The best laid plans of ... hell, you know the rest.  It wasn't so much "laid" as it was "screwed" as in FUBAR.

The Formula project is officially dead.  Verily it is dead, I say.  Dead.  Dead.  Dead.  RIP.  When I took a long look at what I had and where I wanted to go, the cost to get there was not what I wanted to pay, and neither was the time required to get where I wanted to go.  I estimated that it would have taken at least eight thousand dollars (on top of the four thousand that I already had in the car) to just get the car back to factory showroom stock condition.  Even then I was still going to be left with a 220,000 plus mile engine and powertrain.  Because mommy didn't raise a dummy (or at least not a complete fool), I wisely decided to cut my losses and began to look for a better car to play with.  That was about six weeks ago.

You see, at 37 years young, I really am getting old and having to rebuild cars from the ground up with all new parts, even if I buy them cheap as dirt, just isn't as much fun as it once was.  With that in mind, I started looking at my options...   Find another third gen F-body in far better shape but at a far higher price?  Did I really want another Formula?  What about a portly, luxurious GTA... that's what fat old people in Florida drive so they must be comfortable.  Should I find another '79 SE Trans Am?  No.  Nix the '79.  I'm too old to drive around in a car with a bird that takes up most of the hood, let alone a car that has four hundred feet of pin striping on it.  I don't own enough gold jewelry or low cut shirts to be seen in that car.  Should I find another C4 Corvette like the 1988 Z51 I used to own?  Should I just abandon GM completely and find a nice, used '04 Mach 1 Mustang and go all Ford?  Should I go back import with a third generation turbo RX-7 or go '90's retro with a Dodge Stealth RT-TT-AWD?  Or maybe I should go fourth gen and find a nice 2000 WS6 Trans Am with T-tops, a LS1 and a six speed stick.



The stuff you see when you have the money to buy it...

All were affordable, hell, my father and I were even looking at several used ZR-1 Corvettes for a few days until we both realized that the yokels who Mr. Goodwrench employed locally had probably never seen a LT5 engine let alone actually worked on one.  Now, if my experience with the local Chevy dealer (involving my '88 Z51 Corvette way back in 1992) was any indication, any repairs to something as technologically sophisticated as the LT5 DOHC 32V V8 engine in the ZR1 would be a potential road to rapid bankruptcy given the incompetence shown in Hattiesburg by the GM crew.  You see, the people at the H'burg Chevy dealership don't really work on your car as much as they charge you out the ass to practice their lackluster mechanical skills on it and they do take their sweet time.  Sometimes, I think they dance a barefoot jig around your car to the accompaniment of banjo and harmonica music while sipping moonshine from a jug or Mason jar.  Oh, they'll eventually get it fixed, if you keep taking it back to them long enough (in the same type scenario where a bunch of monkeys type out the complete works of William Shakespeare if you gave them each a typewriter and an amount of time equivalent to, oh, say, infinity and a day).

Since I wanted to keep the 406 Lingenfelter for a little while longer, I felt that I needed something that the motor would plug and play into. Eventually.  That meant that whatever I decided on basically had to be compatible with 1985 to 1989 GM tuned port injection wiring harness and ECM / PROM capacity.  Talk about limiting your choices, that realization was basically one small step forward and one giant screaming leap back.  I also wanted something that I could just ride around in and take a breather for a while from the high performance parts world.  I wanted something that I could buy and didn't have to sink a lot of money into right off the bat.  This limited my choices to another C4 Corvette (of which I had decided on either a 1990 or a 1991, since I later found out that the 406 LPE would also work pretty well with the speed density setup and the 1990 Corvette dash really is a lot nicer than that Atari Glow-Winky unit found in the 1984 to 1989 models) or a low mileage fourth gen F-body.  I seriously thought about going with a LS1 powered fourth gen and even found a nice 2000 Ram Air Trans Am on Ebay; white, grey interior, six speed, LS1, T-tops, all options for $15,000 in Monroe, Georgia but I passed on it because while I had the freedom of buying a $15,000 car (or truck or anything else I wanted), I didn't like spending that much money on what amounted to a vehicle I would drive maybe four days a month, let alone spend that much money initially to purchase anything manufactured by General Motors. 

