Why Should I Pay for a Pre-Purchase Inspection for My Exotic? (And what to watch for)


Why Should I Pay for a Pre-Purchase Inspection for My Exotic?

So let’s break this down a little bit. Many might not be new to this concept; alternatively, many might be purchasing their very first exotic.  I am going to use my very own experiences, not what someone told me, but my experience both as a Mechanic, and many times over, as an Exotic car Purchaser. I feel it would help you, to hear from me, and see that if dealers attempted to do it to me, actually knowing who I am, they will also do it to you.

First,  what is a Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI for short and what most call it), and what’s involved? A PPI is a preliminary inspection on the vehicle that you are about to purchase. To be honest it’s not limited to the Exotic car world, I just feel it’s that much more important when purchasing this type of vehicle.  What a mechanic does in a PPI is go through the entire vehicle top to bottom and identify pre-existing issues with it.  It is NOT a way for a Mechanic or Shop just to swindle money out of you, and I feel if you actually read this article, by the end of it, you will be thanking me that you read it.

If the car you are purchasing is an F1, E Gear, or Sportshift car, this PPI should also detail the clutch wear life, solenoid leakage rates, and the health of the F1/E Gear/Sportshift Actuator.  This is of vital importance. The Shop that you take or send the vehicle to should have a scan tool that can access all of the functions of the vehicle’s gear box that you are purchasing. Do you want to come out of pocket by literally thousands of dollars right after you purchase the car? If the PPI is performed by someone who doesn’t have a scan tool to access these car’s sub-systems, this could happen to you because it’s a gamble. You cannot accept an answer from a car dealership about any of these vehicles because they are in the business to sell cars not service them. If they have documented proof of the clutch being at a certain read out that’s one thing. It’s an entirely different thing however to time pump cycles, or solenoid leakage rates. Simply replacing the solenoids in these cars will cost a few thousand dollars.

Now I’ve just mentioned details about the gearbox but let’s also talk about paint/body work, as this one of the most important areas to be concerned with and is often completely overlooked during a PPI. When you are performing a PPI did you know that most regular mechanics don’t specialize in paint and body work? There are so many different areas in working on cars that to be honest only really talented mechanics have knowledge in all of them. It is really akin to having a Juris-doctor, or being an attorney practicing Real Estate law. He might have no knowledge in criminal law whatsoever, although technically in many state criminal courts he can step in and represent someone.

This is why there are ASE certifications for various parts of a vehicle’s systems. Even with a Master Mechanic Certification having many ASE certs, this doesn’t mean he will know paint and body work.

Clean Car Fax!

I feel obligated to place this under it’s own sub-title.  I separated this from what I just spoke about above because, dear God, this will be a big slap in the face to most people.

My friend, the fact you have a clean car fax means absolutely nothing.  Are you ready to hear some of my personal experiences in this field? How about one right from my shop, from a guy hired to work there?

Felipe is an honest, good hard worker. He owns a 2011 Hyundai Sonata. One day someone drove down the street hit the back of the vehicle and smashed it really badly. So badly in fact, the car was Salvaged out. They paid him out on the claim, and he liked the vehicle so much he purchase it back from them pennies on the dollar.  It was in a few accidents afterwards as well, but run the VIN number on the car, and there’s nothing. Not one single accident shows up linked to this VIN.

What am I saying here? I am telling you if you honestly think the advertisement of an unblemished or clean Car Fax means anything at all you have been believing a lie. Sorry trying to confirm this with mileage? I’ve seen cars totaled, or wrecked, with 75 miles or 800 miles. I know you want to believe the car Salesman. I do as well. They are dressed nice, talk in a well mannered professional way. They even remind you of your brother, sister, mother or father.  But you are seriously mistaken if you think they don’t make a living selling cars. Now I am going to digress here, and also state, there are some very honest Sales people out there. No, seriously, there are, but they also aren’t mechanics.

