STEP FIFTEEN: Vintage 1956 Cushman Electric Golf Cart - Executive Model!

$1,411.40 becomes $1,731.40

March 19, 2012



   This is an awesome piece of history and now it's mine. Or, at least until someone comes along with the right price anyway. This is a fully restored 1956 three-wheel electric golf cart made by the Cushman Company from Lincoln, Nebraska. The cart is all original, except for the tires, brakes and batteries which are all new.

Bought for $800, $105 invested, sold for $1,225. 
Project Profit: $1,731.40


     The entire cart went through a complete professional restoration with frame and body being sandblasted and coated with multiple coats of durable exopy primer and then finished with coats of classic off-white in acrylic urethane. The original electric motor has been fully rebuilt and works as good as new.  Four heavy duty 6-volt batteries hold their charge and give this thing pep while you drive in either high or low gear, forward or reverse.
















What makes this collection quality piece so attractive is that this is a rare 731-6 model, referred to as the "Executive" model of Cushman carts. These rare carts came equipped with a headlight, tail light, and horn.  All three work perfectly and this particular unit even has a license plate frame below the rear styled tail light. 



 And talk about mint condition! This thing even has both original golf card clips still mounted to the dash!


 The trunk of the cart has a deep storage bin that could be used for an ice cooler, a golf bag, or other supplies as you make you way about the neighborhood.




I can't wait to see who ends up getting this truly unique piece of golfing history and adding it to their collection.

As the cart now works but did not come with an electric charger, I have ordered one as well as a copy of the manufacturer's manual. Once both of those arrive, I will let the bidding on Ebay begin.

In the meantime, if anyone is desperate to get ahold of this amazing piece, let me know!

Engine compartment pictures for your enjoyment!

Battery compartment: 4 Trojan deep cycle 6volt 105 Mileage Master batteries

Original Engine that has been completely rebuilt.

Brand new brakes.

Clean wiring and undercarriage.


March 21, 2012 - Where do you plug this thing in? 

This is a tricky business.  Every time I consider buying something I have to ask myself, "Is this person out to take me?"  For those wondering, I don't feel as though I'm taking anyone when I buy something. True, I'm buying things at far below their value, but I've always negotiated a price that works for the sellers. So far, I've been extremely lucky and made a profit on every item - even the large ones. This golf cart I got myself into had some level of risk to it. I don't know anything about golf carts, car batteries, the history of Cushman or vintage collecting.  The good news is that in doing this project I have learned so much about so many different things.

The following are some of those learned factoids. 

The crackle coat paint on a 1927 Big Ben alarm clock is not as valuable as the black finish ones. Antique electric fans must have supersize copper fan blades to be worth the really big bucks.  An 80 year old cast iron Gamewell Fire box versus a similar one with a round cylinder on top has a difference in value of $600. 



 There's probably a book out there waiting to be published of all the tiny yet crucial details I've learned doing this. For each of the dozen or so "big items" I've bought so far, there have been 10 or 20 others that I had to research before I found out they weren't worth buying.  Either the price, or the condition, or the model made it not the best buy of the day.

So even though I had this beautiful golf car in my possession, I didn't yet have a charger for it and I wasn't sure what that would entail.  I know that shipping a golf cart costs $500-700, as they need to be crated before moving.  I know that really big chargers can cost $400-$600 and I used that as part of the reason to negotiate down the price of the cart.  They told me I could probably get a "trickle" charger and that it wouldn't cost very much money.  When I got home, the first thing I did was buy a 12volt charger that had good reviews from Amazon.  It arrived today and I was super-excited to plug it in and get the cart juiced up so I could list the item at auction.

Here's where the story changes.  Read on for the exciting continuation of this saga.
When I opened my mailbox, the package with the charger was inside. I'll admit, the mail carrier did have to use the parcel box below my mailbox to fit the cardboard box in, but when I lifted it out, I thought, "well, that can't be the charger, it's too light."  Sadly, it was the charger and when I got it home, I could tell it probably wasn't going to work for my needs.  Reading the packaging, I saw that it was indeed a 12volt charger supplying a meager 1.25amps of power. The reason I selected it was because it has "2 banks" or two sets of jumper cables and could charge two sets of batteries at once. That sounded perfect but could this tiny device really supply what I needed for FOUR 6volt deep cycle batteries?  It wasn't until today that I learned what a "wet or flooded deep cycle" battery was!  It refers to a battery that is filled with distilled water and the lead plates are much thicker inside, thereby keeping their charge longer than a standard car battery, which has thin plates good for giving a burst of power at ignition. I hadn't paid any attention to the amps in the ad when I bought it because at the time, I knew about as much about amps as I do about chemical equation balancing (which is "nothing", in case you're wondering).

