“Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends…”

March 15, 2013 9:00 pm

Oh yes, it was time for the Lord to buy me a Porsche, well, not the Lord, but myself. Not because all my friends drive Porsche I hasten to add, but simply because I think I deserve a Porsche. A bright red 911 – everyman’s wet dream (including mine) – the iconic yuppie car and babe magnet. The stuff motoring dreams are made of.

Year of the Yuppie

I remember very clearly, Michael, the mega-cool photographer boyfriend of my dad’s boss’ daughter, Susie, in the early 1980s, (my dad and his boss were good friends so we used to hang out with his family a lot when I was a kid). Stefan, he was a yuppie par excellence: floppy hair, sunglasses and a Porsche 911 Targa of course. My uncle Peter was a yuppie too: there is still a yellowed photograph of him floating about in my desk somewhere, showing Peter in the mid 1970s with his polo neck, mega-long sideburns and red Porsche 911 visible in the background outside his house on the island of Sylt, (which is something like the German Saint Tropez), home of the Rich and Famous Kraut style. He was 25 back then. And those were the days when you couldn’t finance cars as easily as you can nowadays. To afford expensive sports cars in the 1970s you either had to be loaded or shady. Peter set out to become a multi-millionaire (and then lost it all because he turned out to be shady).

No wonder that growing up with these role models I have always aspired to own a red 911, preferably a 1980s model. After all, I wanted to be part of the honourable yuppie club (albeit a bit late). Alas, as a poor journo, I never had the means to acquire one of these fast beauties, (I bought the sun glasses, the polo necks but not the Porsche), until one day I saw this ad on Gumtree: for sale was a bright red Porsche 911 Targa, made in the year of the Lord 1985, in mint condition for merely £2200. I spent a week lost in daydreams roaring around London in that beautiful motor, (the sound of the famous boxer engine in the back is to me what the lurid singing of the sirens must have been to Ulysses). More importantly I tried to picture the long faces of all my (male) friends.

Then I contacted the seller. Now, I know that 911s are usually much pricier so I assumed it was a shit box, in need of a lot of TLC, with no wheels and no engine, but I was beyond care and reason as I had been infected by the classic car virus. For those of you who have never experienced this particular form of mental illness – it comes along with sweaty nights (in some instances even wet dreams!), tunnel vision (you spot the classic car you are about to purchase everywhere), extreme paranoia (somebody might buy the car of your dreams before you), a heightened state of anxiety (nothing matters except buying, driving and tinkering with the car of your choice). In a way it’s like being in love only much nicer….

I write a lot about Internet scam and of course I was duly suspicious. When things on the Internet (or in real life for that matter) seem to good to be true, they usually aren’t true. Ads posted by scammers are mostly written along these guidelines. And this ad def sounded too good to be true. But I was stricken with desire at that point and even wild horses couldn’t stop my impending downfall. I e-mailed the seller and he told me the car was still available and that he worked on a oilrig so he was always out at sea. Mike Preston was his name and he lived high up north in Inverness. Mike told me that we could do the deal through eBay Motors if I didn’t fancy coming all the way to Scotland. I would transfer the money to an eBay account and he would have the car delivered to my door, where I had three days to inspect the beautiful beast and decide whether I wanted to keep it or not. What will sound like utter tomfoolery to most readers sounded like music to my ears. Because after all there was no risk, right? I would get my money back if I didn’t like the car, right? I mean that’s the deal of a lifetime, right? In no time I had transferred my dosh to the account without actually checking where I’d sent the money. Yes, that was foolish, but I have done foolish things round cars before and they’ve always worked out so I was a bit cocky. And don’t forget – I was struck by a severe case of the classic car virus.