Personal Experience with Ferrari 360

What do you think of this beautiful F360 above? Well obviously you know it’s rhetorical, right? Couldn’t use it as one of my examples if there really wasn’t anything wrong with it right?  So this specific F360 was purchased out of Missouri by a Client of mine months ago. It was finally brought to me after another Client of mine pretty much demanded or convinced the Gentleman to do so.  It had already been to a really well known Exotic Mechanic on the Southshore, and to be honest when I met him, he was just exhausted. He was exhausted of getting taken advantage of by mechanics, he was tired of the car, and tired of the constant problems with it. So lets use this as one of my foundations for the discussion on why it’s so important to get a PPI.

First, and foremost, the car was brought to me on the basis of F1 shift issues, which is one of my specialties. Next he complained of a gear box whine as well. These by themselves aren’t necessarily uncommon for F1 or E gear cars. Something as small as using the wrong gear box differential oil could cause it to whine a slight bit more than normal.

The very first time I saw the car, however was a different story. I had already spoken to the Client on the phone as I always try to understand the history of the car I am about to Service. Clean car fax, and he a PPI was performed before it was shipped to Boston from Missouri. On the phone, so far so good. Seemed like just normal stuff.

Within about 5 mins of the car being at the shop however, I noticed a serious issue. There was Clear coat blending above the door pillar.  (Please note most Industry professionals will know where to look for blend, over-spray, or tape marks).  This is indicative of rear quarter panel work being done, whether it be from a bad scratch or a bad crash. Please also know that not every car that has been painted has been involved in a crash; there will be other indicators not just blend marks as there were in this Ferrari’s case.

I want to add a small digression here as well. Just because a vehicle had an accident doesn’t mean it’s unsafe. I would not hesitate to purchase an Exotic vehicle that had a small crash if all new OEM parts had been installed and the repair was done with a high quality of workmanship. Unequivocally, I am certain there are Industry Professionals that would not sleep good at night if a repair was not done right regardless of what they are paid. They may be few and far between, but they do exist.

I am not sure if this video will show up, but I am going to Hyperlink it here so you can access it through my Facebook page if it doesn’t appear below. I want to show you the blend job on this Ferrari.

Now, in the video you will hear me state there is a line that goes all the way across the back pillar that leads me to believe the rear driver’s side quarter panel had been replaced.

What led me to believe that? There were a few things that led me to this conclusion.  First, when you order parts for these vehicles, such as the F360, they are constructed in a way in order for you to patch them back into the vehicle you are working on. You couldn’t see it clearly in the video but right where I put my finger, it was slightly raised, and went across in an “S” or “Z” pattern common for where a body person would remove and re-weld the quarter in. I also weld, not only regular mig but also aluminum. These cars, like for instance the Gallardo, are designed with crush points in the aluminum sub-frame, with impact points to fold. They WANT it to crush on impact to save your life. A person in the field will know where these are, what to look for, and where the tie in points will be.

Let me state again, I don’t mind that the work was done, I do mind that it wasn’t all done correctly, and in this case, the investigation led me to believe all of this Client’s problems in this car were from the accident that went undisclosed to him in the PPI.  In fact, it all made perfect sense to me in retrospect, the differential whine, the actuator shift issues and rear quarter tie in, all pointed to an accident that damaged the car in a serious way because as a whole F360s don’t exhibit all of these issues at once.

So what about the previous PPI? Glad you asked?! Listen don’t get a PPI from a person who does all the dealership’s maintenance work. There is just too much conflict of interest. They could have a stellar reputation. But who feeds them? It’s akin to hiring the Prosecutor’s wife to represent you in court, not saying you’d ever be in that situation. She could be absolutely the most honest person in the world. But it’s the appearance of impropriety that’s the issue.  The people who did the PPI was right there in the same place as the dealership selling the vehicle. They convinced him they had used a paint meter and checked all the various depths of the paint and it all matched.  It’s possible, but depending on where I put that meter I can get a false positive as well.

Own Personal Buying Experience

So I will give my own personal experience as a Buyer hoping it will guide you on your way.

