The M3 story
This all started on the 7th of May. After a few months of wondering if I should
buy a new guitar amp, another watch (???), or get our 77 320i painted and spend
money on performance goodies for our very faithful 325i, the best road car
I’ve ever owned, I decided to buy an M3.
All the classic symptoms of denial/sickness were there. It’s a good
investment, it will be a better investment to put money into than the 320 or
325i. I will look so cool driving this car…I’m such a good driver. I deserve
this machine, this pinnacle of E30 engineering. Andrea will love it too. Really,
I was going to let her drive it, really I was, like maybe once in a while. OK,
once in a really great while…
So I’m doing all the usual things, reading the Roundel, looking on FleaBay,
and all the E30 sites on the net.
The car was in the Auto Trader. The ad looked just like this;
1989 BMW M3, red/sand, 107kmi., a/c converted 134A, garage kept, very
clean car, $10,500 boo, 561-383-7985
That’s my picture, very similar to the one in the ad, except that the one in
the ad is just blurry enough that you can’t make out the uneven gaps between
body panels or any detail that would steer you away from the car.
The price is very good, for a 107k mile car. There are cheaper cars out there,
but they’re always modified, have more miles, a lot more miles and I really
liked the wheels on this one. I called him and started asking all the usual
He seemed very eager to tell me about himself. His name is Francisco Montoya, he
works for the NASCAR Technical Institute. He’s a Field Representative for
them. They are a Division of the United Technical Institutes Corporation. This
guy knows about cars…
The first thing I asked him was;
How long have you had the car?
Why are you selling it?
“I bought it to do an M50 motor conversion, but I already have an M5 and a
50’s Studebaker street rod and my wife is going to file for divorce if I
don’t get rid of it.”
Where did you buy it?
“I bought it from a place called The Collection in Miami. They ONLY sell very
“Yeah, The Collection, They’re a big Porsche dealer, they also sell Maserati,
Ferrari, Aston Martin and Lotus, and they took it in on trade.”
Wow, pretty cool.
What can you tell me about the car?
“Well, it’s been repainted (Brilliant Red)”
“The Florida sun down here, paint jobs only last about 10 years”
Did it need bodywork?
How about the interior?
Was it owned by a smoker?
“No, it’s a non-smoker car all it’s life” Wow, music to my ears, I
haven’t smoked for 10+ years and I can’t stand the smell. I don’t know if
you can ever get it out of a car.
How about the engine and maintenance records?
“The car has been fully checked out by The Collection” Compression?
“Checked, they would have never taken it in on trade if there was something
wrong with it.” Valves set? “Yes, they just did them” Other maintenance?
“I just changed all the fluids to Redline synthetic and the engine oil has
just been changed”
How about maintenance records?
“Unfortunately, the owner’s manual has just been ripped off out of the glove
box along with all the maintenance records”
Noooo, that’s a shame, damn thieves…
“I might be able to get the maintenance records from the previous owner,
How’s the glass, tires, any curb rash on the wheels, electrics, brakes,
battery, dash gauges, cruise control, turn signals, mirrors, wipers/washers,
door locks, power window motors, stereo, A/C, steering rack, trans, diff,
cooling system, headlights cracked, are they all Hella, missing parts, exhaust,
sunroof work right, cracks in the sub frame from heavy use, bumpers, any rust
ever, cracks in the dash, OIL LEAKS, noises, etc?
“EVERYTHING IS GOOD/PERFECT, YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
Can I drive it back to Washington State, it’s 3000 miles?
“ALL YOU HAVE TO DO TO THIS CAR IS PUT GAS IN IT AND GO.”
Wow, it really sounds good, how come nobody’s bought it yet? “The ad just
Man, I’d like to get a flight down to buy it, if it’s as nice as you say it
is. ”It’s very nice.”
When they repainted it did, did they screw up the body, like waves and stuff
“No, it’s a very good job.”
It’s never had/needed any body work?
“NO” Getting a little irritated…
How’s the title? “Clean, the car’s not registered because I only drove it
home from Miami and never registered it because I don’t drive it.”
No Salvage title or anything like that?
“No, it’s a clean title, man.”
Does it sound good?
“It sounds very good. It’s all stock you know, it’s very hard to find a
car like this that’s still all stock and with this low a miles.”
Has it ever been on the track that you know of?
“No, it’s never been tracked.”
What kind of wheels are those?
Do they use spacers or centering rings or are they made specifically for this
“They don’t use any spacers.”
He went on to tell me that M3’s have two different width wheels from the
factory, like 7’ in the front and 7.5” in the back and that they could not
be rotated so owners of these cars went to aftermarket wheels for that reason. I
didn’t know this but it’s not unusual for automakers to do things like this,
even different size rims, like 14/15 front and rear, on semi-racing type cars. I
think I know now that he was full of $hit about this. I’m pretty sure that the
factory M3 basketweave wheels are the same width, front and rear.
Also “these cars have fiberglass front/rear fenders”, I didn’t really
think so but figured, the man owns one and I don’t so maybe, just maybe he
knows what he’s talking about. Nope, full of $hit again.
What kind of tires are on it?
That’s kinda different, but they’re German if I recall. Probably expensive
Sooo, this car is really, really straight?
I told you man, NO DISAPPOINTMENTS.
Makes sense, even if the car was a repaint, why would somebody take a car this
expensive and obviously well cared for to some hack to get it repainted.
Somebody probably spent some good money getting done right.
Ok, I’m going to look into some travel plans. I’ll call you back and let you
know if I can do it. “Ok, you be sure an let me know if you’re planning on
going, I’ve got lectures to do this week and next week, so I plan on being on
the road quite a bit.
Man, I’m excited. I start looking for a ticket online, find one, a one way for
Saturday the 10th. It’s going to be an adventure to remember for a long time,
flying down to Florida, the car is in West Palm Beach. I get the Atlas out, I
will have to drive up through Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, up
through Omaha, Nebraska to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Wyoming, through the
Badlands, through Montana, Idaho and then home.
I tell Andrea when she gets home. I’m expecting some negativity… How much is
the car? It’s only $10,500. That’s not bad, she said no to spending $13/15k
and I agreed with her. We just don’t need another car that bad. We already
have three cars and a truck.
I got a flight lined up for Saturday, one way I told her. “You better get a
round trip just in case the car turns out to have problems.”
Yeah, you’re right but this guy’s a Field Rep for UTICORP, and he bought the
car from a very well known place, The Collection, in Miami. Why would somebody
bull$hit me about a car when he knows I have to fly 3000 miles just to look at
it. THAT WOULD BE INSANE. Besides, he’s got an M5, a street rod that’s won
multiple show trophies and a brand new GMC Envoy. This guy doesn’t sound like
he owns junk.
“All the same you better get a round trip ticket” (The voice of
reason)…She looks one up and finds on that’s even cheaper than my one way
but it’s on the 14th, a week away.
I call him up the next day.
Hi Francisco, I can get a flight to come down next Wednesday, on the 14th.
“That won’t work, I’m leaving for a big NASCAR race on the 14th and I
won’t be back until the 18th. I can hold the car for a few days but not that
long. I’m having to tell all these callers to leave their #’s because I
think I’ve got the car sold.
What a hell of a nice guy, he doesn’t have to do this for me, turning down
cash for the car because a guy from 3000 miles away is interested. $hit, I’ve
had plenty of people tell me they were coming right over from across town to
look at a car and never show up.
That evening on the 8th, I booked the flight to Spokane/Phoenix/Ft Lauderdale. I
call him and ask him about the car again.
You know what $hitty body work looks like right, waves everywhere, you think
you’re gonna get seasick when you look down the sides of the car. IS THERE
ANYTHING LIKE THAT ON THIS CAR, IF THERE IS JUST TELL ME. I don’t want to fly
3000 miles to look at something I don’t want to buy. You understand where
I’m coming from?
“I told you man, NO DISAPPOINTMENTS! This is a very, very clean car.”
Ok I just have to know, I don’t want to waste the time and money to do this if
there’s problems with the car. I booked a flight that gets into Ft Lauderdale
at 7:14 pm on Saturday the 10th. Can you pick me up? “Sure, no problem” OK,
I’ll call you back on Friday to confirm that it’s a GO.
