I’ve owned well over 500 cars during the past 40 years. If I really got serious about counting them, I might reach 1,000.
They have ranged from ’62 Nova Wagons to Plymouth Superbirds to Ferrari 330 Americas to BMW Isettas.
There wasn’t a car that I couldn’t talk myself into. As Miles Collier noted, my collecting philosophy was centered around, “It’s red, I’ve never owned one and I can afford it.”
However, as I approach my maturity, my thoughts about collecting have changed.
I am no longer as interested in collecting marques and models that are new to me. I have also come to realize the staggering effort involved in making old cars into functioning machines.
Each car that is new to me has to have the suspension rebuilt, and often the engine and gearbox as well. Brakes are suspect. Seats need to be redone. It’s a lot of work, energy, time and money. The end result is a fine machine that is a joy to drive. But getting old cars to this condition is quite a chore.
A friend recently offered me a pair of Lancia Fulvias. One is a true 1.3 HF that I owned 30 years ago, and bought for $3,000 and sold for $3,250. The second is an alloy-bodied Fulvia Sport Zagato.
They are both reputed to be in decent shape, and the asking prices are within market range.
I thought long and hard about this, but I decided against the deal.
Over the past few years I have assembled a very tightly focused group of Alfa Romeos from 1958 to 1967. I now have one of each of the models of Alfas that mean the most to me and are within my budget.
Each of the cars represents a monumental financial and emotional investment. And these are cars that I have spent 50 years learning and loving. I’ve developed a knowledge base about of information, service, parts and other resources.
If I bought either or both of the Lancias, I’d be starting over. I’d have to learn what “correct” is for two models I am completely unfamiliar with. I’d need to find mechanics (none local to Portland, I’m afraid) to work on the cars and set them up properly.
But there’s something even more important going on here. I’ve just returned from a two-day, 500-mile Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon Tour. There were 30 cars on the tour, and we had a rollicking good time.
I don’t think there is a Lancia Club in Oregon, and if there is, it is not nearly as active as the Alfa Club.
So even if I got my Lancias finely fettled, I’d have no other Lancias to go out and play with. No matter how wonderful they are as cars, they’re not much fun sitting in a garage.
Perhaps this means that I have given up new challenges and am only interested in refining Alfas — the marque that I know best. Clearly I am denying myself the opportunity to experience how other vintage cars accelerate, handle and stop.
But I’m okay with that. I’d rather take the energy and money I’d put into the Lancias and use it to finish the Sprint Speciale that’s now been in the shop for two years.
I’ve got five Alfas in nice condition to use and enjoy, and one that should be finished this year. Attending to their minor needs is actually a source of pleasure rather than frustration.
So I’m going to let these Lancias go to someone else — someone who has more time and energy for them.
I’m settling in with my six Alfas, and going to keep refining them and using them.
By letting one opportunity pass by, I’m deciding to make the cars I already own better.