Choosing a car for rational reasons is overrated

Buying safe might be sensible, but sensible is for those who don't have stories to tell.

1986 Toyota AE 86 Trueno Coupe Red 27
If there’s anything more reliable than ill-advised decisions around buying cars, it’s that there’s someone else ready to do the exact same thing after you. This powers the whole enthusiast vehicle economy

On two occasions, I’ve bought a 30-year-old car sight-unseen from interstate.


Because when it comes to cars, my brain has developed a special bypass circuit around the rational, logical bit that I otherwise depend on to make every other decision in my life. (It's true, he's a bit boring if not for the cars – Ed.)

1986 Toyota AE86 Sprinter used car guide

The first was a 1984 Toyota AE86 Sprinter with about 240,000km on the clock. That's it, above. How it looks now.

They don’t come up for sale often, and when it did, I was helplessly tossed about by waves of impulsiveness that dragged me out into the straits of Bad Decisions, where my ability to make sound judgements was reduced from that of a toddler to that of, at best, a parrot.

“Just transfer me the $5000 and I’ll meet you at the airport with the car,” said the voice on the phone. I’d read horror stories of people transferring large sums for car deposits to interstate buyers, only for them to disappear completely...

1986 Toyota AE 86 Trueno Coupe Red 39

Armed with these instructions and dismissing my fears, I hit submit in the Commbank app and booked my flight.

Luckily, the car was there at Adelaide Airport and, even more luckily, it made it back to Melbourne. 

There’s a lot to be said for having an interest in old Toyotas. Thank goodness I’m not irrationally titillated by old Alfa Romeos.

It turned out it had so much cancerous rust that if it was a person any doctor would have given it mere weeks to live, and it blew smoke like a 19th-century steam train.

Street Machine News Nissan Silvia S 13 Black 1

Then there was the time I bought a turbocharged S13 Nissan Silvia – a ‘race only’ import that couldn’t be registered.

I had nowhere to store it, no way of getting it and, private property aside, nowhere to drive it.

For some reason, all of this only occurred to me the day before I was due to collect it, and after I had transferred the full payment. I spent a full morning summoning the courage to call the dealership to try to back out of the sale.

“Nyet, we vill not refund your money, and you must collect ze car tomorrow,” an Eastern European accent scowled down the phone line. 

And so, terrified of ending up in a bridge pylon somewhere, or in a sausage roll at a Siberian bakery, I sourced a tow vehicle, a trailer, and did as ordered.

They say you’re allowed to make mistakes once, so long as you learn from them. I guess I just love learning. You might be thinking I’m a fool – and, when it comes to my life in cars, you’d be mostly correct.

b05c0973133/1986 toyota ae86 trueno coupe red 21 jpg

But it was Mark Twain who said you can’t reason with your heart. “It has its own laws, and thumps about things which the intellect scorns.”

If you only listened to your head, you’d be driving a 2005 Toyota Camry and drinking nothing but nutritionally optimised gruel.

And if there’s anything more reliable than making ill-advised decisions when it comes to buying cars, it’s that there’s someone else out there ready to do the exact same thing after you. This powers the whole enthusiast vehicle economy.

b9bd0a06/1986 toyota ae86 trueno coupe red 56 jpg

Broken brain

The first AE86 I bought, I sold within 24 hours to someone else reduced to breathing exclusively from the mouth at the sheer sight of a 30-year-old, rust-ridden Corolla.

Terrified of being dishonest in any way, I wrote a warts-and-all ad detailing every problem I knew, priced it slightly below market, and still had more than 50 enquiries within two hours – and made a small profit.

My second interstate, sight-unseen purchase was another Toyota AE86 Sprinter, and it’s the one I own now.

At the time, paying $22,000 for a cheaply built, 1986 Toyota was clear evidence that the wiring was all wrong upstairs. But today, it’s worth multiples of that, simply because there are plenty of others who share the same brain bypass circuit.

May it continue to function as intended.


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