I returned from Car Week in Monterey with a bad case of seller’s remorse. Why? Because I sold two cars I had never planned to sell.

First, a little background. I’ll admit I’ve always been a lot better at finding stuff I “have to have” then I’ve been at realizing I have stuff I should sell. That doesn’t mean I’ve never sold anything. Quite the contrary, as I’ve often sold one car to make room for a better or different example, or because I ran out of space, or money, or had my interests change direction. That will happen as any collector and/or collection evolves.

The real issue is the result of the times I haven’t made a conscious effort to keep my little collection, well, little. I never wanted a lot of cars, or even a collection, but somehow it just appeared. And then it ventured into double digits. Easy to do, I suppose, when one thinks everything from Pintos to rusty old trucks is cool.

Mind you, I’ve often found myself making “the list.” You know, the one with a “keep” and a “sell” column. But one always seems to be oddly sparse. Guess which one. Yep.

Much of the problem is that I get attached to cars, and they become harder to let go of the longer I own them.

More than just cars

Although vehicles come and go in my profession as a collector car dealer, in my personal collection I tend to keep cars for a long time. Many have been here a decade or longer — certainly not the revolving-door method of collecting employed by Publisher Martin.

For example, I still have the 1972 Alfa GTV I bought when I was 16 and drove through high school and beyond. It was never worth much back then — maybe $5,000 at best — but there were times that amount of money would have made life a lot easier, like when I was working three jobs to pay a $600 mortgage and still coming up short. But I couldn’t stand to sell the car that I’d been through so much with, and almost 30 years later, how can I sell it now? It still isn’t worth much — maybe $15,000 on a good day — but its value is immeasurable to me. I only hope my kids will end up driving it and creating similar memories.

Every other car in my garage has a similar pull. I’ve always bought cars that matter to me, not based on value or popularity (witness the Pinto), and every one transcends being “just a car” as a result. There is also a sense of responsibility in being a good caretaker, adding to their stories rather than subtracting, and preserving the history I feel is so critical to our hobby. I have also always taken great pride in maintaining a working collection — the race cars all get raced and the road cars all get driven.

Making the call

But there comes a time when we all, for various reasons, need to make the choice to let go. Having a bunch of old cars can become a full-time job, and nothing is worse than letting those cars sit.

Before kids, my wife and I had a lot more time to exercise our cars. After kids, as anybody with a family knows, that becomes a lot more difficult. I never knew there were so many non-car events on weekends, or that it is unreasonable to split up into a pair of two-seater cars to get a family of four to one of them.

Those practical constraints meant many of our cars went from being things we enjoyed using to things I had to find the time to maintain. It was an unwelcome switch from driver to curator. It was time to refocus.

So that dreaded list came out again. But how to decide what to put in the “sell” column? I wish there was an easy answer for that. In my case it was easiest to identify the cars I could never sell — the Alfa, for one — and look at the cars that had started to sit or were similar enough to others that they could be considered duplicative.

In the end I sold two cars in Monterey this year. A 1965 Shelby GT350 and 1935 Auburn 851 Speedster.

1972 Alfa Romeo GTV — still looks like it did in high school, unlike its owner

The Shelby

I let this 1965 GT350, #277, go because it was indeed a duplicate. This was a low-mileage and very original car, but I have another ’65 GT350, #249, which I have owned for 14 years and will never sell. Number 249 has great history, I’ve driven it over 20,000 miles, my wife loves driving it and it was the first Shelby my daughter rode in. I assume it will be the first one she’ll drive as well.

So as good as #277 is — it’s in many respects a better car than #249 — I had only owned it for a (comparatively) short time. We were on a first-name basis, but not completing each other’s sentences yet.

That said, it was really hard to see #277 go away, as it is a special car I know I won’t be able to replace. But nobody needs two, and I’m happy with the decision to keep #249 as it is as close to family as a car can get.

The Auburn

The Auburn Speedster was also a hard decision. I’d lusted after one for decades before finally buying this really honest but scruffy example — the way I like cars to be. Our intention was to use it for rallies like the Copperstate 1000 and Colorado Grand, but after living with it, I knew there was no way my wife would enjoy driving a pre-war car, eliminating us taking turns at the wheel. Plus, I wasn’t exactly sure I was ready to give up that much handling, speed, and braking ability myself versus the post-war performance cars we typically use.

The Auburn also hardly fit in our garage and just wasn’t a car I felt good about hauling kids in with seat belts mounted in nothing more than the oak floor. So selling this car was a conscious decision to refocus as a post-war car collector and simply be able to reflect on the experiences from the “Speedster years” we did have.

So as remorseful as I was to have sold these two cars, in the weeks that have passed I’m now happy with the decision. There is a little more room around here, and I’ve started looking at the possibility of selling a few others to further ease my maintenance duties and allow us to spend more time using what we keep.

Of course, that doesn’t mean making that list will be any easier. After all, how will I decide what to keep between the Pinto and the Omni?

1935 Auburn 851 Speedster — ill-suited for its intended use

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