I called Trojan, manufacturer for the batteries in my cart. Surprisingly, the guy at tech support answered right away.  When I explained what I had and what I needed, he asked, "and how many amps did you say your charger has?"  After hearing my response a second time, he actually broke out laughing at me on the phone.  It was so shocking, I almost expected to hear a pre-recorded message announce, "All operators are busy laughing at you right now. The expected wait time for them to stop laughing is... THIRTEEN... minutes." I felt as if he could see me standing at his customer service window, with my calculator-sized charger dangling from one hand by it's spaghetti-thin cord.

His laughter finally died down and suggested I look for something that boasted more like 40-45amps instead of my (giggle) 1.25.  He suggested I look on Ebay for some less expensive options.

I thanked him, hung up, laughed at myself and went directly to Ebay where I did indeed find some lovely 12volt, 40amp chargers for $500-$600.  Yikes. What did I get myself into? I may be able to cover the cost of one of these chargers with the final selling price of the golf cart, but it will certainly cut into my bottom line in a big way.

I checked Amazon. I checked Google. I looked at the Cushman website for recommended chargers.  Nothing less than the price I'd found above.

Then I thought of something.  What if someone here in town had one to sell?

(Here's where the OMG comes in)

There was a charger listed on Craigslist that boasted super charging capacity as a wheeled floor model.  It should have been priced on the order of $250+ but the seller was only asking $65.  Wow, I thought, I should buy that just to sell it online.  I decided to call and just see if it might be capable of working for my cart.  The phone rang and rang but never got picked up.  No message, no voice mail.  The area code was one I hadn't seen before.  I didn't know what region that area code represented, but many people these days have cell phones from before a move.  I emailed the person using the Craigslist link. No quick response. One other thing I've learned recently about electric golf carts is that if the batteries get totally drained, they can reach the point past recovery and be ruined. Oh great, I thought. It will take me 2 weeks to get a $400 charger online and by the time it arrives, I'll have to spend another $800 on new batteries because the old ones will have gone dry by then.  

Then I got an idea.  Maybe these things come out of desperation. Maybe something is working in my favor.  I began to wonder whether the phone number was printed correctly.  My area code was similar to the one listed but it was one digit off.  What if the seller mistyped their area code? I tried the number again, this time replacing one of their digits with my own. 

"Hello?" a woman answered.
(Awkward moment) "Hi, I'm trying to reach someone who is selling a battery charger online." 
...
...
...
"Yeah, that's me."
(Enormous sigh of relief)
I explained that I wasn't sure because the number was listed incorrectly on the ad and she said, "Oh, thanks for telling me, I'll change it."  
Oops.
I asked her to check the charger and see if it had any settings rated for 12volt and 40amps.  She checked and came back to the phone and said, "Yes, there's a setting for those numbers."  

Insert "OMG" here.

I picked it up an hour later, paid the full asking price, and tipped her with a Klondike Bar.  I got the thing home and hooked it up to the batteries and it is charging away right now.  Actually, I think the tech person on the phone had been a little inflated in his suggestion.  I think 10amps might be enough for these batteries, but it's nice to be able to do a super quick charge if I need one.  

For a bedtime treat, I took my kids on a nighttime joyride by headlight through the neighborhood.  It was magical.  All of my neighbors are jealous and curious and it made me wonder if I shouldn't keep this thing but so far I'm sticking to my plan, still for sale.


March 22, 2012 - I try some different markets

I'm getting ready to list the golf cart on Ebay.  I'm not looking forward to the mandatory 10% commission I'll have to pay at the conclusion of the auction. That could end up being hundreds of dollars. :(

Trying to avoid that loss, I first tried a few targeted markets.  My town has a company that uses its own unique advertising. Rather than pay huge fees for billboard rentals, they own antique cars and have them placed around town with their name painted on the side. If I could get them to buy this cart, it would be a local sale, no shipping, and no Ebay fees.

