Journal: Do You Actually Want A Massive Car Collection?

Do You Actually Want A Massive Car Collection?

By Andrew Golseth
March 14, 2016
37 comments

My great-grandfather, Daddy Tom, was better at being an enthusiast than I am. His logic: “You only live once, so experience all you can.” He realized his limits—maybe one or two toys, but that’s it. Buy a car you want, enjoy it for a while, and when the honeymoon phase ends, sell it and get something else!

“It’s just a car,” he’d say—and he was right. I have a hard time listening to his sound logic. Perhaps if he were still around, we’d chat over a few beers about it,  and he’d convince me my attempted automobile hoarding is foolish.

When I turned 20 years old, I pledged to never sell another car. I had turned into the gearhead that got “attached” to his cars. The thought of selling any of my vehicles to someone else was blasphemous. That was many years and even more car sales ago, but I have been fortunate enough to carry out my initial reasoning: to grow a collection.

I’ve sold plenty of cars since swearing I wouldn’t let another go, but I’ve still managed to add to the stable—albeit very slowly, over many years. I’m up to five automobiles now, and it’s wonderful.

Except: two are on the other side of the country in a friend’s barn, in varying degrees of despair awaiting restorations that will, undoubtedly, take far longer than I’d like. But between you and me, it’s a good thing my Datsun and Alfa Romeo aren’t here in California: I don’t have anywhere to park them!

The truth is, I’ve only got one garage space, I just happen to be renting my neighbor’s as well. My wife has to street park. That poor woman—I’ve got my BMW and old Toyota locked away safely—she has to take her chances with street parking. If my other jalopies were here in California, I wouldn’t know what I’d do with them.

Owning a collection, in theory, sounds like a lot of fun. If you collect them slowly over time, it’s not even the financial dilemma of initial purchasing costs—it’s everything else. Ever consider what insurance is on five vehicles? How about routine maintenance? Let’s not forget about unavoidable old-car-problems. Even if you do your own work, it still adds up. My good friend Mike was up to six cars and a motorcycle. He used to nervously laugh about how much money in fuel was evaporating in his driveway and garage as we spoke. We’d joke, “Don’t you have to do a $1,000 oil change(s) soon?”

At Cars and Coffee, our gearhead group walk around chatting until someone says, “Leno Scenario, I’d have one of those.” It’s become a thing. “Leno Scenario.” It infers, with an unlimited budget, endless garage space, and an entire crew of mechanics on call, we’d buy…just about one of everything. It’s fun to fantasize about owning such an impressive catalog, but the reality is most of us will never afford such a treat.

For me, the appeal of owning more than one vehicle has always been about diversity. The few times I only had a single car, I ungratefully began to nitpick everything. It drove me crazy, and the routine drive became mundane. Am I just hard to please? With two or more autos, I appreciate them individually for what they are, and their little nuances don’t get to me. I don’t have a dedicated daily driver. Instead, I’m fortunate enough to change it up every few days.

That said, I’ve come to a point of frustration with juggling spare parts, never ending maintenance, lack of garage space, and exhausting expenses—there’s always something that pops up. Did I mention I’m trying to restore two cars simultaneously? Foolish. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to say: there is a limit. Every enthusiast auto-nirvana varies depending on our individual lives. I think finding that balance of number-of-cars versus enjoyment is crucial.

What kind of petrolhead are you? Do you prefer to tinker with one classic for a bit, and then move on? Do you have a dozen Alfas, but only three that are currently running? Are you collecting or are you content with that one perfect Sunday driver? Tell us in the comments!

