Big Mike: Tractor attraction led to traffic chaos after backfiring bid in early days of online auctions – Car Dealer Magazine (2024)

As I’m sure many of you are already aware, a couple of the major auction houses are reintroducing physical sales this summer after a hiatus of more than four years thanks to the pandemic.

During that time, many of us have been buying solely online, which has become very much the normal way of doing things.

I was mulling this over while having tea and biscuits the other day, because much as I love the excitement and banter of a physical sale, I also enjoy the excitement of seeing a car for the first time after I’ve bought it. I’m weird like that…

One thing that did pop into my head, though, was a fabulous memory from a couple of decades ago, when online auctions started.

They were often targeted at much more specialist machinery, but we’ve always dealt in a few classics as well as moderns, so we bought a few cars that way.

We also learned a trick of gauging the market, so on cars we didn’t want we’d often sling a lowball bid on them because if we did so, we’d see the final sale price on the day.

Of course, I was never going to buy a flat-floor E-Type for a monkey (and if such a thing did randomly happen, I’d have been laughing all the way to the bank), so we did this a lot just to see what things went for.

It did backfire on me once, though, when I didn’t read a listing properly and ended up buying a dog of a Range Rover. But it was my apprentice, Jason, who made the funniest mistake.

Regular readers of this column may remember Jason – back when he worked for me, he was a gormless buffoon whom I kept from straying on to the wrong side of the tracks.

Today, he’s an exclusive supercar dealer and is worth a few million, but I’m not in the slightest bit jealous. Well, maybe a little bit.

Twenty years ago, though, he made an absolute plank of himself – he was about 18 at the time.

Jason had grown up in a farming family and he had a bit of a thing about tractors.

I’ve no idea why, but if nothing else, his fondness for farm machinery gave us something funny to mock him with, as was the way back then in the motor trade. Indeed, we even nicknamed the poor lad Wurzel.

On one occasion, we were having our tea and biscuits while having a look on the ‘big computer’ at what was coming up online in the classic auctions.

Wurzel took a shine to a very down-at-heel 1950s Fordson tractor, which apparently was something quite exotic to those who love the smell of manure.

So, in time-honoured tradition, he slung a £300 bid in its direction, devoured the rest of the custard creams and got back to washing manky old Mondeos on my forecourt.

Little did he know that a week later, Wurzel would be the proud owner of a 1958 Fordson Major, in full running order but looking like it had been dragged through a hedge backwards – and they say it’s dogs who look like their owners.

Big Mike: Tractor attraction led to traffic chaos after backfiring bid in early days of online auctions – Car Dealer Magazine (4)

Custard creams are the biscuit of choice at Big Mike’s dealership

Unfortunately for young Jason, the offending farmer’s friend was in Glasgow, which is a good four-hour drive up from Birmingham.

You can’t, however, drive a vintage tractor on a motorway, and that left the daft so-and-so in a bit of a quandary – one that he got around by using his brother’s student railcard to buy a one-way train ticket to Glasgow with the frankly ridiculous idea of driving the thing home the long way round.

This was the daftest thing he’d come out with since suggesting that Kidderminster Harriers might win the FA Cup, so I allowed the silly sod a long weekend off on the basis that, if nothing else, it would give me something to laugh at.

He left on the Friday, and come Monday lunchtime the Hagley Road – normally one of the busiest thoroughfares in Birmingham’s western reaches – fell extremely quiet.

The reason was that most of the traffic that would normally be on it was stuck in the airstream of a smoke-belching old plough-puller, chugging its way towards my workplace with an oil-blackened mess tugging at its levers.

Big Mike: Tractor attraction led to traffic chaos after backfiring bid in early days of online auctions – Car Dealer Magazine (5)

Big Mike’s apprentice Jason was a huge fan of Kidderminster Harriers

Unbelievably, Wurzel – or Tractor Ted as we soon rechristened him – had spent around 30 hours sitting on a glorified motorised bar stool, causing traffic chaos across vast swathes of the northern trunk road network of England as he and his beloved Fordson clattered and belched their way across the Pennines.

In fairness to the lad, that was some serious kind of commitment, especially after he told me about what happened to him while trying to grab 40 winks in a layby just outside Preston, but I’ll save that story for another day.

The one thing I’ll never understand, though, is why he never bothered to ask me if he could borrow my Discovery and car trailer for the weekend, which was what I expected him to do. Perhaps he enjoyed the misery.

This column appears in the current edition of Car Dealer – issue 196 – along with news, views, reviews, features and much more! Read and download it for FREE here!

Big Mike: Tractor attraction led to traffic chaos after backfiring bid in early days of online auctions – Car Dealer Magazine (2024)
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