November 30, 2020

The Car History of Alex Beloff III

BY LATE 1974 FUEL EMBARGOS, OPEC AND GAS LINES AROUND THE BLOCK THAT I HAD PREDICTED FORCED THE SALE OF MY DEALERSHIP.   A PONTIAC GRANDVILLE LOOKED LIKE AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER WHEN THERE IS NO GAS.

I DID, HOWEVER, BECOME A FINANCIAL PARTNER IN A NEW START-UP FINANCE COMPANY IN AUSTIN, TEXAS.  I WENT TO SEE MAY CLEVERLEY AND FREDA LOCKHART, OWNERS OF CLEVERLEY LOCKHART CADILLAC IN INDIANAPOLIS ON KEYSTONE.

A FEW MONTHS EARLIER I SAT RIGHT NEXT TO BOB LUND, NEWLY PROMOTED GENERAL MANAGER OF CADILLAC MOTOR CAR DIVISION.  WE WERE AT THE PRIVATE DEALER-ONLY SHOWING OF THE NEW 1974 CADILLAC LINE.  THIS FIRST TIME OFFERED COLOR #96 PERSIAN LIME FIRE MIST  GREEN COUPE DEVILLE APPEARED ON THE TURN TABLE WITH WHITE LEATHER AND MATCHING GREEN CARPETS AND DASH WITH THE FIRST TIME EVER CABRIOLET WHITE PADDED HALF TOP.

JOHN SAID TO ME, LOOK AT THAT CADILLAC COUPE DEVILLE.  LOOK WHAT THEY DID.  IT’S FAR BETTER LOOKING THAN THE ELDORADO AND MUCH LESS MONEY.  WHAT’S THAT GOING TO DO TO ELDORADO SALES?  HE WAS RIGHT.  THE REASON THE 1974 HAD THE CABRIOLET TOP IS BECAUSE THE TWO DOOR HARD TOP COUPE DEVILLE AS WE KNEW IT WAS FINISHED.  TO DISGUISE THE TWO DOOR POST COUPE LOOK, THE TOP WAS A REQUIREMENT.

I TOLD MAY AND FREDA THAT I WANTED TO BUY A NEW COUPE DEVILLE THAT MATCHES THAT SHOW CAR.  THEY HAD ONE FOR ME BUT WITH A BENCH SEAT.  I BOUGHT IT ANYWAY BECAUSE IT WAS A HARD TO RESIST IMPULSE CAR.  NOTE:  SOME OF YOU MAY REMEMBER JOHN LUND RETIRED AND OPENED PROBABLY THE MOST IMPRESSIVE CADILLAC PALACE IN PHOENIX BRAND NEW CALLED LUND CADILLAC RUN BY HIS SON JOHN.

I DROVE MY NEW COUPE DEVILLE TO AUSTIN TEXAS.  I TOOK PHOTOS OF IT ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF TOWN LAKE.  CAREFULLY LOOK OVER THE TOP OF THE CADILLAC IN TOP PHOTO AT THE SKYLINE OF AUSTIN IN 1974 TO VISIBLY SEE ONE BUILDING, A GOLD BANK BUILDING.

ONE OF CHARLES MUNN CADILLAC 6TH STREET WHOLESALERS SAW MY CAR AND IMMEDIATELY HANDED ME A DRAFT FOR MY PRICE.  I STILL HAD AN OPEN MSO WHICH MADE IT VERY VALUABLE TO THE NEW OWNER.

FUN OF HAVING A DEALERSHIP:

HOW MANY DEALERS DO YOU KNOW IN 1973-1974 MODEL RUN LOST THEIR GMAC FLOOR PLAN AND WAS IN THE BLACK FOR SIX STRAIGHT MONTHS?

