When “because it makes me happy” isn’t enough
It’s funny the way we sometimes justify the things we purchase, either to ourselves or to others. I’d always wanted a car that ran in the Pebble Beach road races in the early 1950s. I’d also wanted a great period hot rod. A few years ago at the auctions in Monterey, I bought a Ford hot rod that had raced through the Del Monte Forest in Pebble Beach. It wasn’t cheap, and my wife wasn’t exactly thrilled. I told her I paid half for the race car and the other half for a hot rod, so I checked off two boxes for the price of one. Somehow, she accepted—or at least let me get away with—that rationalization, but I’m pretty sure I can’t use that line of reasoning again.
Whenever I buy something, I have to be able to justify the purchase. Sometimes, I’ll buy a car, motorcycle, or some other collectible simply because it makes me happy. Who hasn’t done that? But anymore I find myself doing it too often. Most of these purchases aren’t things I need. It’s not like tomorrow won’t come if I don’t get this car or that motorcycle. Usually, I’ll buy something because I want it and can afford it. But as the barn fills and my wife wonders why there’s no more room, it becomes harder to make a case for adding more stuff simply because I want it.
Unlike a lot of collectors, I’m lucky in that I can easily resell a car or other item through my business. But if I’m not intent on selling something right away, and I can’t really justify keeping it, my grandson Connor is the excuse that works best. He is the new tool in my rationalization toolbox. Now I just say, “It’s for Connor.” He’s still young, but when he’s older, I’m sure he’s going to appreciate the latest addition to “his” collection.
I’ve been on the hunt for electric and gas-powered children’s cars since he came along, and the most recent additions are a go-kart and a Honda 50 monkey bike. Some of the coolest pieces in the “Connor collection” are an electric-powered Bentley, a gas-powered Bugatti, a quarter-midget racer, a T-Bird, and a go-kart powered by a pair of 20-hp GEM two-stroke engines.
Not only does my grandson love cars, but I was blessed to have daughters who also do. Every so often they’d see things that caught their attention and would say something like, “Daddy, I like that.” Years ago, Lindsay saw an Isetta on the show Family Matters and fell in love. I finally bought her one—18 years later. When I buy something for her, though, I get something for Kimberly, too. So I gave her a Messerschmitt.
A few years after Lindsay got her Isetta, a client saw it and really wanted it. I couldn’t just sell it, though, because it wasn’t mine. However, I traded it for a Renault 4CV Jolly beach car, and everyone came away happy.
Sometimes, when I’m considering a purchase, I’ll ask myself, “Who else would want one?” Over the years, I think I’ve done a good job building a collection that I’m proud of and happy with and is financially stable, with an excellent chance of appreciation. If you’re not deeply in love with a car, you have to think, “Who else would want it besides me?” When you can answer that question, you know you’ll always be able to sell it and maybe even make some money.
Just as I feel a need to justify buying a car or motorcycle, I also feel I need to justify selling it later. If I do, I’ll have a lot less seller’s remorse. Fortunately, I’ve found that other people often want to buy what I have. If someone waves money at me and I haven’t used a vehicle in a while, it’s usually time to sell it.
For a while I had one of only two twin-engine “Twini Mini” Coopers. The man who owned the other one came from England to see mine. We emailed back and forth, and he ended up buying it. I let it go because I hadn’t driven it in four years, partly because the weight of the additional engine—the whole novelty of the car—meant I didn’t enjoy driving it as much as I did a regular single-engine Mini Cooper. It was the right time to sell.
Now, if I sell a few more cars I don’t use, I may be able to justify buying a few more. If that doesn’t work, I can always use the Connor excuse.
The article first appeared in Hagerty Drivers Club magazine. Click here to subscribe to our magazine and join the club.