There’s a running joke in our family, that I often say “I should never have sold that car”. If I put a dollar in a jar every time someone brought it up, by now I’d have enough money to buy “that” car back.
Some cars I have no problem selling, either because I fall out of love with them, or life changes and it doesn’t make sense to own them any more. However I believe the Daihatsu Copen is the car which prompted me to first coin the phrase “should never have sold that car..”
I had good reasons to sell it – we had moved house, and it was now parked in a gecko-filled, dusty garage next to the house (not the clean, gyprocked garage in our former house) and I also had a big credit card bill to pay off after moving.
Also, IT’S JUST A CAR… And there’s that saying “if you love something, set it free.. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was”. It did (almost) come back to me – but more on that later.
I first saw a Copen in the flesh at a motor show in 2003, and knew that I had to have its tiny, convertible cleverness. It had the styling cues of an Audi TT or Porsche 356 roadster, but at a fraction of the price. Still, to buy one new was going to cost close to $30,000 – and I couldn’t spend that much.
As I was pining after it, in early 2005 Daihatsu announced it would be shutting down in Australia – and then I knew prices would be coming down. I talked to a dealer about a new one, which was now more like $25k as they cleared them out. He even let me take one home overnight (hoping I couldn’t hand it back) but the price was still too steep. So I decided to wait for a second-hand one to come up.
In 2005 the internet was growing, but there was still a booming market for newspaper ads – even for cars. I hadn’t found any affordable Copens online, but then one Saturday morning late in 2005 I saw one advertised in the paper at a local used caryard – for $18,000. Worth a look, even if I still wasn’t happy with the price.
So I looked – and loved, loved, loved.. It was a one-owner 2003 Copen in racing green with a spoiler, 35k on the clock and the previous owner had taken off the Daihatsu and Copen badges, so the car was a mystery to most people (more than once it was mistaken for a small Mercedes coupe!) But then I remembered the most important piece of advice with car yards: be prepared to walk away.
So I had a good inspection/drive of the car, then offered $15,000. “Oh no, we can’t possibly discount this one” they said. So I said “no worries, I’ll keep looking..” and began walking out of the caryard. The salesman literally ran after me, saying “Don’t go! I’m sure we can work something out!”
And so we did – for $16,000 I was the happy owner of a Copen. It had heated tan leather seats, a roof that folded electrically into the boot, resulting in a comically tiny storage area under the boot lid, incredibly tight suspension, and a 660cc turbo-charged Kei car engine that was an absolute joy to push. I especially loved the turbo whistle.
You could put the roof down (or raise it) hydraulically while you were stopped at the traffic lights, instantly changing the driving experience.. and giving other motorists a road show.
But by late 2007, the time had come to sell the Copen. So on eBay it went, and after some weeks a young lady from the Fraser Coast bought it for around $15,000. I remember telling her “if ever you’re selling it, look me up”.
I always keep an eye out for any Copens for sale online, and in January 2015 I found my Copen listed for sale on Gumtree (up north on the Fraser Coast) with only a few thousand kilometres added to the odometer. The seller’s name was the same, reason for selling was pregnancy, and the car had clearly been looked after. Best of all, it was now for sale for around $7,000! So I got in touch with her to ask about the car – I also got in touch with the bank to borrow some money.. to buy it back!
My online bank was quick to agree, but slow to send out a cheque. In that time she told me another buyer (from way up North Queensland!) was promising to buy it and then drive it north. Sadly, by the time my money arrived and cleared, the car was sold to him. I know he’ll be happy with it.
So I went from wishing I’d never sold it – to wishing I’d been quick enough to buy it back. I’m still looking out for Copens.
Right now, though, I have to go put another dollar in a jar.