Photography by Alessandro Bianchi, Afshin Behnia, Jeremy Heslup, Luke Wooden, Nat Twiss & Ted Gushue

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Brian Sigel
Brian Sigel
4 years ago

I’ve been a car nut my whole life. Mainly focused around German cars. I’m not sure it’s from my dad working at the Westmoreland Volkswagen factory or when my cousin gave me his 71 Volkswagen Beetle convertible when I was 17. And I still owe on that car to this day and I am now 44. About 5 years ago I bought a house that had a larger garage and I said this is going to be perfect just enough space. It’s basically a four-car garage and very carefully I can squeeze six cars into it. Within two years I was out of space, I now rent a separate garage about a half hour away and I’m still out of space. Currently I’m up to about 13 cars not including my daily driver. Some of my highlights are three BMW M3s one from each of the first three generations, 79 Porsche 911 Turbo, 1980 Scirocco with a Callaway turbo setup, 3 Volkswagen Corrado’s and a 84 Rabbit GTI with only 66,000 original miles

Antonino Barbagallo
Antonino Barbagallo
4 years ago

The car collection has gotten a little out of control. Including the daily drivers for a household of 3, I think I currently have 24. They are all in perfect condition. I even have my very first car, a 1978 Córdoba ,it has 26,000 miles.

simon harper
simon harper
4 years ago

My day job is looking after a private collection and I can tell you first hand it’s a lot of work, but a great joy and privilege and for the owner of a significant collection none of the pitfalls you mention really factor.

Christopher Skjæveland
Christopher Skjæveland
4 years ago

I don’t think of myself as a collector as I don’t classify our (me and my wife’s) daily drivers as worthy condenders, but the reality is that we have a total of 4 vehicles to our disposal – 2 daily drivers (an ’06 Mazda 5, an ’05 Mondeo Estate) one classic (’70 Ford Torino Brougham) and the motorbike (’77 Kawasaki KZ650). I’ve owned a few classics over time, mostly daily driving them, but I’ve never owned more then two classics simultaneously.
I like the thought of it for as you say, diversity. But all the “negatives” (insurance, service and maintenance and most importantly SPACE) are a headache too many. The Torino wil never be let go, it’s that good. The Kawa is nice, but has too much sentimental value to get rid off, even though I’d rather have a Moto Guzzi V7…

So I guess I’m a keeper for classics and a collector of daily drivers… I think I’ve got this collector-thing wrong… 😛

Tom Schmidt
Tom Schmidt
4 years ago

Got the car I had in college; a 1970 BMW 2002, and that’s about all the nostalgia I need. I’ve got other cars that go real fast.

Steve Crowley
Steve Crowley
4 years ago

I have 2 Alfas. A 68 Duetto with a GTA driveline in it and a 57 sprint that I’m putting a twinspark 2 liter in. ALFA stands for always looking for another! Can never have enough

Lochlan Denton
Lochlan Denton
5 years ago

I have a Morris 1300 and an FJ40 Landcruiser I am after something vintage now. I have always maintained that 3 is the magic number as you can have the greatest variation, for me that is classic, off-road and vintage, while all can still be used and enjoyed. I know people with 20 motorcycles and 8 cars (all in running condition) and it is sad because most of them gey used, there simply isn’t enough time.

Christian Volquartz
Christian Volquartz
5 years ago

I have a an XJL, an older boxster, and an 82 911. The 911 is in storage and the boxster and XJL have parking spaces most of the time. Next on the wish list is an 06 XKR, an 2010 Granturismo, and a 1966 Coupe Deville. I have no parking spaces for these hopeful additions and that just bothers me a whole lot. Hopefully my space will grow with my purchases is all I can say.

Alex Motola
Alex Motola
5 years ago

I have more than the Petrolicious average, and there is a sense that the cars “own” you. Storage is obviously a problem, but you will fill any space you have – it’s the nature of “our” beast. Everything mentioned below (oil, air pressure, batteries, cars blocked by other cars, etc.) is a problem. What’s beautiful about Leno’s Garage is that not only is each car ready to go, but you don’t have to do anything but jump in and drive! And of course, Jay can have the car “brought around” if necessary. I completely understand the logic of cutting back, but most of the posters here act like collecting/owning classic cars is rational – which it is mostly not, IMO. It’s a passion, so it leads to some irrationality. I do wish I spent more time on the track, and more time driving the cars I have, but I don’t think that’s unique!

