IN THE SHED WITH JON FAINE
HATE EBAY. Loathe it with a passion. The hours I spend trawling through looking for crap – detest every moment of it. I am an addict. I admit it. Is there eBay eNonymous?
My name is Jon and I have a problem… The 12-steps programme beckons.
It is like the biggest swap meet you have ever imagined, covering the entire globe. I have bought so many things that I will never use that it’s ridiculous. But I have also sold stuff, sometimes in the most improbable ways.
For years I owned a pre-war Citroen Traction with the wrong headlights.
It was a French market car with English market lights.
The continental cars had 6 volts and painted headlight buckets with little delicate ruby red glass fluted tell-tales in the top. The UK cars had much more impressive 12v chrome Lucas light buckets with no telltales at all. My French car had Lucas lights.
So after years of being annoyed by the wrong lights, I finally crawled into action.
Crawling became trawling I stalked people on eBay France until I found the exact Cibie lights I needed, glass intact, reflectors shiny and ruby tell-tales glowing like new. They cost several million Euro, it seemed – and then there was the slight problem of getting them home. Our son was conveniently on school exchange in Brittany, so I arranged for the lights to be delivered to him, much to the astonishment of his host parents. What spawn of a lunatic had they taken on?
Meanwhile, I advertised my Lucas lights and sold them promptly – to a restorer in Austria. He had an English market right-hand drive ‘Light 15’ with the leather seats, wood dash but with the wrong lights. He was super excited to buy mine, albeit on the opposite side of the globe. So one set of headlights went from Melbourne to Vienna. And another set came from Nantes in Brittany to Melbourne – as hand luggage when we next went to France. Thank you eBay. A global community of happy swappers, with eBay making a killing on each transaction.
Winter is a terrible eBay trap. Less daylight, garages too cold to enjoy and more time to feed the addiction.
I have bought spares I will never use; toy and model cars that I already had on the mantelpiece; books I barely read; workshop manuals I will never consult; extra sets of expensive rubber boots for drive shafts – boots that wear out every twenty thousand clicks – for a car that covers about three hundred clicks each year. That ought cover her for the next 70 or so years by my reckoning – but handy to have on the shelf.
But let us be honest, every now and again there’s a win.
I recently bought a lathe knurling tool without needing to traverse the realm to find it. My local hardware big-box store does not sell knurling tools, but the on-line one does. There it was in the letter box within a week, snug as a knurled bug in a knurled rug.
Last month I was looking for a panel beating dolly.
Simple, plenty to choose from. And while searching, a magnificent hamburger-withthe- lot, you-beaut, all bells and whistles, set of metalshaping tools hit me between the eyes. Smitten I was, and nothing would stop me. And the seller wasn’t on the other side of the country ! Just a few minutes up the highway.
He had just sold an English wheel – how did I miss out on that? And the buyer had not wanted the tooling to go with it. Even more remarkably, my seller had made up a solid steel rack, adapters, tool holders and adjusters, work table – all on castor wheels and was disposing of the lot, and all in top condition. An obsessive and clearly very clever Kiwi tool maker, he had changed directions and was in future only working with wood instead of metal. Hence the sell-off that otherwise made no sense. The set-up is complete with three different sized leather sand-filled bags, a profile gauge and throw in the hand-stretcher/shrinker and a set of electric metal shears and all my secret panel beating fantasies come true.
All I need now is talent, time and tenacity as well as a few years of practice and I reckon I might be able to smash out a respectable set of cycle guards for the 1926 Citroen Caddy. It will be 100 in 2026 – I have nine years to get it finished.