True Stories From A Former Car Dealer #2: The Camper

True Stories from a Former Car Dealer Ford Goldline Camper

This is volume II in the “True Stories From a Former Car Dealer” series I am writing about experiences when I was in the retail auto business.  If you missed last week’s column, titled The Lottery Winner, you can read it here.

I began working at a Ford dealership in Dallas when I was 15.  I started in the make ready department: washing cars, installing hubcaps, and installing mirrors on trucks.  It was also my job to make sure the lot looked good and all the vehicles were lined up straight.  I worked daily in the summer, but when school started again I worked Saturdays and Monday-Friday evenings from 4 to 9 PM.

When I graduated high school, I attended Northwood University to get an associates degree in automotive marketing.  I went to class from 8 to Noon, drove to the dealership and worked 1 PM to 9 PM daily and all day Saturdays.

I got my degree in a little less than two years, and when I graduated, the owner of the dealership took me to lunch and told me he wanted me to be his used car manager.  I was thrilled, of course.  One of my duties as used car manager was to appraise and put a value on all potential trade-ins.  Salespeople would drive up to my office that was on the far side of the property, have an appraisal form filled out, and I had to come up with a number value.

This was the most difficult part of the job.  People would want to trade in all sorts of things, motorcycles, boats, even tractors.  No matter what it was, I had to come up with a value.  If I overvalued the vehicle, we’d lose money when we sold it.  If I undervalued it, I could cost the dealership the sale of a new vehicle.

The Camper

It was around 9:30 AM, seems like it was mid-week, in the summer of 1979, when I looked up and “the camper” was pulling up.  I will never forget it.  It was an overhead camper mounted to the chassis of a single cab one-ton Ford truck.  It was tall, it was wide, and the sleeping quarters were above the cab and actually stuck out past the windshield quite a ways.

The customer who wanted to trade this rig in decided he was going to trade the truck and camper, and get a new truck to pull a travel trailer.  Just a little trivia, at that time Ford Motor Company built and sold these campers through Ford dealerships.  They were called Goldline campers, but I digress.

My first thought when the rig pulled up was “great-I have NO idea what this thing is worth”.  No matter what I was appraising, it was protocol to drive the vehicle and I had a certain path I always took.  It was about a 3-mile round trip, but there was a long straightaway when I could make sure the transmission shifted properly.  I always wanted the salesperson to ride with me, so if there was an issue with the trade-in, the salesperson could explain it to the customer.

The Test Drive

The salesperson’s name was Marvin and he was one of the leading salespeople at the dealership.  I would guess he was in his early 50s at this time, with thinning hair on top, and he looked like he played football in his earlier days.  Marvin hated riding with me on appraisal runs because he said I drove too fast, and there was some truth in that.

When Marvin pulled up with the camper, I said “OK, let’s go drive it”.  Marvin said “oh no, I’m not riding with you in that thing”.  I said “come on, this big thing probably won’t even go over 35”.  He relented and climbed in the cab.  The truck had a big 460 V8 and when I hit the straightaway, I floored it.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, I started moving the steering wheel back and forth.  The big rig leaned hard left, then hard right, and then hard left again, you get the picture.

This was when Marvin lost his religion.  He has both hands firmly planted on the dash, his eyes were as big as saucers, he is sweating profusely, and he is screaming, “Slow this thing down!”.  I’d had my fun, so I slowed down, but when I pulled back into the dealership, I came in a little hot and the camper leaned hard to the left and I came to a quick stop.

Marvin sort of fell out of the truck and looked dazed and confused, muttering something about never riding with me again.  It was time to try to figure out what this thing was worth.  I had a relationship with an RV dealer, so my plan was to get them to give me a bid on the camper.  I knew what the truck was worth, so I’d add the two numbers together and hopefully we could make a deal.

Before I called my RV buddy, I asked Marvin if the camper had a shower or not.  Still breathing hard and sweat rings under his armpits, he said he didn’t know for sure and I said, “Well, let’s look”.  I open the door on the rear of the camper to climb in, and my heart stopped.

Standing there, inside the camper, was a lady.  To make matters worse, she was covered in milk, eggs, and flour.  The same substances were on the floor, pots, pans, and bowls were everywhere.  There was milk and eggs on the walls, on the couches, pretty much everywhere. It seems she was cooking breakfast for her and her husband while he was inside the dealership.

With a horrified look on my face, I started apologizing, saying “Oh, ma’am, I am so” and before I could get sorry out of my mouth, she said slowly and very determined “GET. MY. HUSBAND. NOW”.  As we headed for the showroom, Marvin said, “You’re telling him, I’m not doing it”.

How The Story Ends

I sat down across the desk from the man who owned the camper and sheepishly said, “sir, I have some bad news to tell you about the test drive I took with your truck and camper”.  He assumed there had been an accident, but I explained that wasn’t the case.  I gave him some history on Marvin and me going on test drives, and I went through what I had done on the straightaway.  It suddenly dawned on him his wife was inside cooking breakfast; you could see it on his face.