MVScalice
MVScalice
5 years ago

I agree 100\%. My dad and I have 5 cars right now and I miss the days where we had 2… we don’t have a storage issue, fortunately, but I definitely resonate with the other nuances you’ve mentioned.

There’s always at least one car that needs work done on it. In fact, yesterday 3 of them were out of commission so I was up until 1am cleaning the 4th car for Cars and Coffee, where I had to leave at 6:30am.

Speaking of cleaning, I detail cars on the side so there’s ALWAYS a car that needs to be cleaned. They are never cleaned all at the same time. I probably spend hundreds of dollars per year just on cleaning products. Maintenance is insane too, as you mentioned. Oil changes, spark plugs, fluid changes, tires… you almost need a full service garage just to maintain your own cars!

Then there’s the little things… checking the oil before you go out for a drive, not having enough oil if you are low. Having to constantly fill the tires with air. The fuel costs, as you mentioned. Having to keep all 5 cars on battery tenders or they’all be dead when you go to start them… it’s a lot of work!

And you never can enjoy them all… I do have a designated daily driver, as if the maintenance and cleaning on the other 5 wasn’t enough. So I don’t take the cars out every day and cycle through them. I think I’ve really only enjoyed 2 of the cars this year, it’s crazy.

Needless to say, I’m looking to downsize to 3 cars and I honestly cannot wait!

Frank Schwartz
Frank Schwartz
6 years ago

So nice to see I am not the only one afflicted. And the comment about switching up cars making you appreciate each one is brilliant and spot on. I currently have 13 and for the first time I am looking at paring the list down. Admittedly, they are not all collectible and the non-collectible ones will go first. But if I am honest it is just to make room for more.

Jim Levitt
Jim Levitt
6 years ago

At my “high point” I think I had about 12-15 collectable cars at the same time.
All were in show condition, all ran flawlessly and ALL were easily accessible to the street.
I drove them all at least once a month, maybe more and I mean a full day, not just warmed up and around the block.
THAT was fun. If I only looked at them I considered that to be a huge waste of time and my money.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
6 years ago

We currently have 6 cars but only 4 of interest; the other two are our daily drivers. I have two classics, an Alfa Romeo 105 coupe from 1972 and a Lancia Fulvia S1 Rallye from 1969 both are delightful to drive but are so different in their respective driving experiences. Every so often I think I might sell one but then I go out and drive her ”and have a word with myself”. I would find it hard to choose between them as they are both so wonderful each in their own way. The Lancia so delicate and sophisticated and the Alfa so different with its rorty 2 litre Nord engine and low slung driving position. The other two cars are modern ”classics” namely Alfa Romeo 916 Spiders one a fetching looking TS in Zoe yellow and the other a melifluous V6. I am spoilt for choice I have a car for all seasons and all moods.

Ian Holmes
Ian Holmes
6 years ago

I have three. My daily driver a ’98 Sonoma , which really should be better looked after. A ’76 MGB, which I love, and a ’63 Studebaker Cruiser, which is a running restoration project. Different vehicles for different situations. They are all great. But I’d still like another one, something from the ’20’s perhaps. I try not to think about the storage issues…

Juan Luis Redó
Juan Luis Redó
6 years ago

For me it’s not possible to enjoy and maintain in drive conditions more of 4-5 classic cars.

Tim Williams
Tim Williams
6 years ago

I don’t have a collection, but I do have three cars, one for me, one my wife, and ‘the keeper’, which is up in my father’s garage. All are exciting to drive. The issues are time and storage: it’s not just storing the cars, but the tools, spare rims, parts, jet wash etc. The time on the other hand has to be split between the cars and the other hobbies and competing interests, such as a summer cottage, or a boat. You can end up spending all your time on maintenance and projects, and not enough time actually driving or sailing …

Laurie Bridger
Laurie Bridger
6 years ago

Storage is definitely the problem. I wish there were more affordable houses with large garages. I don’t need the house to be a mansion just because it has a large garage. Modest house with attached warehouse would be perfect.

