropped the new engine in (with an accoutrement of performance goodies installed) and put it together just in the last several days. Amazing what free time will do for lingering projects!
Without further ado, here is the cost breakdown of what has went into the car thus far:
Now, in the name of creating something for myself that I was really proud of, I started to make expenses that wouldn't necessarily qualify if the vehicle was for flipping only. For example, I wouldn't have reupholstered the seats for a flip, it was quite pricey and the old seats were in decent shape (they had color matching duct tape hiding the tears). Also certain performance upgrades would have been largely unnecessary for the purpose of a flip, such as the performance cam. I had decided that I was going to keep this car probably about halfway through building it, because it was just that cool. That's also why I included the "future expenses" section of the cost breakdown. I wouldn't do any of the things on the list if this were strictly to make money on. There is no way those investments would yield a return greater than the cost. So I decided to keep the car. That's what happens when you live the flippin' life, sometimes the flips flip you.