Friday, April 8, 2016

Thunderbird Supercoupe

Old NFO posted a story about buying a Taurus SHO.

Fantastic cars. The engines in the early ones were a collaboration with Yamaha engineering and Mercury Marine manufacturing (mainly intake manifolds). Sparked a memory of selling a 1995 40th Anniversary Thunderbird.

I was having a weird month. Every blasted new car I sold was an “advertised” unit. We were paid $50 for selling one. One Friday morning I sold eight, six while the sales meeting was going on. As a point of pride, I always had a customer on Friday morning so I didn’t have to attend the sales meeting. If I was the only salesman present, I snagged all the early customers. (Why yes, I was a ruthless asshole, thanks for asking)

My manager’s nickname for me was “Grossy”. While I didn’t always sell the most units, ten out of twelve months I would have the highest gross profit numbers. Neither he or I could figure out why I was stuck on “ad units”. The store owner was pissed at me for selling all the units but reminded me if I didn’t produce enough gross I wouldn’t be getting performance bonuses. He made three mistakes. First, he pissed me off. Second, he had put the only 40th Anniversary Thunderbird we were getting on ice. Stuffed it in a shed to keep for himself. Third, he went on vacation.

In walked a Norwegian fishing boat captain and his first mate/bride down from Dutch Harbor after a successful season. A few hours later he was the proud leasee of a 40th Anniversary Thunderbird and I had $5,000 in gross profit on my book.

When the owner returned from vacation, he faced the classic Jewish dilemma, free ham! On one hand he didn’t have his collector car. On the other hand he had an enormous profit. He and I had a strained relationship. I was an asshole but as long as my productivity value exceeded my nuisance value, he put up with me.

One month there was a $500 A/R (deductible) on my wash out check.

Me, to my manager, “WTF?”

Manager, “Rich (the owner) thinks you need anger management. That is what the class costs”.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and the owner encountered me on the showroom floor. “When are you going to anger management class”, he asked?

My reply, “Shit, Rich. I thought I had to pay for the class. I didn’t know I had to attend it”, wasn’t well received. And, I never did attend the class.

When my marriage broke up and I ended up as the custodial parent of two tweener boys, I left for a used car lot with a lot fewer hours. Took a big income hit but the time I got to spend with my sons was priceless.

The Thunderbird Super Coupe with the supercharged V-6 engine was a great car. The Anniversary editions were built in the Atlanta plant and had many problems. That Norwegian skipper was one of the unfortunate owners. Ford ended up buying it back under the Washington State Lemon Law. 

When I could, I would steer customers past Atlanta built cars. Same with Kansas City plant trucks. Best quality Ford vehicles came from the Twin Cities plant. Why the difference I don't know but it was real.


  1. Great story.

    One of my best buddies back in Illinois worked at the Pontiac dealership his Dad owned. I must have steered 50 clients to him over the course of a few years, all of whom bought a car.

    My Hot Rod buddies and I would buy all our GM parts there, as we got them for wholesale. What they lost in markup, they more than made up for in volume.

    It's where I bought my first brand new car, a 1973 Pontiac Trans Am. My buddy and I sat down, and I said "Read me the options list", and we went from there.

    And boy, have I got stories about the retail end of the car business....

    1. Weird business. I was out of work and started selling Suzuki Somesaults, er, Samurais, until the construction work came back and ended up spending 25+ years at it.

    2. Oh, yeah it is!

      Or as my friend's Dad used to say...."There's An Ass For Every Seat".

  2. You just reminded me of the ten years I spent as an automotive tech at a Lincoln/Mercury dealership in Portland during the 90's.
    Oh the stories....
    I was intimately familiar with all of those models.
    Hated those damn Continentals with a passion. Miserable POS's.
    I do fondly remember a short trip up The Gorge in a brand new Lincoln MK8 at 135 mph.
    Those things were wicked fast.

    1. Had two Towncars. Both went 250,000 miles. Never, and I mean never, gave book on a Continental trade in. They usually got parked in the wholesale row.

      I'd still like to own a MK8 but have never had a chance to "steal" one and I'm too cheap to pay retail.

  3. I never feel happy when I leave a dealership. No matter how good a deal I think I got, all I have is the world of the salesman. I can't help but feel I missed something or could have pushed back a little more. Even if they paid me to take the car/truck off their hands, I would feel that they should have paid me more.

    1. Don't expect any compassion from the dealer and salespeople. To them it is food on their tables.

  4. Buying a vehicle is stressful. If you are a AAA member, their buying service is an option. From the salesman side I know the markups the customer pays is on the low side. Not free, but not unreasonable. Other buyer services? Don't know. Check with your credit union.

  5. Great story! :-) And good on ya for selling the T-bird!!! LOL

    1. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy, it did. Also the $1700 commission and qualifying for about $3,000 in spiffs and bonuses didn't hurt.