By DANIEL MCDERMON, March 12, 2010
Otis Raring with his 2008 Honda Odyssey Touring.Trisha Raring Otis Raring with his 2008 Honda Odyssey Touring edition.
When Otis Raring began searching for a new car, he had some specific needs. He and his wife, Trisha, have two young children and are expecting a third. A minivan seemed like a good choice, but Mrs. Raring wanted one that looked a bit sportier than average. They settled on a Honda Odyssey — the Touring edition. Preferably in black, which she thought made the Odyssey look even less minivanlike.
Mr. Raring, 37, cast a wide net, using cars.com to search across the nation from his home in Austin, Tex. He spent a few weeks searching before he found what sounded like the perfect car, a 2008 Odyssey Touring model, in black, with just 3,600 miles. The car was being offered for sale by Apple Honda of Riverhead, N.Y., on Long Island, for much less than similar vehicles Mr. Raring had priced in Texas. So he called the dealer.
“The second thing out of his mouth is, ‘You know somebody famous owned this minivan, right?’ ” Mr. Raring said in an interview. The dealer said that the Odyssey had just been returned on a two-year lease by Jerry Seinfeld. “And then three sentences later he says, ‘We just took the spinners off.’ All these alarms were going off.”
Mr. Raring was skeptical. When shopping online, he said, “You’re kind of looking for a scam.”
The dealer’s tale was also reminiscent of an episode of Mr. Seinfeld’s show, in which the character George Costanza buys a car (a 1983 Chrysler Le Baron Town & Country convertible), thinking it had been owned by the actor Jon Voight. Later, it is revealed that the car had been owned by a dentist named John Voight.
But with the Odyssey listed at $28,291, the deal sounded too good to resist. Plus, Mr. Raring said, he found a video clip of Mr. Seinfeld talking about being a minivan owner.
Mr. Raring contacted a mechanic on Long Island to inspect the car. The mechanic reported that the car was in excellent shape. What’s more, the mechanic reported that he heard the same story from the dealer about the car’s provenance.
“They said Jerry Seinfeld got it for his nanny to drive his kids around,” Mr. Raring said. He put a deposit down.
He planned to ship the car to Texas but couldn’t make a deal to do so for less than $1,000. Instead, he booked a flight to New York, figuring that he could drive it back for less than shipping would cost.
Cargo loads were picked up along the way.Otis Raring Cargo loads were picked up along the way.
Then he had another idea: why not use the spacious vehicle on the return trip to make a little money? On the Web site uship.com, he connected with two people who were willing to pay to transport a few items along his route.
Mr. Raring flew to New York on a Wednesday morning and retrieved the Odyssey from the dealership at about 7:30.
When he finally saw the car in person, there was just one sign of its former owner: the GPS unit had what appeared to be Mr. Seinfeld’s address in East Hampton programmed into it. (Other locations in the GPS included Shea Stadium and Central Park West.) Mr. Seinfeld did not respond to an e-mail message from The Times about the car.
He then drove to Englewood, N.J., to pick up the first of his cargo loads. He made it to Maryland late that night and slept a few hours before he picked up another batch of items. On Thursday, he made it all the way to Hattiesburg, Miss., before stopping for the night. The next day he dropped off one load of cargo in Houston and the final load in Austin, making it home around 6 p.m.
Using the GPS, Mr. Raring tallied his trip from Riverhead to Austin at 1,949 miles and about 29 hours.
“It’s funny that Jerry Seinfeld’s minivan ended up in Texas,” he said. “It’s pretty much an unused car. Other than what was in the GPS, there’s no sign that it was his.”