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Has this ever happened to you? Any odd Sprite story...

Randyz

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A few years back, I stopped in at a friend's shop to visit. He wasn't in, but one of his mechanics had a big Healey up on a lift. It had a clutch problem and had been brought in by a fellow who was helping the owner sell it. I commented on the car and he said, "Oh, you like the big Healeys?" I said, "Well, I'm more into the little ones." He thought I might be interested in a car that a friend was trying to sell. The friend was a retired tire store owner in a small town in Louisiana. He collected muscle cars all his life but recently had a leg amputated and could no longer drive. Most of the cars were sold, but on his last visit he saw a car that had been hidden in one corner of the warehouse. According to him it was a AH factory racecar with aluminum bodywork, special knock-off racing wheels, and RH drive. He said it had a full race engine that was sitting on the floor next to the car. There was a racing logbook on the seat that said its last race was at Sebring. Apparently this guy got the car along with something else he traded for. It had been sitting around for 30+ years.

"So is that something you'd be interested in?", he asked. I tried to contain myself and said, "Yes". He said he'd be visiting his daughter who lived nearby the next weekend and that he'd gets pictures, VIN, etc and an asking price on the car. As you can imagine, I spent a sleepless week thinking about this car. What's it worth or more specifically what would I be willing to pay for it? What would I do with it? If it's all original, it's a museum piece that can't be touched, or driven and belongs in a museum. I have room in my garage but it's not a museum so it would just be taking up space and nobody would see it. I was totally perplexed, but first things first. I had to get this car.

I didn't want to sound too anxious, but after about 10 sleepless nights, I called the guy. Turns out he delayed his trip and wouldn't be going till next week. Then after a couple weeks, I call him again. Well, his buddy was out of town so he couldn't see the car. You know how this ends. Pretty soon he stops returning my calls. I have to assume that this car never existed.

Has this ever happened to you? Why would he make up such an elaborate story? Why would he want to deal with the aftermath? What would make someone do something so pointless and senseless? Years later, I'm still shaking my head...
 

drooartz

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Sounds to me like the friend just didn't want to be bothered. I don't know that it was necessarily made up, but just more work and hassle then the friend wanted to deal with. A casual comment about it turned into work. I would agree that it's odd that someone would bring it up and not follow through, but I suppose not all that unusual behavior for humans. ;)
 
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Randyz

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But I did a little research while waiting for info from this guy. He claimed to not know much about factory racing Sprites, but the details rang true. And most of the cars they ever ran at Sebring have been accounted for, but there might be one still missing. I just don't know why he would string me along like that. I seriously doubt that the car ever existed. I do know what town it was supposedly in and it's a tiny place. If there was ever a tire store with a warehouse behind it, that wouldn't be hard to locate. If I ever get out that way, I might stop and investigate a little.
 
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Randyz

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Here's another story. A few years ago I was looking for a Bugeye shell. A friend of mine put me in touch with a guy. This guy told me that he owned some farmland about 100 miles from my house in the middle of nowhere. He said he had a barn full of Sprites and Midgets. According to him there were more than a dozen, including many Bugeyes, SCCA racecars, extra engines, gearboxes - just a ton of stuff he'd like to sell. I told him I couldn't take everything, but I was racing Spridgets and I knew a lot of people. He split his time between St. Louis and Fort Worth, but he would be coming home for Thanksgiving. He gave me directions and we planned to meet up at his barn. That morning before I headed out, I called him. He said he had a big fight with family members and was headed back to St. Louis and hung up on me. I know exactly where the barn is because I located on Earthview at the end of a long dirt road. I still have his contact info, but I don't figure it could ever be worth trying to deal with this guy.
 

DrEntropy

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That morning before I headed out, I called him. He said he had a big fight with family members and was headed back to St. Louis and hung up on me. I know exactly where the barn is because I located on Earthview at the end of a long dirt road. I still have his contact info, but I don't figure it could ever be worth trying to deal with this guy.

A sage old guy (my paternal grandfather) once told me: "Son, never stick yer hand into a cat fight!" referring to another family's issues. Looks as if you've made a sound decision.
 
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Randyz

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Here's another detail I left out of that last story. While making arrangements for our meet-up at the barn, I mentioned that I was bringing along a friend and fellow racer with me. This guy responds, "No way. You're coming alone. I don't need you bringing any jackass friends out there. Somebody stole a set of Jaguar fenders from the barn, so I don't like people knowing where it is." I explained that this guy wasn't a jackass, he was an 80-year-old Korean War Air Force veteran who could be trusted. He didn't care. So I was going out there alone. Just another sign that this guy was not going to be easy to deal with.
 

SaxMan

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In the aviation world, particular when dealing with Warbirds, these stories seem to pop up on a consistent basis, but seldom, if ever, pan out. If I had a dollar for every "I have a friend who has a (insert rare aircraft type) tucked away in a barn that no one knows about" Sometimes it's a case of mistaken identity. One of the more common ones are people saying there is a B-26 Marauder tucked away somewhere and it turns out to be an A-26 Invader. The A-26 is still a cool airplane, but not nearly as rare as the Marauder. And then there are the stories that won't go away: The Spitfires buried in their crates in Burma, or the secret tunnel in the Bavarian Alps that still holds all kinds of German aircraft.

Generally, if the story seems to good to be true, it usually is. However, every once in a blue moon a story pans out. For instance, the Martin Maryland was long considered an extinct aircraft where no examples remained. One example, although incomplete, did resurface recently. Not sure what happened to it, but it does exist.
 
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Randyz

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Funny you should bring up vintage warbirds, because that's another interest of mine. I'm not a pilot and the cost of a WWII aircraft is totally out of reach for me, but I still follow what goes on out there.
 

allen hanford

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I've had a couple of experiences like that with motorcycles. With one, I think the guy had underpriced it, with a other someone else had bought it for more money. In both cases the guys just dodged my calls rather than have an awkward conversation.

One bike that I actually ended up getting was a mid-seventies Bonneville that took forever to go see. It was in the back room of a business and when I finally got to see it, the guy said "It's good that you called. I was going to throw it into the dumpster."
 
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