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Buyers wait for deals on wheels

Sandy Arlia believes in the power of prayer.

When it comes to buying a car for $5, though, the power of perseverance is pretty important, too.

The Holiday woman waited 17 hours at Gateway Honda in Port Richey for its $5 Sales Event. At 9 p.m. Friday, she staked out a brown 1985 Nissan Maxima, list price: $4,222. By Saturday morning, Arlia still didn't know whether the car she had picked would be one of the lucky few.

"Is this going to be a $5 car?" she wondered. "That's what I'm hoping."

Arlia and two of her children, Billy, 11, and Candra, 8, spent the night in lawn chairs, waiting for the one-day sale to begin. She wasn't alone: Many participants arrived early and, by the time Gateway started announcing prices at 10 a.m., more than 325 people had registered.

The sale worked this way: A person would pick a vehicle _ cars, boats and vans all were forsale _ and wait for the "Slasher" to mark down the listed price. The Slasher, portrayed by owner and general manager Tom Wood, zipped around the lot wearing in-line skates, a tuxedo T-shirt, top hat and sunglasses, reducing prices by thousands of dollars.

"The prices you see on the . . . side of the car are competitive," Wood said. "The point of this sale is we have too many cars. We want to liquidate our inventory." More than 100 cars were available Saturday, and six were to be sold at the special $5 price.

The sale turned into part outdoor festival and part game show as people waited in the early morning heat for the Slasher to come by. It was up to 87 degrees when the markdowns finally began. Wood skated up to a 1987 Ford Taurus Wagon GL listed at $5,995. Cindy Krcmaric of Hudson had been waiting nearby since 7 p.m. Friday, hoping for a deal.

Wood took out his marker and wrote the new price on the windshield: $3,431, a savings of more than $2,500. It was not what she and her husband, Joe, had had in mind, however. They passed, and another buyer took the offer.

Krcmaric said she was disappointed, but "we met a lot of nice people. Yeah, I'd do it again."

The first $5 car, a 1982 Buick Regal, went to Ellen Mueller of Tarpon Springs. "Cash!" she shouted over the cheering crowd. "I'll pay cash!" The car's original price was $4,175.

"I'm buying it for my daughter," Mueller said afterward. "She got a job (Friday) and she needs a car today (Saturday)." Mueller, her husband, Kenneth, and her son Adam all had been there since about 10 p.m. Friday. The men staked out two other vehicles while she stayed with the Buick.

"We want three $5 cars," she said.

And what about Mrs. Arlia? Her waiting paid off, too.

"I got the car for $5," she said Sunday. "I didn't get home until after 2 p.m." Many of her friends from West Pasco Baptist Church were at the event and kept encouraging salespeople to get to her car. "They said, "Go down to her. She's been waiting a long time.' "