Now, given that I had a budget of $15,000 give or take, that gave me plenty of money to shop a really nice C4 Vette or 4th Gen car (which would, naturally, be a Pontiac).  However, having $15,000 and spending $15,000 are two different concepts.  So, what did I go and wind up doing?  I bought another third gen F-body.

"Holy Mother of Milton Bradley!  Dude!  WTF is wrong with you?!  Are you mentally retarded?!" said the tiny voice of absolute reason in my head after the deed was done.

Well, you see... I like my sports cars a little on the trashy side.  Yes, I bought a 1986 Pontiac Trans Am.  Why did I stay with the 3rd Gen F-body?  My guess is the reason is one part brand loyalty and one part mental retardation, say in a 30 / 70 split.  I admit that I kind of like these third gen cars and my teenage years were spent in the '80's, not the '70s (where the 2nd Gens lived) and not in the '90's (where the 4th Gens lived).  I'm a Pontiac man at heart, always have been (Camaros are for plebes and trailer park trash).  This car will make the 3rd Trans Am that I've owned in my life (1979 SE, 1980 turbo Pace Car and now this 1986 TA), and the fifth Pontiac (all Firebirds, the last two being 1988 and 1990 Formulas).  I've owned three Camaros in my life ('78 Rally Sport, '88 IROC-Z, '89 IROC-Z, all 350cid models) and two Corvettes ('79 with a '70 LT1, '88 Z51 with 4+3 speed manual).  Out of all of those cars, it was the Pontiacs that really gripped my soul the most.  I like the Formulas for their no-nonsense approach to less-frills, more thrills but there is no denying that the Pontiac that really stands in the spotlight is the Trans Am.  Born the same year that I was, in 1969, the Pontiac Trans Am soldiered on through oil embargos, several presidents, several wars and finally was put out to pasture, Ole Yeller style, by the ignorant bean counters at GM (who effectively decided that second best was better than first place in the Pony Car Wars which had started with the introduction of the Ford Mustang and the Pontiac GTO back in the 1960's).  That kind of thinking is why I don't support GM by buying new cars or trucks from them.  The old stuff is okay, the new stuff is junk. 

But I digress ...

It was Thursday, March 9, 2006 when a bad storm blew through the area.  I was about at the end of my patience on my '89 Formula as Katrina had not been kind to this area.  There was so much insurance work being done on cars and trucks that none of the local paint shops wanted to take a cash job.  Maybe if I went out and twatted up my Formula against a tree and claimed it on insurance, they'd get around to giving me a paint job but everywhere I went I got the same answer; we don't do cash jobs, you have to be referred by an insurance agency and it has to be insurance work.  It's all insurance work now, only, every where you go.


Sure, I could have gotten Bubba to spray my car in his barn for a few hundred dollars and a 24 pack of Old Milwaukee but I doubted if the paint job would have lasted the first good rain, let alone a hand waxing.  Maco would have been marginally better but I consider Maco to be the "K-mart" of paint shops. In other words, I wouldn't trust them to paint my push lawnmower.

So, it was with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to the Formula project.  I had a lot of fun with the car but now it was definitely the time to move on to something else, something that didn't need to be rebuilt from the ground up, something that hadn't set up in the woods for three years deteriorating season after season while every rodent known to God snacked on the tasty electrical harnesses and wiring or made a nest and got busy up inside the dash.  No, I needed something that was pretty much 100% fast at the turn of the key and all I would have to do is wax it, check the tires, keep the fluids changed and put gas in it.  Like I said before, I'm getting old and I have many other hobbies besides cars, a few of those hobbies which have been gathering dust for years now and need to be resurrected.  The Formula project was about to seriously crimp some of those hobbies and the money it would have taken to restore the Formula I thought would be better spent elsewhere.  Less time working on a car meant the quicker I could get to the essential modifications and the more time I could spend doing other things.

