A trusted yakmobile
$1000 budget. 1.2 liter engine size. Somewhere on the European continent.
These were the only constraints we had when trying to find a healthy chariot. As much as we would have liked to have flown to London, gone to the nearest scrap yard and picked up a car for $50. We had to purchase a car before hand with enough time to get it registered, taxed, serviced, and MOT’d (An annual inspection of the vehicle to make sure its road worthy, some craziness the Europeans invented).
One day during our team meetings we were discussing how we wanted to go about trying to find a vehicle...in a country none of us were in. We decided to reach out to some fellow ralliers for some advice. The Mongol Rally community works amazingly quick. We didn’t have to wait long before someone got back to us and told us about an Ebay auction for a car that had actually done the rally the previous year!
The catch? There was less than 16 hours left to bid, and it was a 2 door vehicle.
If you had asked me the day before what my ONLY requirement for a vehicle would have been, I would have told you that the car had to have 4 doors.
Driving 10,000 miles with 4 fully grown men in a compact car is already cozy enough, no need to make things cozier by getting a 2 door car. My mind was changed by several facts though, first being that this car was nearly rally ready. It had new suspension, a sump guard, and a roof rack. All things that we would have to do to whatever car we were going to end up with. Plus, we found the dimensions for the 4 door version of the car, and to my surprise, they were the exact same size!
On top of all of that the starting bid was about $450. The decision was made, this is our car, a 1995 VW Polo currently located somewhere in England.
Before we were going to place a bid on this car we needed answers to some important questions. Since none of us lived in England, and none of us planned on getting there until the start of the rally was this guy going to let us store the vehicle for 3 months at his place until we arrived? How much money are we going to need to invest in this thing to get it ready? Is this guy going to check his messages in the next 16 hours and get back to us? All we could do is send him our questions before we went to bed and hope that when we got up they would be answered.
Success! Our random Ebay used car salesman had responded, and to our delight he said that he could keep the car for us until we were ready to pick it up, and it shouldn’t cost more than a couple hundred bucks to get the car ready! All we had to do now was place our bid within the next 3 hours and become the proud new owners of our yakmobile…
The Final Countdown
I decided to wait until there was 45 minutes left in the auction before placing my bid, which for most Ebay auctions would not be a problem. This, however, was not a normal Ebay auction, this was Ebay Motors UK, and I quickly learned that waiting until there was 45 minutes left might be disastrous.
45 minutes left. ERROR!
I click to place my first bid and I am informed that I cannot bid since the seller will not ship the car to the US. ERROR!
Ok, no problem, I eat errors for breakfast. I message Patrick to get him to give me his Swiss address, and after spending several minutes searching on the Ebay app on my phone. I find where I can change my default shipping address and I go back to place my bid again.
29 minutes left. PANIC
I get the same error as earlier, it looks like I need a UK address. PANIC.
How am I supposed to get a UK address in the next 29 minutes on my phone at work? I start frantically messaging the team for ideas and suggestions. I end up using the address that we sent all of our passports to for the plethora of visas we needed.
20 minutes left…EEK
Back at the bid page again, if this doesn’t work I’m completely out of ideas. First bid goes through! I put in our max bid as a backup just in case someone tried to outbid us at the last second. All we can do now is wait.
1 minute left… The bid starts to go up. OH NO! Someone is going to outbid us! I try to refresh my screen 10 times a second.
We were all left in suspense….did we win?
Finally the notification came through: Congratulations, you’ve won this auction! WOOOOO Party time!
The right decision
We didn’t know it at the time, but so far it seems like getting this car was definitely the right decision. The owner has bent over backwards to help us, from holding the car for us, to walking us through the registration process, taking the car to his mechanic to get it serviced and inspected, and being an all-around friendly bloke(that’s British for dude). All that’s left now is picking it up and decorating it to our liking.