NEVER HAVING A VACATION OF ANY TYPE IN SIX YEARS, WE WERE IN ACAPULCO AT THE LAS BRISAS RESORT.   WHILE LOOKING AT THE PACIFIC OCEAN, I GOT A PHONE CALL.  APPARENTLY MY OFFICE MANAGER WROTE A BAD CHECK TO GMAC ON OUR FLOOR PLAN FOR $11,834 AND THE CHECK BOUNCED.  NOW, DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE SERIOUSNESS OF THIS?  . . . THAT MEANS YOU ARE AUTOMATICALLY “COD”.  ALL OF YOUR ORDERED INVENTORY IS NOW IMMEDIATELY NOT FUNDED.  THE VEHICLES “IN” INVENTORY REMAIN WITH YOU UNDER STRICT SUPERVISION.  YOU ARE BASICALLY OUT OF BUSINESS.   BELOFF PONTIAC GMAC HAD ALREADY ESTABLISHED THE HIGHEST SALES RECORDS IN MIAMI COUNTY EVER RECORDED VERIFIED BY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE CEO.  OUR COMPETITORS HATED US.  I NEVER DID ANYTHING UNSCRUPULOUS OR UNDERHANDED.  IT WAS COMMON KNOWLEDGE THAT I WOULD PAY A HUGE SIGN ON BONUS FOR THE TOP PRODUCERS WITH A VERIFIED CLIENTELE TO COME TO WORK FOR ME.  THEY ALSO HAD COMPLETE AUTHORITY TO MAKE THEIR OWN DEALS AND APPRAISE THEY OWN TRADE INS WITH A WASH OUT IN ACCOUNTING INCLUDING SUCCESSFUL DISPOSITION OF THEIR TRADE INS AT THE END OF EVERY MONTH.  NATURALLY THIS REQUIRED SALES PEOPLE, PERHAPS FORMER MANAGERS, WHO HAD A VAST AMOUNT OF EXPERIENCE IN OUR VOCATION.

I LEARNED FROM AN INFORMANT AFTER THE DEALERSHIP WAS SOLD THAT THE ONE WAY TO BRING ME DOWN WAS TO OFFER AN ACCOMMODATION TO THE OFFICE MANAGER TO WRITE A BAD CHECK TO GMAC.  I WAS APPROACHED BY CLIFF WAGNER, CADILLAC MOTOR CAR DIVISION DISTRICT MANAGER, WHO ASKED ME, HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU HAVE?  I SAID, I HAVE $30,000 IN ANOTHER BANK THAT NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT AND IT IS ALL QUITE LEGAL.  HE SAID, ONE OF THE SAVING GRACES THAT WE HAVE IS THAT YOU OWN ALL OF YOUR USED CARS.  (DEALERS WERE NEVER ALLOWED BACK THEN TO FLOOR PLAN THEIR USED CARS).  THAT’S YOUR MONEY SITTING OUT THERE.  HE SAID, YOU HAVE MORE FRIENDS THAN YOU REALIZE.  HERE’S WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO.  MAY CLEVERLEY, WIDOWED AND NEW OWNER OF CLEVERLEY CADILLAC IN INDIANAPOLIS ALONG WITH FREDA LOCKHART, HER NEW GENERAL MANAGER AND CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER, THINK THE WORLD OF  YOU.  THEY WILL ALLOW YOU TO ORDER ALL YOUR NEW CADILLACS ON THEIR FLOOR PLAN.  WHEN THEY ARRIVE, YOU TAKE POSSESSION WITH A CERTIFIED CHECK.  I WILL FIELD TRANSFER THE PAPERWORK SO YOUR DEALERSHIP GETS CREDIT FOR EVERY SALE.  HERE’S THE TOUGH PART AND YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE I KNOW OF THAT HAS THE TALENT AND ENDURANCE TO PULL THIS OFF.  IF THERE IS A TRADE IN INVOLVED, YOU’VE GOT 24 HOURS TO SELL THE CAR TO A RETAIL CUSTOMER AND PUT THE MONEY BACK IN THE BANK.  IF THERE IS NO SALE OF THE A TRADE, THEN YOU MUST RUN TO THE FORT WAYNE AUCTION OR INDIANAPOLIS AUCTION AND SELL THE CAR FOR WHAT EVER IT WILL BRING.  YOU BETTER BE ON THE MONEY FOR EVERY TRADE.  MOST IMPORTANT – CANCEL ALL EXISTING CHECKING ACCOUNTS, BANK AFFILATIONS OF ANY KIND BECAUSE YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE AUTHORIZED TO SIGN CHECKS.  SO YOU ARE BACK IN BUSINESS WITH CADILLAC.  THE BIG EXCLUSIVE PONTIAC DEALER IN SOUTH BEND LIKES YOU TOO.  YOU CAN ORDER ALL YOUR PONTIACS ON HIS FLOOR PLAN WITH THE SAME ARRANGEMENT.  ED COX GMC TRUCK IN LOGANSPORT IS EXTREMELY SYMPATHETIC AND YOU CAN ORDER ALL YOUR GMC TRUCKS FROM WITH THE SAME DEAL.  SO THERE YOU HAVE IT.  YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO GET TOUGH OR DIE.  I KNOW YOU CAN DO IT.  I DID IT FOR SIX STRAIGHT MONTHS.  I WAS IN THE BLACK WITH NO FLOOR PLAN.  I WAS ALSO MENTALLY PHYSICALLY EMOTIONALLY EXHAUSTED BUT ELATED.