Suddenly the man starting laughing, I assume he pictured in his mind what the scene inside the camper looked like.  I profusely apologized, repeatedly, and just asked the man this direct question:  “Sir, what were you thinking you wanted for your truck and camper?”

He got his price immediately.

Ford Goldline Camper Brochure

Photo Courtesy: Ford Motor Company Archives

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34 Comments
  1. Dub McClish 10 months ago

    Hilarious! Hadn’t had so many belly laughs since the hogs ate my little brother, as one of my old college class mates was wont to say.

  2. Dennis Peery 10 months ago

    Dang Jerry, you need to write a book. You couldn’t make this stuff up! Keep them coming

  3. Jerry van pelt 10 months ago

    Did you get breakfast?

  4. John Arndt 10 months ago

    That’s a smart looking camper. Kind of goes with the GMC motorhome look.

  5. Dan Trotter 10 months ago

    Jerry:

    That was the best story I ever heard! 😂 LMAO.

    My Dad was in the business for 50 years, never heard a story like that.

    By the way, what did he want for the trade?

    • Jerry Reynolds 10 months ago

      Dan, that was the one piece of the puzzle I could not remember. The man was reasonable on what he wanted for it, thank goodness.

  6. Steve diLauro 10 months ago

    Jerry, I truly laughed out loud. Great story. Really enjoy hearing these stories of your automotive life experiences.

  7. Jim Frame 10 months ago

    I love this story. We have all done things that make our face red even now years later. I really like hearing your stories. Your honesty (as hard as it was to face the owner) is enduring and experiences like this are what make us who we are. — and you are a Good Guy!

  8. Judy Crocker 10 months ago

    My husband and I love your show. We love your stories but this one takes the cake. I couldn’t stop laughing. Yes please make this a permanent thing on your weekly newsletter.

    • Jerry Reynolds 10 months ago

      Thanks Judy, I wish they were all this good, but they aren’t.

  9. Terry 10 months ago

    I’m reading the story in a hospital ICU. Seems inappropriate to laug but couldn’t help it

  10. Jesse Sjwitsky 10 months ago

    That is the funniest dealership story I have EVER heard! I have been in the business for 17 years and that tops them all!

  11. David Dewey 10 months ago

    Come on! You’re making that up!

    • Jerry Reynolds 10 months ago

      You couldn’t make that one up David, or at least I couldn’t. I don’t have that much imagination!

  12. Harry 10 months ago

    Jerry-great story man! I’d like to reiterate the previous comment though-do you remember ballpark what that thing went for back then?? Keep ’em coming!

  13. Leonard 10 months ago

    So, the man got his asking price, and breakfast was on her….glad nobody was in the restroom

  14. Patrick Scott 10 months ago

    Jerry, My dad was is the car business for many years and I have heard a lot of stories, funny, sad and true but that one wins the prize. You are lucky it was the wife and not the girlfriend! LOL Patrick from California.

  15. Greg 10 months ago

    An absolutely priceless experience!

  16. William 10 months ago

    Jerry-
    By chance, were they nice enough to offer you a home cooked meal?

  17. Jesse morales 10 months ago

    I told the story to my wife while she was eating her hamburger she almost choked while laughing.

  18. David 10 months ago

    I take it you instituted a few new polices that day like, check the back seat, check the trunk and check the camper before you do a test drive. Great story.

  19. Drue 10 months ago

    Jerry as all the others I loved hearing this and the other stories. Please keep them coming.

  20. Kathy 10 months ago

    I love these stories! You are an amazing storyteller and you have hit on such a great idea to include this feature in the newsletter! Thank you for sharing these life experiences with your readers!

  21. Karen 10 months ago

    Great story! Thank you for making my day brighter!

  22. Cathy 10 months ago

    That was hilarious! Great story!

  23. Michael Scott 10 months ago

    Thanks Jerry…..This brought back many great memories of my family’s camping trips with Mom and a Dad….Dad had a Ford F-250 with one of this huge campers on it, and every spring we would jack the camper up and back the truck up, lower it into the bed of the truck. Then Mom would load it up with all the necessary items needed for our many camping trips..
    I was always sad when Labor Day weekend rolled around and we offloaded the camper until our next season..
    Thanks again, and I agree with the masses that you should make this a permanent feature of the newsletter…!

    • Amy Plemons 10 months ago

      Thanks, buddy. Glad you’ve enjoyed the series, it’s been fun for me too. I know there are many more stories that I’ve forgotten, hopefully, they will come back to me. I appreciate you listening to the show.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  24. jay 9 months ago

    Too funny! I doubt you could get away with that nowadays.

  25. Bud Dooling 7 months ago

    The Goldline Camper was the Brainchild of Bud Coons and Clements Laurell , My step father, Coons had several camper companies in south eastern Kansas ! We moved to Oswego Kansas where the Goldline was developed and had just started production ! Ford still had theirs ’s on the drawing board . Ford came and bought the rights and stopped production ,I bought 00001 a prototype that was going to be burnt ! Bud said just pay for stove and refrigerator and I could have the rest ! I had it many years , moving around in the military .Bud Dooling

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