Now, with that decision made, I began to look for another car.  When the king-hell storm petered out, I found myself on the phone with my father (who lives 30 miles away) discussing the weather and checking on the safety of my parents.    We talked for a while, admitted that the super storm that everyone was afraid of forming had gone north of us and that we had nothing to worry about.  Hell, it only rained a little at my house while he was still getting a good amount of downfall.  Now, it should be known that my father owns a very nice 1955 Oldsmobile sedan, blue with white top, which is his toy car to play with and parade around on the local show circuit.  He told me that he was about to get on Ebay and see what they had in the way of cars since his dream car is a '55 Chevy.  I hung up and fired up my own computer, though my dial-up connection is a constipated snail compared to his cable modem (living way out in the country does have some small disadvantages...). 

I fired up Ebay, logged on, then started looking at Corvettes in the 1988 to 1991 model range, searching for a Z51 car with a six speed stick in it but willing to take a 700R4 car if it was a Z52 model.  I don't know why I did it, the subconscious is a strange thing, but suddenly I wasn't looking at Corvettes anymore.  No, I was looking at Pontiac Trans Ams.  The little voice of reason in my head whispered "This can only end in tears.  For the love of all that is holy and Republican, don't do it."  I don't think I put a specific model year in under Ebay Motors, I think I simply typed the words "Trans Am" and wanted to see if there were any old 1979 Special Edition "Bandit" TAs on Ebay.  Not that I was going to actually buy one of those old TAs and drive around in it but I think I wanted to stroll down memory lane one more time, kind of finding myself in a nostalgia mood and curious as to how proud some people were of their cars (and how desperate others were to buy them).

Somewhere, in all the TAs listed, I found one that intrigued me; the 2000 white Ram Air LS1 six speed TA in Monroe, Georgia.  It had 67,000 miles on the clock and had been driven by the seller's wife.  The car looked mint, all options including T-tops.  The price was $15,000 or right on the amount I was looking to spend.  I looked at the pictures of the car and marked the TA to be watched in My Ebay.  Since my dad was online, I sent the link to him to take a look at and I backed out of the auction to roll through the other auctions.  I know he wanted to go in with me on a Vette but the LS1 would stomp a C4 into the ground then spit on it for spite and I thought he might dig the new styling of the ram air WS6 TA.  He's getting old too, about to retire, and our current argument was whether the car would be a manual or automatic.  I wanted manual (I'm not that old), he wanted automatic (he is that old).  What's the fun of having a LS1 with WS6 if it's got a four speed slush box behind it?  Oh, well... I put the bait out to see if he would take the hook.

That particular TA and auction was at the edge of my screen so I rolled the wheel on my mouse to bring up the rest of the page.  The ad right below the white TA was for a black 1986 Trans Am.  Normally I wouldn't have looked twice but something caught my eye... it was clean.  It was listed as low miles.  VERY low miles.  Unheard of low miles for a 1986.  Curiosity got the better of me, God help me, and so I clicked on the ad.  The rest is history and a pretty good story.

What I found was a low mileage, pristine, all original (save for the radio) 1986 Trans Am, black, monochromatic paint, with a tan cloth Recaro interior.  The radio had been replaced with an aftermarket AM/FM CD player but the original radio was listed as being available with the car at the conclusion of the auction.  I'm a stickler for buying cars that are stock, I don't like having to un-fuck-up what some previous moron did in an attempt to go faster.  It's been my experience that most people who own these cars didn't know the first thing about them and just threw parts at them in the ridiculous hope that somehow some magic would occur and they would go faster.  I've seen too many odd third gens out there to ever want to buy a modified car from someone.  This car was perfect, all factory stock (except radio, remember that) and it was a LB9 5.0 liter (305cid) TPI V8 which in 1986 meant you had to order it with the automatic transmission (both extra cost options).  Oh, yeah, a 305 TPI in 1986 also meant I got the dreaded "peanut cam." 

