Do You Actually Want A Massive Car Collection?
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