Sunday, June 10, 2007

Umm, how would you define ruthless?

Ann Herold has an article in this weekend's LA Times West Magazine about a classic car expert named Raymond Milo. Here's how the article starts:

That 1996 Honda Accord is part of the story, really, and it's a doozy. It's the car Raymond Milo was driving two years ago when he pulled up at the house in Bakersfield, to which he had been invited, finally, to look at the doorless, seatless, hoodless, engine-less carcass of an early 1950s Deutsch-Bonnet that the owner, a woman who had inherited it from her husband, was trying to sell.

Her son-in-law had contacted Milo months before, probably because of the ads he runs in car magazines seeking obscure American and European race cars. The telephone call caught Milo at the airport in Singapore. When he declined to say what the car was worth sight unseen, the son-in-law began phoning around, and everyone else declined to say what the car was worth—and advised him to call Milo. This, of course, got back to Milo, who waited patiently until the son-in-law contacted him again and said, we'd like you to come out and look over the car.

Even before Milo got there, he knew this car was unique. From its chassis number, he realized it was one of a tiny number of special body competition roadsters built in the 1950s by the French company. Suddenly he was staring at one. He was also trying to read the seller's face, and he could see the mistrust, that she and her son-in-law were afraid they would sell the car for too little. Milo, who had brought cash and told them so, asked what they wanted for the car. They said $4,000. "I know if I say OK, they're going to say, let us think it over some more," says Milo. "I do my best Stanislavsky school number. Four thousand dollars? What do you think you are selling?"

After a long conversation, during which he made the point that it would cost him $200 just to haul the car back to L.A., they settled on $3,800. Actually, he paid $500 to have it trucked, but that's OK. The next day he sold the Deutsch-Bonnet to a Japanese collector for $44,500. And he would make additional fees overseeing the car's restoration in Paris. And that's not all.

Just before the French were to make the replacement doors, the seller called with the news that she had found the originals. "I said, 'Would you like to have lunch with me at 12 or 12:30?' She said, 'I have no time for lunch, but you're welcome to come for the doors.' I sent her a bottle of champagne and a thank-you card afterward." Then he made $7,000 selling the doors to the collector.

If this sounds ruthless, it's not.

Link. Actually, I'd say it qualifies as ruthless.