Currently up to six cars with number 7 on the way, and 3 more on the wish list. It definitely restricts the housing options. I wouldn’t change it though.

I’ve still got my first car, a 2001 Jeep Wrangler with plenty of my blood sweat and tears into the modifications.

I’ve still got my first sports car – a 2008 MX5 manual that I took my wife on our first dates in.

My first classic – a 1982 Land Cruiser pickup. It needs work but is sitting on the back burner – sentimental because when I was younger and we would go out into the great outdoors – the further you got from civilization – the more the old Land Cruisers were the only thing you would see.

I’ve got a 1959 Cadillac Sedan – wanted one since I first saw one at age 10. Still have the 1:18 model from back then.

I’ve got a 1929 Cadillac HotRod that is just stunning. Found it for sale at a show moments after getting the call that my grandmother had passed away. give or take a few months they are the same age.

I’ve got an F150 Raptor as a daily driver / parts hauler / expedition vehicle.

On the way is a 1969 MGB being restored. My father had a 1973 MGB and thats the car that really got me hooked on cars.

Downsizing isn’t an option. Where would you start?

Jeremy DeConcini
Jeremy DeConcini
6 years ago

I think it has to do with how much space you have. If I had the money and an airplane hangar, it would be filled with cars and bikes. When you have to start moving stuff around on the street and your neighbors give you the stink eye because of all the cars on the curb under covers, I feel like the cars are owning you instead of vice versa. So the short answer is that the garage is every bit as important as the vehicles (to me, as they say, reasonable minds may differ).

So, for the curious, I have a WRX daily driver, e46 M3 weekend driver and restored VW bus to go the beach with surfboards, with covered storage for all (most of the time). Do I want more? Definitely. But I am stoked with what I have, and particularly that I have the ability to take care of them and also use them properly.

Sunday Drivers
Sunday Drivers
6 years ago

The costs associated with maintaining a collection is the exact reason I’ve decided to rent out my own collection. There are just too many cars that I would love to drive and own! Hopefully I can find enough of an audience/clientele that will make the business successful and at the same time spread the love of classic motoring. All the while allowing me to purchase more cars to experience.

Purchase price, transport of the car, registration, insurance,maintenance, and housing of the vehicle is not an option for many people. You can rent a high end exotic, but what if you want to drive an old classic? Very few options outside of taking the plunge!

The stable presently consists of about a dozen two seat sportsters between 1960 and 1974.

rick bradner
rick bradner
6 years ago

Whew! What a relief, it seems that I’m pretty much an average guy…at least among you lot. -LOL
I see the number five most often as I read through the comments and I only have six, so it seems I’m pretty normal. My wife will be so pleased to hear.
The costs do start to add up though. Six cars at $50 a month for parking is $3600/yr. Insurance is about $1K/yr. each averaging the more modern and collector plates, and of course the 330 is 4x that. And there is maintenance which is, ahem, variable.
$20K a year all in? Must be mad.
Gotta go; time to check some cars on Bring a Trailer…

Rod S
Rod S
6 years ago
Reply to  rick bradner

LOL was just literally there checking out the latest auctions.

Brian Hart
Brian Hart
6 years ago

My limit always seems to have been ‘One more car than I have garage space for’.

Currently, I have to sell one of my ‘children.’

Lance Allam
Lance Allam
6 years ago

A lot of valid points but I am prepared to make certain sacrifices to own a dozen exiting cars and 4 motorcycles. I keep a warehouse and have the requisite insurance. It is a lifestyle choice and essential part of my life. All vehicles have to be usable for extended trips and regular use.