I call him again on Friday.
Hi Francisco, do you still have the car? “What do you think man? I told you
I’m holding it for you” Well, you never know. If some guy was waving money
in your face I wouldn’t blame you for taking it…
OK, thanks for doing that and I’ll see you at 7:14 tomorrow in Ft Lauderdale.
Packed my bag, went through my $2/3k Snap-on, MAC, PROTO super deluxe trunk tool
kit, pulled out a few essentials, the Bentley, my Fluke, my MAC racing tire
gauge and packed a little tool set for the road. I was thinking I sure hope the
airport security doesn’t freak out over this or just steal my tools.
I couldn’t even get to sleep that night, I kept having nightmares of paint all
over the trim, runs, bad bodywork, cracks in the bondo, rips in the seats,
clunky old engine in a car with the odometer rolled back 100k miles.
Finally I went to sleep. Remember what he told you, NO disappointments, relax,
this guy teaches automotive. He’s with the NASCAR Tech Institute. He bought
the car from a very reputable place. Just relax. It’s going to be all right.
Got up at 4:30, Andrea drove me to the airport in the 325i, said goodbye, got on
the plane, took off. I felt so good, like a dream come true. Talking to a guy
about eBay on the way to Phoenix, Yeah, I told him, I wouldn’t buy a
toothbrush on there, no Siree. A lot of fraud and crooks. A guy I know on
Timezone just got burned on a fake Rolex Daytona for $7500, eBay didn’t even
care…This $hit happens all the time
I’m going to Florida to buy me a car, from a reputable seller, not one of them
eBay crooks. No Sir. This guy’s got a pedigree, I shoulda asked him” Hey
man, you one of them Montoya’s that’s related to Juan Pablo Montoya? The
winning F1 race car driver, drives for BMW to boot. I’m gonna own me a sweet
little ol M3 that was actually owned by one of the Montoya’s, plus this
guy’s with NASCAR too, Wahoo. Gentlemen, start your engines…
I’m quite driver myself ya know. Shoulda been a race car driver too. All that
talent going to waste. Well, I can put some of that talent to good use driving
back home, 3000 miles, I can do it in about three days, I reckon (In your dreams
Well I finally started coming down from the coffee, landed in Ft Lauderdale.
Hotter than blazes, I was standing on the curb waiting for Montoya, I started to
realize that I was wet, like I just got out of the shower. That’s what the air
feels like down there, hot, humid, and hard to breathe.
Here’s come Montoya in the brand new white GMC Envoy. Load my bags, get on the
road. There are tolls everywhere but he’s got one of them things on his
windshield where you can just go right on through at 60 and it charges your
credit card. Plus he’s got a Valentine One radar detector. First time I’ve
ever seen one, they’re like $400+S&H. He starts to brag.
“Yeah, I’m on the road a lot with NASCAR bla, bla, bla..In the M5 though,
the Envoy's my wife’s rig, gotta have that Valentine One. It’s the best
I’ve ever used…”
$hit, I don’t even own a radar detector. Them Montoya’s, they don’t F%#k
around at the wheel.
We finally pull into his house, in Wellington. The kinda place where all the
locals go Oooh, Wellington. This guy must have some money, right. The M5’s in
the driveway, it’s one of them butt ugly 90’s things, in Green(?) Well
it’s probably cool, but E30 M3’s are just so superior, you know…
My heart is pounding in my chest, Ok man, open the garage, let me see it!!!
He invites me in, C’mon in, have you had supper? Introduces me to his wife and
kid. Well no, I’ve been on a plane since 7am this morning living on peanuts
and Bloody Mary mix. Well sit down, relax. My wife’s going to make some
dinner. The kid’s so starved for attention he keeps bringing me toys to play
with him. They take turns either trying to spank him or just yelling at him.OK,
I’m on his turf. I can’t just tell him, “Forget you man, I’m goin out to
Pretty soon he’s like, Can I make you a drink, Yeah man, kinda thirsty ya
know, whatever you’re having. Johnny Walker Red, on the rocks? Sounds good. We
eat dinner, I finish my drink, kinda mumbling and not making a lot a sense.
Damn, that was a big whiskey on the rocks. Maybe it’s just jetlag, or the fact
that I had about three hours of sleep the night before. Can we look at the car
He opens the garage and turns the light on. OMYGAAWWD, it’s red, it’s
beautiful. Well I see some bugs and $hit in the clear coat right away, but, my
eyes are so much better than anybody else’s. Maybe other people just don’t
see this $hit.
I step back a little to look at the car, it’s pretty cramped in there with the
Silver Hawk street rod and the big Snap on NASCAR edition rollaway tool boxes.
Well there’s a couple door dings he forgot to tell me about under the new
paint. Walk around the back of the car, there’s some big gnarly scratches on
the back window, right about in the middle, an area about the size of your hand,
badly scratched up. Damn, that’s probably a pretty expensive back window.
Maybe you can’t even get a new one. I know it’s taller than a standard E30
back window. The paint (Base/Clear) is pretty disgustingly orange peeled under
these garage lights. I mention it to him. Yeah, he says, “you have to wait
until it’s fully cured before you can cut it and buff it.”
The windows have been tinted and it’s either pretty old or it’s not a very
good job. It’s got bubbles everywhere. It’s going to have to come out. I
won’t be able to stand to look at this $hit for very long. I guess he forgot
to tell me about that too…
The “flawless” wheels do have a little rash although it’s really minimal,
I look at the tires, what’s that you say?“SUMITOMO”. I coulda swore he
said SEMPERIT on the phone. What’s this behind the wheels? SPACERS? The
spacers he told me weren’t didn’t exist on the phone. They’re painted red
to match the car, how cute.
Say, “I though you said the wheels didn’t use spacers? “These are very
wide wheels”, 17x9, so he says, “they have to run spacers to keep from
rubbing the inner fender wells when you turn all the way to lock”
OK, great, these wheels have to run spacers, that’s not what I just asked you.
I don’t want to argue with this guy. He told me on the phone that there were
“NO spacers”. I don’t run spacers, don’t like’em, don’t want’em.
They usually make a car drive like $hit. I’m a firm believer that you have to
run HUBCENTRIC wheels on these cars, just like BMW designed. Plus how do I know
that these lugs are long enough to be safe. I just don’t like Mickey Mouse
$hit. This probably ok, he wouldn’t own it if it didn’t drive right. I’m
just too picky sometimes.
I look inside the car. It’s so clean on the inside you’d think you were in
the BMW showroom, circa 1989. The leather in the seats doesn’t even have any
minor cracks, in the front or rear seats. Carpets are clean like he said. The
seat backs are immaculate as is the headliner.
I open the door, sit inside, It’s so clean. There is two or three dents and
scrapes in the glove box. That kind of pi$$es me off. Why is there dents and
scrapes on the glove box lid. Weird, if cars could only talk…Well I can always
replace the glove box and will probably have to.
I open the glove box, nothing in there but a manual to the brand new ugly-a$$ed
Blaupunkt CD player in the dash. If you’re going to put a CD player in a 1989
car, like I plan on doing to my325i, try to get one that looks like it matches
the interior, not like something out of the Starship Enterprise. He claims to
have installed it himself, and it plugged right in. HE DID NOT hack up the
wiring harness. The clock on the OBC says UHR and just blinks. He says he just
put in a brand new Diehard and didn't bother to reset the clock. Plausible
Grrrr, there’s frickin paint specs (house/garage painting overspray?) on the
steering wheel and shifter. Like white paint specs, I’ve scraped this $hit off
everything from old Schwinns to antique Mission Oak furniture I’ve restored to
my 325i which was owned briefly by a guy who had a house painting business and
probably drove right up to the job sites and the $hit floated into the car. You
can’t get it off without using a razor blade and it’s very annoying on a
black interior. The thing that’s weird is that my Eagle Eyes don’t detect
any paint specs anywhere else in the interior, just on the steering wheel and
shifter. If I see one more spot of white paint inside this car I’m not buying
it, period. Francisco points out the one piece M shifter and boot, says that you
can’t even buy that anymore. Probably more bull$hit, this guy must have a PhD,
(Piled high, & Deeper).
