Cash is king, right? Money talks, and B.S. walks. There is a grip of clichs to explain how money makes the world go 'round, and in the underpaid world of automotive journalism, much like other underpaid occupations, we live by these clichs-and we live paycheck to paycheck! So, it struck me funny when I decided to sell one of my trucks to pay off a few bills, and I almost avoided taking cash for my truck. I needed the cash, but the lure of trading my truck for another item was so tantalizing.
I put my dualie up for sale because the thing is a bitch to park where I live. It was a sensible decision to sell this truck and not any of the others, because it is driven the least, it's in the best shape, and it would probably bring the most money. As soon as it hit the few internet sites I posted it on, I had someone offer to buy it for the asking price. For a moment I thought I had asked too little for it. I was ready to cut a deal with the guy when my e-mail box began blowin' up with mail from other guys asking if I'd be willing to trade my truck for something else. A trade? I thought. I hadn't traded anything, let alone a truck, in quite sometime. This required some pondering of the possible ramifications. Money was good, but what treasure might await if I traded the truck away instead?
Some of the trades were pretty appetizing. One guy offered up a mint '70 El Camino. My close friends know that the '59 El Camino is on my short list of five cars I have to build before I die, and although this was not a '59, it still looked killer in the photos that were sent with the offer. I was intrigued at the possibility of owning the Elco. I know, I know, it's not a truck, but it does have a bed. I could picture myself cruising this classic slice of Americana to a local hangout for a burger. My wife wasn't into the factory gold paint, so that trade was out of the question, and I kept looking.
Most of the other trades were just as cool. There was a '68 Camaro from Texas, a '71 Chevy C10 shortbed from Oregon, an '85 C10 from Indiana, and a '66 Mustang from West Virginia. Some of the guys wanting to trade for my dualie were off their rockers or just sharks looking to make a few fast bucks. These guys wanted to swap crap like an '88 Buick Century, an AMC Javelin of questionable vintage, and a '79 Chevy Crew Cab dualie. I don't need another dualie, especially one older than mine, I've never been a fan of AMCs, and as for the Buick, that only made me laugh on the inside.
Before I could respond to the first eight or so e-mails I had sitting in my inbox, a couple more came in. I began asking questions of the owners of the cars I was half-interested in. Before I knew it we were discussing how to arrange transport, money exchanges, and gathering more information on our respective purchases. It was intoxicating. Photos were e-mailed, videos were put on the web-it was like being Indiana Jones but with a computer. I began thinking beyond this trade, down the line to future swaps. I could swap the dualie for the Camino, the Camino for a Camaro, and the Camaro to a guy who had a bone-stock 454SS truck in New York. My brain was working overtime, trying to analyze the possibilities.
The one constant denominator in all of these would-be trades was that every single one of these trucks was located in other states and none of them were next to California. Actually making a trade wouldn't be easy and would require a road trip or a leap of faith with a professional transport company. There was something else at work here, as well; all of the guys who wanted to trade were thinking just like me. They were thinking of the future and what they could get once they had my truck in their possession. They had traded to get the vehicles they were now trading, holding onto them just long enough to make a few well-placed mods, clean them up, enjoy a nice long drive, and then put them back online for sale. A few of the vehicles were on and off the market again in days, and I figured out that several of the traders knew each other. I'd stumbled onto an underground network-OK, it was in plain view for all to see-of custom car and truck fanatics who were just like me. They enjoyed their rides for a while and then wanted to try out something new to them so they didn't bother trying to sell their cars outright. They relished the mental chess game and treasure hunt in making a trade. I decided I liked this strange, new world.
Meanwhile, my new friend who had originally made an offer to buy my dualie was patiently waiting for me to decide whether or not I wanted his greenbacks. I really did want the money. The problem was that the money would have been well-spent before it was in my hands, and I'd have nothing to show for it, except for the righteous cloak of a man who was debt-free. That's not a bad thing, but the sensation would be short-lived. On the other hand, beginning my trading career could conceivably go on forever, as long as I didn't make any bad trades and lose auto equity. It felt a lot like gambling, buying real estate, or trading stocks, all of which I cannot afford to do. Those are thrills with an entry fee too steep for me to experience. The thrill of trading trucks, though, was definitely within my reach. Decisions, decisions.
It's 11 p.m. now, and I'm sitting at home on the couch, checking out the trader publications and responding to more e-mails. The wife is laughing at my mania, and I should probably be asleep by now, but I'm having way too much fun to stop just yet. I think I'll just wait another day to make my decision. You never know what might pop up in the ol' e-mail box tomorrow that might prompt me to drive across the country for a new treasure. Then again, having thousands of dollars in my fist for even a few minutes is a pretty sexy thought. See you next month.