Greg Brady really did love cars. After all, he would be the only kid who could drive in the original series (while Marcia got her license in Season 5, it was one of the very last episodes, and just ten episodes later, the show was cancelled.) And as we saw in the previous season, he was really serious about getting his own car and was even saving up for it. One thing he learned for sure, was that "Don't blindly trust The Wheeler-Dealer".
In the beginning, Mike is taking Greg out on a learner's permit drive, as Greg is preparing for his upcoming driving test, which he passes. And while Mike and Carol trust him enough to let them use (or at least drive) their vehicles, Greg announces that, as a budding Big Man On Campus, he wants wheels of his own. Mike reluctantly agrees to let Greg buy his own car with money he had saved up (he has $109 set aside), on the condition he lets him look at the car first. Carol is still skeptical about Greg being able to afford the upkeep, license, insurance and so forth, although Mike reminds her that $100 won't buy that good of a car. note
Boy, was Mike right.
Greg's fast-talking pal, Eddie, is trying to sell his car — a 1956 Chevrolet Bel-Air convertible — and by the looks of it, it is a vehicle that had gone through severe abuse in its lifetime; although maybe a Cool Car in its prime, by all appearances the car should have been sold to the junkyard, not a naive teenager. But Eddie is a smooth talker ... he convinces Greg that he has at least five or six other buyers champing at the bit for this set of cool wheels. Despite obvious signs that this car has had it — the doors don't open, the engine runs rough, the drivetrain clanks and vibrates severely and so forth — Greg decides the car is a good buy and that, taking Eddie's words seriously, with a little bit of work, the car could be worth $500.
All the while, just imagine Greg being replaced with a drawing of a Tootsie Roll lollipop ... because he just got suckered into buying a lemon. Especially after Eddie tells Greg that, by the time he and his dad return to look at the car, it will have been sold to someone else. (Yeah, right!)
Greg proudly shows off his new wheels to his parents, Alice and his siblings. Mike takes a look at the car and knows this is a lemon. But he puts faith in Greg that, if he did all the work himself in tuning the engine and getting other repairs done on a tight budget, he might make a respectable car out of this junker yet.
But Mike really meant it when he earlier told Greg, "Your name is Brady, not Onassis" - in the sense that Greg should really have thought long and hard if it would be worth all the trouble to get a first car so quick on such a limited budget, or he could borrow his parents' cars instead. note
But Greg is out to prove himself right and, with the help of his siblings, somehow manages to fix the vehicle to showroom condition. How he is able to do that on a $9 budget we'll never know note but there it is ... a set of wheels that was fit for any cool early 1970s teenager.
And then, 30 seconds later, all the original flaws of the car break out again — horn, smoking engine, a whole lot of noise and vibration from the engine, etc. Indeed, this car was ready for the junkyard.
Greg tries to complain to Mike about how Eddie suckered him into this deal. Mike is surprisingly not that sympathetic, and while he notes that Eddie indeed was dishonest (and that he himself likely was conned into buying a car that seller knew was a piece of junk), he uses this as something to learn from ... the golden rule of being a buyer, or caveat emptor (Latin for "let the buyer beware").
Hoping to recoup the $100 he's out — that's just for the car purchase alone — Greg decides that turnabout is fair play and, knowing that a naive, easily suckered classmate named Ronnie is wanting to buy his first car, decides to play the role of a snake-oil salesman and get him to buy the car. But then, just before Ronnie agrees to the sale ...
... cut to the kitchen, where Mike and Carol see that Greg's car is gone. Greg arrives home shortly afterward ... having hopped out of an old truck. He had gotten a ride home ... from the junkyard.
Greg explains: Just before Ronnie could take Greg up on his offer to buy the car for $100, Greg had second thoughts and decided that he couldn't lie about the car, explaining to Ronnie that the car was nothing but junk, that Ronnie had sensed that it was and that he thanked him for being truthful. So Greg still had to drive the car home ... when it stalled one last time, and — as Greg was trying to restart the engine — it literally fell apart. He had to call a tow truck from the auto salvage yard, which happened to be about a block or so away, and the owner gave him $50. Mike explains that Greg was out $50, but if he learned something from everything that happened, all the better.
In the tag scene, Carol is taking the girls to the ballet lesson, then Mike comes to the kitchen to have breakfast before a golf game, when Greg comes in again, and asks for the car, as he's gonna be late for sports practice and would not make the team. Mike then lets him use the car, thinking that he could get Carol to drop him off at the golf course, only that Carol has already left, and so has Greg. Then Alice gives him her bus pass.
Tropes present in this episode:
- Car-related tropes:
- The Alleged Car: While certainly not a non-descript foreign model from an Eastern European country, the car Greg buys has a multitude of problems and is ready for the junkyard after a lifetime of abuse.
- Cool Car: What Greg tries to turn his beater into. Indeed, two different 1956 Chevrolet convertibles were used in filming: the beater that Greg buys (and is used in early scenes) and the customized one that appears later. note
- D.I.Y. Disaster: Greg's car, and his attempts to restore it to respectable running condition, somehow in a matter of days and on a limited budget.
- Fell Off the Back of a Truck: The car itself, because of its rough state.
- What a Piece of Junk: Everyone's initial reaction when Greg starts up the car and partly because of no muffler it begins to idle very loudly. Even after Greg had put in hard work to try to get the car to respectable running order, it reverts to its rough state less than 30 seconds after being started and running smoothly.
- Snake Oil Salesman and Honest John's Dealership: Eddie, who cons Greg into buying the car by perfectly playing the role of the stereotypical used-car salesman. Greg almost becomes this when he sells the car to Ronnie, but unlike his pal Eddie, Greg backs out at the last second. The "dealership" in both cases is the Bradys' driveway.