Many years ago, I flew out to the Sunshine state of California.  My wife liked the Italian curves of the Maserati, and after all it was the only woman the Mrs, would allow me to fornicate with. A win, win for us both. It was a Maserati Coupe and it was a nice deep blue color. The guy on the phone sounded like an absolute gentleman, as they always do with this much money involved. He promised the car was in excellent running condition, and…insert all the other promises that you have heard as well.  However, as the PPI went on, I noticed various things wrong with it, including getting passed on the Freeway on-ramp, by an F-150 when I floored it! In retrospect, it was kind of humorous. He was trying to sell a vehicle for as much as he could get, and I was trying to get it for the lowest price possible. But, alas it was a lemon. Most of what he’d told me was a lie, and though I spent money on airfare, a rental, and hotel, I wasn’t completely discouraged. I had jet lag, and I was upset with the guy, but I knew it was money well spent. I flew back the next morning, and left the junk pile there.

See I factor all of this in with the Cost Analysis of purchasing an Exotic. You honestly should as well; if you want to be a smart consumer. See this is all friendly advice, you’re not paying me for it. You came here free of charge, even if you decide to donate, you don’t have to. So honestly, you are free to determine if what I wrote is wisdom in your mind, or just another Mechanic trying to take your money.  But briefly, bear with me for just for a minute. Let’s take a $100,000 exotic. For arguments sake, I charge you $500, plus expenses to fly out to perform a PPI. We will say $1000 total as an example to fly half way across the U.S. What percentage is $1000 on a $100,000 car? See, this is exactly my point. Most of the time, I can save that in the price off the top anyway. So why do you still want to substitute your wisdom for mine or another trained professional? You’re a doctor, lawyer, or finance guy, how would you feel if I came in your office, and substituted my wisdom for your education and life experience? Hey I’m all for it, there’s one way to make a fool listen, give them a life experience they will never forget! It will happen.

One Last Experience to Share

There is a reason I am sharing my own personal experiences with you. See I can not get sued for defamation of character when the stories I share can be proven to be fact, and true. I am only liable should I tell a story that injures the character of another, affecting their business and it’s a false hood.

This last example is fresh on my mind because it literally happened about two days ago.  Today it’s Christmas Eve, and I felt this article was important enough to encourage people in this area now. This Christmas story is going to be significantly different than the feel good stories you are used to. Much rather, it’s more than likely going to make you very angry, at least it should. Because as you’ll see if they attempted to do it to me, they definitely would do it to you.

So the story goes something like this. I ended up selling my Maserati GS to a Client of mine. He Car faxed it and my service history looks similar to a short story in a novel. From stainless steel braided brake lines, to an all brass, heater core from Brass works, it’s all on the Car Fax. Any Exotic I touch will be shown on the Car Fax, doesn’t matter if it’s a clutch (which also is on there) to a detail/wash (lol..not on there for my car, would have a whole bunch of entries for that).  He was set that he wanted it, so I sold it to him. I was left in a quagmire though, my wife wasn’t happy, and now I needed to find a new vehicle representative of what I do for a living. Did I already state the wife wasn’t happy?

Let me also say she has great taste in vehicles, is highly educated, and I am not ashamed to say, pretty sure she rivals me on income, if, probably not more so. Heck, I don’t mind bragging on her, she has two Masters, and a Doctorate. She’s been to Brandeis, Yale, Stanford, and finished at Harvard. So doesn’t she deserve something nice, and not to be ripped off after spending most of her life in school? Yes of course she does, don’t you as well? But many look at this as an opportunity as well.

We basically settled on a Maserati MC Stradale (U.S. version), it’s more a package than the true Stradale. We set out on the narrow road as we all do looking for that spectacular Italian beauty.  I usually, like everyone else look at the Car Fax history paying particular attention to how many times a car went through an  auto auction. Most of the time, if an exotic goes through an auto auction there is a reason for it. Think of this, if the Industry Sales Professionals push it through at auction, and they are scratching for every dollar and dime they can get, why did they send it there?

