October 24, 2011

Buying an Iltis, take two

Every time I buy a vehicle I discover more about the fine art of buying vehicles.  In this case, it's not like buying a minivan that just came off lease; checking body panels for Bondo, scuffs on the leather, etc..  virtually all Iltis' have been abused by Canadian Forces jocks in training, and in theater - all have scuffs and bruises from their escapades. Skipping them across lakes and over ditches was common - but I should note, they took the abuse and usually kept on trucking.

Researching the Iltis, thousands of which were purchased between 1983-1986 by the Canadian Forces, I've seem many people in many forums scavenging for parts to repair their hobby vehicles. I think I've got a good idea what goes wrong on them, how to find the parts, and fix them.

Some of the issues I've run into are far more mundane than exotic 24V fuel pumps (which the Iltis uses...) and can be experienced with any vehicle purchase.

Cost is something everyone runs into.  But after the sale, the hidden costs start to creep up on you.  When buying a 25 year old vehicle, you can bet there are skeletons in that closet.  What do you do?  Anticipate the worst.  Inform yourself on the usual things that go wrong.  Don't believe anyone who tells you the vehicle is in mint shape and runs like a top.  Get a safety check, or at least a mechanic to look at the vehicle before purchase.  If you don't get an expert opinion before hand, be prepared to pay for the worst case scenarios that would have made you walk away from the sale.  There is also a lot of social engineering, economics, sociology and psychology involved in a sale.  Who is it that you're buying the vehicle from?  What's their social situation?  What's their financial situation?  Why are they selling?  How long has the item been for sale?  What is the market for their model like?  How many others are for sale, and what differentiates this one, from the rest?

I'm currently posed with a dilemma, which I don't mind sharing on our blog because both sellers who I'm dealing with know I'm looking at the other one's Iltis.

1986 Bombardier Iltis, Canadian Camo
There's a 1986 Iltis that underwent a restoration in 2007, and today is for sale in Thunder Bay, Ontario.  According to Google Maps, the most direct route from Thunder Bay to Carp, Ontario is ~20hrs of driving away.  That vehicle has undergone a safety check, and found a small shopping list of relatively minor issues, including issues with the wheel cylinder, suspension bushings, ball joints, etc.. It is not repaired, and as the buyer I would need to perform those repairs on my dime, or haggle the seller down.  The vehicle does have a full set of canvas/vinyl doors, camo netting, the standard issue trailer, and many accessories.
A flight there costs ~$300+4.5hrs (or a bus costs ~$250+22hrs).
Driving back would cost ~$300 in gas, and 2-3 days of leisurely driving
Perhaps more worrying, if I were to break down along the way with this new-to-me vehicle, i could be quite far from civilization and incur significant costs for hotels and repairs.  For all the problems and risks that I can list for this vehicle, it is being sold by an honest seller who drove it the same distance from southern Ontario to Thunder Bay in 2007, he knows exactly what I'm considering doing.  With these mounting secondary costs, I had to consider another vehicle closer to home.

1985 Bombardier Iltis, OPFOR Camo Pattern
I found a 1985 Bombardier Iltis less than an hour away, that seems to be in good shape - from the pictures.  The seller is an old-timer who's had his knee replaced, and doesn't want to climb into the tub anymore.  He's been collecting parts for the Iltis for as long as he's had it, and will give all the parts he's accumulated, as well as an entire 2nd Iltis in with the deal.  This made the deal much more interesting, even while there is no trailer.  The spare parts, inclusion of a winch, a separate 12V alternator and auxiliary lights make this deal very attractive.  The "problem" with this one is while it is almost the same price as the above, I am not sure it has had a safety check done recently, therefore it will certainly have some problems that require repair.    How much will those repairs cost?  No idea.

How much does the risk involved in the trip to Thunder Bay, additional time and expense of the trip there and back (4 day round trip) change the equation?  The 1985 Iltis is the devil I *don't* know, and the 1986 Iltis is what I consider the devil I *do* know.  I will see the 1985 Iltis on Tuesday... the seller in Thunder Bay knows I'm looking at one which is closer - and completely understands my reasoning.  I haven't given up on the Thunder Bay Iltis, partially because it's in such fine shape, the seats have been repaired and re-covered, and the trailer matches the Iltis perfectly - right down to the matching stenciled numbers on the sides of both the Iltis and trailer.

I'm really looking forward to Tuesday...

Here we have a perfect example of why the Bombardier Iltis rocks.

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