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Jewish World Review June 13, 2003 / 13 Sivan, 5763

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

My Father, the Thief and the MGB | I'll never forget the look on my father's face when he learned about my stupidity, the thief and my missing MGB.

It was the spring of 1988 and I was a senseless 26 year old. I'd just quit a sales job I hated to resurrect a stone masonry business I ran during my college years. When my father learned I gave up a salary to work hard labor, he had one question: "What the heck were you thinking?"

The Big Guy never did see the big picture. Whereas I was taking risks to uncover the one opportunity that would bring me wealth, he was of the old school and failed to see the brilliance in my thinking.

Since I no longer had a steady salary, I decided to cut my expenses. I put my 1986 Firebird up for sale, then I used my meager savings to buy a 1976 MGB convertible. It was rusted out and needed work, which prompted my father to ask: "What the heck were you thinking?"

But it was part of my master plan: I'd buy the MGB cheap, restore it, then drive around in style WITHOUT car payments. And when I eventually would sell the car, I'd do so at a handsome profit.

Things didn't work out that way, though. I was unable to sell the Firebird for what I owed on it. To complicate matters, the MGB broke down shortly after I bought it. The mechanic at the high-priced foreign shop told me the car was prone to electrical problems. He replaced some wiring and charged me $400.00.

Undaunted, I carried out my plan. I worked hard rebuilding stone walls. I gathered enough cash to hire my cousin to repaint the MGB. But as he proceeded, he found numerous rust holes that had been patched over. He could fix it, but at twice the original estimate.

I scraped the money together and finally got the car back. It was bright red and gorgeous. I was flat broke and was still unable to sell the Firebird. The MGB proceeded to break down every three or four weeks and every time the cost was the same: $400.00.

Several weeks passed this way and suddenly it was autumn. With winter over the horizon, I'd have to shut down my stone masonry business and then I'd be really broke. When I got offered a job at a small advertising agency, I jumped at the opportunity.

Now all I had to do was sell the MGB and get my cash back. I quickly learned that the best time to sell a convertible is NOT at the end of the summer. Still, I figured I could get $4900.00 for the car - it was in pristine condition now - but I wasn't getting any bites. Until the thief showed up.

He drove a brand new Maxima, so I figured he had some dough. He said he loved cars and had a dozen of them. He said he wanted the MGB as a gift for his girlfriend. He asked if he could have his mechanic look the car over and I didn't hesitate. I gave him the keys. He returned an hour later and agreed to pay me the full $4,900.00. He'd return the following day with a cashier's check.

Finally, I had thought, my suffering was over. I didn't know that the fellow was a con artist wanted in several counties. I didn't know the Maxima was stolen or that he made a duplicate key for my MGB. When I got home the next day the car was gone - taken right out of my garage.

As it goes, the thief found the insurance card and title I had secretly hidden under the back seat and sold the car to a used car dealer. Luckily, the police found it and brought it back. I finally sold it for $3,300.00, a $1,500.00 loss. When my father got the details, he had but one thing to say: "What the heck were you thinking?"

Well, dad, I'm 41 already and you'll be 70 this July. I'm not sure what I was thinking then, but here's what I'm thinking now: Some people think fathers aren't important, but I'd be lost without your good example. That you're still here makes me the luckiest son on the planet. It took me a while, but I'm finally embracing your good sense.

And I'm thinking this: Happy Father's Day.

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04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2002, Tom Purcell