We passed on one in Florida, decent price, but it went through auction four times. Just know this with negotiating, there’s nothing new under the sun. If I told you the amount of times, “we only make hundreds not thousands” on a deal. Another popular one is, “we just put tires”, “did service”, “did etc., etc.” “That’s why you need to pay what we are asking”. Look we all know how trade-ins work, we know what they give. Most people almost have a heart attack the first time they trade in a vehicle. Do us both a favor, lets pretend I know what you do. We both will get along better this way.

If the car has been through auction, like the one above I mentioned, most people in the field have access to that data. They were quite surprised when they gave me the speech above and I told them you paid $57,600 for the car you are asking over $62k for it.  See, I try to keep it all upfront. Most of the time they are used to telling stories. I would rather tell them who I am, being upfront about what I do for a living, and give them this website address. I’m not pretending, I am going to be honest about it, that way you have the rope, you can hang yourself with it or pull me in with it.  If you lie to me, I will burn you. I will give you an example in a minute of that.

So, after the above negotiations stalled out, I found a Stradale on the Indiana/Ohio line, actually I found two places in that area, one was only about an hour from the other. It was a Silver color, something neither my wife nor I was keen on, but nevertheless he was willing to negotiate.  The gentleman’s name was Gerry, or however he spells it, the name of the business was Whitewater motors. He stated he owned the business. He told me all of the right things I wanted to hear. I again, told him what I do for a living, how I was looking for a personal vehicle, and asked he pleased checked me out on this website or Instagram (Trident456).

I put a $2000 deposit on this car, it’s actually the one at the very top of this page. Here it is again so there is no confusion about who I am talking about:

I had my wife book a ticket out to the Cincinnati airport closest to him. He arranged for me to be picked up at the time I arrived. I met a really decent guy, named Jimmy, who went on about how Gerry was this great guy and the vehicle was remarkable. I reiterated to Jimmy what I told Gerry on the phone, I know what the car is, I do this for a living.  I even told them both about the F360 above. See I am building a picture, a background, a foundation for you in this story if you will. I need you to understand. Gerry told me personally he had looked me up on this website, and found everything very interesting. I want you to see that some of these guys have been in business for “decades”. They know all the right words to say, they are even willing to try their luck, to gamble if you will, with a person who knows more about these cars then even they do. They have convinced themselves they can truly sell people anything they want with the right story.

As Jimmy, drives me through the “new side” of town, I noticed it really looked like an unremarkable place. The “other side of the hill” where they were located looked even worse. But I try to always give the benefit of the doubt, never judge by appearance. As we passed the “detail shop”, Jimmy mentioned the car was there and the boss would take me to it. Seems like they “owned” a few places.  We arrived at Whitewater motors, seemed like a nice enough lot, and had a nice building with decent vehicles there.  I met Gerry, older gentleman, white hair combed back, decently dressed. Mentioned to me that he was “off” today (Friday, 22nd of Dec.) but made an “exception” for me. I guess I was supposed to think that the $60k certified bank check I had with me didn’t mean anything to him, that’s not counting the deposit.

Gerry asked if I needed anything, coffee, bathroom break, etc. I mentioned the bathroom would be great. Jimmy said, “Hi” to the boss, and then went to the back of the lot where there were a few buildings, and I never saw him again. I received a few stares from the few people he had there, not that it was weird. I have Exotic logos on my work shirts so that people know that’s what I do. Just seemed like they were watching my interactions more than anything, but hey whatever, I’m here to purchase a vehicle right? As you can tell I pay close attention to my environment.

As I walked to go to the bathroom, my OCD again got the best of me. I looked down at a Porsche sitting on the showroom. The front bumper was slightly off in color from the rest of the front of the car. Anyway, coming back out, I asked Gerry if we could go get the car. As we drove to the detail shop, Gerry disclosed that he viewed my website, and shared other details about the car. Now remember this car only had just over 13k miles on it, so it “had” to be perfect. He told me, the car was at the Detailer still because he didn’t want to get it wet, he wanted to let me do that. I will give him that, it had been slightly raining in the area, I noticed the ground as I was driven in from the airport.