It dawns on me what must have happened is that the original owner took the
factory wheel and shifter out, put them in the garage for years, and had some
MOMO or Alpina stuff in the car and then put the stock stuff back in when he got
ready to sell the car. In the meantime, somebody painted the garage with an
airless sprayer and some overspray got on these parts. I’m telling you, this
stuff sticks to leather like you wouldn’t believe. I’ll probably have to
replace the wheel and shifter/boot combo. The colored M stripes are gone from
the bottom of the wheel too.
The interior is just spectacular but the rear package shelf is dirty looking
(???), and has some kind of cheesy aftermarket speakers. I hate it when people
pull out really nice stock stuff to put in junk. The shelf doesn’t even look
like it’s from the same car. When you open the door, the side of the dash
towards the door has scrapes and bruises too (???) on both sides of the car.
What an odd place to get damage, and from what?
I pop the hood, get back out, and start sniffing around looking for something
out of place, non German hose clamps, you know, the signs of amateur mechanic
abuse. Can’t find anything wrong, it’s very, very clean under the hood. No
oils leaks, above or below. The oil on the dipstick is brand new. He used a
Mahle filter, good. We get into the old automotive expert” Which oil filter is
best discussion” He obviously has forgotten more stuff about cars than I will
ever know. He starts it up, it cranks kind of funny, like something with too
much static advance, kind of a ih,ih,ih,ih sound on cranking. Could just be the
sound of the starter trying to start a high compression engine. It fires up,
damn, it’s got a pretty good exhaust leak, he lets it run a little bit, seems
pretty rich, he won’t let me play with the gas, “It’s very cold” he
says. Well it’s like firkin 90 degrees out here at 9 o clock at night but that
must be very cold for a Florida car. It’s idling pretty well finally. He revs
it a few times and shuts it off.
“Doesn’t sound too bad” I say without sounding overly enthusiastic,
“Except for the hole in the exhaust underneath”
“Yeah, it’s got an exhaust leak”, he says, at the header to CAT flange.
“Almost goes away when it’s warm.”
I guess he just forgot to tell me about that over the phone, I mean, a leak,
right under the driver’s seat? Maybe it’s just me but that could be a slight
carbon monoxide problem on a long trip, like a 3000 mile trip. I mention fixing
the leak before taking off, but what the hell do I know compared to this
automotive genius. He starts to tell me how rusty exhaust stuff gets. Yeah, I
know, I’ve actually worked on a couple cars before. I used to have an ASE
Master Tech Certification. I always spray exhaust with Liquid Wrench (in the
yellow can) liberally the night before and the nuts will come off the next day
Well that’s about it for one night. “He’s very tired”, I don’t know if
he’s going to put me up for the night or not. He tells me he would but with
his 5 year old running around I wouldn’t get much sleep, so he’s taking me
to a hotel, the Royal Inn. He waltzes into the lobby like he owns the place.
“Hi, I’m Francisco Montoya with the NASCAR Technical Institute.” Whips out
a card and hands it to her.” Can I get a discount for my guest? I bring people
here all the time.” (More on this later)
She flat turns him down on the discount and I get a room for two nights. He
tells me, “I’ll pick you up in the morning but don’t call the house too
early” and takes off.
I get in my room, call Andrea. “Hi Baby, I got here OK, I miss you, bla, bla,
bla. The car is pretty nice. Yeah, it’s got $hit wrong with it he didn’t
tell me about on the phone, but for $10,500, the price is right and the car has
a lot of potential.” With a good infusion of cash, this could be one hell of a
nice car.” Well, I’m going back to look at it tomorrow and drive it, I’ll
call you back and let you know”
In retrospect, I think every thing this guy did was calculated to keep me off
balance and help me make a big mistake.
Case in point, I’m an Espressoholic, I mentioned it to the guy when we drove
past the mall going to his house and I saw a Starbucks. I make one every morning
first thing and wouldn’t dream of trying to drive to work/work or function etc
without one. It’s a legal drug…
He said don’t call early. Well 7 am Florida time is 4 am to me from
Washington. Anyway I’m barely out of bed at 7:30 when he knocks on the door.
WTF? I’m naked, just about to jump in the shower. I crack the door open, the
sun killing my eyes. He’s standing at the door. “Oh, you’re not
up…I’ll come back later”. $hit, I don’t want him to come back later. I
want to go look at the car. NO, WAAAAIT, I’ll be down in five minutes. I grab
a two minute shower and I’m downstairs, ready to go. I ask him, hey let’s
stop by that Starbucks so I can get a triple Americano? “No man, it’s out of
the way, my wife will make you some coffee and breakfast”
We get to his house, same routine. I can’t look at the car until he’s damn
good and ready.
I try to get up to speed drinking some “coffee”. To a guy like me, drinking
regular coffee is like drinking warm water. It just doesn’t do much. Anyway,
my point is that if I would have had a chance to get espresso like I need in the
morning, I would have probably spotted the stuff that if I had noticed I would
have NEVER bought the car. More on this later…
We go out to the garage, he backs the car out into the morning sun, Brilliant
Red car in the sun, and you can barely look at the damn thing. He lets me drive,
we take off.
“Now, there’s no license plate on the car, so be very careful and we can’t
go very far” He says. That sucks, what kind of test drive is that? I want to
take this thing out on the turnpike and see if it’s road worthy.
We get out on an open street. I accelerate through the three gears. There is a
distinct whine, trans, diff? Maybe it’s normal for an M3 with that special
trans? It doesn’t whine when you coast, just on acceleration. Anyway, the
steering wheel shakes a little bit and the car feels a little weird. It feels
pretty gutless, but I’m used to driving a 325i and I know these don’t have
much power below 4000 RPM.
He asks, “What do you think”, like I’m driving some Twin Turbo Carrera or
something. Well, I’m not too impressed. I don’t know, I tell him, it kinda
drives like my SAAB (gutless) and the brakes feel funny.
WHAT?, he’s pissed. “Hit the brakes, HIT THE BRAKES” he says, were going
30. I slam on the brakes. The car stops. BFD, what does that prove? “These
brakes are excellent" Mr. NASCAR, leading authority on things automotive
tells me. I noticed the ABS didn’t even work. Maybe it’s because of the
17” wheels. Doesn’t feel like it’s got much power either, I tell him, not
what I was expecting at all? The car goes to 4000rpm and then feels like it
wants to stay there or something instead of hitting the powerband and pulling to
6 or 7 grand instantly. It's like it doesn't want to rev freely. Usually when
you hit the powerband on a high performance engine, the engine screams to
redline very willingly.
“Pull over, let me drive” he says. Look out, Juan Pablo at the wheel. He
takes off, winds the car out to 7000rpm through a couple gears. When you hit 4
grand, the car takes like a block to hit 7. It acts like it’s got really long
gears or something. Doesn’t just go to redline in each gear like I think it
should, very flat power band I guess? I’ve never been in another one so I
don’t know. It does pull to redline and the engine sounds alright. Temp and
oil temp are staying normal. He wrings the $hit out of it some more and we head
back to his house.
“This is a racing engine”, he’s giving me a NASCAR Tech School lecture
now, “and you have to drive it like this to get any power out of it”.
“Anyway, today is Mother’s day and if I don’t get cleaned up and take care
of that, I’ll never hear the end of it”
“I’m going to have to take you back to your hotel, and finish this
tomorrow”. Also tomorrow, I’ve got a lecture at 11 am and I haven’t even
written the speech yet, so I’m not going to have any time to mess around with
He parks the car in the driveway. I get out and pop the hood. Everything looks
good, can’t find a damn thing out of place and it looks bone stock right down
to every last nut, bolt and clamp. That S14 sure is a beautiful engine. God, I
I ask him, the engine sounds a bit funny when it starts, and you said the
compression was good? I’d sure like to check it. “It was checked out at The
Collection, its good.” The valves, I ask? “Same thing, it’s just been
done, they would not sell a car with problems.”