I emailed them last night and the daughter of the owner wrote me back right away, letting me know that she'd send the pictures and description on to her father.  She contacted me again this afternoon to let me know that they had decided to pass on the cart.

It's disappointing but we can't really call it Strike One.  In this game, you're allowed as many strikes until you call yourself Out. You are the batter, the pitcher, and the umpire, all wrapped in one stressed-out, hopeful seller.

A second market I'm trying is the vast network of retired couples living in The Villages, Florida. This community of 5,000 homes and 8,000 people has 38 golf courses with 621 holes and 60 public spaces such as parks, pools, fitness centers and community centers.  What really attracts me to it as a seller is that The Villages has 90 MILES of dedicated golf cart paths.

I looked at placing an ad in the Daily Sun, the daily newspaper for the Florida community but it's $30 for just 3 days and I didn't feel the cost was worth it. Instead, I violated an expectation on Craigslist by listing my cart in the Ocala, Florida Craigslist, the nearest community to The Villages and the site that residents there seem to use to sell their own stuff.  We'll see if there's a nibble. If not, I'll go knocking at Ebay tonight.


Tell your friends, tell you neighbors. But most of all, tell anyone you know who has lots and lots of disposable cash.


March 23, 2012 - Auction Day 1

It's been one day since the golf cart went to a ten day auction on Ebay. And so far, there have been no bids. I set the starting price at $1,000.  But with nine days left, does that really mean anything yet?

Two things give me hope to cling to.  This afternoon I got an email from a prospective buyer on the East Coast. They wanted an estimate for the cost to ship the cart to them if they became the winning bidder.

There's a second hint of good news. As of the end of auction day two, the auction page has been viewed 103 times and there are currently 13 people watching the auction. Those are pretty good numbers for the first day and, based on past auctions, it's an indication that I have a chance of coming out of the woods on this one. But it's still early and there's no bids yet.


March 23, 2012 - Auction Day 2

Day 2 of 10 for the golf cart auction and exposure has been good.  There have now been 158 views to the page with 19 people following the auction. There are still no bids on it but I'm hoping that will change sooner rather than later.

I wonder what the next seven days will bring?


March 24, 2012 - Auction Day 3 - You get the picture...

Viewers continue to find the cart at auction. As of the end of day three there have been 212 people who have viewed the item and now 20 people are following it.  I can't yet determine if all of these watchers are just savvy bidders waiting until the end to start placing bids (and thus keeping the auction from going too high) or if they see something that they don't like and have decided it's not for them.

I've only been in touch with one bidder who says they are serious about winning this item. Does that mean they'll only place the minimum bid or will there be others they have to outbid for an exciting finish?

Time will tell and by next weekend, we'll all know the outcome.


March 26, 2012 - Auction Day 4 - "Well it's about time!..."

I wonder how many of the 200+ views to this auction have actually been my own. Three days with no bids had just about convinced me to go back to life as normal and let the auction fade to the background for a few days. Then this morning happened. Someone placed a bid for the minimum starting price, $1,000.  Then a couple of hours later there was a second bid for $1,025.  Totals as of today are 268 views, 23 people watching, and 2 bids.

With 6 days still to go, my thoughts have turned from questioning how I'll face my wife if it doesn't sell (she loves it when I progress in this project) to now wondering how high it will go.

Sure makes the day more fun.

Day 10 of 10 - Last Day of Auction

The auction ends tonight at 10 pm MST. Over 500 people have now viewed the auction and there are more followers than I had even for the fire alarm box.  What surprises me is that there hasn't been a new bid for so many days. The item still sits at 2 bids topping at $1,025.  Are all of those watchers just curious onlookers or will we have an exciting conclusion?

 While running high school cross-country, I attended an intense week of miles and motivation called Paavo Running Camps led by Coach Marshall Sellers from northern Indiana. One of the quotes that he taught me during the 120 mile training week was, "Do the right things first, the first things right, and do it that way every time."

Sorry Coach, I don't think I followed your advice on this auction.  I'm not really sure what happened but the item sold for far less than I was hoping.

Maybe people just don't like to pay top dollar for a 56 year old three wheel golf cart with a giant paper clip for a steering wheel. The cost for restoration that the previous owner spent on this far exceeded what I sold it for.

