March 12, 1958
The fact that I detest the tactics of some car repossession outfits has nothing to do with why this story appeals to me.
It's just that I've always been a pushover for a tale which blends a touch of irony with a little poetic justice.
This one concerns a man named John Van Doren of Pomona and his new car that--one day last week--suddenly wasn't there.
Van Doren had purchased the car last January. It was a '57 model, which the salesman called a "demonstrator."
"We just use it to take prospective buyers on short test rides to show
them what excellent performance the model gives," the salesman
explained. "Naturally, we've loved it and cared for it like a baby."
"You mean it's never been driven except under supervision of your salesmen?" Van Doren recalls asking at the time.
"That's right," the man reassured him. "It's strictly a demonstrator."
The price sounded right too, and Van Doren said he'd take it. He
offered to pay cash but the salesman said it would be foolish to tie
all his money up like that. Besides, the terms were easy and the credit
They settled on $85.78 ($625.14 USD 2007) a month, with the first
payment due Jan. 20. Van Doren met it ahead of time, as he did the
second payment of Feb. 20.
The third payment hasn't come due yet.
And that's why on the morning of Sunday, March 2, Van Doren was more than a little bewildered at what happened.
It was about 8:30 a.m. when he glanced out at his driveway and discovered his car wasn't there.
First, he checked with his wife. "Honey where were we last night?" he asked.
They stayed home, she said. So he called the police. "My car's been stolen," he told them.
The officer with whom he talked contradicted him. "No it hasn't," he
said. "It's been repossessed. A man came in and filled out the
repossession notice a couple of hours ago."
Van Doren recalls that, at the time, he blew his top. "Impossible," he
said. "I'm ahead on my payments." He demanded that the police file a
stolen car report, but they refused.
Next, Van Doren contacted the president of the bank which was carrying
the papers. He reached him at home and explained what apparently had
The president, in turn, contacted the assistant manager at home and
dispatched him downtown to check the records. Then the assistant
manager recontacted Van Doren with the startling news that apparently a
mistake had been made.
"It appears," he explained, "that the repossession order was against the previous owner of the car."
"The previous owner?" gasped Van Doren. "But they told me I was the original owner."
The apologetic banker said he didn't know anything about that, but
added he'd be glad to drive Mr. Van Doren over to the auto agency so he
could pick his car up. But the information that the car wasn't a
demonstrator recharged Van Doren's anger.
"Someone else took it," he said. "Somebody else can bring it back. Or,
on second thought, maybe I better see my lawyer before anybody does
That's the way matters stood until the next day, when Van Doren's wife saw the car come wandering back into the driveway.
Immediately, she ran out of the house and informed the driver:
"We don't want it until we hear from our lawyer."
The bewildered repossession expert obligingly towed it off again.
But when the Van Dorens awakened the following morning, there was their
car, back in the driveway again--neatly blocking the car which they had
borrowed from their son to use until matters were straightened out
It's been there more than a week now. The Van Dorens haven't touched
it, nor have they been able to use the car which they borrowed.
Mr. Van Doren rides to work every day with a friend. And Mrs. Van Doren walks two miles each way when she goes to town.
They do have an attorney though--Marlin H. Shirley.
He's mailed a letter to the bank, to the auto agency and to the
repossession outfit, stating that the Van Dorens have not accepted the
return of their car.
And until such time as they do, or until the matter is brought to
court, there will be a $5 daily storage fee charged unless the vehicle
If that ain't poetic justice, I can't read a rhyme when I hear one.