Did I say that the car was mint? 

I thought back to another Trans Am that I had always liked, the 1985 two tone black and gold TA once owned by a childhood friend, James Klem.  His car had been purchased brand new in 1985; it had the LG4, automatic, base suspension, aero-wing spoiler, tan cloth interior, a killer factory stereo system and T-tops.  No WS-6.  No TPI and it had fallen prey to a late night road race against my '78 Camaro Rally Sport (itself sporting a 350cid small block, Rochester Quadrajet and THM350 transmission).  Still, his car was nice and the color scheme was beautiful.  I have never seen a color scheme like that up for sale again but always kept my eyes out looking.  When I saw this monochrome TA, black with the tan Recaro interior, I knew it wouldn't take much to spray the bottom ground effects GM gold, add the "square-dot-fade" factory stripe and suddenly have an exact duplicate of my friend's car from 21 years ago (albeit with the much better suspension and the much more powerful TPI engine).  The black and gold paint scheme was beautiful and I never really was a fan of the later years monochromatic paint schemes as I felt that they lost something of the visual appeal of these cars.  Maybe the white cars were okay, but anything else ... there was just something missing to the visual appeal of the monochrome TAs, like a '79 Bandit without the pin-stripes.  Just something not quite tangible, something you couldn't put your finger on but you knew it was there and that it was missing.

I thought about this car and played it over in my mind. 

Did I want a Trans Am? 

Did I really want a Trans Am? 

Another Trans Am?

A third gen Trans Am? 

A non-WS6, "peanut cammed" 5.0 liter TPI Trans Am? 

I thought about the price on the car... $7495.00 was the "BUY IT NOW" price but the highest bidder was only up to $1250.00.  I also noticed the little "RESERVE NOT MET" logo.  Oh, well, there was some interest in this car as evidenced by the 9 bidders all humorously vying for the TA but no one was really putting up any serious cash.  I don't know why people bid on cars on Ebay like they do.  I laugh when I see someone who posts something like an early fuel injected Stingray or a late model uber-Ferrari with a "BUY IT NOW" price in the tens of thousands and you see some idiot who has posted a bid of something wholly ridiculous like "$5.78 and some pocket lint."  The idiots who were currently bidding on this particular TA would have a better chance of finding asbestos underwear for sale in a discount bin at a K-Mart in Hell than they were of winning this TA, at the rate they were going and bidding.  I sized up my competition in one word; naive, and left it at that.

I sent the link for the 1986 TA to my father later that night and, since he was working locally, I printed out the entire auction and all pictures, bundled it up in my backpack and decided to stop by his office on the way to work tomorrow.  That night I didn't sleep very well and while I dreamed fitfully, I can't remember if I dreamed of the TA or not.  I just remember being behind the wheel of a powerful car and eating up some long stretch of road at a good pace.  It was a good dream, if a bit vague on details.  

The next morning, I dialed up and logged on to Ebay to check on the status of the TA.  Not much change so I logged off and rode the CBR600RR to work, stopping at my father's office to hand him the print outs.  When I walked into his office with the printouts in my hand, he took one look at the printouts in my hand (without actually taking them and looking at them) and muttered "You've got something in your hand that looks like a lot of your money is going to be spent."  My dad, ever the banker, ever the businessman.  I quickly explained that he and I could have a low mileage, pristine 1986 Trans Am for about half of what we could have a high mileage C4 Corvette.  It was automatic (much to my chagrin but to his delight) and we wouldn't have to put any money into restoring it like we would the Formula (to both of our delight). 

