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A 1940 Chevrolet half-tonne pickup.

Lou Trottier/The Globe and Mail

I regularly receive reader correspondence requesting updates on my own personal project cars and also anything out of the norm in our repair shop. So please forgive me if I indulge a bit in this wonderful piece of history currently within our four walls. You may think that since the name of my business is All About Imports, that I only work on imported vehicles. And while that may be generally true, it is not always the case. Just to show you how well-rounded I am, take a look at this 1940 Chevrolet half-tonne pickup. While I am not an automotive historian, I do enjoy reading vintage automotive mechanical drawings that were around before the days of computer-aided design (CAD). So getting to work on this pre-Second World War-designed-and-built antique truck was a real treat.

Recently purchased by our customer, it had received a full restoration not too long ago. It’s still sporting its original 216.48 cubic-inch (3.5 litre) inline 6-cylinder engine and driveline. But it’s far from perfect, and it has its fair share of small scratches and blemishes. Though it is technically drivable already, we have been tasked with making it a more “pleasant” drive.

The 1940 Chevrolet half-tonne pickup was built well before the days of seat belts as standard equipment.

Lou Trottier/The Globe and Mail

Since this vehicle was built well before the days of seat belts as standard equipment, the owner insisted on a set of retrofit seatbelts. While we were waiting for the belts to arrive, the bench seat was sent out for reupholstery and the carburetor was also sent out for a rebuild. Brake fluid-soaked components are being replaced due to leaking wheel cylinders. (This was a bit of a surprise given that the truck had just received a provincial safety certificate with its sale.) Now that I have seat belts and the interior sorted out, I am turning my attention to smoothing out its drivability concerns. It’s a bear to drive, because the truck has a very notable flat spot when trying to accelerate – hence the need for the carburetor overhaul. Hopefully between this and a tune up, it will drive more like it was designed, though I suspect it will be tractor-like at best.

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This vehicle also comes equipped with an older 6-volt electric system which needs modernization. It wouldn’t necessarily need an upgrade to continue functioning, however the owner of the truck needed a solution for the lack of power steering. Instead of retrofitting in a complete hydraulic power steering system, he opted for an electronic power steering assist unit which is installed in the steering column. This aftermarket unit was designed to run on a 12-volt system. The upgrade to a new 12-volt system also supports the owners’ further upgrades down the road of a possible swap to a newer V8 engine and automatic transmission. Keeping it closer to original would be my preference, but it’s not my decision. However, I’m sure after he experiences a summer with it, his answer will be a little clearer. What do you think?

Your automotive questions, answered

We purchased a buyback lease car with a base price 14,999 that was supposed to include undercoating. However, in the final purchase agreement, the price of the car remained $14,999 and the rust proofing was $499. The salesperson says this is because the rust proofing is a separate company, so their price has to be listed as cost. Next variation on rust proofing. Yes, the rust proofing is $499, but if it is warrantied for five years you are only required to pay $39 every year to have the rust proofing checked and updated. The car had less than 20,000 kms and did not have any marks anywhere, but had to be repainted. This was “done” before any decision was made about buying the car. Repainting with sealing and then $399 charged for painting the car. The car was cleaned before it was returned to the lot or to the new buyer however, charged $149 for cleaning and fabric guard. Secure Drive warranty was $3,700.

And my personal favourite: ETCH/ Road Hazard $649.95. There is no etching on the windows, just stickers. There is no federal or provincial requirement for the etching/road hazard. Our insurance company does not reduce the amount of the policy if there is “etching” on the car.

Also, the police never claim they can trace your car quicker or return it if it is stolen. Registration fee was $82, I also had to pay a fee to have the car registered. Bank fees of $13.20, for preparing the car loan. The bank insists this is not their fee.

Our friends are laughing at us saying we were hosed. I returned to ask for an explanation of some of these charges. I was informed that since I said yes, and I did not complain enough, that it is too bad and there is nothing I can do about it. How can used car dealers continue to pull this on clients? Yes, the car will be paid off. I’ll never buy a car from them again. And I will tell more people what happened than they ever thought possible.


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My brain hurt reading this Joan. I’m not sure what I can offer that can be of any true benefit after the fact, but be rest assured you are not the only one, as I have seen many questionable purchase contracts. The saddest are those persons with bad credit, who end up paying more in interest than the actual purchase price of their used vehicle, on top of everything else you have also just described.

That being said, the internet has changed the way we buy cars. Many used car dealers advertise their cars online at close to their cost in order to attract more eyes. This despite most provincial regulations declaring that pricing must be advertised as all-in. Ultimately, their profit is generated by selling you add-on stuff you don’t need.

Yes, it sounds like you got completely hosed, but in my humble opinion, you have to see that you sort of failed as well. Not because they saw you coming, but because you signed an absurd contract without questioning what was sitting in front of you. I’m confident you won’t do that again and hopefully your words here will indeed inspire someone else to take a second look at what they are about to sign.

I bought a one owner, 2002 Mercedes S500 with 45,000 miles in Florida, after owning the near same model year (2000) for 10 years. This a story about finding a “deal” and I caution your readers about jumping in to bid for a powderpuff, as I did. I was aware that the (very expensive) air shocks were an issue with this model as I replaced mine, when my old car had 120,000 kms. I had the 2002 “inspected” by a local garage after rebuffing the local MB dealer who wanted $550 to perform their inspection. He didn’t do a good job, as my trunk needed repair and was not “just a fuse”, as I was told by the selling dealer. The car ran fine up to Toronto, but the rear end sagged, the morning after my return home. Although the car raised after it was started, I knew I had to replace the shocks. Fortunately, I knew a local mechanic who has worked on my three previous Mercedes (all bought at a “deal”, I might add!) When the 2002 was up on the hoist, he pointed to severe corrosion on the shocks, struts, rotors, in the wheel wells, etc. I was surprised, as I never would buy and older used car in the north specifically because of the rust issues. I never imagined that heat damage and salt air corrosion could be as bad. Incidentally, I opted for the much cheaper offshore made shock/struts instead of the OEM, which cost five times as much. I installed these on my 2000 model and had good results. Over $2,000 later, I really didn’t have to sell my 2000 model.


I have become a bit of a cynic when it comes to sourcing the true deals. Looking through online specialty car ads, every second advertisement is listed as wanted. Customers regularly bring their supposedly “stellar” deals in for pre-purchase inspections. While scrutinizing their would-be purchases, I often use words like run-away and scary; that’s when they tell me they have already laid out their cash and have purchased said vehicle. In truth, it was a post-purchase inspection, and they were hoping that their mechanic would give them a pat on the back to put their mind at rest. Those deals are out there, but I’m sorry, the average consumer isn’t the one scoring them.

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I personally also have an affliction for vintage guitars. I have a dear friend who has a collection of vintage guitars that makes my jaw drop. Guitars that are worth small fortunes individually, that he bought for pennies on the dollar. He, however, is a music industry veteran with an impressive, trained eye that knows exactly what he is looking at within seconds. I fortunately, have that same skill for things with 4 wheels, hence the reason my vintage guitar collection is minuscule compared to his and vice-versa.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

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