'58 Ariel Square

Apr 28, 2008
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Had an interesting experience today. There was an ad in the local Craigslist for a "'58(?) Aeriel Square Four" selling for $1100. Also selling was a "69(?) Triumph" for $1100 as well. I called the seller and indeed he said he had a '58 Ariel Square. He also said two other people had already called, and suggested if I wanted it I should get there quick. I hopped in the car and was the first guy there...

Sure enough the bike was sitting in the driveway, next to a '69 TR6 that was in pretty rough shape. He said he received them in a recent inheritance, his mother's boyfriend I think, had no title but was ready to execute a Bill of Sale. It looked like it hadn't been touched in 30 years, lots of corrosion, tank dented in two places, missing headlamp, right side exhaust rusted out and the left side missing. But the frame was good, fenders in decent shape, and the engine was all there although seized up. I matched up the frame numbers to a '58 and told him I'd take it.

Just then another guy pulls up and hops out, asking if he's too late. The seller says, "no but this guy just offered $1100, how much do you want it for?" The other guy says "$1200." I'm a little peeved but tell him $1300. The owner looks at the other guy and says "weeeelll?" The other guy now takes his time sizing up the bike, squinting off in the distance, etc. and finally says "$1400". I'm anxious to wrap this up now and tell the owner $1500. The other guy thinks for a little bit, and now a third person pulls up in the driveway. The other guy says "you can have it for $1500..." but the seller now turns to the newcomer who announces "$1600". The newcomer in particular struck me as a shady character, asking us all sorts of questions about what bikes we own in a intimidating way. When I mention I'm restoring a Norton he immediate barks "What year? My Atlas was just stolen last week! I should check your numbers." He then pulls out his checkbook and says "How high are we gonna make this go."

The owner was now beaming all over, and I was growing more and more uncomfortable with the situation, especially as I would have to return the next day to pick the bike up with a truck and wasn't sure I could trust any agreement now even with a Bill of Sale executed. I ended up walking away, feeling like the deal was getting more and more complicated. As I told the owner I was walking, the newcomer says "so that means I get it for $1500 then if he's leaving..." which at gave me a chuckle.

I'm interested in other's opinions of the transaction and how I should have handled it. The bike should be worth a hell of alot more than $1600 I would think, even given the shape it was in...


- HJ
I would have walked. You never know in a situation like that if you're being set up. If you thought the guy looked "shady" you owed it to yourself to trust your feelings and leave. You could have ended up without the money or the bike.

Another thing: You had an agreement to buy the bike for $1,100. The seller should have honored that. It was not right to turn the situation into an auction in my opinion.

In Oklahoma, it's illegal to sell a motor vehicle without a title. There are ways to get a title on a derelict bike but the first thing one has to do is check police records to find out if the bike had been reported stolen. If you bought the bike and got only a bill of sale and if the police record search turned up a record of the bike having been stolen, even if it was twenty years ago, the bike would be returned to the original owner.

If it smells rotten, it probably is.