He said to give him some time to think about it and we agreed to meet again after work.  I gave him the paperwork and left.  Needless to say, my dad is like me in some ways, he's hard to steer in one direction or keep him going in that direction but if you do manage to get him pointed where you want him to go, look out!  He and I both get very single-minded to a fault and we literally mercilessly smash our way through any obstacle, opponent or problem until we get what we want.  We will work a problem from all angles until we make it work for us.  I get my "losing is not an option" attitude honest.

The fact that the car had the 15 x 7 inch wheels on it confused me.  If the car was all stock, then why would anyone custom order  ... or why would the dealer order ... or why would Pontiac build a LB9 car (top of the line EFI engine option), linked to a mandatory extra cost automatic transmission, throw in nearly a thousand dollars worth of interior then forgo the top of the line suspension?  The car wasn't a WS6 car which meant it had the smaller wheels, smaller tires, smaller front and rear sway bars, non-posi highway geared rear end, rear drum brakes and a slow ass power steering unit.   I don't know what interested me in it but something grabbed me by the short and curlys and threw me at this car full steam.  I had to have this car.  Something told me that there was far more to this car than met the eye.

Granted, most of that could be fixed by "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and taking parts off of the '89 Formula.  I'd just swap in a brand new quick ratio power steering unit and the heavy duty rear end out of the Formula.  The smaller sway bars, the special shocks, struts and springs would not be a problem since I was going to replace those anyway on down the road.  Still, it would be nice to have a WS6 car, a real one, from the factory.  Still unsure why the car would have so many high dollar options and not have the WS6 suspension option, I email the seller and ask them if the car has rear disc brakes.  Twelve hours later, the seller emails me back the CarFax report on the car and says he can't answer my question.  Hello?  Just go and look at the rear wheels... see if there are disc brakes behind the wheels.  Get on your hands and knees and count the bolts on the differential cover.  Tell me what you see.  Duh.

I didn't get a firm answer out of my father until late Sunday afternoon, or about two days after I had already made up my mind to purchase the car, with or without him throwing in with me on the deal.  In that time, the TA had gone from $1250 to $3500 or thereabouts in price.  The reserve had still not been met and the BUY IT NOW option was still in effect.  As this was my first time buying a car on Ebay, though I was long familiar with their other auctions (having been on Ebay since 2000 and then being rated at 75 points or stars or whatever it is that Ebay rates you), I thought that the "BUY IT NOW" option became null and void once a bid was placed.  Oh, but no!  Apparently, that is not the case with vehicles (and probably other high dollar junk as well).  I discovered this by playing with the option on Saturday night and moving all the way through the option up to the point of legally committing to buy the car then backing out. 


What is this? 

A way to instantly steal the auction and the car away from every other single bidder in the game regardless of whether or not they were the highest bidder?!  My.  My.  My.  This little button here on the auction screen had more potential for causing tears and sorrow than being stuck in an elevator listening to a MUSAC version of Metallica's "Enter Sandman."  I tapped my brow with my finger as the implication of the power I held in my mouse, at the ability to side step every other single moron in the game and just snatch away what I wanted without even breaking a sweat.  It was better than those big red "EASY" buttons you see in the office supply commercials.  The implication of the BUY IT NOW option was simple yet staggering.  So... I could just waltz in, hit the BUY IT NOW button, and put the nuclear whammy on all these other fools who were hoping that somehow their non-reserve meeting bids were going to be honored by the seller.  Hah.  Life is rich!  I rubbed my hands together like a mad scientist and cackled with the same abandon.

So, Sunday night my dad commits to the '86 TA.  Sound the bosun's whistle and "welcome, aboard!" Monday morning he and I email each other about twenty times with questions and answers about the auction and the TA, back and forth.  He asks me when I'm going to buy the car.  I tell him that I have it queued in my Hammersnipe Ebay sniper for $7500 and that I'll hit the auction automatically five seconds before it closes on Wednesday at noon.  Immediately Dad starts to not like that idea...  It is times like this where he and I may not see eye to eye in business deals, but we battle each other until common sense and business sense meet somewhere in the comfortable middle.  They may be bloodied and battered when they meet, but they do eventually meet.  Eventually.