Upon arrival I could see the beautiful front end of the MC Stradale sitting off in the dark of this detail shop. It was weird all the lights were off, just the front was illuminated, but hey whatever. Gerry asked if I wanted to drive it back. I stated absolutely. It seemed to drive well enough for the roughly less than a mile back to Whitewater. Gerry seemed to pull to the front of the dealership by the street but I was by no means done with the car.  I pulled right in beside the building, and I began my own PPI on the car.

First thing I noticed, the rims had been repainted, paint was flaking off the rear driver’s rim. The calipers were all red, but a chalky colored red; they should have been powder coated, with a hard shine. To be honest, that was a first for me on Calipers. I don’t know if someone attempted a repaint or some other experiment went wrong. They were the worst I’ve seen. If my “Spidey” senses weren’t tingling before, they definitely were now.

As I walked to the back of the vehicle it was very obvious, the body lines on the rear were off, and the passenger rear light did not match up.  Here see for yourself, pay attention to every detail:

Look at the gap where the trunk meets the bumper, also notice the slightly variant shade, and marks on the trim piece in that little space between the trunk, and bumper. That trim piece covers the holes of the bolts that hold the bumper in place there. Next, do you see how the bottom of the tail light from the quarter panel meets the light of the trunk lid, and that they don’t meet up? The trunk lid rear light is slightly higher? Look at the rear back up sensor holes……see the black speckled marks on it? Wait………..

Now do you see it……..looks like primer over-spray to me. See picture below:


Moving on from this, and I am not even sure you can see this with a Camera. In the picture below I attempted to photo the paint mottling, basically light and dark spots in how the Silver Metallic base coat was laid down. You need to focus on where the light hits the top of fender to see it.  Don’t look at the shine of the Clear Coat, look through the Clear Coat to the Base Silver Metallic.


If you can’t see through the Clear Coat to catch the mottling there, let’s see if you can look through the Clear Coat here to where the Painter actually left tack rag marks in the Base Coat, and then Clear Coated over them. This is actually a common mistake with metallic paint and tack ragging. You have to be careful in how you tack rag between Base coats or else it will look identical to this:

Basically what you are looking at is what appears like lines in the Basecoat under the Clear. They run across right about the middle part of the picture.

These are just the photos I took. There were also tape marks inside the passenger side wheel well with over-spray where the tape was taken off. There was rough over-spray line when you opened the passenger door. The Passenger door didn’t shut correctly. The front bumper had also been painted. The paint mottling I mentioned earlier, well that went all the way to the Passenger door. So it’s obvious this car wasn’t something I was even remotely interested in any longer. I’m in a Lemon situation again.


Let’s get back to Gerry though- as I opened the trunk to get a better view of what was going on right there with the trunk, and rear bumper body line, Gerry attempted to draw my attention away from that and ask me about the OEM car cover in the trunk, and tire inflator. Now these vehicles, when kept correctly, would have the original paperwork and all the accessories like the OEM car cover included. It was obvious this one did. Look again here is the original listing with the mileage that I took a screen shot of. Here is the VIN number as well: ZAM45MLA6C0061853

See in some of these situations the Salesman will attempt to draw your attention from the fact there might be fundamental flaws in the vehicle. You need to understand there is a psychology to all of this. I try to be a Gentleman in these situations. This was my personal situation, and it honestly would have been easy to get angry and start hollering at Gerry.

After I pointed out all the contradictions in the vehicle to Gerry, he asked “what could we do”?  He still wanted to sell the Lemon even though now he knew that I knew what it was. I respectfully told him I’m not interested, not even remotely. I believed there was enough damage to the vehicle to know it had been in a bad accident, if not a total loss. It most certainly didn’t meet Industry standards for a vehicle of this caliber and how it should have been fixed. Some body shop made a lot of money on this car, I assure you. I decided to step out of the situation to make a phone call. Basically I  called my wife and began to explain the situation, and all the flaws in the car as well. I asked her to get me a flight home ASAP.

