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Barnfinding: Long game vs. short game

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Article and photos by Adam Wright
Lead image: 356 SC

Hi, I'm Adam Wright of Unobtanium. My brother Matt and I scour the country for long-lost Porsches. Some of these make for great stories, which I will share with you now. I hope you enjoy them. If you have any stories you want to share, please do; I enjoy writing about other people's experiences far more then myself. Please email me

When buying cars for a living, over time one develops and embraces certain strategies that work and discards ones that don't. In my experience, I feel there are two fundamental strategies to approaching a purchase: playing the short game, or playing the long game.

The guys who play the short game are the ones who don't feel good about a deal unless they completely take the seller for all they are worth. They walk into every deal assuming they know more than the seller — and cash talks. So they beat the car up (figuratively), talk down to the seller, and employ any number of other tricks to intimidate the seller into thinking the buyer is doing him a tremendous favor by just being there. And then an even bigger favor by purchasing that old “Porsch.”

Sure, these guys get some deals, and when they do, boy do they get a deal! But it's a short-sided way to approach business, and they usually don't last. They pop up, and then within a few years, fade away. I am a firm believer in the long game. Treat people right, and they tell their Porsche friends. (Yes, most of the cars I buy are from friends, or friends of friends.)

Long before I was playing with Porsches full time, my brother Matt and I owned a New York City-based magazine that was available all over the world, and very popular in Japan. I handled, among a million other things, all the advertising sales, and if there is one thing that is very hard to sell in this millennium, it's print advertising. I learned that one must work long and hard to make a sale, and be very upfront in what is promised, because once you landed a big client they tended to stick around for a long, long time, like when I landed Nike. Print ad sales was where I learned that the long game lands the big fish, and the big fish always look so much better on the plate.

A great case for playing the long game was a few years ago. A guy called me up out of the blue and said he had a 356C coupe he wanted to sell — or that it might be an SC. He had heard about me from a friend. I drove down the next day, looked at the car, and within about three minutes said yes and paid his full asking price. As we are standing in his driveway we see a Mercedes driving very slow up and down his street. We were in a nice neighborhood in New Jersey, so I didn't think we were about to witness or become victims in a drive-by shooting. We both figured it was someone lost or looking for a house.

So when the car pulled close again, my new friend asked the driver if he needed help. The guy in the Mercedes asked if there was a Porsche for sale, and the seller told him there wasn’t. Mercedes-guy refuted the seller’s claim and told him there was a Porsche here for sale a few weeks ago.

I was intrigued by this point and walked up to the car. Sure enough, it was a short-game flipper I know, who recognized me on sight and just uttered one word, “YOU!!!!!” and sped off.

I asked the seller what that was all about, and he told me Mercedes-guy had come out the week before, poo-pooed the car, and offered him half of his asking price. Sure it was worth more, the seller started to ask around and found me.

I brought the 356 home, and it turned out to be a matching-numbers SC with a sunroof, originally Bali Blue over red. I also confirmed it was sporting the rarest Fuchs wheels ever made, the 4.5-inch ones that came on the ’67 911S. For this reason alone, I was more than happy to pay the seller's price. But the short-game guy didn’t want to make merely a good profit, he also had to have the whole meal deal — burger, fries, soda, extra sauce — everything! Over time, this behavior ends up squeezing them out of deals. What’s half of nothing?...

1962 356 notchback

Another time I went to look at a ’62 356, a T6-bodied notchback on Cape Cod. Another guy had been there a few days earlier and brought his short game playbook with him. I looked at the car and said I'd take it at the asking price — because there was still room for me to profit. The guy who was there before had offered half of asking price, and again I wonder what half of nothing is…

Ironically, as we were loading the car, the first guy called saying he might be able to offer $1,000 more, but the owner said the car was sold. The short-gamer then got frantic. He said he would pay full asking price (please, please). Not this time.

Play the long game, treat people right, and Karma will shine on you. Fate played a good part in the SC sunroof story too. I later found out the car had been sitting for 10 years at a Jaguar shop before the owner pulled it and decided to sell it. A week after I bought the car heavy rains came through and flooded said shop — fate was shining that day too.

The long game — at least my long game — is to walk into every deal assuming the car is valuable, and so does the seller. All you have to do is find a happy middle ground where both you and the seller are happy. In the end it's always worth it. I’ve bought cars from sellers at decent prices, yet some of the best have come from the same people years later, when they call me to sell something really juicy.

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