Journal: What's the One That Got Away?

What’s the One That Got Away?

Avatar By Benjamin Shahrabani
February 27, 2015
48 comments

Photography by Jonathan Shears & Andrew Schneider

It’s confession time: I have a Katy Perry song stuck in my head, specifically “The One that Got Away.” I assure you, though, that this song is only playing on a loop in my inner jukebox because it has me thinking about cars. No really, I swear.

Unless you’re Jay Leno (who, evidently, has never sold a car in his life), you just can’t buy every car you covet, nor can you keep every car that comes into your possession. Sometimes, the lack of time, money, or space (or all three) conspire such that a car cannot be purchased, or has to be sold. Sometimes, they just get away.

I have spent plenty of time pondering such matters–some might even say too much time when such philosophizing results in referencing Katy Perry in these pages.

One time, when I was a teenager, I tried my damndest to convince my father that he should buy a certain dilapidated sports car. After all, why buy that new sedan with a bumper-to-bumper warranty when you could have this future classic for the same price? I even compiled graphs and data showing my father that he would be saving money on the deal, so long as we ignored the fact that it needed much work and couldn’t possibly accommodate the entire family and focused instead on its potential for value appreciation. Looking back, my father was probably wise to ignore my advice.

Still, not all of my instincts have been wrong, though this does not mean I have always acted correctly upon them. At one time, for instance, I could have purchased (with a significant loan, at favorable terms) a Ferrari Daytona for relative peanuts, or an early Porsche 911 for what, now, would seem like pennies on the dollar. At that time, though, they were just used cars, with prices that reflected their also-ran status.

But, hey, I prefer to look on the bright side. If I had bought all those cars in years past, I would scarcely have room to move around my current garage. Besides, I’m now married and my wife would not take kindly to having her car booted out of the garage to make room for my collection. Like I said, I’m trying really hard to look on the bright side here.

I now throw the question out to you, the reader: What’s the car that got away from you, the car that you did not buy but wish you had, or the car that you sold, but wish you had not? Leave your stories in the comments below.

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Juan Carreño57hottruckTim UrsuliakThomas StukelJason Recent comment authors
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Juan Carreño
Juan Carreño

I came so damn close to convincing my father of buying a 72 911S… not like they’re worth anything nowadays 🙁

57hottruck
57hottruck

It was 1973 and my wife and I were on our way to look at a 1971 Corvette. On our way we drove by a red 63 Corvette s/w coupe as the owner was putting a for sale sign in its window. We stopped to check it out. It was an original fuel injected car with 75,000 miles. Paint was starting to check also. The asking price was $2500. We walked away not wanting to deal with an older car and it’s maintenance issues. We continued on and bought a two year old 71 Corvette with automatic and A/C.

Tim Ursuliak
Tim Ursuliak

This past summer I missed out on a very nice driver quality TR3 for a steal. I was caught up with working on another car and hadn’t checked my phone in a while. It was about a 2hr trip to go check out and by the time I found out it was still available it was too late in the day. It was gone the next day. I’m still kicking myself.

Thomas Stukel
Thomas Stukel

It was 1980, I bought a gorgeous silver 1960 356 Cabriolet for $1,600 with low miles and blown engine. I found a ’61 engine on a grocery store bulletin board for $350, rebuilt it and mated it to the cabriolet. Seven years later I sold the car for $11,500 thinking I had made a killing. That car today is easily in the unobtainable six figure $ range and I am left with the worst case of seller’s remorse in car guy history.

Jason
Jason

1976 White Porsche 912E, my father owned, he sold it to back to the previous owner. Almost immediately the owner left the Porsche on Mullholland Dr. (I’m assuming hoping to get stolen) it was towed and impounded. Turns out the new owner never registered the car and the vehicle was still in my fathers name…. I begged him to pull it outta the tow yard and let me have it… he said no…. and I ended up with a 1984 Volvo GL Tan with Brown interior. Which my first girl friends father told me car looks like it came outta… Read more »

Yoder
Yoder

A 1986 Audi Coupe GT I inherited from my dad that had no dents whatsoever. I sold it for my first daughter.

