There are probably more than a few people in the world that should avoid going certain places. Deep down they know they can’t resist bringing home something either they don’t need or for whatever reason shouldn’t get: be it the local animal shelter, Walmart, Costco, the flea market, Aeropostale, Bed Bath and Beyond, the hardware store, the local doughnut shop, or all of the above… The plethora of internet car sites provides nearly endless opportunities to beguile the car bug afflicted.
(David) Tracy-ites, I say unto to thee unite because everyone’s favorite jalopy jeep junk yard rescuer isn’t so much different from many of us, including me. Show me a classic fox body Mustang for sale with an under-the-market price tag and I go weak in the knees (and start mentally tabulating my bank account numbers).
Personally, I can’t stay away from surfing Bring A Trailer, Hemmings, Autotempest, Autotrader, Barn Finds, Rare Craigslist Cars on Twitter, EBay, and Facebook Marketplace, to name a few. I’m usually looking for rare gems or off the wall finds.
Back in the early days of surfing, I was astounded by what could be found out there: I still remember several good ol’ days listings: a 70k mile 1987 Grand National for $7500 just a couple hours drive away (it sold fast), a black ’87 Mustang GT with about 30k miles and the rare T-top option asking $12000, a ’91 MR2 turbo with under 10k miles with every shred of paperwork for 20 large, an EBay auction of a running ’87 944 with 90k miles ending for about $1800 (that was a really long time ago). Sometimes it’s the descriptions that stick with me, like the Craigslist guy in Texas with a really nice low mile Grand National saying at the description’s end, “Look, I know there’s a lot of dreamers out there, but not everyone can own a classic car like this.” I didn’t interpret this as overly pompous, but rather a novel take on the standard “No tire kickers or time wasters.” My guess is anyone who enjoys treasure hunting car ads can recall their more memorable discoveries.
Intriguing finds to me tend to be low-mile original examples of either diamond-in-the-rough, or the not-yet-to-classic-status cars. I reason, “Get in on the ground floor before they take off and prices become too absurd to drive them without guilt.” I’m savvy enough to know that we lose money on most car purchases and I’ve certainly had my share of those. However, with careful selection, I’ve either broken even or come out slightly ahead on a few (even accounting for maintenance, insurance, and one of the big killers against car equity: sales tax).
It’s almost a game of sorts, or perhaps more accurately, a magnetic draw. I love to see a car that just needs a bit of polishing to produce a jewel. And for this pirate of the classifieds, its needs generally have to be cosmetic, because my limited skills on cars fall mostly into the appearance and detail side. I’ve been able to cultivate relationships with some talented mechanics, along with acquisition of a few tools and rudimentary skills, but it doesn’t take me very long at all to get overwhelmed. I’m not afraid, however, to clean carpets, replace worn parts, correct paint and trim work, and do basic maintenance. I actually rather enjoy it, and would count it a good day spent in the garage (bonus if it’s 70 degrees outside).
I can imagine the pull of potential is even stronger for individuals possessing a more complete automotive skill set. Whereas I see spit and polish improvement, they can picture the full possibilities in derelicts. For those that can do bodywork, there likely are no limits to taking on new car projects —save time, money, garage space, and of course, other existing car projects.
I think many of us in the hobby feel compelled to rescue special vehicles (your definition may vary) from further deterioration. Maybe it’s a desire to present these cars for what they could be, and perhaps gain some admiration, preservation of automotive history, or put a little coin in our pocket as a result.
For others, it’s the thrill of the hunt, the kill more than the car. A treasure hunt. A rush of dopamine to hit the brain. The gambler’s risk: There may be something seriously wrong hidden here, or there may be a gem. We are the Craigslist American Pickers and “you won’t believe what I just found today.” I’m sure it’s the same allure that drives people to bid on abandoned storage units or go to estate and garage sales. Some of the highest achieving business executives possess the same forever-on-the-hunt qualities.
These obviously aren’t always positive characteristics. We can tongue-in-cheek joke about car addictions, but in truth for some of us it is absolutely a real problem, and I’m not trying to make light of those who may be seriously having difficulties here. Any addiction that interferes with our jobs, our relationships, or puts us in financial jeopardy is a verified concern. Like most addicts, car addicts can self-delude and even try to convince others, “Hey, I can hammer out those dents and flip this car for another $1000!”
I’ve personally had to draw out some clear boundaries because over the years I’ve found several truths: Just when you think you’ll never see another low mile X model again, a different model X shows up to fall in love with. And, when one endeavors to actually sell off a car, the world is full of cheap people just like me: No one wants to pay top dollar for a car they want, but rather see the lowest price for which they can get it. Go figure. Real head scratcher there I know, right?
My current self-imposed rule is: One car to love (and garage) and one to daily drive. I mostly stick to it…
Enjoy the Hunt.