Is it me? Am I the only person on the planet that feels that parting with a special car is like selling one of your children to medical research? “Johnny… this is Dr. Mindbender, you’ll be living with him from now on at his laboratory. Let us know how you’re doing if you get a chance in-between experiments.” I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but this is how I’ve felt everytime I’ve sold a car.
The first time I encountered this strange “separation anxiety” was when I sold my TR3. This was my first classic car and the first car I ever restored. I spent countless hours restoring this car not just because it was a miserable basket case (first in a long line) but also because I was learning “the restoration craft” as I went along. A lot of my blood went into and onto that car!
Of course, I really didn’t want to sell it, but a growing list of reasons were beginning to force my hand. First and foremost was the fact that – being anal retentive – I wanted the car to be perfect, and since it was my first restoration project, it wasn’t. Also, I wanted to start racing, and there wasn’t budget or room for two hobby cars. Add to this psychological stew a robust classic car market and some unrelenting student loans, and it looked like the first born was going to have to hit the streets.
At first I convinced myself that at the price I was asking, it wouldn’t sell. Incidentally, in case you haven’t tried this little mind game before, it’s a marvelous way of naively satisfying both the side of your brain that wants to sell and the other side that doesn’t. The problem for me is that has never worked! Within a week, I had two buyers willing to pay my price. Doh!
As I bought, restored, raced and subsequently sold more cars over the years, the guilt and angst seemed to get a little easier. I suppose it’s not unlike a homicide detective gradually becoming desensitized to grisly crime scenes. Move along sir, nothing to see here.
However, parting with my last racecar seems to have thrown me into a full-blown guilt relapse. As background, about five years ago, I stumbled across the ultimate “barn find.” Only this barn was a U-Store-It storage space in Southern California with a period original Lotus 51 and an owner who just wanted to be rid of it at any cost. Having now gained some technique and experience in the “black arts” of restoration, I unleashed my full Q-Tip swabbing, bolt-head polishing, anal-retentive fury on the long-neglected Lotus. One year, eight knuckles, fourteen marriage counseling sessions and umpteen thousand dollars later, I had the near-perfect car I always wanted and a First Place trophy from the Newport Beach Concours d’Elegance to prove it (see photo at top). For the next several years I raced the car and the love affair deepened. I told myself I would never sell this car. When Lucifer called me and said, “It’s freezing down here, can you turn up the heat?” I knew I was in trouble.
True to past form, trivial minutiae, like a growing family and a house in need of restoration, yet again set the winds of automotive change in motion. Like the TR3, the Lotus sold quickly and was a deal I couldn’t refuse. What was different this time was that I sold the car to someone who I quickly became fast friends with. This has been good and this has been bad. On the good side, I knew the car was going to a good home and that I’d get to see the car frequently and remain involved with it. On the bad side, I’d get to see the car frequently and remain involved with it.
With my previous cars, they were gone… never to be seen or heard from again. Out of sight, out of mind. But the Lotus, I was now seeing almost on a weekly basis. What was even worse was that the car was just sitting in the corner of my friend’s warehouse gathering dirt and dust bunnies. It seemed like everytime I entered the shop, the Lotus would scream at me from the corner, “You bastard! You did this to meeeeee…” Hell hath no fury like a scorned racecar.
I’ve been told that with psychological problems like a traumatic experience, a broken relationship or a racecar screaming obscenities at you, the best medicine is to get back in the saddle as quickly as possible. The issue for me now is how do I convince my wife and daughter that you can sleep in your car, but you can’t drive your house.