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Invisible Rust

Invisible Rust




Recently this car guy began actively searching for the next old car to purchase. It’s time, after eight years of ownership, for the 1958 Rambler in the garage to occupy someone else’s hallowed temple of wheels. As a result a daily computer search is being made in the hopes of finding the Rambler’s replacement.

An on-line ad was advertising a 1955 Ford as, and this is a direct quote, including the all capital letters and exclamation, “ABSOLUTLY NO RUST!” I exchanged several emails and phone calls with the seller and then left for the 160 mile roundtrip required to check out this rust free car. Hey, nobody would be so bold as to make such a claim if it was not true, right?

Suspicions were aroused, upon arriving at the seller’s garage, when I noticed that stuck on the lower front corner of each door was a large Ford logo sticker. Rubbing my hand over each sticker revealed the bubbling rust underneath. This was followed by finding another area of serious rust in the trunk lid. These discoveries were brought to the seller’s attention, to which he replied “You know, I think you’re right. I’ve never noticed those rust spots before.” This was coming from a guy that had a garage filled with car guy stuff; car show trophies, an extensive tool selection and a 1934 Ford roadster. I expressed my disappointment and left.

My next adventure was only a 70 mile roundtrip to inspect several interesting vintage vehicles being offered by a seller. While wandering through the cars on display I noticed a 1964 Ford Falcon convertible. All four fenders had huge areas of rust, as did both rocker panels, resulting in this being, at best, a “drive it until it self-destructs” car, or as a parts supplier for another Falcon’s restoration. Any repair of the existing rust damage would cost a minimum of twice what the car will be worth when the repairs are completed. Upon returning home I went to the computer for the now standard thrice daily car search. The Falcon seller’s website was visited and there were the words “No significant rust” in the description of the Falcon. Webster’s Dictionary defines significant as, in part, “full of meaning, important; momentous”. Trust me, the rust was momentous.

The third sad example in this rant involves a restored 1955 Pontiac that, fortunately, was only a 30 mile roundtrip drive from home. The seller was advertising the car as a total “bare metal” restoration that resulted in a car that “ what it looked like on the showroom floor in 1955.” I’m pretty confident that not many dealership showrooms, back in 1955, displayed new cars with rust in the driver’s door and a few other places in the body. Realizing that the necessary repairs will result in too large of an investment it made it an easy decision to not buy this “excellent example” car. I went on my merry way, which included a trip back to the computer. Spotting the seller’s ad on-line I, just for fun, emailed the question “Is there any rust in the body panels of the Pontiac” to which the seller responded “No sir, Mr. Lambert. She is clean as a whistle and showroom fresh”. I’ll add this to my long list of stories to tell to the guys at the next car show.

So what is a smart shopper supposed to do when they find a car of interest? Ask the seller lots of questions and ask for as many pictures as you can get prior to traveling to see the car. Be very suspect if photos of certain parts of the car are not provided. The farther away the car is located the more information you should request. Consider asking an automobile appraiser or unbiased third party in the seller’s area to take a look at the car. I try to make an adventure out of my trips; load the car up with some friends, stop for bad food along the way, check out some local sights and make it a fun day. The day I purchased my Rambler was filled with a 350 mile drive, lots of laughs with three of my car buddies and, best of all, finding a rust free car that was actually better than described.

Good luck!