I walk around the car, there’s a few waves in it, How come I can always see
this $hit but nobody else can? There are a few waves in the doors, fenders,
quarters, back of the trunk lid, top of the hood. Just like I figured, the
car’s going to have to be stripped down to bare metal and completely redone so
I can look at it without getting sick all the time.
I mean, I’m really picking this car apart. The average guy probably wouldn’t
see a thing wrong with it. I look under the hood for along, long time. He walks
up and says” Are you looking to see if it’s ever been wrecked, because this
car has never been wrecked.” Funny that he would say that in light of later
I mention some of the body flaws, scratches on the back glass, orange peel to
him, and the strange dents in the dash. He walks back in the garage and talks to
his wife. There’s a lot of yelling in Spanish, I don’t know if they’re
arguing about Mother’s day or if I’m just pi$$ing him off about the car.
I’m pretty sure it’s the car.
I point out that the SUMITOMO directional ZR tires are all facing the wrong
direction. Looks like the right side wheels are on the left side and vice-versa.
Wow, he’s never even noticed that. He’ll have to take it to a shop tomorrow
and get them swapped around. Ok, I tell him. I’d like to go with you, I’d
like to see the car up in the air, check the wheels bearings, brakes,
“MAN”, I TOLD YOU, THE CAR’S BEEN ALL CHECKED OUT. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS
PUT GAS IN IT AND GO” He’s irritated…
That’s cool. I still want to go down to the shop with you when they open in
the morning to check it out.
It’s only 10 am, time to go already. He’s got to get ready for Mother’s
day. I have to go back to the hotel. We go inside for a minute, it’s already
95 outside. I ask to look at the title.
It looks Ok. No rebuilt/salvage. It’s not in his name though, I ask him why?
“I never changed it over”, he says. “I just didn’t get around to it”.
The title’s signed off and dated 2-26-03. I tell him that’s going to cause a
problem when I get back home. He offers to change the date on the title!!! I
tell him no, last thing I need is somebody at the DMV back home telling me the
title’s no good because they think it’s been altered. Anyway, in Washington,
a newer bill of sale supersedes the date on the title, I’m going to need
another bill of sale signed off by the dealer where he got it or if worse comes
to worse, I’ll have to make my own. I hate to do that but as a last resort I
would. The State doesn’t care as long as they get their tax money. There’s a
price written on it, $3000. I ask him about it. Sales tax, he says, he had them
make it out for $3000 so he wouldn’t have to pay the full sales tax on it. A
bit strange, I know this is quite common, but try asking an auto dealer to do
this for you. Riiiight, no way in hell the typical dealer would do this, but
maybe he’s got a buddy over there, gave him a break. I go outside to compare
the title against the VIN on the car. The #’s are right. We go back inside,
get out of the heat. I ask him, what’s your bottom price on it? “$10,500”
he says. Would you take $10,000 I ask?
“Well I suppose, since you flew out here, for you, I can make it $10,000.
You’re not going to give me a check, are you?” No, it’s cash. “OK ,
that’s good, I can’t do a check for that kind of money” That’s Ok, I
“I really need to get going or my wife’s going to have my @ss” He drops me
off, says he’ll be there at 8:15 tomorrow morning and we can deal with the car
for a little bit, but then he’s got to get ready for his lecture…Bla, bla,
Man, I don’t know what to do, the car’s got a lot a frickin problems. It’s
all small $hit, but it adds up. It really kinda pi$$es me off, ”no
disappointments” Right, only about half of what I’ve seen on the car. It’s
all fixable stuff. What can you expect for a $10,000 M3?
If you want a better one, go pay $15 or $16 or $18 for it. I know that’s out
of the question. I can’t dip into our savings for that amount. It’s not
I’m sitting around the hotel room. I start reading the Roundel, there’s few
M3’s in Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina, for more money than this one and
they all have higher miles and some have really ugly wheels. I don’t want to
spend $10+ on a car and have to turn around and buy wheels for it because I
can’t even stand to look at the ones on it. I’m picky as hell when it come s
to wheels. I don’t like that 2003 look on a 1980’s car.
I call on the other M3’s anyway, no one’s home. I get a local paper; nothing
except for an 88M5 that's of any interest. I sure wish I had access to a
computer. I should get the VIN from this guy and do a CARFAX. I’ve never done
one before. I’ve never had to, usually if I don’t like something about a
car, I just walk away.
What to do, what to do? I call Andrea, tell her what’s going on. Yeah, the
car’s got a bunch of small problems, it will probably need a complete repaint
to look perfect. For what he’s asking, the car’s OK. It’s a Brilliant Red
M3 with a basically MINT interior, beautiful 17” MOMO wheels. Looks like new
under the hood. It’s only got 107k miles. It’s really not a bad deal. I’ll
just buy it, drive it back home and fix the $hit that’s wrong with it. I got
friends back at home waiting to see this car. I’ve never even seen one in
Spokane and only one in Seattle ever. There’s not that many around to pick and
Still, I got a lot of mixed feelings, the car’s not like he described and that
pi$$es me off. Try to call back on some other M3’s in the Roundel, leave
messages. Call on the M5, a two owner 88 with a bunch of upgrades for $12. Play
phone tag with the owner a few times. I never get to actually talk to him.
Those 88 M5’s are kinda ugly anyway, plus we already have a four door. But you
never know, that motor probably runs circles around an E30 M3. It’s 315hp.
Holy $hit. But it’s not an E30 and I love E30’s. I don’t want to turn my
back on an M3 because the M5 has 315hp. One drive in that bad boy though and I
could forget all about the M3 and that anemic powerplant. I’m not a really
high revving kinda guy anyway, I like a car that pulls hard but I hardly ever
rev our 325i past 5grand. I just don’t like redlining an engine all the time.
I spend the rest of the day thinking about this, swimming in the hotel pool, and
thinking about what I’m going to do tomorrow. I’m going to have to make a
decision, and I’m going to have to do it pretty quickly.
Monday the 12th of May. Rough night, didn’t sleep well at all. I laid in bed
half the night thinking about this $hit. Pretty much decided to take the car, it
will need some work but it also has a lot of potential.
I pack, head down to the lobby, guzzle a couple cups of hotel lobby coffee,
check out and wait for Montoya. He picks me up. He wants to know what I’m
going to do. “I need to get back to these other guys that have been calling on
the car and let them know if you’re going to buy it or not?”
Yeah, I’m going to buy it, I tell him. I want the car. I just wish there
wasn’t as many little things wrong with it as there is. We head over to the
DMV to get a temporary plate for the car. Wait for them top open. They want to
know why he’s “selling” the car but his name is not on the title.
He starts telling the gal behind the counter a bull$$hit story about how he
bought the car for me because I’m from out of town, we know each other, and I
couldn’t make it down here to buy the car so I sent him the money to pick it
up, bla,bla, bla.
It’s pure bull$$it but I’m not going to say anything. What would be the
point, them saying, “well sir, we can’t do this”. I pay for the temporary
plate and we head back to his house. He puts the plate on the back of the car. I
load my stuff up in it, he counts the money. I got a bill of sale all ready for
him to sign. “I can’t sign that” he says, “my name’s not on the
title”. Made sense to me at the time, but I should have told him. I don’t
give a $hit if your name’s on the title or not, you need to give me a bill of
sale as a receipt for my money.
We shook hands, he told me to take good care of the car or he was going to come
after me and kick my @$$. He was in a big rush to write his lecture. He told me
to follow him to the highway so that he could point me in the right direction to
the turnpike and kind of hinted at “getting out of Florida as fast as
possible” I told him I might stay in Orlando that night because I wanted to
check out Daytona before leaving. I was gonna get me some pictures of the
Montoya M3 at Daytona and check out Daytona Beach too. Anyway, He said
“Don’t stay in Orlando, they’ll steal the car, be very careful when you
stay at motels to get rooms where you can keep an eye on it”
One last thing, I asked. Where’s an auto parts store I can hit on the way out
“Huh, why do you need to do that” he said. Because I want to stock up on
oil, washer fluid, fuses, get some glass cleaner, some Techron, a club to keep
people from stealing it, etc, etc I told him.
He looked at me like I was kinda nuts and told me where to look for a Discount
Parts a few miles down the road. I followed him out to the highway and he waved
at me to pass him when we got out there. That was to be the last time I would
ever see him.
