Driving a Hard Bargain

June 06, 1999

You see what Neiman Marcus is pushing as a Father's Day gift?

Feel the need for speed? This truly remarkable NASCAR Winston
Cup Ford Taurus is the real deal. It's not a show car.... It is
an actual race car built by Roush Racing and it's been driven by
Mark Martin in Winston Cup competition. --$125,000.00

O.K., what's Needless Markup trying to pull here?

Hey, I know used cars. My brother is in the used-car game. I've
owned more used cars than Crazy Freddie. I've bought toothless
Barracudas and gutless Probes and aimless Pathfinders. Never once
did I pay asking price. One hundred twenty-five grand? For a used
car?

"That's about right," says Jimmy Fennig, crew chief for Martin.

"Let's just see about that," I said, reaching for the old blue
book and slapping it into the palm of my hand a couple times for
effect.

"What year?"

"Ninety-eight," Fennig said.

"Mileage?"

"It's only got two races in it," he said. "About 2,000."

"Surrrre. And only driven on Sundays, right?"

Fennig just smiled.

"You got the o.d. paperwork?"

"The what?"

"The odometer paperwork!"

"No odometer," he said.

I made note of that in the margin of my blue book, keeping my eye
on him. "Is that the Taurus LX, the SE or the SHO?" I asked.

"I don't know. Ford gives us the sheet metal. We make 'em
ourselves."

"Uh-huh. Those tires?"

"Racing slicks."

"They're so bald you can see the air in 'em," I pointed out.

"Racing tires don't have tread."

I scribbled in the blue book. "Gas economy?"

"About five miles to the gallon," he said.

I tsk-tsked. "Options?" I asked.

"Whaddya mean?"

"Options! Power windows!"

"It ain't got windows," he said. "It's got a net on the driver's
side."

"Fiddle?"

"What?"

"Stereo!" I said.

"Oh," he said. "No."

"Dual bags?"

"Nah," he said, "but it's got a roll bar."

"Doorside bags?"

"No doors," he said. "You climb in and out the window."

"Bean can," I mumbled. I made more scratchy marks in my blue
book.

"Eight-way power seats?"

"It's only got one seat, and it's bolted down."

"Blows cold?" I asked.

"What?"

"Air conditioning!"

"No, but it's got all the heat you'd ever want."

"Emissions sticker?"

"This thing ain't street legal. It's a race car."

Resale very low, I scribbled.

He then informed me, rather tersely I thought, that the car also
had no headlights, no taillights, no wipers, no armrests, no
glove box and no cup holders, if I wanted to put all that in my
book.

"All right," I said. "Let's take her for a little spin."

Fennig looked at me as if I were from Burkina Faso. "It's not
street legal," he said again.

I said, fine, let's take it on the track. He gave me some
cockamamy excuse about the Coca-Cola 600 going on at the moment.

There was an uncomfortable silence. I buried my head in the blue
book for the longest time.

"According to the Kelley Blue Book," I finally pronounced, "a '98
Taurus, with no windows, no odometer, no backseats, no wipers, no
cruise control, no tilt steering wheel, no leather, no sunroof,
no alloy wheels and a gas tank that takes up much of the trunk,
would be worth, retail, $15,100. Take it or leave it."

"I gotta get back to the garage," he said.

Hey, somebody's got to protect the public.

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA

The car also had no headlights, no taillights, no wipers, no
armrests, no glove box and no cup holders.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)