Episode 57. Pontiac Trans Am. GOX 144V. (Part 2).

I initially bought my 1980 Pontiac Firebird. 4.9 litre V8 with just 59556 miles on it way back in March 2015! So I figured that I might as well tell this little tale from the very beginning...

I was sitting on the sofa idly browsing ebay in the states, I had been watching quite a lot of The Rockford Files at the time, and I was just sort of browsing looking for a 1974-76 Firebird, and if possible, it wanted to be GOLD, not Spandau Ballet Gold, Jim Rockford Gold! To be honest, the '74-'76 Firebird isn't my favourite shape Firebird, my favourite shape is the '77-'79, but as I've already had one of those...

(^^^That one^^^) I thought I'd look at one with a different face as my Second generation (1970–1981) Firebird itch had obviously not been scratched long or hard enough. I figured that I would go for the earlier 1974-76 Firebird instead. As a side note, my one of my friends, an ex-car dealer chappie, has always said that my red Firebird above, was not a proper one, as a proper one is the '78-'81 model as driven by Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit, and it has to be BLACK! I personally disagree with this statement as Burt drove a '78-'81 model in Smokey and the Bandit 2. In Smokey and the Bandit Burt actually drove a 1976 Trans Am, which Pontiac had modified to look like a 1977 Trans Am so that when the film came out in 1977, it would coincide with the release of the new facelifted 1977 Trans Am, and would be a great advertisment for Pontiac. After the debut of Smokey and the Bandit the Trans Am became wildly popular with sales almost doubling in two years of the film's release, to the delight of General Motors no doubt! Burt was then given the 1977 vehicle that was used during promotion of the film as a gift, although the car itself never actually appeared in the film... Anyway, my arguement to my friend was that the 'proper' one, if there is such a thing, would be the one from the first film, and not the second one. And if the problem was that Burt drove a black one, and not a red one, well, he drove a red one in Hooper! Anyway, I feel that I'm probably getting away from the point here...

So back to my black one, as I said I was really looking for a '74-'76 Firebird, but as I sat there browsing this 1980 Firebird pops up, and as I said, it's not my favourite shape but I'd not had one before so I showed it to Mrs Clint who was sitting on the sofa next to me. The auction had minutes left on it, and at the time it was at just $4650, Mrs Clint thought that was cheap, and so did I. So as we were just sitting there, I watched it for the final minutes until we were counting down the seconds, 59, 58, 57, 56, should I bid on it? Should I? 45, 44, 43, 42, I looked at Mrs Clint, and asked her what she thought? 32, 31, 30, 29. Mrs Clint looked at me, GO FOR IT, she said... The light is GREEN for GO!! I didn't need telling twice! 20, 19, 18, 17, I put in my bid of $5000.13, and got ready to hit confirm...12, 11, 10, 9, 8, my heart was pounding in my chest with the excitement, was it really going to be mine, was it?.. 6, 5, 4, 3 confirm CONFIRM!!! I jabbed at the screen on my tablet and waited for the screen to refresh, my heart thumping away, was it mine, WAS IT? The screen refreshed, and there was that green stripe across the top of the auction listing with the words, You won this auction... FANTASTIC!! We've got another Firebird!! So for just $4700 I had got it! Right, as usual contact the seller straight away to arrange a bank transfer. Then call the shippers, arrange to get it collected, six to eight weeks from now... I'm gonna be the Bandit!

Or so I thought... First problem, contact the seller, oh pooh (Said Christopher Robbins) I just noticed they've only got one feedback!! Ok, try not to panic (heart still racing from the excitement of winning the damn thing!) we've been here before, and it worked out ok! They've probably been on ebay for ages, and just haven't needed to use it, when did they join? Aaarrgh, just two weeks earlier! I wondered why I am so stupid? Why didn't I look at that first? I'll tell you why, because I had got caught up in the moment, I got all excited, and let my thumping heart rule my wooden head! Ok, calmly as possible, contact the seller, and try to work out if I was about to get ripped off! I fired off an email... "Hi, I have just won your Firebird, but I am in the UK, and I will need to pay you directly from my bank to your bank. I will need from you this information. The full name and address of your bank. Your full name, address, and account type. Your account number, or International Bank Account Number (IBAN). You should be able to get this information from your bank, or from your banking statement. Your bank’s SWIFT/BIC code. Once I have this information I will transfer the funds within 24 hours." I waited, and waited, and waited some more, finally nearly two days later I got the reply. "Hi, I'm sorry but I don't have a bank account! Can you pay me via Western Union?" Now, I was trying to pay someone I didn't know $4700, which was nearly £3500! What do they mean they've not got a bank account? Everyone has a bank account don't they?