I stopped at the parts store on Southern Blvd. I went in and bought about $100
worth of stuff including the most expensive Club they had. I went back out,
poured the Techron in the tank, checked out the belts, decided I better get a
set of belts too, went back in and got another $50 worth of stuff. I organized
everything in the trunk, set the time and date on the computer, started cleaning
the windows inside and out and polishing the car little bit.
All the sudden, I froze in my tracks. That’s hard to do in 100 degree heat.
WTF, the drivers side pop out window looks like it’s on
crooked?????????????????? I take a closer look. It’s f#$^%g crooked, it’s
like high in the front and there’s a gap underneath it and the body?????? I
shut the hood to go get gas and the passenger side metal part of the front
center grille almost falls off of the car. What a car. I pull the center grille
off. It has some broken tabs that hold the right side metal kidney onto the
Back into the store to buy some black silicone, I silicone the grille at the top
where the broken tabs are and reinstall it on the car. I better wait until
it’s dry to take off. I go get gas and then go park in the shade to checkout
the car a little bit more before hitting the road.
Every time I walk away from the car and walk back over to it, I see something
else wrong with it. This time it’s f%$@#g waves in the roof. This is getting
to be too much. The hood hangs down a little over the passenger side headlight,
the door gap on the passenger side is all f#$@#d up, it’s wide at the bottom,
narrow at the top at the fender and there’s like no gap at the back of the
door at the striker plate. Also the front spoiler’s loose on the right side
and there are cracks in it in several paces around the openings. The trunk lid
is uneven, it’s abnormally high on the passenger side. There’s a crack over
the top of the wheel in the driver’s side front fender.
How in the hell did I not see this when I was looking at the car before, I never
saw any of this $hit. Did the body panels start moving around after I hit a few
bumps or what? I since then realized that you can hardly see anything on a car
from close up inside a garage and you cannot check out a red car in the sun
either. It has to be in the shade and you have to be able to back up like 20’
on level ground to see if everything lines up correctly.
The fact that I had the hood and the doors open all the time hardly helped
Ok, so I’m an idiot. I didn’t see half of this $hit before I bought the car.
I haven’t even had a decent cup of coffee in two days. But I see it now. The
question is what the hell do I do about it.
I go back to Discount parts, ask if anybody know any good BMW shops, borrow the
phone book, and start making calls. I make a few phone calls and finally find
one place that’s sounds like they’re qualified to look at it. Stahl
Motorsports in West Palm Beach. It’s down Okechobee in downtown WPB. I get
lost about five times trying to find it. I get there, they don’t seem to be
very interested, they’ve got $80k Twin Turbo Porsches up on the rack…
It’s like they don’t even know what they’re looking at, the secretary
can’t even find the #’s on the car to do an invoice, or so I thought. She
comes out to get the VIN and mileage for the invoice, goes back in, and comes
out with one of the mechanics. They’re talking about VIN #’s. I ask what’s
going on, but he tells me that she’s just “having trouble” finding the VIN#’s.
Then the owner comes out and looks at the car. ??? If they noticed something
strange with the #’s on the car, and I think they did, they didn’t tell me
what it was. Maybe they wanted to get a repair bill going before I found out the
car had some major VIN# issues. I ask them to run a CARFAX. They seem reluctant
to do it.
Apparently they “have never done one before” but they do a very expensive
check to buy for customers. That doesn’t make much sense to me. You would
think that the customer would want a CARFAX along with the check to buy which
costs $150 and they don’t even do a leak down or a compression test. That’s
Takes like three of them to figure out how to do a CARFAX. Or so the owner says,
he’s going to charge me an hour labor to do a CARFAX “because it took up so
much of everybody’s time” The bill for the CARFAX comes to $95, the car
never went into the shop. Welcome to Florida…
The CARFAX on this car is insane, totaled out in PA, wrecked again in NY. By now
I want to get a hold of this Francisco Montoya and…nevermind. I ask Stahl’s
shouldn’t it say Salvage/Rebuilt on the title? Yeah, it should, but it
I call him on his cell phone from the shop, leave a message. “Hi Francisco,
Keith here, I’m having a problem with the car, I’m going to have to bring it
back. It looks like it’s been totaled out before. We need to talk”
I ask Stahl’s about The Collection in Miami, they know it very well. They
don’t think this car came from there. I get their phone # from Stahl’s and
Man, I feel like somebody hit me in the head with a 12 lb sledgehammer. I drive
back to Discount Auto parts and return all the stuff I bought for the road. I
find my way back to the hotel, book a room again and try to get some sleep.
Now I have to call Andrea and tell her what happened. It’s ugly, she’s
pissed. She tells me not to bring that car home and not to leave WPB without
“our” money. I tell her I will get it handled.
Tuesday the 13th. I call The Collection. They don’t know anything about this
car. I give them the VIN #’s. They’ve never seen or heard of this car.
Everything this guy told me about the car was a lie. I call Exeptional Inc to
find out more about the car, nobody knows $hit, they don’t even know the
WTF, this guy’s a Field Rep for the UTICORP and he just burned me. This
corporation has automotive schools everywhere in the US. They work directly with
BMW, M-B and Porsche with tech training.
Pretty soon, I get him on the phone, explain the situation very politely. “I
can’t give you your money back”, he says, “I put it in a CD and they will
charge me a penalty for taking it out” I later called my bank, Bank of
America, to find out what the worse case scenario penalty for early withdrawal
on a 10k CD at today’s rate. It’s $6, the penalty is real low because the
rates are real low right now. This guy's just a f@#$%g liar.
I really don’t give a $hit about the "penalty". I want my money
back. I ask him, did you know anything about this CARFAX? “NO”, he tells me.
Also The Collection has no “recollection” of ever having this car. What do
you have to say about that? I bought it from a broker who sells cars for them
bla, bla, bla. More bull$hit, it never stops with this guy.. He says, (this is
very strange) “THE CARFAX IS WRONG, this car has never been totaled out”.
What a very strange thing to say! He tells me, “It’s only been in a fender
bender. I will give you $500 back to make up for the fender bender”. I tell
him he’s nuts. Just take this piece of $hit car back. It’s not what you’re
telling people it is.
Bottom line is I’m not taking the car home, so please get the $ out of the
bank and meet me to straighten this out.
I drove around WPB trying to figure out what to do. I went to the local BMW
dealer, Braman Motors, to talk to the people there. They were pretty upset to
hear what happened. One guy made a bunch of phone calls for me trying to find
out what to do about this. He called Exeptional Inc. pretending to be somebody
important at BMW but it didn’t do any good. He called Montoya pretending to be
a lawyer and left a message. A sales manager M3 guy drove the car. He said, the
car doesn’t drive right and the motor doesn’t run right. He wasn’t sure
why, it didn’t smoke or anything like that, probably cam timing problems would
be my guess.
I didn’t sleep very well that night either. I call Francisco first thing
Wednesday morning to tell him that I need to get this done and over with so I
can get out of here and go home. He tells me that he’s contacted his
“attorney” and that he has to consult with him. I tell him, just return my
money and take the car back. You’re not out hardly anything and you’ve got
all those other buyers beating down your door. Just sell it to somebody else,
lower the price on it, I don’t care. I tell him, I’m going to get the police
involved if you won’t give me my money back. “I have to wait until tomorrow
at 1pm, I’m going to meet with my attorney”, he says. Ok, you want to go
that route @$$hole, everyday I stay here costs me for the room. It's time to
take some action.
I go out to the parking lot to do my daily pre-trip inspection. Got the hood up,
looking around, something catches my eye. The BMW VIN tag under the hood has a
different # than the VIN on the car. Very interesting…There are no VIN#’s on
the front fenders or the drivers side door, I attributed that to the repaint but
why pain over the VIN#’s? I never noticed it before I bought the car either.
Sometimes you don’t see the forest for the trees. I since found out that even
BMW replacement fenders say BMW/DOT with a similar tag as the originals.
There’s no reason to ever see a BMW body part without some type of a tag on it
unless there’s something fishy going on.
