If you’re old enough, you probably remember when gas sold for $.29 a gallon, milk was $.25 a quart, and you could buy a loaf of bread for a nickel. Things sure have changed. But what strikes me most isn’t the incidental items; it’s the big ticket purchases.
Back in the sixties, when I lived in Upstate New York, you could buy an older 3-bedroom home in a decent neighborhood for $10,000. That same home today is around $125,000. In 1976—my first year in the car business—the Chevrolet dealer I worked for was selling C-10, short box pickup trucks for $2,995. Have you checked the prices of pickup trucks lately?
Here’s a personal story that you might find entertaining. In the mid sixties, I worked as a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service. Relative to most jobs that didn’t require college degrees or special skills, I made a pretty good living for a young single guy. I still lived at home with my parents, my expenses were limited, so I had money to burn. In 1966—totally on a whim—I walked into Heinrich’s Chevrolet and placed an order for a brand new, factory fresh, candy apple red, Corvette. When I told my fiancée about it, I thought she’d be thrilled. Instead, she told me I was out of my mind. The price for the new Corvette was $6,600, which by today’s standards is chump change. But back then, it was a small fortune.
My fiancée sobered me up when we crunched the numbers and the reality of my recklessness sunk in. If I had gone through with the purchase, between gas, insurance, maintenance, and a whopping $150 a month payment, the new Corvette would have owned my soul. Besides, for a young couple planning a wedding, the last thing we needed was a shiny new Corvette. But I still had the hots for a sexy car. So, using my incredible persuasive skills, which included lots of whining and begging, I “negotiated” with my fiancée and convinced her to give me a thumb’s up on a used Corvette.
I had heard about a dealer that specialized in used Corvettes—I think they were called Palmyra Motors—so naturally, I didn’t waste any time. They had an incredible inventory of nothing but Corvettes. After searching the entire lot, the car I really wanted was a midnight blue, 1963, split-window coupe. This car was gorgeous. It was the first year that Chevrolet had introduced the Sting Ray and it was the most sought after sports car in the free world. Unfortunately, when there are more buyers than availability of any product, you either pay the price or walk. I had to walk.
Understandably disappointed, I walked away from the Sting Ray, feeling let down. I wandered the lot, halfheartedly looking at cars, but I couldn’t get the Sting Ray out of my mind. But then, I was completely taken by surprise when a fire engine red, 1962 Corvette caught my eye. It had a 327 cubic inch, 350 horsepower engine, and there wasn’t a mark on the car—not even a fingerprint. It was love at first sight. So, I bought the Corvette for $2,200. Twenty-two-hundred dollars! Two years later, when my then wife announced that she was pregnant, I painfully sold the car for $2,300 and bought a more practical car—a boring Chevy Impala. But for two wonderful years, I burned lots of tires with that little red Corvette.
Considering that I drove the Corvette for two years and sold it for $100 more than I paid for it, I felt like the greatest salesman on the planet. Little did I know that a few decades later, the car I paid $2,200 for would sell for over $80,000. Now that’s perspective!