Dad is not familiar with the art of sniping auctions on Ebay so he asks the basic questions.  During our discussion, I explain that while the car is worth $7500, I might can pick it up for a few thousand less.  Yes it is worth $7500 but it is really worth $6000 and really, really worth $5000.  If I could get this car for $4000, I would do unspeakable things that God would surely smite me on the spot for even thinking about doing.  The things that I would do if I could get the TA for a price less than four grand don't really bear thinking about in this, our polite conversation.

The reserve has not been met and no one knew what the reserve was.  I hate reserves because that is such a Mickey Mouse game to play and is the realm of amateurs.  If you want a set price for the car, then start the bidding out at that price.  Don't jack my Twinkies, man.  Give it to me straight, shoot from the hip and you've got my business.  Jerk my chain and you'll find that you're teasing a gorilla in the monkey house.  My simple, if not fully thought out, plan was to wait until about ten minutes before the end of the auction then start war-bidding on the TA, trying to find the heretofore unknown reserve through "recon by fire" tactics, that is, I would put in a new bid in $200 increments until I found the reserve then plateau out there, set up camp and wait, nay, dare anyone else to usurp my posted claim to this particular Trans Am.  As the current price was $3550.00, I felt that the reserve should be somewhere near $4000 or $5000, if I was lucky.  If I was lucky, I could get this car for a few thousand less than what the BUY IT NOW price was.   I realized, sadly, that that particular miracle had about as much likelihood of happening as waking up tomorrow morning and discovering that rap music had been found to cause terminal brain cancer in even short term exposure and thus the vile aural refuse had subsequently been banned by the U.S. Surgeon General.

Yes, if someone else wanted to try to outbid me once I found the reserve and camped out there, they still had to outbid my sniper which was set for five dollars over the BUY IT NOW price.  I felt that I could afford to wait for two days on this car and watch the other buyers sweat it out.  In the end, I would simply ride away, victorious in my newly acquired Pontiac chariot of fire(bird), laughing as I tipped my cowboy hat to those who had failed to make the grade and smiling as I rumbled off with that throaty TPI V8 sound into the setting sun.


Reverse that. 

There's an instant replay on my line of reasoning.  Everything seemed solid and well thought out, at least to me.  My dad didn't think so and decided to play devil's advocate as he nearly always does. He asked me that if I felt so confident that the car was worth $7500, then why was I risking having someone else buy the car out from under me?  Surely I wasn't the only one interested in the car nor was I the only one likely to have the money to buy it outright.  His questions rapidly turned my game of waiting into a game of second guessing my own self with a strong undercurrent of buyer's stark raving paranoia.  I was playing a game with this car, that much was true, but what if someone was playing a game with the car as well?  Then they would be playing the game against me.  What if we were all playing the same game?  Oh, what a tangled web we weave on Ebay... 

Could I be out-gamed at my own game? 

Could what had worked consistently for five years before on Ebay suddenly fail and leave me stranded, empty handed, and crying tears of deep regret?  What a thought!  What a concept!  Someone outbid me?  It wasn't possible!  I was used to bringing such funds to my auction bids that the other buyers were simply smashed flatter than an ant under a ten pound sledgehammer.  I bid to win, not to pussy-foot around.  If I want something, I'm going to get it, regardless of the price, and I'm going to bring more money to the auction than you are, guaranteed.  I was serious about this car and I suddenly realized that out there, somewhere, sight unseen, there was probably at least one other person who was also equally if not more serious about this Trans Am than I was.  There might even be more than one person as serious as I was.

It was a sobering thought.

It was a scary thought.

It was scarier than wasting seven hard earned dollars to see "The Blair Witch Project" and that, folks, is a pretty damn scary thought, in hindsight and what I generally base all my other scary thoughts on to this day.

