I venture to hypothesize that SCM readers are always searching for the flimsiest posibble excuse to justify buying another car.
"I don't have one in that color." "It's cheaper to buy this one than restore the one I have." "I always wanted one when I was in high school." And the perennial favorite, "At that price, it was almost free."
The "almost free" reason has led to any number of illogical purchases on our part, of cars that we had never even thought of owning until a bargain-basement price was mentioned. Consider the '75 MGB I bought at a wrecking yard because I grew tired of waiting for Ms. Banzer to come and pick me up. For $800, it ran and drove, and buying it seemed simpler than trying to get change for bus fare.
Or the 1978 Chevrolet Impala convertible that I picked up at an Autoclassic auction in Vancouver, B.C. for $1,700. It was red over black, looked great from quarter-mile away and was being offered at no reserve. When the bidding stopped at $1,600, I was morally bound to jump in. Never mind that I'd never even seen the car before, had no interest in big Chevrolets and was 400 miles from home. "It was almost free," I told my significant other when she returned from the snack bar, surprised to find me signing the bidder's form for the boat-sized Chevy.
Collectors, like big game hunters, have an internal detector that lets them know when they are in the presence of prey. Maybe it's the glint of chrome from behind a partially-opened garage door, or the point of a fender where a car cover has partially blown off. And despite the difficulty you might have reading the morning paper without your glasses, you immediately achieve 50/20 vision, and can determine exactly what kind of car you've discovered.
A fuel-injected '63 Sting Ray? A Lotus Super 7 with Webers and a cross-flow head? Or maybe even a long-lost Lamborghini Miura? Within seconds, your collector instincts have kicked in and you know exactly how desirable that car is and whether you should stop and knock on the owner's front door.
I would again surmise that for most SCM readers, the thrill of finding and buying a car transcends all other auto-related moments. There is the first scent, which can be that accidental glimpse, or an advert in the classifieds, or even word of mouth. (Professional car finders traditionally ply the taverns of small towns, asking, "Anybody know about any old cars around here?" That's how our 330 Ferrari was unearthed in Missoula, Montana.)
Then you track down your quarry and corner it. The first up-close viewing is a magical moment, when the car's condition is revealed to be either much worse than described, about the same as you thought it would be, or, once in a great while, far superior to what you expected (a secret to be kept from the seller, of course).
Even better is when you can coax the car to life for the first time, and take it for a drive. Then, the ultimate thrill: the negotiation that leads to purchase. While a dealer might be able to think rationally at this point, I find myself so consumed by the potential conquest that walking away isn't an option. I've trapped my prey and want to haul it home with me, right now, my four-wheeled trophy, my measure of collector-car prowess. Is it any wonder that those who specialize in finding cars lost in barns command such awe in the collector car community?
The number and types of too-cheap-to-pass-up entry-level sports cars that have passed through my life, in pre-SCM days, are nearly endless, from Lotus Europas with blown head gaskets, to late-model Alfas abandoned on Indian reservations, to Austin Rubys with frozen clutches. At the moment I discovered them, they exuded the allure of a future restoration. A pile of potential, they needed only my wisdom (and dollars) to once again become glorious examples of automotive ingenuity. And on nearly every occasion, when removed from their romantic, native setting and dragged into my garage, they became piles of decrepit junk just waiting to suck my wallet dry.
Now, as I approach my maturity, my buying habits have become a little more studied, if no less intense. Our Datsun 240Z was a near-perfect car, and we actually spent more time driving than repairing it. The Ferrari has presented its challenges, but it has always been a running, driving car. We're not sure what is about to come rolling into our lives (Sunbeam Tiger? Maserati 3500 GT? Boss 302 Mustang?) but it will definitely be a finished car, not a wasp's nest disguised as a restoration project. Hopefully, it will also be "so cheap it was almost free."
I look forward to driving whatever ends up in our garage next. But even more, I anticipate the hunt.


"707c at Speed," by Dave Kurz, portrays a channeled 1932 Ford making a timed speed run on a Southern California dry lake in the late 1940s. Equipped with a flathead V8, it was built by James Khougaz, who raced at El Mirage from 1946 to '50. Hot Rod magazine featured it in their July, 1949 issue, and it was timed by the SCTA at 141.95 mph on July 16-17 of that year.
This hot rod is being restored to its original condition by Dave Simard of East Coast Customs in Leominster, Massachusetts, and has been invited to appear at the 2002 Amelia Island Concours. The painting was commissioned by the car's owner, Dr. Mark Van Buskirk, a dentist in Indiana who provided the artist with period photos for reference.
Dave Kurz sold Corvettes and other specialty cars during the 1980s, and attended art school for the first time in 1992. He uses pastels, a dry paint pigment applied by stick or pencil. As pastel works best on a textured surface, Kurz uses 3M 2000-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper, which he buys in 46 inch wide rolls. Using fat pastel sticks for backgrounds and fine-pointed pastel pencils for detail, it takes him about 150 to 180 hours to complete a painting.
His work has been seen in Road & Track, Hot Rod, Automobile, and Old Cars Weekly. Signed and numbered prints of this painting, from an edition of 500, are available from the artist for $100, plus shipping. Contact Kurz for a catalog, 303/761-4050 (CO).

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