I MARCHED INTO RON SHRAM’S OFFICE, PRESIDENT OF PERU TRUST BANK (RON SHRAM IS A VERY TALL HANDSOME POLISHED GENTLEMAN WITH THE BEST HAND SHAKE I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED.  I SAID, RON I HAVE A PRESENT FOR YOU.  IT IS IN THIS BIG WHITE BOX WITH THE BOW ON IT.  HE SAID, WHAT’S THIS FOR.  WHEN HE OPENED IT, IT WAS THE BEST SET OF BINOCULARS I COULD AFFORD.  YOU COULD ALMOST SEE INTO THE NEXT COUNTY.  RON WAS THRILLED.  I SAID, WELL NOW RON.  LOOK OUT YOUR WINDOW PAST THE COURTHOUSE A BLOCK AWAY AT MY DEALERSHIP.  LOOK AT THE CARS.  FOCUS ON THE VEHICLE IDENTIFICATION NUMBERS AT THE BASE OF THE WINDSHIELD.  HE SAID, WOW I SEE THEM PLAINLY.  I SAID, RON I NEED $100,000 FLOOR PLAN FROM YOUR BANK SHORT TERM.  I HAVE THE PLACE PRETTY WELL SOLD.  RON SAID, WE HAVE NEVER FLOOR PLANNED ANYONE.  I WOULDN’T FLOOR PLAN MY OWN BROTHER.  I SAID, WELL RON YOU BETTER CALL THE POLICE AND HAVE THEM COME OVER HERE AND LOCK ME UP BECAUSE I AM NOT LEAVING YOUR BANK WITHOUT A FLOOR PLAN.     RON SAID, SOMETHING UNDER HIS BREATH THEN HE SAID, SIGN HERE.  I’LL HANDLE IT.  TWO REQUIREMENTS.  I AM POSTING A LIEN AGAINST ALL YOUR SPECIAL INTEREST CARS THAT ARE IN STORAGE.  SECOND, THE DAY YOU SELL THE DEALERSHIP IS THE DAY I CALL THE SHERIFF AND HAVE HIM PADLOCK ALL THE DOORS OF YOUR DEALERSHIP UNTIL NIGHTFALL.  DON’T ASK WHY.  THIS GETS THE BANK OFF THE HOOK AND EVERYONE IS HAPPY.  WITH A FLOOR PLAN, A YOUNG MAN FROM OHIO BOUGHT THE DEALERSHIP.  HIS BROTHER WAS SOME BIG NFL STAR.  IT WAS COMPLETE AND I WAS OUT.  I COULD MAKE MORE MONEY AS A TOP SALESMAN AND NO GRIEF.

I WARNED SEVERAL DEALER FRIENDS SIMILAR TO MY SELLING AREA TO SELL OUT NOW.  THERE IS GOING TO BE GAS LINES AROUND THE BLOCK.  OPEC AND THE ARABS ARE GOING TO SQUEEZE US.  UNLESS YOU HAVE VERY DEEP POCKETS, YOU WILL NOT SURVIVE.  HISTORY SHOWS THAT I HAVE BEEN TERRIBLY VINDICATED.  OVER 4,000 DEALERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY CLOSED THEIR DOORS.  THE SAVING GRACE FOR YOU EXISTING DEALERS, DO NOT FLOOR PLAN USED CARS!  BUILDING PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS SAVED MY BACON!

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