Omer Carrothers
Omer Carrothers

I’ve got a few: I had a 1982 280zx that I bought from the original owner when I was in high school. I gave it to my dad when I joined the Navy, it needed some work and I thought I’d be able to buy a Firebird Trans-Am. He totaled the car. Later on, I had a 2006 Mustang I traded in for a 2010 Civic Si sedan when I became a parent, car seats wouldn’t fit in the ‘Stang. I later gave up the Civic for a larger car that could hold more kids and more baby stuff; I… Read more »

Tony Karnezis
Tony Karnezis

I’ll share a story from a friend who is no longer with us. He was doing very well for himself, so he bought a very nice Italian car back in the 60s/70s. He enjoyed it for several years but then sold it when he had a child. You know, to buy something more practical. It was the Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spyder. I called him when it sold for $27.5M at auction. We had a good laugh about it.

Rob Adams
Rob Adams

Back in the late ’60’s, my father bought Grand Sport Corvette number 4 from a car dealer who had been racing the car. My dad knew something about the car and then did some SCCA regionals and nationals himself until John Bishop formed IMSA. He campaigned the car a few times in that series with a 427 big block ( which it wasn’t really designed for) and then stored it for many years. We took the car in, I think, either 85′ or ’86, to Sebring with a fresh coat of white paint, rather poorly applied as I remember, it… Read more »

110innd
110innd

In 1990 I bought a 79 corvette from a cousin and great friend of mine. It was deep green in and out, well kept and slower than it looked. Being the vintage that it was it had a stock CB am/fm radio. The car was like new aside from some carpet burns, the previous owner liked to drink a bit and smoke a lot…I purchased new carpet to remedy this flaw. I loved the style of that car with the “fastback” rear window and never tire of seeing those cars. I had to sell it a few years later in… Read more »

Samir Shirazi
Samir Shirazi

the 77′ Corvette you see in the picture, If I have to choose only one example. I found it exactly 10 years ago while my friend told me it was in her uncle’s garage for years. I went there and watched the car, which is so rare in my country. Dust on the car was telling me it has not been used for years. The owner was rich enough and he did not need to sell the car for money, but his son was insisting on selling the car,hence he needed the space for his new Merc. but the owner… Read more »

Soren Ingram
Soren Ingram

First car 124 Fiat Coupe.

But I saw a Fiat Dino Spyder for silly low money on local website (NZ). and didn’t buy it as I had other toys. A decision I regret to this day.
I am a Silly Silly person

Don Rettberg
Don Rettberg

A little over a year ago, I found a 1969 built Datsun 240z (VIN #HLS3000168) with 23k original miles for $1000, all original (albeit in need of comprehensive restoration), and I didn’t buy it. I needed money more than the car at the time, but I think I will always regret not making that purchase, both with how much I love those cars, and with the way they appear to be going in terms of prices.

Jeff Punch
Jeff Punch

Two come to mind. In 1976 I was in North Carolina riding around with my cousin in his new Trans-Am and we stopped where a first generation ’68 Camaro Z-28 was parked by the side of the road under a shad tree with a for sale sign in the window. Stripe down the center. Red mud on the fenders. I was smitten. I would have my license in six months and had been saving money for my whole life to buy a car. The price was right- $1000, I had almost enough, would just need a few hundred loaned. The… Read more »

Takudzwa Munyaradzi Maramba
Takudzwa Munyaradzi Maramba

My late Great-Uncle’s 1978 Mercedes 350SLC. The car that got me into cars. He had been working in Japan from the 1980s up until his retirement due to health matters in the mid 90s. I first saw it the day he rolled up to our house for a barbecue in that car. Soon after he showed up, the party ran out of beer and he volunteered to go get some more; on the way back from the store he let me sit on his lap and steer. On my 5, maybe 6 year old mind there was nothing else like… Read more »

Nick
Nick

I used to see a fairly rough looking 308GT4 Dino Ferrari kicking about and being regularly used as a daily driver, and one day it was parked outside where I worked. Closer inspection revealed a rough interior, 2 different sets of wheel rims and some rear engine lid damage, car was filthy but nevertheless the body itself was still pretty straight. When the young owners came forward they saw me looking and asked if I was interested. I asked why and they apparently won it in a art union lottery but didn’t have the money to upkeep or maintain the… Read more »

Pete Brissing
Pete Brissing

I’ve got this hobby down pat. I had to turn down a FREE first year VW Karman Ghia from my wife’s aunt in California because we had no garage. It was subsequently given to a niece who totaled it within weeks. Then, just a few years ago, I managed to sell my Porsche 356 Super 90 coupe right before the bubble started. I thought I was doing OK doubling my money, today that car would be worth five or six times what I paid for it.

