There is a cool little car show on Discovery UK channel that’s going into its tenth year on air, called Wheeler Dealers. This is a car show like no other you’ve seen before. In it, Mike Brewer, an old car dealer, buys cars that are a little past their glory; his genius mechanic Ed China fixes them; and together they sell it on, hopefully, for a profit.
Now, that’s not an entirely new idea. There have been many shows about restoring old rusty bag of bolts and turning them into shiny desirable motors. What sets Wheeler Dealers apart is that it’s based on real life situations, and it shows that it is rather easy for everyone to practice the art of wheeler dealering. It allows you to indulge your love of all things motoring, learn a few things along the way, and in the end make some money as well.
If you follow Brewer and China in their quest to save Britain’s classic motors you will learn how to buy a car at a bargain price, fix it on a budget, and then sell it on and make a few quids, or bucks – depending on what side of the Atlantic you live in. It doesn’t have to be a classic car either. More often than not Mike buys normal, ordinary cars that people have forgotten about, gives them a new lease of life and makes a healthy profit off them. He usually sets himself a budget, and, well, often ends up spending more. But that’s the fun of this game. It’s like gambling. Sometimes you may end up losing some cash – as Mike has done on a number of occasions – but it is mostly a win-win game. Wheeler Dealering is a game every petrolhead can enjoy, regardless of his budget. You get to own and drive lots of different cars; you get to fiddle around with them and enjoy the satisfaction of fixing them up; and if you’re clever and lucky, you make good money too.
Here’s a general guide on how to become a Wheeler Dealer according to the teachings of Brewer:
Classifieds is the most interesting bit of every journal for a wheeler dealer. After you set yourself a budget, or decided on a particular make and model, you pour yourself a cup of coffee, find a nice, quiet spot, and get busy with the ads hunting down the bargains.
Now back in the day you were restricted to the newspaper ads and your local market. But these days thanks to the internet you can hunt down cars in other parts of the country and maybe even overseas. Another great place to look at is car auction sites. The problem with auctions is that often you can’t see the car before buying it, and that you may get locked down in a bidding war.
The idea here is to find the car that needs a bit of work so it’s cheaper than pristine examples that fetch high dollar. You have to be careful though not to fall for a car that is way past it, as the cost of doing it up can eliminate any chance of making a profit at the other end. Mark out a few candidates, get on the phone, and go and inspect each one in person before making a decision.
What you buy depends on your budget and how much work you are willing to put in. But whatever it is, remember to always negotiate. You will be amazed at what big a difference a bit of haggling and going back and forth makes. But first you should inspect the car thoroughly. If there is a button, push it. If there is a knob, pull it. Check the body and chassis for rust or signs of accident damage, and finally go for a test drive, make sure the car gets down the road and stops properly and goes in all the gears without any problem. Gearbox issues are usually a red flag, as they can be very pricey to fix.
Remember to point out the car’s imperfections just before you come out with your offer. That puts the seller off guard. Also, mention that you’ve got the cash in your pocket and do the deal today and take the car away. The idea of hassle-free deal can be very encouraging.
This is the crucial part of the game. Whether you are going to make a fortune or ruin your credit is decided here. In the show, Brewer is lucky to have a mechanic partner, Ed China, who sorts out the oily bits in his own workshop. That is not something readily available to all of us, but don’t despair. You can do most of the works required in your garage or shed, using a selection of basic tools. For trickier jobs you can either rent garage space with specialist tools, or hire a professional to do it. Of course, you do need a basic knowledge of mechanics and doing up nuts and bolts. But you are a petrolhead, which means you have that in your blood.
Expenses here are divided to parts and labour. It is recommended to replace the parts that need replacing with original factory parts. But that is not the Wheeler Dealer way. Sometimes, especially if you are working a classic model, you may not be able to find a specific part brand-new because they don’t make them anymore. That is why a WD always relies on salvaged and refurbished parts. At a fraction of the cost of the original part, these bits do the job beautifully. Patent parts built under license by a third-party manufacturer are another good solution, but they usually need a bit of modification before they fit perfectly.
No matter how handy you are with your spanners, there are always those jobs that require professional attention. But here too a Wheeler Dealer can save money by cutting corners. For instance, if the radiator needs fixing by a pro, you can start by taking it out of the car yourself instead of paying a garage. Even with harder stuff like body work and paint job you can reduce the cost by doing the prep work like removing the trim, sanding, and filling yourself.
If you have the budget and the time, it is always nice to add a little extra something to the car besides fixing things and bringing them back to tiptop condition. For example, you can buy an early model mark III Range Rover and facelift it to a much newer version by replacing the bumpers, lights, and the grille. That makes the car a lot more salable.
This is the exciting bit. The car that you’ve put your savings and lots of blood and sweat into is sitting nice and pretty, all waxed and polished ready for the punters to come and kick the tires.
Here too you can rely on classifieds and ads. The trick is to get your car seen by as many potential customers as possible. Buy a decent package on websites specializing in car ads or local papers, take some nice photos, and remember to point out all the good features of the car that set it apart from similar models on offer.
Just as you negotiated when buying the car, every potential buyer is going to do the same to you. So put some wiggle room in your asking price. If the offer doesn’t sound interesting to you, stick to your guns and be patient. Worst case scenario, you won’t sell the car and have to use it yourself.
Actually, the worst case would be selling the car at a loss because you need the money and the space for the next project. In that case you can take solace in the fact that you’ve enjoyed working on the car and learned something. You will do better next time.
If you keep your wits about you though, chances are you are going to make some serious cash. Brewer and China have proved hundreds of times that Wheeler Dealering pays big time!
Pictures credit: Discovery UK