Rocky Watson has been in business at least since I was a teenager. He owns a used car lot in the suburbs off Highway 1. His white loafers, plaid leisure suit, and nickel stinker cigars are a significant part of my life.

 Every second week he phones to tell me of a broken down jalopy that some frustrated would-be motorist shoved onto his lot in the dead of night. By three that afternoon it would be sitting on my front lawn chewing holes in my bank account.

 Symbiotic relationships like this bind our society together

in a cohesive manner and make our country great. I recall the first wheeled Beelzebub he sold me when I was seventeen. It was a ’56 Buick with that characteristic row of portholes on it’s one remaining fender. Two massive chrome nose cones on the bumper reminiscent of the breast plate worn by the fat lady in Aida completed the beast.

 “She’s gotta semi-automatic in ‘er,” said Rocky, popping his knuckles and shifting his cigar back and forth in his mouth with his tongue.

 I found out later that semi-automatic meant that it had an automatic transmission that only worked half the time.

 “If she stalls out on ya, just put the boot to ‘er,” he said stubbing his stogey into one of the portholes. “You know, press the pedal to the metal. If ya don’t put the boot to ‘er every now and again, well, … it just aint human.”

 I remembered this as I blocked the lane leading to my driveway. I pushed the accelerator to the floor. With a clunk and a screech, the Buick chewed through the family’s prized gladiola bed.  After a few minutes of rototilling, it launched itself off a sloping rockery to land in the middle of the living room. Its chrome bumper bosoms pinned my sister’s boyfriend to the chesterfield.

 How do used car salesmen manage to get ordinary upstanding citizens to mortgage their homes in a fit of uncontrolled cheque signing? Do they cast some sort of magic spell? Are used car buyers all stupid?

 No. It’s all in the language they use. My years of association with Rocky qualify me as somewhat of an expert on the sales pitches Rocky and his competitors use to close that sale. There are seven pitches in all. Each specially formulated pitch throws perspective car buyers into a hypnotic buying stupor. In the interests of consumer awareness, I offer these pitches with their definitions.

 1.) This Machine Runs Like A Top!

Tops are tOys which spin. The spinning results from angular momentum generated from an initial flick of the thumb and forefinger.The top never spins faster than the initial flick. In fact, friction at the bottom of the top causes it to lose angular momentum and slow down. Eventually, this slowing turns into violent vibration followed by a random wobble. The top falls over after colliding with the cat’s dish.

 Consider the car that runs like a top. Idling on the lot, purring seductively, the car that runs like a top winks its headlight suggesting a little test spin. Rocky, however, notes a minor insurance problem. The car cannot move from the lot until a buyer buys it. The buyer, impressed by the engine’s perfect idle, buys it.

 As soon as it leaves the lot, the top begins to lose angular momentum. The new owner feels a violent vibration. The random wobble begins as he hears a distinct, “Wakka wakka wakka,” of the clutch and transmission. As he glances into the mirror, he can see a grim trail of nuts, bolts and a warped flywheel adorning the centre of the road. The top gives one last shiver to take out a fire hydrant before rolling into the ditch. True to Rocky’s word, the car ran like a top.

 1.) I Think You’re Gonna Have A Lot Of Fun With It!

In Rocky’s office, there is a machine he calls the fun-o-meter. For Rocky, fun means spending someone else’s time and money to keep that mechanical brute running safely, or for that matter, running at all.

 Replacing a wiper blade rates low on the fun-o-meter. Rebuilding the whole car from the ground up approaches pure ecstasy. Replacing a water pump ranks low at first, but it escalates to become a real gong clapper when the increased pressure causes the heater core to burst.

 I never liked saunas. They give me hives. However, the prospect of cruising down the highway with your feet ankle deep boiling green radiator coolant while steam blasts out of the glove compartment is somewhat sensuous.

 3.) I’ve Just Had The Carb Cleaned!

There are two ways to clean a carburettor: completely rebuild it; or pour a solvent down its throat and gun the heck out of the engine. Guess which method Rocky uses.

 4.) All The Miles On This Baby Were Put On By Bein’ Towed By An RV!

We have all seen them on the highway whizzing past us – especially while stopped on the shoulder with our hoods up trying to scoop water up from a ditch with our bare hands to feed our thirsty radiators. Recreational vehicles do, from time to time, tow Honda Civics. We also know that these vehicles will eventually end up on a used car lot. This is all part of life’s grand pageant for automobiles.

 But not this Honda, and not this used car lot.

 Ask Rocky why the motor oil has the viscosity of ear wax, provided you can find the dipstick through all that encrusted mud and grease.

 “The engine picks up a little road dust from all that tow-in’,” he says while trying to guide you to his office to sign some important papers.

 Ask him what caused the burns on the harness cables, or why the engine is so out of tune that a cafe down the block just evacuated because of all the fumes it is belching.

 “Never mind that,” he says.  “Just think of all that fun you’re gonna have with it.”

 5.) And For Only Fifty Bucks Extra, I’ll Throw In This Beautiful     Tape Deck!

It didn’t work properly in the car you traded in last week, so why should it work any better now?

 6) I Just Put A New Trannie In ‘Er!

One would think that the installation of a new transmission would add years of trouble free motoring to the life of a car.

 A new transmission sets up a mechanical version of the domino effect known as catastrophic collapse. The increased strength of the new part places intolerable stress on every other part. The battery will be the last to go.

 7) I’ve Got All The Papers For It!

Items that come with papers include parrots, poodles, and racehorses. What does he expect you to do with all those papers?  Do you drive it or breed it?

 Suppose I leave the parking brake off one night. My ’66 Rambler, sensing freedom, rambles off on a prowling tour of all the singles gas bars. I can see it all now. Propped up on its round rubber elbows at a stand up bar, it sips double STPs with a ’78 VW Rabbit.  Is this how the Gremlin came about?

 Used car buyers ought to be aware of the double meanings contained in these magical sales pitches spoken by Rocky and his kind. No one wants to get stuck with a machine that can only be used for a nasturtium planter, and also  …  er

RRRING  …  Excuse me.  … Hello.

 “Hey Mike, Rocky here.  Look, I’ve got a real beaut here that I know you’re gonna wanna see.

“What is it?

 “Look, she’s only got sixty thou’ on ‘er. The guy says most of those were from haulin’ ‘er behind an RV!

 “Rocky, … what is it?

 “Honest, man. You won’t believe it. I’ve never seen a machine in here like ‘er. She runs just like a top, and the guy says he just put a new trannie in ‘er!

 “Come on, Rocky, I’m trying to end a story.  What is it?

 “She’s a real honey, man. The guy’s gave me all the papers!  He’s just had the carb cleaned!

 “Rocky, …

 “Look. For only fifty bucks extra I’ll throw in a beautiful tape deck!

 “Rocky, …

 “You can’t afford to pass this baby up, man. This is the chance of a lifetime. I – know – you’re – gonna – have – a – lot – of – fun – with – it!


Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at or at or at 604-464-4195.  If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia.



2 Responses to “HOW TO BUY A USED CAR”

  1. Catherine Says:

    Great advice and humorous too. Nice mix!

  2. Sharon Says:

    Oh, my stomach hurts from laughing so hard. I think I’ve bought some of my cars from Rocky.
    My dad had a 56 Buick. We used to have to start it with a pencil. He took the top off the butterfly valve so all we had to do was stick the pencil in to get the gas to where it was needed to make the car go.

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