As I was writing the auction description, I considered the starting price in the listing. There are different options for this. Sellers can list items as Buy It Now. This lets buyers buy an item at a set price with one click. Auction style is more popular as you let a wide audience duke it out for the winning bid.  To safeguard your items from a very low final bid, sellers can set what's called a Reserve Price. This is a secret dollar amount that buyers have to surpass in their bids before the item actually sells.  While it sounds nice for sellers, buyers who see items listed as having Reserve Prices often get annoyed about not knowing what that secret number is and will even email the seller to ask!  I almost never use the reserve or the buy it now options.

Instead, I decided to go with a low starting price and let competition build up the final selling price. Sometimes, letting a price build through competition will result in a higher selling price than if you had just listed with Buy It Now.  I set it at $1000 and had a bidder rather quickly at that level. Another bidder topped that at $1025 and there it stayed for days.

One hour before auction close, it climbed another $200.  Recalling the fire box auction where the price jumped $700 in the final 11 seconds, I was hoping for a similar finale.  Unfortunately, the price never went any higher for the entire last 10 minutes of the auction.  What went wrong? The only thing I did differently this time was the ending time.  When I sold the fire box, the auction ended in mid-morning on a Sunday.  Though I had tried to get this one scheduled to end at a similar time, family commitments tied me up until late Sunday night.  I believe there is an option to pay extra to have an auction end at a customized time, but I didn't think it would be a problem and the 10 day auction began with a scheduled finish time of 10:30 pm mountain time, which is near 1 am on the East Coast. The only thing I can assume is that most of my bidders were just asleep when this thing clocked out.  I know I still came out well ahead on this one, but I had been hoping for a much larger finish price and that just didn't happen.

On the bright side, the buyer was a local guy who picked it up 12 hours later and paid cash, so it's nice not to have to wait or spend several days arranging shipping.

Still, I was sad to see it go. It was a beautiful machine and I had no reservations about its abilities. Seeing it drive away in the rented U-Haul trailer made me feel like a character in the movie The Red Violin or Lord of the Rings.  It was something so beautiful and well made, I felt like a piece of me was driving away.  My precious. Lost!  Shire! Bagginses!    ... Ok, maybe that's going a bit far.

Farewell 1956 Cushman Industrial Executive Golf Cart Model 731-6.  May you roll down greener pastures for a very long time.

Step Fifteen: Bought for $905 ($800 for cart, $65 for charger, $20 for manual, $20 for delivery tip)
Sold for $1225
Total Profit for project so far: $1,731.40

18 comments:

  1. Do you have any pics of the battery area?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Pictures added, as requested. Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi,

    Do you know how I could contact the new owner of the 56 Cushman. I would love to make an offer.

    Michael Schriner

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sure, send me an email address and I'll forward it on to the buyer for consideration. Thanks for checking out my site.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you - info@newpcgadgets.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Brian,

    can you send me an email (see address above), I wanted to let you know what I had in mind. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Brian, I would offer $2500 to the new owner plus a $250 finder fee to you.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for your generous offer. I have contacted the owner again and we shall see if it is of interest to them.

    Brian

    ReplyDelete
  9. Brian,

    Sounds like nothing is happening. Surely the guy could have responded by now. Thanks for trying.

    Mike

    ReplyDelete
  10. Mike, after not hearing anything from my two emails, I gave him a call and left a message in the spirit of due diligence. At least now we know he's aware of the offer. I'll let you know if there's a response.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Brian, hopefully he will call you back soon.

      Delete
  11. Hi Brian,

    I wish he would have at least made some sort of contact. He obviously is not interested in selling. Thanks for trying.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Will pay $3000 plus $500 for you. Surely the guy can answer the phone or a return a call.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hello Mike,

    It seems as though your perseverance may finally pay off! I got a response from the owner of the cart after your recent offer. I have just spoken with the owner on the phone and he has agreed to speak with you to discuss a possible transaction. Should I send his contact info to your above email address?

    Brian

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yes, he can reach me at info@newpcgadgets.com, thanks for getting in touch with him.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You have done a great job of restoring this 1956 golf carts, it's really fantastic! All the photos you've posted are very interesting especially those that relate to the batteries. The cost does not seem excessive, you can add additional information relating to the autonomy of the vehicle and recharge times?

    ReplyDelete