It’s not all about the dollars—the joy of cars is priceless

Porsche 924

I’ve lost money on a car. Again. About a year ago, I bought a clean, one-owner 1981 Porsche 924 Turbo in need of some engine work for $5500. “Some” turned out to be “a bunch.” I put out calls for help, and car folks, like always, pitched in with enthusiasm. Local 924 expert Vaughn Scott offered a 24-hour tip line and lent me his factory service manuals. Chris Braden, proprietor of Detroit-area Munk’s Motors, sourced parts and used the 924’s brakes to show a group of enthusiasts how to rebuild calipers. Editorial assistant Cameron Neveu became assistant mechanic as I tackled the intimidating job of assembling an engine for the first time. Triumph fanatic Richard Truett spent an entire Saturday helping install said engine and didn’t laugh the next day when I told him I had forgotten the rear main seal, a critical part that can only be pressed in with the engine out. Yes, I installed the engine twice.

I shared the joyful first startup with my kids and then, only a mile or two into the shakedown run, headed south to join the Hagerty Touring Series rally to the Amelia Island Concours. Naturally, the Porsche died once (failed relay), but it made it to and from Florida under its own power.

Getting a running, mechanically fresh Porsche cost me $15,000—including the purchase price. I sold it for $12,000. I managed to lose $3000 at a time when seemingly every car is going up in value, and despite the fact that I have vast Hagerty Valuation Tools at my fingertips and legions of experts on staff.

Porsche 924
Porsche 924
Porsche 924
Cameron Neveu

I’m a fool, right? Hardly. I consider this transaction a resounding success. Essentially, I spent three grand to make new friends and reconnect with old ones, to learn mechanical lessons that, God willing, I’ll remember next time, and to feel the satisfaction of my handiwork surviving a multi-day adventure.

We frequently publish articles on car values. We will continue to do so. Our job is to arm you with useful information so you can make educated decisions. However, turning car buying into a purely financial pursuit is a mistake. The joy of driving and the freedom of going wherever you want don’t appear on any ledger. Neither does the way in which these machines can build communities.

For those reasons and many more, we at Hagerty are working to ensure that cars and driving survive for future generations. Our latest effort is a book called Never Stop Driving. We asked top automotive writers, many of whom appear in these pages, to illustrate the mental and societal benefits of the automotive life. The book is available in the Hagerty Shop and at Amazon. (Proceeds will fund driving school scholarships.) Please give it a read, and let us know what you think. Once you’re done, please pass the book on.

Autonomous cars might be a long way off, but they’re coming. It’ll be up to all of us to make sure our favorite hobby can enrich the lives of our kids and grandkids, just as it does ours.