After years of watching, waiting, and planning, we were able to begin our classic car restoration project today with a 1963 MGB Roadster. Unfortunately, it was not a painless experience and it is now making us question our planned purchase method for restoration projects. For quite some time, we have been watching various used cars for sale through eBay. After recently making the determination to move forward with a restoration project, we began heavily watching the available vehicles, focusing on model years that would be exempt from a California smog inspection. While we will restore the vehicle in an environmentally conscious manner, this does make purchase and import into the state a more streamlined procedure.
While we had planned to monitor vehicles for a longer period prior to making a final decision and purchase, a 1963 MGB Mark I Roadster caught our eye. This particular car has always held special sway over us, so we began watching the vehicle in earnest. The car was listed as having a well-running engine with the proper oil pressure and a recently reconditioned transmission. Additionally, it had a metal dash in great shape and, upon speaking with the seller on several occasions, we also learned that the body was clean and the wheels and steering wheel were original. The car also sports the original chrome, although we are not yet sure of its condition. Finally, we were informed that the carpet was brand new and custom-made in England and that the vehicle included a new convertible top that was still in the box.
For the negatives, which the seller appeared to be honest about (supported further by his military background), the car was listed as having some rocker panel and side-assembly rust. Additionally, the brakes were shown to not currently be fully functional and, as expected with a used car purchase, new tires would be required. While it is generally preferable to avoid purchasing a car with rust unless absolutely necessary, we decided to look upon the rust as a benefit, rather than a hinderance. First, it would provide an opportunity to detail ruts repair techniques. Second, since the car was still (hopefully) structurally sound, the rust would serve to put off prospective buyers and thus allow us to acquire the vehicle at a potentially below-market price.
With all of this information, and more, in hand, we continued to watch the auction of this vehicle, and several others, over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Based on other prices we saw, this may be an ideal time to buy a used vehicle, although a bad time to sell one. To us, it seemed that most vehicles over this period were sold at below-normal prices, potentially due to individuals spending holiday time away from their computers.
On the morning of 26 December, shortly before the auction ended, we made our final decision and went ahead with bidding on the vehicle. Everything went perfectly and we were able acquire the vehicle well below what we believed to be market price and even below what our desired purchase price was set at. Our business account received the winning bid notification from eBay and we promptly issued the required PayPal deposit to the seller. Much celebration began over the initiation of our new project.
The seller had informed us earlier on that PayPal would not be accepted for any part of the purchase except for the initial deposit. The balance had to be paid via money order to cashier’s cheque. Our preference is to avoid the use of money orders, which we feel are inherently unsafe, and we did not wish to take the time and potential USPS-loss-risk of mailing a physical cashier’s cheque. So, using the eBay messaging system, we sent a message to the seller asking if a Western Union transfer may work for paying the balance. Western Union is not a preferred payment method for working with someone you don’t know, because there are inherent risks – even Western Union states this. However, because the receiver is required to show ID when obtaining their money at a Western Union location, we felt that it was a safer method than sending a money order. Additionally, we had spoken with the seller on several occasions and felt that the risk was minimal, especially given the low price of the car. This is where things went very wrong.
Shortly after sending the message, we received an email that our eBay account had been suspended as a security risk and our sale was cancelled (with deposit refunded). Having worked with the seller by phone throughout this process, we quickly sent him a message that we didn’t know what was going on and would work to rectify it. Our emails provided no information regarding why our account was suspended, even though it showed that they were supposed to contain that information. Going online provided us with a similar lack of information, so we contacted eBay customer service. We reached a very unfriendly woman who treated us as a criminal, told us our account was cancelled because of a sale activity (we informed here that we’d never performed a sale activity on eBay, which she ignored), that we could not appeal the information contrary to the eBay site information, and that there was nothing we could do and even if we called back we would receive the same information. We asked to speak with a manager to clarify the issue, siting our Dun & Bradstreet silver status as evidence of our up-front and honest business practices, and were told that there was no one else to talk to and, again, that there was no appeal process. The phone call ended with no further information being provided.
Our seller called back at this time and we discussed the entire issue, guessing between us that the problem may have been from discussing Western Union, since eBay owns PayPal and seems to work to funnel money through them (PayPal does work as a form of escrow company, so it is inherently safer than other forms of monetary transfer). The seller then called eBay and got similar information to us: they would not disclose what happened or how to fix it since that would potentially allow us to get around it and that the suspension had to do with fraud during a past transaction. We were shocked when the seller provided this information, since the purchase of the vehicle was the first transaction we had ever performed on eBay having only opened the business account a couple days prior.
Fortunately, during all this time, we had developed somewhat of a working relationship with the owner. Concerned about the eBay issues he had heard of, he wished for a higher purchase price than we had been trying for on eBay – it was even a couple hundred above our max price. We negotiated a bit and ended with a price only slightly higher than our planned max but significantly higher than what we were going to spend on eBay. We also agreed to complete the whole transfer via Western Union. To be honest, we let our hearts sway us a bit at this point, but there are times that you just have to go all in.
Prior to completing the sale, we called eBay customer service back and reached a much more pleasant gentleman than the lady we had reached earlier. He explained that eBay prefers that sellers do not require Western Union, although he never explained why this mattered since we weren’t selling anything. He understood what had happened, apologized for the inconvenience, and promptly reactivated our account. Unfortunately, this did nothing for the several hundred dollars we had already lost from the eBay transaction.
So, after eBay cost us a significant amount of money and not a small amount of embarrassment, we were still able to purchase a 1963 MGB Roadster for only slightly more than what we had originally planned. We are now working to schedule transfer of title and need to schedule for a company to transport the vehicle from back east to our location in San Diego, California. With the entire eBay debacle behind us, were are excitedly looking forward to beginning our restoration work and are making plans to originally restore the vehicle to its original stock factory state and will then look into various performance and handling upgrades that are still in keeping with the stock look. We do now need to determine if we ever wish to perform a corporate purchase through eBay again. We have reviewed all of their policies and can only find references for buyers to avoid sellers requiring Western Union – nothing we have found states that a buyer’s account will be immediately suspended for offering to pay that way. eBay cost us a significant amount of money, which we are still investigating whether to take up with them further.
For now, however, we have the project that we will be working on and will be taking some time before initiating another project. This project has us very excited and, in addition to Project: Challenger, we plan to keep the 1963 MGB in our stables. Additionally, we are looking at utilizing Project: MGB as our first logo’d vehicle. All together, this is an extremely exciting and happy time for us. Here at Vanderbilt Auto Group, we got our Christmas miracle.