I go back to the DMV as soon as they open with the CARFAX to find out why it
doesn’t say “Rebuilt” on the title. Florida, I find out, is one of the
states where you cannot bring in a vehicle with a rebuilt title from another
state and get a clean title on it. I ask them to run the other VIN # also. It
doesn’t come up in the computer. They can’t quite figure out the title
discrepancy with the CARFAX and give me a referral to someone at the State’s
Attorney’s Office for an investigation.
The document says that the vehicle has “SEVERAL ISSUES WITH THE PAPERWORK AND
A very nice gal at the SAO, Kim, takes the title and does some research on it. I
don’t know what she came up with exactly but she says the title’s been
“washed”, it’s illegal, and that she’s already contacted a Detective
Mauro in the Auto Theft task force. Auto theft??? Yeah, auto theft, there’s
something about when the car was totaled out in NY and then bought back by the
same person that bothers her. Also, Montoya could not legally sell me the car
because his name’s not on the title. Anyway, Detective Mauro’s getting a
search warrant for the car so don’t leave town with it. She tells me to go to
the WPB Sheriff’s office to have an officer take a report.
I call Francisco back from the lobby of the State’s attorney office I tell
him, I’m desperate, I can’t even leave town with this car if I wanted to.
Please return my money, take the car back and deal with the issues surrounding
it with the dealer where you bought it; Exeptional Inc.
I go to the WPB sheriff’s office. There must be a lot of crime around here. I
have to wait for an officer to come in off of the road to take the report.
It’s 4pm. I wait, 5, 6, 7, 8!!!. At 8pm an officer shows up. Apparently it’s
mad house out there. He wants to find out what’s going on. I tell him what
happened. Where did you buy the car? Wellington. “Ok, that’s out of my
jurisdiction”, He says, “I’m going to have you follow me to Wellington and
the meet up with a Wellington Sheriff. He takes off like a bat outa hell, loses
me at the first light he goes across, pulls over with the lights on and wait’s
for me. I follow him down Okechobee at 60 and 70+ miles an hour, in
town!!!He’s cutting through traffic and $hit. Just amazing, first time I’ve
ever followed a cop at high speed through town, like a chase in reverse. It’s
getting dark and I turn the lights on for the first time, the lights are so far
out of adjustment, they don’t hardly light $hit and I can see the passenger
side one jumping around whenever I hit a bump. Lovely, good thing I didn’t
find this out on the highway. There must be something missing or broken in the
right side headlight bucket. We pull into a strip mall in Wellington. The local
sheriff wants to see all my paper work, another deputy shows up. They’re all
having a big pow-wow.
They’re arguing back and forth about something, they’re pi$$ed because his
name’s not on the title and since he wouldn’t sign the bill of sale,
there’s really nothing to connect this guy with the car. How can I prove that
he ever had the car? Like I said before, this guy’s real clever. Luckily, I
got a printout of his Auto Trader ad with me and his house phone # is on it.
It’s probably the only thing that saved my @$$. One of them say’s, let’s
got to his house right now and talk to him. These guys are kinda nuts.
I jump into the M3, turn the key, nothing, no click, no lights, not even idiot
lights. Dead as a door nail. SOB. They’re yelling at me, C’mon, let’s go,.
I yell at one of them. “It’s dead”. He says “roll the windows up and
leave it”. $hit, it’s power everything, the windows and sunroof are open. I
can’t leave it like this, somebody will steal it. I jump out and get to the
battery, nothing loose. Try again, I’m getting some dash electrics now, but as
soon as you try to crank the engine, everything goes dead again. The POS finally
jumps to life and we take off. Great, this car’s got some major electrical
problems on top of all the other $hit. I look at the clock, UHR, blinking…
Just like when I bought the car, he probably knew about this too…
We get on the road, maybe they will make this scumbag give me my money back, and
I can get this f#$*^%g nightmare over with and go home. They find his house, I
pull the M3 into the drive way, the curtains move… The cops bang on the door.
The door doesn’t open. This goes on for about 20 minutes. The neighbors are
coming out and talking to the cops. They can’t make him open the door without
a warrant. The Wellington sheriff gives me the report #. I get directions back
to the hotel, and try to go to sleep.
Next day, Thursday, I get a call from Francisco. “I’m very upset about what
you did to my family last night”. He’s upset, f#@%#g unbelievable. He says
the deal with his lawyer is off. Now, I better go get a lawyer.
I get a call from Kim at the SAO to call the detectives at 2 this afternoon.
They’ve got the warrant for the car.
I’ve been calling Exeptional Inc. in Miami 5 times a day since Tuesday trying
to find out more about the car. Same story as always, nobody there knows $hit.
They don’t even know how to get in touch with the owner. I ask one of the guys
about what they have for sale. A Camry, an Altima, some other cars. I ask, what
kind of title does the Altima have? Salvage, he says, the Camry? Salvage too, ok
thanks. Very interesting . What I’d REALLY like to know is if Montoya bought
the car just like it is now or if it was a wreck, he said it was in a “Fender
bender”. Is Montoya the one who put it together?, or was it already all
painted up and he just sat on it for four months and then sold it because of
pressure from his wife like he told me? What’s the deal? If he bought that car
in bad shape and fixed it up, then he knew that car was a piece of $[Oops!] and
had some major VIN# issues. More on this later…Even if he didn’t put it
together, a guy with his “automotive knowledge” would have noticed a couple
BIG PROBLEMS with the car after “owning it” for four months. I had already
found out a ton of bad $hit about it in two days!
I call the detectives at 2pm, it seems that are “knee deep” in property.
They can’t look at it today. I later heard on the news that they had found a
chop shop just around the corner from the hotel, complete with a marijuana
growing operation, and a stolen semi with $85k of stolen COSCO furniture. It’s
a nice place you guys got here. Like a f*&@#g sewer hole. I’m supposed to
call back at 9am on Friday to have the car checked out.
I call UTICORP, I’m going to let them know what the hell one of their Field
Reps did to me. This guy’s a scam artist. He doesn’t need to be involving
their name with his crooked side deals. I get a hold of somebody and find out
who his boss is at corporate. Jerry Ellner, I leave a message for him to get a
hold of me ASAP. Maybe if his job’s threatened he will cough up the dough and
then I can go on my merry way.
I can’t take this [Oops!] anymore, I start driving on Southern Blvd, due East,
straight outa town. I got all these crazy thoughts, drive the f#%$#g car right
into his garage and total all his cars out and have a cab waiting for me to take
me to the airport. Nahhh, I’d probably get hurt. Take off with the car, I
could get some insurance on it on the way home from my agent and the let it get
“stolen” on the way home. Or I could just drive it off a cliff somewhere.
Nahh, why should I f#@k over my insurance agent and run the risk of going to
jail for insurance fraud because of this scumbag. I could drive it home and part
it out. I’d probably get damn near all my money back. I better just keep
driving to clear my head out. I get out on the highway, get the car up to 80 for
the first time. The car vibrates so bad the whole hood shakes. Unf@#kingbelievable.
This car should be condemned. I get to the ocean and park at a state park. I
walk around the park, there’s big lizards everywhere. It’s well over 100
degrees and so humid it just takes your breath away. I go to the beach and walk
around for an hour collecting seashells for Andrea in a Starbucks Frappuccino
bottle I found and washed out. I fill it up with some Atlantic sea water. The
sun’s going down. I realize that I haven’t had a decent meal since Sunday
when I ordered some Thai food at my hotel room.
I get back to the car, the fu@#^%g electrics are dead again. This time I get out
my Fluke and start troubleshooting. The battery’s full up. Didn’t think that
was the problem. I start poking around in the wiring little bit, check all the
relays out. I got my Bentley with me that came with the 325i. How often is it
that you buy a car and get an awesome shop manual with it? I can’t get it to
do anything. The car’s stone cold dead. I’m gonna walk to a Ranger Station,
call AAA and get a tow back to WPB. Actually I don’t admit defeat that easily.
I keep messing around with it until it starts. I start driving back towards WPB,
get lost a little bit and end up in Palm Beach. Some of the richest people in
the world live here. The mansions are unreal. I gas up. I used a whole tank of
gas already. I got a sneaking suspicion that whatever they’re going to find on
the car tomorrow isn’t going to be good so I only put $5 worth of gas in it.