I run two Porsches, a 1985 911 Carerra, a Panamera GTS, Two Jaguar XJ-s’ s a 3.6 and 5.3, Two Maseratis, a Merak SS and Kyalami, an Alfa Romeo 105 2000 GTV, a Puma GT, a Dodge Ram, a Mercedes Benz 300CE and A190, an Audi A5 Cabriolet and Q7 4.2 FSI. On the bike side I run a 1980 Moto Morini 500, Victory Judge, Harley Davidson Soft tail Deluxe and a Moto Guzzi V7 Racer.

Art Harvey
Art Harvey
6 years ago

No, I don’t aspire to a “massive” collection – for all the reasons you give: storage, insurance, maintenance and just getting 5 cars inspected every year takes away from the time available to DRIVE them as much as they deserve to be. However, a small collection can be manageable. Having slowly, slowly nurtured myself up to a”collection” of 5 classics I can appreciate the discipline needed to select, or curate this limited number – to ensure there is enjoyment and purpose. I don’t want a massive collection, I want a meaningful one.

jekle
jekle
6 years ago

Guitar Slinger
“If you’ve got more than two cars in your ‘ collection ‘ .. you’re not using them as the maker intended”

Well now…that’s just pure nonsense.
I currently have 5 motorcycles in the stable. And they all get ridden…probably more than most owners ride their only bike.
The author above is right about storage and insurance and taxes (here in CT we have a car tax) and registration and maintenance.
Maybe its true that the one with the most toys wins…but the one with the most toys also spends a lot of time and money on them…and the initial outlay is the easy part.

Nate
Nate
6 years ago

I like variety. I couldn’t eat the same meal every day and in the same way I don’t want to drive the same vehicle all the time. Some days I crave a muscle car, some days a chopped up hotrod, some a simple antique sports car. I don’t own these cars as status symbols but because I found them appealing. Do they require a lot of time? Yes, but like children, I don’t consider it time wasted.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
6 years ago

I’ll be the voice pf descent here [ big surprise ]

If you’ve got more than two cars in your ‘ collection ‘ .. you’re not using them as the maker intended .. but rather are using them in order to ;

Prop up your flagging ego
Prove that you can keep up with the Jones’s
Show your friends and neighbors that yours is bigger than theirs
Fulfill your narcissistic tendencies
Maintain an unhealthy case of OCD
Feeding the need to hoard
Maintaining an ‘ addiction ‘ rather than a ‘ collection .

In other words …. You don’t really use them . You ‘ collect’ them/are addicted to them . And in light of the blood , sweat and tears some engineer(s) put into those cars in order to make them work as the car gods intended …

.. that is not only an insult to all the hard work they did … but an indicator as to what kind of person you really are .

This in my opinion applies to ALL collectors across the board be it Art – Cars – Motorcycles and yes even Guitars ! [ maybe more so when it comes to musical instruments .. especially fine acoustic guitars and violins ]

As for me what I no longer use … I sell … which is part and parcel what drove me to sell off my ‘ F ‘ words [ owned one at a time ] and to finally a few years ago exit any active participation in the hobby [ and it IS a hobby .. not a lifestyle ] as road conditions and traffic [ not to mention all the environmental damage incurred by driving a classic ] …gradually made owning such cars untenable and unenjoyable

Nate
Nate
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

Nearly every one of your comments is insulting or offensive in some way and the sheer number of them really detracts from the quality of this site.

Frank Anigbo
Frank Anigbo
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

Sorry, GS, you’re completely incorrect with your assessment, and needlessly insulting as well. I have come to value your comments which are sometimes insightful and almost always very entertaining. I wish you’ll give the rest of us the benefit of the doubt (since you really don’t know anything about any of us!) that we are adult enough to know what we want, and respect how we choose to indulge our shared affliction. After all, we’re not hurting anyone, are we?

As my 3 year old son would say, please be nice.