Red Porsche 911 Targa

Instead of checking where my money went I was lost in a world of pleasant dreams based on the fact that I would finally own my very own Porsche 911. I couldn’t quite believe my luck but it was true. Then the doubts set in but not the kind of doubts you would expect – was I really cut to own an iconic motor like that? Did I have the right attire? The right haircut? Shoes? House? I would def have to get rid of that beer gut and work out again. After all, you can’t belong to the 911 club looking like Ricky Tomlinson. After all this godly motor is the ticket to Walhalla in the after life. I know for a fact that even the Vikings believed as much. What would all my friends say? My kids? My parents? I tried to push thoughts of my wife to the back of my mind as she would be fuming with rage. She had a point of course because there where more important things to spend money on than a 911 – in her opinion anyway. I was busy digging up my old steering wheel lock and I was wrecking my brains about what to wear on the great day. Also, where would I park the car before I’d tell my wife? I was sure her anger would eventually subside because an iconic car like this is an investment, you can sell it ten years later for double the purchase price. It’s like buying vintage wine or jewellery. But I still had a feeling that my wife might object, so I decided not to tell her just yet.

A few days after I had transferred the princely sum of £2200 to this unknown bank account, the seller contacted me to let me know that the car would be delivered on Friday at 5pm. ‘That works rather well’, I thought to myself, ‘I just have to make sure that the Porsche is safely parked before my wife comes back home from work.’ Of course I couldn’t tell my kids about this either because they would have gone straight to my wife to brag about the new Porsche. I felt like a ten-year-old boy on Christmas Eve.

Come Friday the excitement flipped over into panic – what if the car got stolen outside my house? What if it was stolen to begin with? What if it was a wreck and didn’t drive at all? My head was brimming with nagging doubts. At around 3pm I suddenly had a very funny feeling about the whole thing, so I googled Mike Preston in Inverness. When his ad appeared on the screen of my Mac on a website warning against Internet scammers I started to get stomach cramps. Feeling sick and weak I limped to my sofa to lie down.

online scam

A short while later I was fuming with rage and my mind screamed abuse at Mike Preston at first, then at myself. I had been thoroughly scammed, taken for a ride (if you excuse the pun), shafted, betrayed, tricked, deceived, conned, duped and swindled. Me, the car journo, who writes about online scammers. Me, who has bought 20 second-hand cars in his life (the cheapest one was a VW Passat Estate for £20 if you must know), several motors on eBay (without having seen them) and I had never had any trouble. I was in shock, paralysed, and I had to lie motionless on my sofa in the front room for two hours. Needless to say that the Porsche didn’t turn up that Friday, or any other Friday. The account was of course not an eBay account, but a scammer’s account, and I had to wave good-bye to my £2200.

After the monstrous incident I had to pick up my kids from school, and I had to pretend that I was fine, even though I had just lost £2200 and I had been made a complete and utter fool off. Thankfully, I hadn’t told anyone to avoid eternal teasing in case the deal wouldn’t work out. I managed to pick up the kids and keep my cool and to this day I don’t know how I did that. In the meantime, my internal rage was alternately directed towards Mike Preston, myself, eBay, the Porsche car manufacturer in Stuttgart and Gumtree. But it was too late – the money had gone with the wind and with it my dreams of becoming a real yuppie, 20 years after Michael Douglas aka Gordon Gecko uttered those immortal words in the iconic 1987 blockbuster Wall Street: “Lunch is for wimps”.

This happened a few weeks back and meanwhile I have reported the scammer to the police, written Mike Preston a very, very angry e-mail and I’ve got my self-esteem back. The classic car fever has subsided, and whenever I feel a bout coming on I have a chat with my wife about classic cars as she thinks they are a useless waste of space. Still, I am preparing to get back in the saddle of the wild stallion that is the world of classic cars. The wonga is still gone but hey it’s only money, right? And of course, I will buy another classic car sooner or later. Well, in my case it will rather be later as I’ve just pissed all my cash down the dark drain of online trickery. But fresh and shiny pennies will be earned and new ads will be looked at by the writer of these lines. Technicolor dreams of glittering Aston Martins, Jaguars and Porsches will be dreamt. But I will most certainly give Gumtree a wide berth from now on when it comes to buying classic cars. And I will of course look at the car in the flesh first before I buy it.

PS: I still haven’t mustered up the courage to tell anyone about this so please keep quiet. Thank you!

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