14 May 2016

I swear it’s a keeper!

THE KEY TO THE COMPULSIVE CAR BUYER

We all know someone who constantly trawls Craigslist, bringatrailer.com or Hemmings, even when the garage is overflowing and ready cash is tight. The new find is the one! He’ll swear, “It’s a keeper.” And it is… at least until the next “must have” car appears and something has to be sold to make room.

By the time automotive writer and publisher Rob Sass turned 40, he’d owned more cars than I’ve had pairs of socks. There’s no question that Sass fits the description of the compulsive car buyer. Profit is never his goal, but more often than not he comes out on top, enabling him to move from MGB GTs and BMW 2002s to Jaguars, Porsche 911s and, now, a fine Ferrari 308 GTB QV. Asking Sass not to look at Craigslist or Bring-a-Trailer is like asking a fish not to swim.

“I guess if I counted, I’m at well over 100 cars,” says Great Race Director Jeff Stumb. “I couldn’t have them all, so I’d buy one, fix it up and sell it to buy another.” Over the years, he worked his way up to 13 cars, which means some are scattered around his home town of Chattanooga. After a few years, cars started finding him, which explains why he once had “five or six 1916 Hudsons.” His latest acquisition is a 1957 Ford two-door Ranch Wagon. After a 15-year search, he found it on Craigslist. His rarest prize was one of the 150 1957 Mercurys fitted with 335-horsepower Lincoln engines, which he found at the Hershey Swap Meet. Although his approach is more methodical than some, he’s no less addicted to the buying and selling.

While Sass and Stumb gladly admit their compulsion, Dawn Campbell raised her hand for father Gene. She explains, “He’s always dragged cars home. It’s what he does.” Old cars aren’t how he makes a living, but she says he won’t ever stop. “I’ve lost track of the cars I thought Dad was in love with,” she says. “He had a beautiful 454 Chevelle with a four-speed. We thought he’d have it forever, and then it was gone, too.” Gene previously found most of his cars in newspapers, but he has since turned to online listings and eBay Motors.

According to psychologist Marc Perlman, “It’s often much more about the ‘chase’ than the object being pursued.” To a varying degree, that’s certainly true for Rob Sass, Jeff Stumb and Dawn’s dad, Gene. Could any of these three flip a switch and stop chasing old cars? Somehow, I don’t think so.

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