Never Buy A Vanagon Without The In Person Perspective
I've been keeping a close watch on the Vanagon and Westfalia market for a few years now, and though I still consider myself a novice in this universe, I've been quick to absorb, watch, listen and learn from all the awesome online communities, especially the Vanagon Owners Facebook group (not to be confused with "the cult"). Gather some passionate folks into an online discussion and it's inevitable there will be disagreement, chest pounding and animosity, but I've yet to witness something like the sh!t storm yesterday regarding a deal that went sour.
The conversation, names and details here are all public record in the Vanagon Owners Facebook group, even non members can read/view everything that has transpired.
Vik Viktor (aka Vinnie), owner of Access Classics, known as Star Studded Seller on eBay, and capricessnj on The Samba, has been importing various hard to find German cars into New Jersey, cleaning them up, titling them in the US, then flipping them on eBay and craigslist. Great business model if you've got the capital, connections and know how. I've posted about his offerings in the past, like this diesel syncro high top and this diesel synrco camper. His vans have even caught the attention of the folks at Bring A Trailer. Most of the rides he's imported are highly sought after, due to the models never being offered in the United States. I've been warned by more than a couple of friends that his practices were in question, however he's had some really awesome, hard to find, good looking Vanagons for sale, no doubt about it. I've reached out to him every time when posting a vehicle to ask for more info, though I've not once heard back. Recently a buyer decided to purchase this Diesel Vanagon Doka from Vinnie, sight unseen (except for eBay photos and description), and to put it mildly, it didn't work out so well. Here's just a snippet of what the buyer had to say.
" A ton of Electrical issues, no headliner and missing door panels, Shifter linkage shot, Tires are worn out NOT new as stated etc etc. No sliding side windows like the ad stated.Headlamps flopping around under the grill. We all know what seam rust is, this truck has it "
While the rust might not look like much to those inexperienced in this realm, this Doka has been repainted, and these bubbles are the kiss of death, implying there's much more rust underneath what is likely a poor quality paint job. Now, let's review some of the details from the original eBay auction.
"No accidents, No Stories. Spotless CARFAX and AUTOCHECK reports." - The seller even goes to share screenshots of the Car Fax and Auto Check reports, knowing full well the only history recorded will be "after" it was imported to the states.
"32,533 documented miles" - First off, any vehicle from Europe (sans the UK) will be in kilometers, not miles. While the photo of the odometer does show 32,533 miles, it's likely a replacement. "Documented", well that's what it read when it was titled in the US, so yeah, it's documented...
"NO RUST ANYWHERE"...."IT NEEDS NOTHING". "Rustproofed and Undercoated since day one" - Highly unlikely. The undercoating on many of his vehicles looks like it was sprayed on recently, and if it was "rust proofed", then why is there rust?
"Always garaged. Inspected, Maintained, and Serviced as needed with an open wallet after every outing and/or at slightest hint of anything needing attention." - Da Fuq? This was imported and the seller overseas could have said anything they wanted, let alone it could have sat in a swamp for the past 20 years.
Now for the fine print. Vinnie even had the nerve to reply in the Vanagon Owners thread with "you must not have read the terms". Well, what do the terms state... "Vehicle description represents our subjective and biased opinion", "Miles could differ slightly due to occasional use", "GOOD LUCK!". This more or less reads as "I could be lying about all of this, so whatever".
What have other buyers had to say about their transactions with him on eBay? "Listing not completely accurate as vehicle had some rust, said no rust in add." "Recent ,professionally shaped and painted expandable foam hiding rust. Beware.". While he still has a fairly high feedback score, it's obvious this isn't the first time he's pulled the "no rust" maneuver.
Now, in Vinnie's defense, he likely never gets to inspect these vehicles when ordering them up from overseas, so I'm sure he's gotten the short end of the stick many times. However, is it right to pass the buck to the next buyer, then flaunt your arrogance when they call you out? There were also some folks that came to Vinnie's aid in the thread, stating they've bought great vans from him. Though all stated they personally inspected them before agreeing to purchase, which is what I suggest you do EVERY time.
I get piles of emails from users asking me about selling their Westy. The one aspect I stress the most is disclosure, disclosure, disclosure. Everything! One, it's the honest thing to do. Two, if someone catches wind of you peddling something not as described, they will scream bloody murder to the rest of the interweb and you'll have even a harder time selling your van. At the end of the day, you'll waste less time, sleep better and likely get a fair offer anyways, so why be shady about it? You never know, someone might decide to write a blog post about your business practices.
What's the moral of the story? Always see a vehicle in person before handing over your hard earned cash. A $500 plane ticket to go see it before it's shipped to you is a cheap insurance policy, especially when spending north of $10k.
Have you bought a vehicle from Vinnie? We want to hear from you! Tell us your story in the comments below!