So, what had started out strong on Monday morning as a "wait and see if we can get this Trans Am any cheaper" quickly became a mad rush of watching the clock tick by slowly until the lunch hour when dad and I could run to the palatial family estate (10 miles away), hop on the cable modem and use the BUY IT NOW option to secure the Trans Am.  Each second of the clock tick went by like an eternity at a time.  Being at work, with no way to check on the progress of the auction and no way to counter-bid, I felt like a hunted animal, never knowing if someone was drawing a bead on me or if I was safe and would make it.  Time eventually came and found me seated in front of my parents' super mega-computer system (they spared no expense in getting their system), logged into Ebay and looking at the auction. 

Nothing had changed. 

There were still two days and a few hours left to go and the highest bidder, someone named PAWLICA, had placed a bid of $3500.00 for the car.  I noticed that PAWLICA was showing up twice in the bids, at the very top, which meant that he had a buffer set, a cushion to absorb bids by other bidders.  I was about to use the BUY IT NOW option when my dad suggested that I start war-bidding, like I had originally wanted to, in order to see where we stood, to discover where the reserve was, and to find out what we could about the other bidders and how serious they might be.  He said we could always use the BUY IT NOW option but he was curious where the other bidders stood.  I wasn't sure.  I felt that if I started war-bidding that perhaps the other bidders who were serious might take notice and we'd have a fight on our hands.  Dad's insistence was more out of curiosity so, I went to enter a bid and entered $4000. 

I instantly discovered that I was automatically outbid by PAWLICA who matched my bid and raised the stakes $100 to $4100.  The gauntlet had been thrown down and the race was on.  I had $7500 in my pocket and I was not going to be disrespected by another bidder.  I kept entering sequential bids, a little bit at a time and found that each time that I entered a bid, I was apparently running smack into a rather large buffer that the other bidder, PAWLICA, had already entered.  There I was, throwing money into the auction and trying to find the top of PAWLICA's maximum bid and each time I raised the bar, I hit his buffer and was outbid.  Bid after bid, I was always matched and one-upped by PAWLICA.  When I got to $6500, apparently I had plateau'ed out because PAWLICA didn't match that bid automatically.  $6500.00 for the car, as it stood.  PAWLICA was still the highest bidder since his bid had been put in before mine and earlier bids of the same amount take precedence.  So there we stood, the two super serious bidders on this car, like some gunfighters in an old west movie.  High noon.

My dad, in his wisdom, then said that if PAWLICA was watching this auction online now (just as we were), then he was probably aware that someone was playing the same game that he was and he might hit the BUY IT NOW button rather than lose the car over a few hundred dollars.  I was also sure that Ebay or some other companies might offer instant notification of auction activity and counter bids being placed.  If PAWLICA wasn't watching the auction, it wouldn't be long before he knew what was going on and if he was at a computer with a high speed connection, he might have instant access to this auction.  We had to beat him to the punch if we were going to get this car. 

I saw the wisdom what my dad was saying and hit the BUY IT NOW button, confirmed my legal binding to buy the car, and was rewarded with the end of the auction in my favor. 

The Trans Am was mine.  Like that, I reached in and stole the TA away from all the other people in the auction.  Just like that.

Good game, PAWLICA, but not good or quick enough.


Suddenly, I was the owner of one mint, all stock, 1986 Pontiac Trans Am with the rare Recaro interior, T-tops, and just 48,000 original miles on the clock.  I sighed and leaned back in the chair, reclining.  That was a heady experience, the rush was fun and intense but short lived.  I needed a cigarette and a nap (and I don't smoke).  I had just bought my first car on Ebay.  I didn't know if I was going to be in for a dream come true or the worst nightmare of my life.  Dad chuckled.  When I asked him what was so funny, he pointed to the screen and the list of bids for the auction.

"That guy you were bidding against, that PAWLICA, he's going to be physically sick when he logs in and finds out that you took that car right out from under him."