Somehow I don’t think I’ll be driving this car much longer. I eat dinner at
Tree’s Wings in Royal Palm Beach, damn good wings. I’m going to have to
bring some home for Andrea.
Friday morning, I go down to the DMV to see the girls and get something like a
release of interest so that if do take off with the car and I want to dump the
car somewhere on the way home, trade it in, I can. They’ve been very nice to
me and have helped me quite a bit. I call the ATTF detectives at 9am. I talk to
Detective Hagan. He wants to know where the car’s at. I tell him and he tells
me to stay cool for 15 minutes and meet him in the parking lot. This is where it
gets real interesting real fast.
He shows up, starts looking at the car. He walks around it and points out that
the window glass is from all different years??? No two pieces alike. Soooo,
that’s not so bad is it, maybe it’s had all the windows busted out of it
before? Not a good sign, he says. What’s the story on this car he asks? The
whole story from the beginning? “Yeah, start at the beginning” I tell him
about Montoya, UTICORP, the Collection…and all of the bull$hit I‘ve found
out since. “Let me tell you something about cars” What’s that, I say?
“Whatever the seller tells you, I don’t care if it’s your brother, you
don’t believe ONE WORD of it, none of it.” Damn, some more excellent advice
that came too late…
I pop the hood for him. He looks around for a bit, kinda poker faced. “What
year’s your car?” An 89 I tell him. “Look at the emissions sticker” he
says. I look down. It’s real nice, in great condition. “What do you see?”
Well, I’ll be a SONAFABITCH!!!!!!
No way, somebody just hit me with a lead pipe. I could swear I can see stars in
the early morning Florida sun.
It says 1991!
“Yep, it sure does, don’t it?”
He says, "Those don’t come off, except in little pieces, you know
that?" I tell him, yeah I know, I used to be a State Certified Emissions
Another thing, he asks, where’s you National Highway Safety sticker?
Safety what, who, where?
He opens the driver’s side door. “You know the sticker… the one with the
VIN, and the build date…”
I look down. I see some really nice shiny red paint. I don’t see no sticker.
There’s a tire inflation sticker.
Hmmmm? Where is it?
I mumble something about a State inspection when it came into Florida…Must
have had a sticker then…
HEY MAN! WATCHADOING TO MY CAR?
He’s got a Swiss Army knife out and he’s scraping the paint off the car,
just below the windshield at the VIN#. He thinks the other VIN # might be welded
in right in this area, because the paint was real thick right there. I never
noticed that either, but the #’s were almost filled in with paint.
Oh man, this car’s got enough problems and then now you’re scraping the
paint off with a knife.
I tell him about the other VIN under the hood and show him. He calls it in on
He gets a call back. 1991 BMW M3, stolen in Worcester, Rhode Island. “Now wait
a minute”, he says, “It may have been recovered too, then it’s not a
stolen car anymore”.
He starts to check the windshield pillars with a special magnet with a gauge
that measures pull when you lift it off of the body. What’s that? I ask him.
“Usually when they cut a car in half they weld them back together right around
here” He says. I start peeling the interior back. Nahhh, it’s never been cut
If the stolen car was recovered and wrecked too, and they cut the both cars in
half and made one car out of it, it would still be a legal car. He tells me.
They are going to have to impound it to take it apart and find out if in fact it
is two cars or just the stolen 91 with the 89’s VIN# spliced in somewhere and
the 89’s dash. That’s great, I could get this car back after it’s been
completely taken apart and had the paint scraped off of it…When does this $hit
I tell him, Kim at the SAO said that it was in a head on collision in NY for
$17k after it was totaled out in PA and issued a salvage title. This car’s
never been in a front end collision. I can tell by looking at it under the hood.
I remember Montoya asking me if I was looking to see if it had been wrecked.
“Because it hasn’t”, he had told me.
He’s waiting back on the stolen car again. That emissions sticker’s on the
driver’s side strut tower, that’s been on there since day one. Definitely,
the whole nose is from the 91, you can tell its all original paint under the
hood, oxidized with age. Hagan points out where someone’s been into the wiring
harness. Yeah, I tell him, they switched the whole ellipsoid headlight system
and wiring from the 89 and grafted it in, but not anywhere near the headlights
where it would have been obvious. Plus the back windows are pop-out windows like
an 88, 89’s supposed to have instead of the fixed 90, 91. That explains the
crooked driver’s side pop out window problem. It also explains the bruises in
the side of the dash. The dash is from the 89 that was totaled out twice, hence
the dents, including the glove box that somebody probably impacted against. It
also explains the condition of the steering wheel steering/shifter not matching
the interior of the car. The 91 steering wheel has an air bag, so they had to
find an earlier wheel to make it look right. Also the plastic covers behind the
headlights were missing. I had asked Montoya the first night I looked at the
car, is there supposed to be covers behind the headlights like on other E30's?
"No", he had told me, “This is how they come" I thought that he
might have been right, maybe M3's didn't use them to improve cooling under the
hood. Those covers for Ellipsoid cars are totally different than the sealed beam
cars. When they did the conversion, they probably didn't have the 88/89 covers
to reinstall into the car.
That’s when it dawned on me, DID MONTOYA KNOW ABOUT THE CARFAX before I came
down to buy the car? Because that CARFAX is not for this car, just like he said
“The CARFAX is wrong, this car has never been totaled out”. By now I’m
100% sure this is the stolen 91 from Rhode Island. If he knew about the CARFAX
and he knew that this car had not ever been in major accident, he had to know
that there was something really fishy going on with the car. The #’s on the
title match the VIN on the dash, but it’s very obviously a different car.
He gets the call back, the stolen 91 has never been recovered. He has me write
down the engine #’s stamped into the back of the block just ahead of the
bellhousing while he reads them off. He calls the engine #’s in, they don’t
go to the 89, and pretty shortly he finds out that they don’t go to the 91
He calls to have somebody pick up the car. These other cops show up, one of them
is this tough guy from the Bronx, looks like a boxer. Hagan tells him what’s
going on. The ex NY cop’s going, “eh, where’s this guy at boss, you want
me to bring him in, boss, let’s go to his house boss? $hit, send him over
there, I’d probably get my money back within the hour. It’s too bad justice
doesn’t work like that. Hagan gives me a ride back to the hotel. We talk about
cars. He’s a hell of a nice guy.
He drops me off, writes me a receipt for the car, and says they’ll try to
figure it out by the end of today. He gives me a call back in a little while to
tell me that he has called BMW and that the stolen 91 was Brilliant Red with a
Tan interior. That’s not a good sign but ok with me, I don’t want anything
to do with this car. Even if I had parted it out, I would have been selling
stolen parts. If I would have got it back to Washington, the State patrol here
would have found out it was stolen car and impounded it. The Washington Sate
Patrol doesn’t mess around. No way in hell that any of this $hit would have
got by them, there’s other VIN#’s hidden on BMW’s, BMW told me that they
move them around every so often to stay ahead of the chop shops.
He calls back again in the afternoon, they took the car apart and just like I
figured, it was the stolen 91. He figured out how they grafted the 89 VIN # in
the car. They had taken that whole cowl piece under the windshield all the way
to the sides of the car in the wrecked 89, cut the same piece out of the 91 and
bondoed it into the car. No way, Bondo? Yep he says, they didn’t even weld it
in. The car belongs to this Harley Insurance company in Worcester, RI. “You
may as well pack up and leave town, sorry to have to tell you.” Also he says,
the car had rust in the floor pans so bad that they bondoed up big gaping holes
the floorboards. What a car!!!
What a long strange trip it’s been. I call up Montoya, He doesn’t answer my
calls anymore, let him know that the car was impounded and that it was a stolen
car. I suggest that it might be a good idea that he returns my money before I
leave town. I call Jerry Ellner at UTI to let him know that his employee Mr.
Montoya sold me a stolen car and that the police have impounded it. It doesn’t
take very long for him to call me back to get Detective Hagan’s phone #.
I start booking a flight home, Gee I should have listened about the round trip.