Henrique De Resende Mendonça
Henrique De Resende Mendonça
6 years ago

In the theory I totally agree but sometimes you can lose a buying opportunity and otherwise it’s not so easy to sell a niche car. At least in my home country, Brazil.

Rod S
Rod S
6 years ago

I agree with everyone here. I’ve collected a modest stable of 5, which is just about a man of reasonable means can hope to keep up with. Each is driven, each tickles a particle nerve when the fancy strikes. The AW11 MR2 is my canyon toy. The G37S is my cruiser. The Fiat Abarth is my daily. ’63 P1800 is my weekend car. And the ’74 Manta is partially restored, but gets driven the least. Can’t see myself selling anything at this point.

Nom DelaNom
Nom DelaNom
6 years ago

After years in remission, the bug has bitten hard and my wife and I aquired 3 vintage Jags in as many years. This year a beautiful XJ12 came my way and I looked at the spreadsheet I use to schedule repairs on the 3 we already have, factored in storage for a 4th and realized I had a choice. I could keep restoring the two oldest cats or I could get a “new” kitty for the pride but not both. I saw a possible future where I pass as an old man and they find a barn of rotting, neglected cars that my best intentions hoarded and ruined.

epieters
epieters
6 years ago

We are really all the same.
I can never stop buying and collecting. 3 alfa 2 etypes 2 Porsches 356 BMW baur, lancia.
But now i found a solution for my problem and a lot of my friend.
I got a big space near my office and invested in a lift.
And now i got space for about 300 cars

mackguy
mackguy
6 years ago

I sure run into this problem. With a total of 8 vehicles including my wife’s and my daily drivers (2014 Fiesta SE and ST respectively), The “road trip” SUV (1999 GMC Suburban), the workhorse (1990 F250 Diesel), the heirloom (heavily modified 1955 Jaguar XK-140), the motorcycle (2008 Harley Sportster), and 2 non street-legal race cars (first gen RX-7s), even basic maintenance is a challenge.
When the Jag fuel pump started to leak last July it was out of service until January.. With a 2 year old in the house time is a great premium, and don’t have enough extra $$ to outsource everything. I even have a nice sized garage with a lift and what-not, but just need more time (and money, but mostly time)!

The struggle is real!

Frank Anigbo
Frank Anigbo
6 years ago

I laughed as I read this. We really are all alike! I set an artificial limit of 5 cars at any one time many years ago, not counting my daily driver. I figure that’s about as many cars I can have without the risk of ignoring any of them — that would be a crime to do. Just a crime! Five is just the right number, each car serves a different mood and need, and keeps life very interesting. So far I’ve only ever managed to reach 4 at a time although my odds of getting to #5 have just recently increased massively; I have finally stopped renting space by building a modest 6-car barn, Wife gets one space, I get 5; my daily driver sits outside.

Five special cars. Maybe I should have set the limit at 6…

Darel Matthews
Darel Matthews
6 years ago
Reply to  Frank Anigbo

Ha! My wife’s ’65 Volvo is the product of Frank’s lack of space! And it’s currently crammed into my (barely) two-car garage with my TR6, garbage cans, kids bikes, a snowblower, a beer fridge, parts washer, shelves of parts I’ll never use…yadda…yadda…

Scott Smith
Scott Smith
6 years ago

My very good friend, who has helped foster my classic car involvement, had at one point in time 9 different cars, in various states of repair in various places, and not counting the family SUV and minivan. At home he kept a 1966 Sunbeam Tiger, a 1969 Porsche 911, and a 1970 Jaguar E-Type (the one I want to buy from him). A couple of stalled restorations included a Jaguar XK120 and a Triumph TR250. In cross-country storage at a brother-in-law’s place was an Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider. I envy him at times, but yeah, the logistics and expense of registering, insuring and maintaining them must be a hassle. He has since sold off a few, including the Tiger. I am waiting till his son is ready for college for him to sell me the Jaguar E-Type. Then I have to decide whether to keep my Triumph TR6 too?