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In New Jersey: if you can't sell the car, use its gas

By Philip Barbara

NEPTUNE CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) - Michael Graubart owns a used car dealership on the Jersey shore, but he had no customers. What he did have was gasoline - in the tanks of the two dozen used cars sitting idle on his lot.

Talk about liquid gold.

New Jersey, New York City and Long Island have been facing acute gas shortages in the days since superstorm Sandy hit, because of a combination of power outages and constricted supplies. Drivers have been roaming miles in search of fuel and then getting in long lines at gas stations that are open.

Graubart, of Michael's Motor Cars of Neptune City, listened to pleas from his family for gas, and so on Friday morning he siphoned four of his cars dry the old fashioned way - by sucking on a hosepipe to draw the gas up and out into cans.

It wasn't as easy as it used to be, he said.

"It's more difficult with newer cars - they have gas line blockers designed to prevent theft," he said.

He reached the gas line on two late model vehicles by taking apart the fuel injection system and sticking the hosepipe down into the tank, he said. With two older cars, a 1978 Corvette and a 1969 Pontiac Trans Am, he did it the customary way, with the hosepipe straight down through the hole behind the gas cap, he said.

Graubart's dealership in Neptune City, a town about a mile from the Jersey shore and 60 miles south of New York City, had been closed from Tuesday through Thursday because he couldn't conduct business without power.

The state's vehicle registration system, insurance companies and finance outfits that support car sales must be accessed through computers and they have been down since Sandy roared through on Monday, causing widespread power outages.

On Friday, Graubart brought in a generator, powered up his dealership and opened for business. In the morning he got his family the gas, and by 2 p.m., he and his staff sold two cars.

At another used car dealership in Neptune City, Bill Teeling sat behind a desk - open for business but alone.

"No power, no people," he said.

"I can sell you a car, I can take your money, but without a computer I can't get a license plate for you."

Still, Teeling wasn't too worried. The storm destroyed hundreds of cars and many people are going to be in the market for a vehicle.

"When things settle down, the used car business will definitely have an uptick after a storm like this," he said.

(Reporting by Philip Barbara; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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