SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) – A clever Craigslist ad selling a 1996 Maxima caught the attention of Nissan Corporate. The car company then bought back its own car to give it a fresh start.
When Luke Aker’s sister left for a one-year assignment overseas, she left him her car. All he had to do was pay the insurance on the car for the year.
In order to raise the money, Aker decided to sell his 1996 Nissan Maxima. He had only purchased it from a man in Kentucky about a year and a half ago.
The car had seen better days.
“I had a bunch of tears in my seats,” he said. “My ex-girlfriend rear-ended someone so I used a tie down to keep the hood closed.”
The Maxima had been sold at least 12 times and the engine was starting to fail.
Aker decided a creative video would be the best way to get as much money as possible for the car.
Aker owns Ikonik Films in Orlando and created “Luxury Redefined” to entice potential buyers.
“I wanted to make it stand out so people would see it, click on it and say, ‘Hey, this is a great car. Let’s give him the extra $100 it’s not worth,’” Aker said.
The ad got a lot of attention. It went viral, amassing more than 2.1 million views.
Its popularity caught the attention of the social media team at Nissan.
“We picked up the phone and gave Luke a call,” Scot Cottick, Senior Manager of Nissan Social Media Marketing, said. “We thought it would be completely unexpected for him.”
Cottick continued, “So much so that when we called him he thought it was his friend playing a joke on him.”
Aker said he knew he was being set up.
“I honestly thought someone was joking through a fake Nissan Twitter account,” he said. “When I actually got a direct message from a Nissan executive I knew it was real.”
Nissan offered Aker $1,400 and a $1,000 donation to a charity of his choice.
Aker choose the Wounded Warrior Project.
“I work with a lot of veterans currently and what they sacrifice for our country is incredible,” he said. “I wanted to honor them, especially those coming back with serious injuries.”
Once Nissan bought the car, they let the company’s fans online decide what to do with it.
The overwhelming feedback to the company was to restore the 1996 Maxima to its former glory.
“We went over the paint, we went over the engine, we went over the interior, and remember, it’s a car that has had 12 titles,” Cottick said, adding, “The car is now road ready.”
Restoring the car was not an easy task. The ability to get parts for an 18-year-old car was, at times, very challenging because it caused delays.
“We worked with an automotive heritage group,” Cottick said. “The Lane Motor Museum was a wonderful partner in this.”
It took around six months, but when the restoration was done, the Maxima looked almost as good as the day it rolled off the lot.
Nissan felt it was only fitting that a car that captured the hearts of Nissan through a video would get a video to show the restored car.
And, who better to produce the video than Aker?
“I didn’t even recognize it to be honest. It was a totally different car. It was amazing,” Aker said. “They had done a ton of body work on it, the paint looked brand new and the interior was absolutely awesome.”
The new video named “Luxury Restored” played off of Aker’s first video to show how Nissan worked to bring the 1996 Maxima back to life.
Aker told News 2 he was not tempted to ask for his car back after he saw the restoration
“It had a good run with me; I don’t know that I would want it back,” he said. “After seeing what they did with it and everything, it has made me reconsider looking at the newer Maximas.”
Nissan has the car on display in the lobby of its corporate headquarters in Franklin.
As for its future, that is still being decided.
“There are a few opportunities we are looking at I am not ready to reveal those just yet,” Cottick said.
To see Nissan’s work with the Wounded Warrior Project, visit their website.