I laughed at that as I hadn't even thought of that possibility.  Yep.  If he wanted the car bad enough to match me to $6500, he should have just gone ahead and bought the car for $7450.  Then I thought about what had happened and it gave me a sobering thought.  PAWLICA had been playing the same game that I had.  I wondered if he had the TA queued up in his own sniper program and if he was going to wait until the last minute to try to war-bid on it to find the lowest reserve and ride out the auction hoping to get the car for a lot less, just like I had intended to do.  I had beaten another camper at their own game.  It was kind of like that Tom Beringer movie "Sniper" where one sniper hunts another.  I don't know what the reserve for the car was, but it wasn't much less than the BUY IT NOW option price so the few hundred I might have saved simply was not worth the risk of losing a car of this quality.  Again, auctions with reserves really piss me off because nothing says "I am an Ebay virgin" than having an auction with a reserve attached to it.  If you want a minimum amount of money for whatever it is that you are selling, then put that amount as the price that bidding starts at.  Don't jerk everyone's chain around by putting some hidden reserve then letting people try to guess what it is or find it by bidding.  Ebay virgins, the lot of them.

The next day, dad and I contacted the seller, transferred funds and set up a travel schedule for me.  I had to work that weekend in the ER but since I couldn't find anyone to swap even with me, I gave away my two shifts and lost those 24 hours completely.  Oh, well.  It was worth it.  This was going to be a grand adventure, probably my last big adventure so I wanted to do it up right.  I'd always wanted to find a good, rare, low mileage car, fly somewhere far away and drive it back over a period of days.  Call it the "Route 66" complex.  Looks like my wish came true though I had always thought it would be somewhere in the Rockies or perhaps California, not North Carolina.  Going West just seems more romantic... Route 66, the Grand Canyon, Vegas, you name it... it's all out West.  Going East?  Nah.  There's not much on the Atlantic seaboard that I really want to see that I haven't already seen.  Out West, it's sunny and beautiful.  Out East, you just have dirty water, dark skies and people who talk like they're holding their nose pinched shut.

Dad surprised me when he told me that he had a bonus airline ticket just gathering dust so he arranged for me to fly over to North Carolina to pick up the TA and drive it back to Columbia, Mississippi.  That was 750 plus miles give or take of actual physical driving let alone flying.  All I had to do was to catch a plane or two early Saturday morning and drive the TA back from the Greensboro over the coming weekend.  Not a problem.

I made a checklist of items I would need for the trip and because it was just going to be overnight (and because I didn't want to carry on more than two bags), I packed light.  The first thing to go into my carry on bag was my pair of leather driving gloves.  By the time I was packed, the ink on the paperwork for the title was already drying in North Carolina and all I had to do was fly there and "fly" back in a pristine, black 1986 tuned port injected Trans Am.  I checked the weather and found that it was going to be pretty miserable for most of the trip.  Damn.  I was looking forward to taking the tops off and doing some open-air cruising.  I guess that will just have to wait.

750 plus miles.  Four states.  40 hours.  Interstate all the way.  No problem.  I'd drive it all at once but I'm not as young as I used to be and going 24 hours without sleep just isn't something I enjoy doing very much anymore.

Everything was set up for my last big adventure.  All that was left to do was wait until the weekend and to be thankful that I wasn't the one sitting on the other end of PAWLICA's connection because I could hear the tears of sorrow even this far away.  Grown men shouldn't cry, it's just disturbing and ugly.  There is an old saying, "you snooze, you lose."  Better luck next time, brother, but then again, cars like this come along only once in a lifetime.  The trick is to recognize them when they happen by and to be fast enough (and smart enough) to not let them get away.

Goodbye, black 1989 Formula. 

Hello, black 1986 Trans Am.

And so, Black Echo's Last Big Adventure begins...


Here are the wheels as they were presented on Ebay.


Carry on leather bag