This is my chance to get out of it I thought to myself, I don't know where I'd read it, but somewhere along the line I'd read that if you're paying for something on the internet, and it was costing a lot of money, using someone like Western Union was a bad idea as it's hard to trace where the money went, or something like that. With a wire transfer, my bank knows where the money went, so it, and the person who received it can be traced! So, I sent the lady selling the Firebird another email saying that I was sorry but I was not happy about paying her via Western Union, and asking her if it would it be at all possible for her to set up a bank account. Only then I could pay her for the Firebird. I told her that I wasn't trying to mess her around, but paying via a wire transfer from my bank to her bank really was the safest way. If she was prepared to set up a bank account I would be able to pay her, and that would be great. But if she didn't want to set up a bank account, and would rather cancel the transaction, then I would completely understand.

I hoped that she would rather proceed with the transaction, and I told her that I was very serious about completing this transaction, and I was not trying to mess her about. I also asked if it was possible for her to take a few more photos and send them to me. I waited for my reply, and within a couple of hours I got one, she said, she would go and create a banking account, and that she would also take some more photos and send them to my email address today. Now then, why did I want some more photos? Well, I was still quite nervous about who I was dealing with, and I thought that if she could take new photos of the car, then atleast that means that she probably has that car, plus what I also wanted, was her email address. Once she had sent me the new photos (which were taken in a different location than the ones she had used in her listing on fleabay) I copied her email address, and pasted into the search bit on farcebook! BINGO!! She's got a profile, instantly this made me feel a little bit better about the transaction, as if you were plannning to rip someone off, you probably wouldn't use an email address linked to your farcebook profile... Unless ofcourse thats fake too!

Anyway, a couple of days passed, and I then get an email saying that she had opened a bank account, but she wasn't sure about giving me the details as she don't want me to be able to have access to my bank account incase I stole all her money! She went on to say that she would still prefer me to pay her via Western Union. I thought to myself, hang on a minute, steal all her money, a couple of days ago she told me that she didn't have a bank account!! Alarm bells ding-ding-ding... So I replied, that I was sorry, but I wasn't prepared to pay via Western Union, and that a wire transfer from my bank to your bank was the safest option. I asked her to seek advice from her bank on the information I needed regarding the safety of a wire transfer. When she was satisfied that this is a safe way to do the transaction, if she would send me the details I required I would pay her within 24 hours.

Ten days or so go by, and I hear nothing, and I'd pretty much given up hope and then I got an email from her with the bank details I required and asking me to transfer the funds as soon as I was able. I jotted down the details and replied that the funds would be transferred that day, and would show up in her account within the next 48 hours. I then asked her to confirm her address where the Firebird could be collected from, and to give me a collection date that suited her, and I would arrange the collection of it. I then headed off to the bank, to nervously transfer the funds! Funds transferred I then went back home to sit nervously waiting for an email to arrange the shipping of the car, from the seller. Eventually after a long couple of days I got an email confirming that she had the funds in her bank, and confirming a time, date, and place that the Firebird can be collected. I contact my shippers, with all the information, and asked them for a quote... This is a lot of words, time for a photo I think!

This is one of the photos the seller sent me, I know you're probably lusting over the gorgeous black bodywork, but draw your eyes away from that for a second... Just look at those tail pipes! By now, due to all the bank account setting up fun it was April! But she gives me a date when she can be around all day long to wait for my shipping company to come and collect the Firebird, the thing was though that it wasn't until the first week of May! But then I figured that I'd waited this long, another three weeks or so hopefully wouldn't hurt! So I contacted DAS who is the shipping company that I have always used to ship my cars from Americaland, as they've always been really good for me in the past, had never let me down, and I've always been pleased with their service. I always email the same guy too as he always sorts me out a good price. So I email the fella at DAS, tell him the location of the car in Seattle, and where I want it to be shipped to (Southampton, UK) He hits me back with a price $2039 plus the optional $75 for marine insurance, this shaped up to around about £1500 at the time. I told him I was happy with the qoute, and we set up a card payment over the phone. It's paid, and he tells me that I'll get an email once the Firebird is collected! I hung up the phone, and immediately Barclaycard ring! "Do you know that someone has just used your card to spend £1500 in the USA?" They said. I replied that I did know as it was me. "Fair enough" comes the reply, "Have a good day." Probably the quickest phone call I've ever had from a credit card company! It's quite comforting to know that they are watching over my spending, I wonder what they'd have said if I didn't know any transaction had been made? 

