27 Aug 2022

The drama of selling Midlana on BringaTrailer (“BaT”) is over. This epic is best presented chronologically, so get yourself a cup, it’s a read:

The auction went live on Wednesday, 22 June and ran for the usual seven days. There was a lot of positive interest, the price rising fairly quickly to the low $20Ks where it stalled, which is typical. At that point, it hadn’t yet reached the reserve price.

Two parties asked to see the car in person, so this was arranged for that Saturday, while the auction was about half complete.

One guy asked to drive it and to get a ride. The request to drive was denied because I didn’t know his experience (and me not wanting to risk a car that I’m trying to sell). One concern was hearing questions that anyone buying a full-custom one-off should already know; and another was a somewhat demanding personality. Both are red flags, especially when combined. The request to get a ride was also denied due to… reasons.

On the last day of the auction, interest took off, bidding blew past the reserve, and 2-3 bidders driving it all the way up to $55K, and it was won by… you guessed it, that guy.

He and a couple buddies showed up the following Saturday to collect the car, and this is where things went sideways…

Before they arrived, I had backed the car out of the garage to wipe it down, and smelled gas, but isn’t generally a problem in warm weather. With the simple fuel system, air in the tank expands and pushes fumes out of the vent line. Walking into the garage on a hot afternoon, it can sometimes smell like there’s a lawnmower parked there. Thing is, it was still the morning, so there shouldn’t have been any smell.

Removing the engine cover showed that fuel was leaking from one of the AN fittings on the fuel return line. Crap…

I was in the middle of trying to repair it when they arrived… double crap. At about this time I realized that it was actually a failed AN fitting, and I had no spares. And then one of his buddies took him aside, talking quietly.

He came back and said that he was backing out of the deal. I asked, curious why: “You had plenty of time to check over the car and missed this”, and, “If this is wrong, who knows what else might be bad.” I said, “It just failed, so nothing was missed, and as for anything else, that’s true of any car ever built.” Anyway, voices were never raised, and they went on their way.

I immediately contacted  BaT to get the email addresses of bidders #2-4 (they route all correspondence through themselves, making it impossible to easily contact anyone else). Being the weekend, they didn’t reply. Not wanting to wait until Monday, I broke out my GoogleFo skillz and found their addresses. I contacted all three, explaining what happened, and asked if they were still interested. Surprisingly, none were. Bidder #2 had a good excuse though, bidding on a Lotus track car that he went on to win. Fair enough.

Monday, I explained to BaT what happened, and we agreed to rerun the car. BaT said that they would temporarily block the previous “winner” from bidding or commenting on my auction – fair enough. The relisting process took as as long as the first auction and it finally went live on 17 August.

The second time, interest was much less, likely due to the car being somewhat tainted by the first winner’s refusal, the cooling economy, the random nature of who’s online on any particular day, and an unfortunate comment made early on. In my description, I had stated that sometimes at cold start, the timing chain briefly rattles. The commenter said that this is a really big problem that must be corrected. Thing is, this has intermittently occurred ever since the engine was new. I spoke to my engine builder and he confirmed that it’s because it’s running a dry sump oil system, which builds pressure slower than an OEM pump – and that it’s not a concern.

I passed that on in the comments, but the guy persisted, saying that parts needed immediate replacement. I said that the parts are/were new, and there is no issue. Unfortunately,  damage was done (imagine being asked publicly, “have you stopped beating your wife yet?”). No matter how you answer, there’s some lingering damage.

As the last day of the auction approached, I was feeling much more negative, all but certain that it wouldn’t reach the reserve. Interest was poor and it was still well below the reserve price, with bidding much lower than the first auction in that same time frame.

One BaT feature is that if anyone bids within the last two minutes, the clock resets back to two minutes, which is great because it avoids last second sniping. Unfortunately, the BaT website is slightly buggy in that the displayed countdown clock at the bidder’s end does not always match the clock at BaT’s end, with their clock being as much as 10-12 seconds ahead.

As the auction entered the last two minutes, there was still little action and it still hadn’t reached the reserve. The clock kept counting down, and once it goes below 10-seconds, it can end at any time due to the timing issue. It got all the way down to two seconds(!) when a bid came in. Apparently the car gods had smiled on me that day, and the time error was in my favor.

That bid bought me two minutes, and additional bids slowly trickled in, finally pushing it over the reserve. It eventually reached $31K, and sold.

The first auction was great… and the second, not, a real slog as they say. I do however, have a much better feeling about the new winner.

No story would be complete without a twist or two. The first was that the winner the second time around was in fact Bidder #2 from the first auction, the one who went on to win the Lotus. I’ll have to ask if he bought Midlana because the Lotus track car wasn’t enough, hah. Of course, he could have shrewdly seen that he could get Midlana for roughly  half what it bid to the first time.

The other twist was a snarky comment left after the bidding ended, “So that was a $22K fuel leak. Ouch.” Yes – and no. My opinion – true or not – is that the first “winner” could have been tough to deal with after the sale, asking questions about stuff he should already know and possibly demanding that I support it. How much is not having to deal with that worth? Quite a bit, actually. $22K, even? Mmm, yes.

Regarding online auctions, BaT is the big dog, with a larger interest base than just about any other site, so there are limited alternatives. I learned something about human nature, that there are people with both a lot of play money and what might be called a “shiny penny” condition. If I was selling a 1967 Mustang, I would totally understand trailing bidders changing their minds and losing interest; perhaps waiting for another one in better condition. But in the case of a fully-custom one-off, I don’t understand how three bidders could lose all interest the instant that the auction ends. How much forethought had they given buying such a car, but oh well.

Another lesson I learned is that online auctions – at least in the case of BaT – have hundreds of virtual spectators who seem to spend their days doing nothing but jumping from one auction to another as they end, and some have made tens of thousands comments! They all use similar empty catch phrases such as: “this has a lot further to go!”, and “now it’s getting interesting!”, and “time to knock this out of the park!”, all generic comments that require no knowledge about the car in question. It remind me of kids in the playground who stand around a fight, urging them on – but never get involved themselves.

Anyway, social commentary aside, the money is in the bank, paperwork is being signed, and Midlana is soon moving to Memphis TN, so keep your eyes open in you’re around there 🙂