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The Blacklist

(by Guy Allen - Travels with Guido series, MT #314, circa Oct 2016)

Guido has your number and he’s not answering

1947 indian motorcycle

Okay, I’m curious. Are you one of those people who rings on a bike ad and spends the next half hour trying to deflate the owner without ever clapping eyes on them or the machine? Now to be fair, many of us have bought motorcycles over the phone and internet, so negotiation by remote is inevitable. But there’s a difference – perhaps a fine one – between negotiating and being a depressive body-snatching gimp.
I guess what has me cranky is recent experience with three would-be buyers of motorcycles. Sometimes I have a desire to cut back the size of the fleet and I’d like to think I’m realistic enough to realise no matter how much I like something, the market will only pay so much – which is probably slightly less than what the next one is being offered for.
And, let’s face it, losing money on a motorcycle will hardly be a new experience. What got me going this morning was a call on a 1947 Indian Chief I made the mistake of advertising on Ebay. Seriously, it seems to bring out the crackpots, the sharks and the self-appointed market gurus.
First the numpty tried calling late – very late – which seemed odd. What’s my favourite feature on a mobile phone? The off button. Returning the message the next morning, I got hit with a three-part strategy, which I admit wasn’t half bad.
First: Ask a bunch of questions about which parts are original – some sensible, some downright daffy. Such as whether the spotlight set was on the bike when it was delivered in 1947. Seriously? Hang on a sec, I’ll ask it. Or when was the bike imported here? How on god’s green earth could that make a difference? Yes it was imported here some time in the last 70 years, and I’ve made no claims about a rich local history – or otherwise. It went on, until I started getting terse, realising this was just a means of throwing muggins off-balance. Next…
Second: Point out how the market is actually flooded with the same model and that you’ve found a nest of bargains for far less money. Mysteriously none of them seem to be publicly advertised. In the end, a clipped, “Well if that’s true, I suggest you go and buy it right now,” seems to be enough to shut that line of pollywaffle.
Third: Look, I the buyer happen to be coming to Melbourne and can probably find a short window of time, if you’re really lucky, to see the bike. If you’re able to negotiate, we can do a deal on the day. (What I’m hearing is, ‘If you’re gullible enough it shouldn’t take more than half an hour for me to steal your bike from you.’)
About this stage I’m responding in monosyllables, through clenched teeth, wishing there was some way I could remove the safety of the telephone line and materialise in this idiot’s lounge room.
The final straw was the fantastic question, “Does it have matching numbers?” I paused a moment, thinking, ‘where do I start?’. He took this as a sign of confusion or ignorance and patiently explained he was looking for matching frame and engine numbers. Clearly, he was dealing with the village idiot. What I wanted to explain was Indian, like many makers at the time, did not always manage matching numbers in 1947.
So here’s a tip for those of you who’ve got the ‘matching numbers’ thing stuck in your head. First find out if what you’re looking for actually existed. People have in fact stamped matching numbers on Chiefs of this vintage, thus creating an element of fakery! There was a system in place, but you need to know what you’re looking at. Sunbeam, meanwhile, in 1947 simply bolted together whatever came off the workbench. There, matching numbers would indicate a rare coincidence, or more likely a fake.
My caller and I did not part friends. His number has been added to a short but growing blacklist of people who will be ice-skating in hell before I’ll sell them a motorcycle…

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