Next day flights are $1200 for a one way. I book one for the day after. I’m
glad to be getting the hell out of there.
I make some more phone calls the next day. I try to get a hold of some Auto
Theft detectives in the Miami area. I’m going to need these phone #’s when I
get back home. I make contact with some attorneys as well. It looks like I will
have to take him to court to get satisfaction. I leave some messages at
Montoya’s house expressing my feelings about what kind of person he is.
This piece of human waste has not
only robbed me of an extremely large sum of money, he has cost me an additional
$2000 in expenses and wrecked my plans of driving across the US. Something I
haven’t done since I was a kid when we moved from Virginia out here and
something that I have never done on my own. It would have been a fantastic trip
in a red M3 in the springtime. The memories would have lasted a lifetime. I’m
without transportation now and I walk to Tree’s Wings for dinner and to get a
double order of Cajun and Super hot wings to take home for Andrea. I think
it’s called Tree’s because of the huge Banyan trees in the parking lot.
I get up at 3:30 the next morning, get a $100 Airport Shuttle ride to Ft
Lauderdale and say good-bye to Florida. Andrea picks me up at the airport, man,
am I glad to see her. I felt really bad about leaving her alone that long. I was
starting to worry about her, all alone in the house. It’s in the 50’s here
and I shiver my way through the next few days and take care of my sunburn.
It’s so bad my whole head starts to peel. The wings and seashells are a big
hit, although on the expensive side…I’m in touch with UTI for the next few
days, Fax them some info/details, they’ve got their own attorneys involved…
Finally I get a phone call from Jerry Ellner at UTI. He tells me that in the
event that Montoya’s charged with criminal wrongdoing, they will fire him
instantly and that he knows that. He also tells me that he “strongly
recommended’ to Montoya that he returns my money. He also informed me that
Jeff Mickey, the Vice-President of UTI, a 200 million dollar a year company got
personally involved and that he also “strongly recommended” to Montoya that
he reimburse me for the car. You can’t ask for anymore than that, I spoke to
Ellner for a while about all the BMW’s and Porsche 911’s that he had owned,
upstanding guy, very concerned about his company’s image, these guys are all
gearheads too, the kind of people that I can relate to better than anybody else.
What I don’t understand is, if Montoya bought the car from dealer in Miami,
how come he doesn’t go back to that guy all pi$$ed off and raise hell, “Hey
give me my money back on this car, plus you guys sold me a stolen car and it
caused me a lot of trouble etc, etc.”
I finally get a hold of a detective Rodriguez in Miami and fill him in on the
details. Who is this Exceptional Inc, I ask him. They’re in Opa Locka, south
of Miami, in an area the auto theft detective is “very familiar” with. “We
have a lot of problems in that area”, he tells me. He’s got somebody on it
and he’s going to order a body file on the 89 and the stolen car and get down
to the bottom of it. He tells me “I hate for you to find out this way, but
Florida leads the nation in this kind of crime.”
I start bugging Auto trader also, and through some slight trickery found out
that Montoya started the ad April 11th, 2003. “His” M5 started running in
there at the same time and hasn’t sold yet. It’s sounded like $hit when he
backed it out of the driveway one day and the body looked like it was massaged
by the same “professionals” who did the M3. Is it another chop shop car? It
figures he lied to me about the ad just coming out, he lied to me about holding
the car for me and the other buyers, after a month in the Auto Trader, there
were no other buyers. That’s when I started posting the ads on the BMW forums
trying to find other people who had talked to him or looked at the car.
No luck there so far or with the Everglades chapter of the BMWCCA, although they
told me that no one in their club knows him and that he is not related to Juan
Pablo Montoya, and he is not a BMWCCA member either. I decided to post an online
ad in Auto Trader, I made the ad look just like his, same description and price,
with the words, “Help, I bought a stolen car. Anyone who looked at the car or
talked to the seller please get a hold of me”…
I just talked to a very nice gal, “Cecilia” about updating the wording on
the ad a couple days ago and she was kinda upset “Say, what’s going on with
this ad “She asks? What do you mean, I ask her? A guy called yesterday, he was
yelling and saying we need to stop running the ad, that this is in court right
now, bla, bla, bla” Ahhh, Montoya. How can you tell if Montoya’s lying? Are
his lips moving?
I told her, it’s my ad right? Right, she says. I’m paying for it, it can say
whatever I want it to say? Right. “Well, what’s going on with this ad?
“She asks? Do you really want to know? “Yeah I want to know!”, so I tell
her. Omygod, she says, she wants me to change my ad to, “Warning, this guy
sells stolen cars” I get a little laugh out of that and the she actually
starts to give me legal advice, and it’s actually pretty damn good stuff.
The Auto trader ad paid off, I start getting phone calls. On the 2nd of June I
get a message from “Greg” about his ordeal with the Montoya and the car, he
wants me to call him.
I called him and listened to his story. His story confirmed everything that I
suspected about Montoya’s prior knowledge of the car’s problems. Montoya
knew about the CARFAX. He blatantly lied to me on the phone in order to lure me
down to Florida and sell me a very questionable, and in fact, stolen car. I know
now for a fact that this man is a liar, and a crook.
Greg lives in Seattle, and he is a manager at Boeing. What a coincidence, we
only live 300 miles from each other. He called on the M3 back in April, got the
same story I did, the same tissue of lies. And Montoya was “holding” the car
for him too. He flew in on the 3rd of May and returned on the 5th. Amazingly
enough, Montoya took him to the Royal Inn also, and he stayed in the very same
room I did, Room 131, overlooking the pool. With Montoya’s UTI credentials and
the story about “The Collection”, he had not bothered to do a CARFAX either.
He checked the car out, drove it around the block, (The Montoya no license plate
maneuver). Montoya was opposed to the idea bank financing and discouraged him
from running a CARFAX. Overall the car was nice, so he wrote Montoya a check for
$10,500 and flew back home. Transport was to be arranged to get the car home
later. It was only because one of his friends in Seattle pestered him about it
that he did a CARFAX on the M3. He was aghast. He immediately called Montoya,
got his wife on the phone and told her what was going on. She didn’t
“understand”, so he explained it to her in these terms. I don’t want the
car, it’s junk, I’ve already contacted my attorney, and if you even try to
cash that check, I will sue you.
Now if you’re selling a legitimate car, have it sold, the money in your hand
and the buyer suddenly backs out and threatens lawsuit, you would think that the
seller would be in a little bit of a shock and would at the very least try to
find out what the problem is. The amazing thing is that he never got as much as
one phone call from Montoya regarding the car and his check for $10,500. Greg
mentioned having to close his bank account to protect himself because Montoya
still has his check with all of the personal information on it. This man is a
crook, no doubt about it. I myself at one point during my stay at the Royal Inn
suddenly got very spooked about this guy and went to the front desk with a story
about inoperative A/C in order to change rooms. I then had to make sure that
they didn’t tell anybody which room I was in. I had started to worry that he
might have me killed in the middle of the night in order to get rid of me and
keep the money. Undoubtedly, this guy has some very unsavory contacts. For all I
know, he had other keys to the car and could have very easily just taken it back
and called Exceptional Inc. to have the title turned in as lost or stolen giving
“them” free reign to sell the car again. All I can say is that I was glad to
get home alive.
Greg is willing to fly to Florida to testify on my behalf against Montoya. He
gave up on buying an M3 and bought a 90’s Corvette instead. He is at this time
preparing what will be a notarized statement for me and making copies of all of
the receipts for the expense that he incurred as a result of this fraudulent
Here is one of his last emails;
I still can't believe what happened to you. I'm so sorry this happened
I'm in the process of getting all the documents together I can, and I'm
also preparing a statement describing what happened when I visited
I should have all this done by early next week.
Since I can't seem to find a decent M3 anywhere...I broke down and
bought a 1991 Corvette convertible 6-speed. It's a California car with 17K
on it...the carfax is clean and the car is awesome. It's red, black
top, black leather. It's a little different, but I think it will be a
nice weekend cruiser.
Talk to you later,
A couple days ago, a man by the name of “Martin” called me from Chicago to
share his story…
$12K Florida souvenirs
So, be careful out there!!!