Between the phone call, I overheard Gerry telling his workers “he’s “hemming and hawing” over the vehicle. I could also see his workers watching me intently as I looked over the car as I previously mentioned.  So when I got off the phone, Gerry started explaining how it was unfortunate that I would now have to drive back across country in a rental car. I told him, “oh I have no intention of driving across country, my wife already booked a return flight”. He then asked if there was anything he could do. I stated sure, and asked if he could he take me back to the Airport where he picked me up from.

People’s true colors always come out in the midst of these situations. His response wasn’t one of regret or feeling sorry for me flying all the way out, and him not knowing the damage of the car. He was genuinely angry he didn’t make a quick sale and unload a problem car. He stated, “I’m not going that way I am going in the opposite direction”.  It was how he stated it, not just what he stated. He somehow honestly thought by me flying out, I had to take this Lemon car and drive back across the country to Boston.

He stated I can drop you off at the rental car place. I told him that would work for me. Not one time did he attempt to make any of this situation right. As a matter of fact, when he dropped me off at Enterprise rentals, they were closed, and I could see him pause as he was leaving to see me try the door and not be able to get in. He turned left and drove down the street anyway. Honestly it didn’t matter to me, I called Uber, got on the first flight out, and was home before 10 pm.  I was in no way stranded, and he probably didn’t know he would become the standard in what not to do in online sales for this post. Do you honestly think he became this way over night? Do you think this is uncommon?

You need a champion in your corner. You need someone who’s going to fight on the ground in these situations, with knowledge and experience. This stuff happens all the time. Remember I told you there were two Dealerships in this area?

Thomas Classics is located on South Main St. in Akron, Ohio and since I was in the area, I called them as well. They had a White color Stradale at their location. Vin # ZAM45MLA4C0063469 . I called them and spoke with a gentleman named Mike. I attempted to talk to him about their vehicle. His response was interesting, it’s not that I cared they didn’t want to work with me on the price of their car. It was more that after I explained to him I work on these cars for a living, and also told him that Whitewater had one identical to their’s with less mileage, that he responded the way that he did. Again I always give people the website so they can see I not only say I do this for a living, I have a web presence proving it. I don’t want to trick them in anyway, I want to be upfront about any negotiations and who they are dealing with. Anyway, his response was that Whitewater’s wasn’t a “true” Stradale. He tried to convince me he was looking at the car as we spoke on the phone and it didn’t have “hood vents”, which it absolutely did. Also he ran the VIN in this special data base he had access to, it absolutely wasn’t a Stradale. He was just looking out for my best interest in buying something  that was a fake. But I could do whatever I wanted.

Of course then I couldn’t resist in all this Salesman’s madness. I had to let him know exactly how much I knew about this Exotic he didn’t know. In the U.S. we do not have the true Stradale version of that car. The real Stradale has the F1 transmission like the F599gto. To the right of the Media screen the top button actually states RACE to change the F1 systems parameters, not SPORT which is what the ZF transmission car has. It also doesn’t have rear seats. It doesn’t have a stick up from the floor like the ZF automatic transmission. It has buttons akin to the 2009 GTS with the F1 system. There were only 300 GTS’s of that year with the F1 transmission in that car. There are a few other details but you get the gist.  Even still this Salesman, thought he could say whatever to whoever, and it was Gospel. Finally, he closed that if I could get a better deal than the $69,999 I should do it, there was no way they were letting it go for that price.  I of course gave them the benefit of the doubt and called again while I was still there to attempt to work out a deal.

Look to be honest, I’ve already done better than that. I put a deposit down on a Stradale a year newer, with about 5000 less miles for thousands cheaper, than theirs. Who really hurts for this type of conduct, me or them? I fly to Florida Wednesday to see if this Stradale is what I am looking for. I’m pretty sure I won’t be disappointed and I will attempt to update this post with who I purchased it from afterwards with photos.

Look friends, I hope this helped you out in some way. It’s 6:00 on Christmas eve, I wanted to relay my experiences while it was fresh on my mind. My desire is that you do not get taken advantage of, any more than they attempted to do with me.