An ‘investment’ gone awry

By Dean Shipley -

It’s what I get for challenging a decision “we” made. My wife and I are the “we” in question. I defied it and well, if it’s what I deserve, you be the judge.

Over the years, at some time, I’ve had a pickup truck. Two were utilitarian, one was a project. The former served us well for a time, the latter was a father-son project. The project did not get finished because of financial deficits and had to be relinquished. So it goes.

Anyway, about a year and a half ago, I spotted a sweet compact truck: 4 cylinder, 5-speed manual, decent gas mileage per the owner. Decent price, well below $2,000. We could use it, albeit occasionally.

I told my wife. The discussion at the dinner table was brief. She said we don’t “need” another vehicle and unless I want to relinquish my gas miserly Honda Civic, I’d better forget it.

Though the truck in question got good mileage, it was a far cry from the Civic. With an 80-mile, round-trip commute, forget it I did.

Not long thereafter, I spotted another pickup truck on my way home from work. It was a ’73 Chevy, 4WD with a flat bed. Tires were good, new radiator, interior OK but dirty, 6-cylinder, manual transmission.

After driving it, I mentioned the brakes and the owner admitted they needed attention. I thought, hmm, it’s a kind of vehicle with a little TLC could be made to perform a bit better, look a bit better and maybe, just maybe, I could turn a buck on it.

I promised myself to keep it as “an investment” and not fall in love with it. This is purely a business venture, I convinced myself, and therefore devoid of emotional attachment, which can really open up a bottomless money pit with a vehicle.

We negotiated and he said he’d take $200 less than the asking price. Fired by my superior negotiating skills, and not thinking about the previous decision, I said yes.

Now what?

My wife and I already decided we didn’t “need” another vehicle, let alone a project truck. I’ve defied our decision NOT to do this. But I did it anyway.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he says something to that effect. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15.

What to do. I justify the “investment angle” in my own head and when all is said and done a year from now and I’m counting the dollar bills, all’s well that ends well.

Not wanting to face the music just yet, I keep the truck away from home for a month and work on some of the cosmetic needs, such as a good scrubbing of the vinyl bench seat upholstery and the oxidized paint.

Not trusting my own mechanical ability for the brakes, I hire a mechanic to do the work. (That’s usually a costly no-no in a DIY project, but I want this truck to stop.)

I get the bill and it’s more than I anticipated.

Uh-oh. This does not bode well.

But it stops and stops well. No worries there. The bill gets figured into my “investment.” I’ll just ask more at selling time.

A few more unanticipated deficits rear their ugly heads. More bills, another $100. But the overall condition is better. Another C-note is added to the ledger.

Finally I bring it home and my wife does not mask her displeasure. I explain my “investment” rationale and to keep from bruising my tender ego, does everything she can to stifle her laughter.

Through the winter I work on the cosmetics I targeted and once finished, by golly it does look better. But it’s by no means a cream puff. The body needs work, but I’ll leave that to the next guy. That’s big dough I don’t want to spend.

I attend to one more mechanical improvement which was not expensive but takes me an entire day to accomplish it. Goal accomplished: one less oil leak.

Over the course of the spring and summer we use the truck weekly to shuttle our bikes to nearby bike paths. We use the truck to haul home a bargain furniture buy.

“See honey, we’re getting some use of it,” I defend.

She’s not impressed.

I put it up for sale and park it in the front yard. One guy stops, drives it, but stops short of even making an offer.

This does not bode well.

Then on one outing, the truck fails to turn over due to a dead battery. I get a jump but thereafter don’t drive it without jumper cables handy.

Clearly it’s got an electrical issue as it happens again. I decide I’m not investing another dime in it as my electrical troubleshooting skills have yet to manifest themselves.

Time to get serious about selling it. I run an ad with photo in the local paper. One guy calls but fails to show up.

With summer on the wane and insurance due, I decide I’ve had enough.

“Hello, St. Vincent de Paul. I’d like to donate a truck to you.”

The charity is overjoyed and picks it up the next day.

Last week I received a letter from them and a form telling me how much the truck brought at their recent auction, so I can potentially deduct it in my income tax return. The figure was $500 less than the amount I paid for it. So much for my “investment.”

I tell my wife. Again, laughter stifled.

But she did say she had her eye on an accordion on eBay for around $2,000.

I always have liked accordion music.

By Dean Shipley

Dean Shipley can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617, on Facebook at Dean Shipley or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.

Dean Shipley can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617, on Facebook at Dean Shipley or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.