In 2018, when Danny Thompson screamed over the bleach-white Bonneville salt inside Challenger 2 at over 440 mph, he probably didn’t think he’d end up sending that same car across the block at a Mecum auction just a couple years later.
Thompson had hit his mark by setting the speed record that both he and his late father had dreamt of, but it wasn’t without financial hardship. That achievement wasn’t cheap, quick or easy. The money it cost Thompson to achieve the record of fastest piston-powered car in the world ultimately led to the sale of the car to pay for the effort.
The car world is packed full of curve balls at which we, as car people, have to take a swing. Sometimes we hit them, sometimes we don’t. In the age of coronavirus, it all may seem like small potatoes — selling a car isn’t usually a life-or-death decision — but that doesn’t lessen the impact when the car in question has been part of your own reality for years — or even decades, as was the case with Thompson and Challenger 2. Yeah, these are First World problems for sure — especially now — but they are still impactful.
I think all of us have been there. Maybe we needed to raise some cash to pay some bills, or maybe it was just time to buy something else. Either way, we had to choose to move something out before we were ready to do it. It’s never an easy call to make.
I’ve been wrestling with this same basic problem a lot lately. I’m on the brink of starting a new book project. But in order to start running down that path, I have to sell something. It’s likely going to be the 1966 Chevrolet Caprice I’ve kept for the past 22 years.
That was never part of the plan. But plans change.
It should be no big deal, right? My big-block ’66 Chevrolet Caprice is a D-grade collectible in driver-level condition with a not-so-pretty roofline. I haven’t done a good job of making it fit with my life now that I have kids, so it sits most of the time, dusty and taking up space.
Considering that, it shouldn’t be much of a decision, really. But that car wears the scars of my teenage years through to today. Each one of those scars has a story — and most of them are the type I can’t talk about here, which makes them all the better.
The car itself is a time warp for me. Piles of time slips in that car’s glovebox take me back to Friday night dragstrip-staging lanes, where revving V8s echoed against the tower and tire smoke dimmed the floodlights. Back then, running faster than the other guy was my only concern. I’d cruise the main drag on my way home, where I’d prep for Saturday night. Week in, week out, no mortgage, career, kids or responsibility ever got in the way. Cammed V8s and drag slicks were my reality.
I’m here today because of my experiences with that car, so you could say it’s more than done its job. Still, regret’s a nasty thing, and there’s no good answer here that will let me avoid it. Do I take on the new ambitious project and grow or keep the slice of my history?
My very first column in ACC, way back in 2011, talked about the legend of the LS6 Chevelle within my family — a car that was sold when times dictated so, and which has been a sore point of regret for my family ever since. Is this car my LS6?
Maybe it doesn’t matter. Nothing lasts forever, except for experiences. A car might sell to a new owner, but no matter how much or how little it makes, the experiences you had with it don’t transfer with the title.
If memories from the past hold you back from the dreams or realities of the future, it’s time to change things up. The $561,000 sale of Thompson’s Challenger 2 was a great deal for the new owner, and I sincerely hope that Thompson was more than made whole, both financially and otherwise, by the project and the result.
As for me, regardless of what that old Chevy is worth, it’s more than made me whole already.
After nine years and 52 issues, this is the final edition of American Car Collector magazine. The economic realities caused by coronavirus have brought us to this point — which nobody, least of all me, wanted to see happen. But I’m proud of the work that we’ve done here, and I know I speak for all our contributors when I say thanks to you, our readers, for being so passionate and sticking with us through the years.
You’ll see many of the names and voices you’ve come to know here over at Sports Car Market, including my own, in a new version of this column. ACC Subscribers will get it automatically from here on to fulfill any remaining issues they have left on their subscriptions.