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Leno: Adventures as a luxury dealership lot boy
With all the free time as of late, I was thinking back to my days working at Foreign Motors on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. I wasn’t a mechanic so much as a lot boy who did new-car prep and deliveries. I got hired just by walking in and saying, “I’m the new guy,” and the mechanics put me to work. After three days, they figured it out, but they kept me on. We sold mainly Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Rolls-Royce, but it was a funny era when you could sell a foreign brand just by parking one in your showroom with a few brochures.
Jays comment about becoming a luxury car dealership by parking one in the showroom is funny but true. In the early 1970's I was living in SoCal. I read the west coast edition of the Wall Street Journal everyday and one day there was a classified ad "For Sale - Ferrari and BMW dealership for sale $5000.00 and a phone number. I called and it was a woman that had gotten the dealership as part of a divorce settlement and did not know what to do with it beyond not wanting it. It was just the dealer contract with the manufacturers without any vehicles or property. All you were obligated to do was to purchase a certain number of cars each year. Five grand was a lot of money for me back in 1972 and I could not swing it. A friend of mine did. To be a registered dealer in California you had to have a location. Since he was operating on a shoestring. He put a fence around the front yard of a house he was renting in Tarzana with a small sign "New BMW for Sale". No car though. Just brochures when you contacted him. Sold a bunch of Beemer's though. No overhead to speak of. The customers generally looked at the cars at full fledged dealer get a price and he would undercut it by thousands. The cars were ordered direct from BMW and flown to their distribution center in Reno, NV. We would fly to Reno. Pickup the new car and drive it down through the Sierra's on Highway 395 to LA which was a beautiful drive. Run the car through a car wash and deliver it to the new owner with just under 300 miles on the odometer.