The Serial Monogamist
Photography by David Marvier for Petrolicious
I don’t cheat on my cars.
I have never really had the space or resources to purchase a fleet of cars. And the older I get the less inclination I actually have to do so. Even the notion of collecting is, by itself, an odd one. I never kept butterflies under glass as a child. I didn’t do comic books or baseball cards…and after all, you can only do one thing at a time. But perhaps more importantly, you only have one life.
Let’s back up a bit. If you’re an auto enthusiast you will at some point have enough money to purchase a car that you’ve always wanted. In my case, I once gave up a 1989 Suburban and some cash for a ‘76 Porsche 911. This happened in a card game (honestly). The car was fantastic, expensive, slow, ridiculous and lovely. It was the first true ‘dream car’ I owned. Though I could have had other cars while I owned the 911, I had no interest. She was a fantasy come true and I wanted to spend all my time with her.
There were the occasional pulls from other directions. A glance on a crowded road of a curved fender. The throaty purr of a V8 at the stoplight next to me, but day after day I got in my 911 and was satisfied. She was a project, a car I came to know intimately, a car whose quirks, foibles and unique elements revealed themselves slowly through the ownership experience. But more importantly she offered something more important: memories.
One of my great automotive memories came in that 911. It was a cold, dreary January in California and I wanted to take a drive up Highway 1 to San Francisco for my birthday. Given the time of the year, this was an excellent decision because the road was empty. I changed the oil, made sure my girlfriend had a wool blanket and headed north. I knew the car; knew when to shift, when to redline, when to brake—the car and I had a synergy, reared through long hours behind the wheel, as we drove up the long and sinuous road. To this day that drive remains a perfect memory, in large part due to the connection I had with the car.
Before the Porsche came a ’67 Ford Galaxie 500 that I bought off a teenage grease-monkey who assured me it was well built. He fibbed a little. It was a hot rod with a bored-out 390, straight pipes and glass packs that set off car alarms. I drove it across the country pulling my Ducati on a trailer. It lived on Manhattan’s streets during some college years and I’d stuff ten people into it for pub crawls. I once took it on a BBQ road trip through the south. It overheated constantly, the headliner was ripped, the seats were half-vinyl, half Mexican blanket. It had a lot of problems and I learned how to fix many of them, often in the dark with a flashlight and many, many curse words. She finally gave up on me one too many times and I sold her. But she left me with a basket of fantastic memories, a new set of skills and the opportunity to own another car.
A collector may not have that same set of intense experiences because, by virtue of having so many cars, they lack that deeply understood connection. A collector might focus on a certain marque, vintage or model. But these machines don’t often make lasting memories because they are not an extension of the owner. They are often simply an expensive harem: driven on occasion, loved from afar and rarely known intimately. There are exceptions to every rule and I’m certainly generalizing, but the fact remains: one car driven often is going to provide greater experience than many cars driven on occasion.
It comes down to taste of course. Do you prefer a single entree or the tasting menu? Do you crave the notion of ownership or the actual experience of it? It goes without saying I prefer monogamy. One car at a time, experienced fully. Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I prefer more than a quick roll in the hay, I want real memories.
How about you?