Poop poop purchases

Thomas Woodham-Smith goes shopping for the dealer’s friend, a whale on wheels

This article is taken from the August/September 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

I often remind myself of Mr Toad. As his beautiful caravan is swept from the road he is found in the ditch uttering in a trance-like state the mantra “poop-poop!” The motor car has not only destroyed his dream but in that instant created a new one.

In art and in life I live by the philosophy that every loss is a shopping opportunity in disguise. So it is with Mr Toad — he rushes out shopping and cars are all that he desires. For me every sale I make opens up the opportunity to buy something else. I never think of banking the profit; instead I rush headlong into the next purchase.

A month ago I sold a pair of commodes I had owned for more than six years. Instead of thinking how lucky I was finally to be shot of them, I threw myself into a mad search to find something else. In place of a sensible Art Deco pair of commodes I now have some porcelain polar bears, a folding simulated bamboo settee and a grey marble elephant. The pattern is established.

My next big “poop-poop!” moment comes in October when I have to dispense with my beloved whale on wheels

My next big “poop-poop!” moment comes in October when I have to dispense with my beloved whale on wheels, the Renault Grand Espace because the ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) becomes London-wide. We have to have a petrol car or be prepared for massive daily expenses.

Since my first company car, I have loved the Saab motor company. Their big 9000s and subsequently 95s seemed to be able to take any size of chest of drawers or pair of chairs, but following the arrival of the twins — and a foolish diversion into a Subaru — I have found safe haven in the Renault.

Once a year for the antique dealers’ Swap Shop in Stow-on-the-Wold I used to rent a van, but now I clear out the seats and load up the Grand Espace. As October approaches, my potential loss is triggering a frenzied shopping project. But what should I buy?

Somehow every antique dealer has a different opinion. The most popular dealer’s car is the Mercedes estate. I don’t really understand why. I guess there is a perceived prestige to having a “Merc” and they are capacious, but they are the European taxi of choice and essentially designed to be diesel.

The next most popular cars are the Land and Range Rovers, but equally I have never seen the point. They look like you can get a lot stowed but it is an optical illusion. Pragmatists who want to come across as such eschew all obvious pretence and go for crypto-vans, the most favoured of which is the VW Transporter. They will take a good house clearance as well as the family.

Most dealers like a good and spacious car — such as a Volvo estate — but they often fall into one of two types: there are those want to show off, including a handful who drive Ferraris, and those that want to look unconventional. I have to concede my Renault falls on the side of the unconventional — apart from anything else, there aren’t that many of them left.

Without doubt the best car a dealer can secure is one that he is able to procure through a swap

Without doubt the best car a dealer can secure is one that he is able to procure through a swap. My friend Pearse in Norfolk once swapped a vanload of old stock for an extremely swish 60s sports car.

He did drive it around for a while but it smelt headily of petrol and before too long it had moved on in exchange for another vanload. Another dealer friend managed to swap a new Land Rover Discovery for a very grand George III chest of drawers. These deals mark their exponents out as real masters in the art of the deal, and they are very rare.

We are all supposed to be interested in buying and selling antiques. But no dealer I have met is without a car story. These range from explosions through lucky chances into straightforward depressing expense. I am royally entertained by these tales as I ask around for advice, but no satisfying answer to my needs emerges. And thus it looks like I will end up buying a Ford Galaxy. “Poop” flat toot “poop.”

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