In the meat industry, a butcher might offer mutton dressed up as lamb. In the motoring industry, Mitsubishi once took the body of an everyday 4-cylinder Magna and charged nearly double the price for a V6 version.
It was the Mitsubishi Verada, and it had: one airbag! Anti-lock brakes! An electrically-adjustable driver’s seat! Climate control aircon! And two-tone paint with fancy wheels.
I bought one well-preserved example from an older man who was only the second owner. The first owner had paid $50,000 for this 1995 Australian-made sedan (you could buy land in Brisbane for less than that at the time!), and the second had saved quite a bit by buying it a few years later. When I came along, the Verada was 20 years old, and up for sale unregistered.
It looked good in the Gumtree pictures, except for a dent from a bollard in the front driver’s side fender panel. When I arrived to inspect it, the car was parked on carpet in his garage, and the engine looked clean enough to eat off.
He made a point of telling me he’d disconnected the electric aerial, as he didn’t like the noise of it going up and down when he turned the radio on.
This was a car that had been pampered under his ownership, with some serious money spent on a rebuilt V6 engine just 40,000 kms ago. So even though the odometer said 178-something, the new engine had barely been used in the 8 years since it was installed.
It was clean inside too, with carpets undamaged, and velour seats that had never been stained. So for $550 delivered to my door unregistered, it seemed like a good deal. To me, at least – no-one else in the family liked it.
That’s not to say it didn’t need anything done – rear brakes and some bump stops for the shockies were on the roadworthy list, the original radio cut out and needed fixing, and while it was for sale it developed a hole in the exhaust (the result of the former owner not driving it enough to burn off moisture in the pipe, I was told).
But the biggest repair job was the dent in the fender – I was quoted $750 by a crash repairer, before finding a small dent removal firm that could do it for $450.
So by the time it was up for sale, the money spent had gone well past $2,000. And, strangely, it took a long time to sell – so long I had to re-register it for another 6 months. I ended up taking any reference to a “new” engine out of the ad, as a contact in the car yard game said it was better to say “great mechanical condition” than “this car had a new engine”.
The Verada was my smooth everyday drive, until I sold it to a local couple as their second car. I made no profit (technically a slight loss), but it went to a good home. There was no lamb on the dinner table that night..