Anyway, three weeks later I get an email from the shippers saying that they'd been to collect the car, but the owner wasn't home! Arrrgh! I sent them an email asking if the car was there, and then sent an email to the seller telling them that the shippers were unable to collect the car as she wasn't at home! I get an email back from the shippers, the car was there! Phew, that's a (small) relief I guess! I then get a very apologetic email back from the seller saying that she just plain forgot! So we arranged another day for collection with the shippers, and this time... She was home to meet them and the Firebird was collected! I then sent another email to the seller, reminding her that she needs to send the Title, and Bill of Sale to the Shipping company, and they will sort it out from there! Ok she says, and that was that. 

A couple more weeks roll by and I'm thinking, I wonder whats happening with the Firebird, surely the shippers have the documents now, so I sent them an email asking if they've got the documents? No, came the reply, we've not received them yet. So I sent an email to the seller who informed me that they'd sent them... Then guess what? They drop on my doormat with the rest of the post that day!! By now it's June, and the car can't leave American soil until the American Customs have authorised (or should that be authorized as it's in America?) the documents which I have! I emailed the shippers and told them that I had been sent the documents, to which they say, great, send them to our office in the U.S. which I did as soon as possible! About another week goes by and I get an email from the shippers with a date that my Firebird would be sailing, the first week in July!

To me, the the process of getting this car was starting to feel really drawn out, but eventually the first week in July comes, and on the day that my Firebird was due to be loaded, I got an email saying, that they cannot load my Firebird as when they tried to start it, it had developed a fuel leak. Apparently it would need to have it's fuel tank drained, and it will need to be containerized to prevent fire! They went on to say that they could containerize it on it's own and it will sail on this sailing for an extra $1200, or they could wait until there's space in another container, and it will be shipped at no extra charge on the next available vessel. I decided I'd waited this long I might as well save my money, and wait a bit longer. A week or so later I get another email saying that my vehicle has been containerized in a shared container, and will be shipped onboard the Osaka Express on the 27th July 2015, estimated arrival date at Southampton Docks, England on the 28th August 2015. Hooooraaaaaaaaahh!! It's on it's way... Finally!!

As it happened on August the 28th I was down at Lepe beach, when I spied with my little eye, this as it sailed into the Solent... (Apologies for the low quality photo taken with out of date film!)

The Osaka Express... It's here, the wait is over! Usually I don't have my cars shipped in a container, and what I tend to do is a couple of days before the ship is due to dock I go down to the docks, and have a chat with the guys at Wallenius Wilhelmsen, who it has to be said are extremely helpful, they sort out the import duties etc for me, I pay them, they bring my car out, and I take it home. So as usual I went to see them, but they said that they aren't dealing with my car because it's in a container, and they only deal with the stuff that is driven onto, and off of the ship. However, even though they were not dealing with the importation of my Firebrd, they were still very helpful, and showed me which berth to go to, and told me who to speak to. 

When I got there, I had a chat with the fellas on the gate who told me that my car wouldn't be unpacked for a couple of days, and they would contact me when I could collect it. On the 9th of September nearly six months after winning it on fleabay I got an email saying that my car was now unpacked, and ready for collection. Ofcourse I was at home in the evening when I read it, so there was no way I would be able to arrange transport for the following day. 

But it mattered not to me because the following day I was intending to be down at the docks looking at my Firebird. Finally after all this time, I was actually stood infront (and behind) of it for the first time!

Good lord look at those pipes! They're far worse than they looked in the picture! I think they're gonna need some attention! But first I needed to sort out some transport and get this thing outta there!

To be continued...