An American view of the used car question



WE have just come across an article by E. Hoffman Price, entitled “Jaded Jaloppies,” which apparently appeared in “For Men Only,” and which has for some time lain concealed in an Editorial drawer. It gives a decidedly American view of the used-car question, the author expressing the opinion that internal combustion virgins are not worth the price of admission—this opinion is backed by the statement that he has never bought a new car. A two-year-old Hudson Eight which had done only 8,000 miles was driven over twice as far again at a depreciation cost of “two cents per 5,280 feet.” Reliability was ensured by a tune-up test on a testing-set operated by a reliable man, at a cost of $2.50 per inspection. And that, this article explains, is the whole secret of satisfactory used-car ownership—what a pity our L.C.C. doesn’t heed this when buying the used Yanks they are converting into A.R.P. ambulances: though our vintage enthusiasts seem to get along very nicely without scientific car-vetting.

A Terraplane did 19,000 miles in nine months, including 850 miles of the Arizona desert at a 50 m.p.h. average. It was bought cheap because, it is alleged, the valve timing was originally out just enough to burn out the exhaust valves. A used late-model Packard cost the same as a new smaller car and the bigger fuel bill was balanced by the lower depreciation write-off. A tale follows of how the author was nearly swindled by a dealer when helping a friend to buy a car, inclusive of the discovery of red stains on the carburetter which showed that it was on Ethyl and not cheap spirit, and that the performance was down on normal “Ethyl-showing.” A good “tuneup-man” indicated just how bad that motor was. Follows a tale of a second-hand eight-cylinder bought from a reliable firm, which three times ran No. 6 big-end at 75 m.p.h., in 1,800 miles running. The price of the car, we are told, was refunded, and a new deal done over a V12 Packard [a rare car; MOTOR SPORT tested one in February, 1934] This Packard did 18,000 fast, trouble- free miles, within a year and later the author bought a hack Pierce-Arrow from the same dealer for $50. On another occasion he bought a slightly damaged sixteen-year-old Hispano-Suiza for $40; it drew the Highway Cops too often and the engine was sold for a boat. Foreign cars, we are told, are not heavy on gas as is rumoured, but spares are expensive; a Mercedes-Benz front axle costs $450 in America, against $40 for that for the biggest Packard, Cadillac or Lincoln. The author definitely believes in used cars and it seems with good reason— though we doubt if Vintage enthusiasts will agree that you buy a used car “to save dough for the little woman to squander,” which, in America, is apparently considered the most sensible reason of all for not buying a new car.