Boxerman
Boxerman

Mid 1990’s Through a seies of trades I got my hands on a non running lamborghini 350Gt. Qucikly I was 50K in and just starting restoration. Someone offered me an impecably redone miura S for my car plus 50K, so 100K all in. I just did not have the extra 50K then, should have begged and borrowed. Years later I was probably 120K into the lambo and sold it for 180K. So for 50K I lost out on what is now a 800k miura which is car I would have kept and would still have. Instead after 10 years of… Read more »

That Guy
That Guy

Ferrari 355
Not super expensive yet, but definitely appreciating at a faster rate than my savings

Frank Anigbo
Frank Anigbo

Back in 2000 I saw an Alfa Sprint Speciale for sale at $15,000. I knew I wanted it badly but decided to ask my new girlfriend if she thought it was worth selling the ’69 GTV for. Oh no, she said, you love the GTV and it’s such a big part of the stories you tell me. The moral of this tale: there are some things you just should never ask anyone’s opinion about. My consolation is that the girlfriend married me. To this day we laugh about missing that car — except that I cry inside.

Stephan P
Stephan P

In the late 70s I couldn’t talk my dad into buying a Fiat Dino. He still has the 124 he bought instead.
In the late 80s I sold my 124 Coupe, the only car I regret selling.
In the 90s I passed on an Abarth 750 Zagato (unfinished restoration, but body done) for $8000.

Kuroneko
Kuroneko

No regrets really. Though I passed on a 246 Dino for four times the 356A I bought in pieces at the time, a 2.0L 911S was passed for a 2.7S Targa, and then a 2000GT I passed for a minka and a S800, I feel pretty good and lucky to have had these cars, and driven many more along the way… Neko.

Michael
Michael

I sold my mostly restored1969 911E a few years, just before the early 911 went through the roof. What was I thinking?? There have been several other 356’s, over the years, that were just out of reach but not, had I borrowed a little money. Now I would have to mortgage the house for one. Too bad, my dad picked up his from the factory and I would have loved to had a 356 to remember him by.

Chris Leighton
Chris Leighton

I had an unlicenced yet unmolested – HK sedan – that had to go after having overstayed at my Mums house. Sold it for change. I’m actively looking for the same now, no good uns available and all the restored ones are pricey. Bugger.

here’s a good examples image – https://www.flickr.com/photos/50415738@N04/7762555668/in/photostream/

Marc
Marc

1990 – sold my original paint rust free 23 window VW samba for $2500. I was moving and couldn’t take all my vehicles, felt the bus wouldnt appreciate as much as my early bugs…..WRONG!

Tim Shaw
Tim Shaw

A 1973 Honda CB350-4… original, 10k mile unrestored. Stock pipes even.
why do we ever tell ourselves “i could see myself owning that one again” as we’re handing over the keys.

Tim Shaw
Tim Shaw

A 1973 Honda CB350-4… original, 10k mile unrestored. Stock pipes even.

why do we ever tell ourselves “i could see myself owning that one again” as we’re handing over the keys.

Gregory Coe
Gregory Coe

Back in the mid 1980s, my father was inches away from purchasing a 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda convertible in FY1 Curious Yellow. At the time, the car was owned by Steven Segal and was listed in Hemmings for $30,000, an astonishing figure for the time. A GB5 Blue example sold last year at Mecum for $3.5 Million.

Pedro Campuzano
Pedro Campuzano

Coulda bought 1958 356 Convertible D, motor apart but all there, $500 in 1979, didn’t have the cash… Maybe later.
Sold 1957 Karmann Ghia, Euro delivery model, original 36 horse, nice shape, bought for $800, sold for $1500 in 1990.
And a few others that make me cry when I think about them, like the 73 914 2.0 I foolishly sold, loved that car.

Steely
Steely

A 356 coupe for sale locally that needed work, he wanted a few £100’s for it, I didn’t have a few £100 spare at the time, but I guess I could have got it some how.

Greg Watkins
Greg Watkins

A white ’73 911 Carrera RS I could’ve purchased in the late 80’s for $5k has been known to still keep me up at night.

Dean Mericas
Dean Mericas

Three as a college student in New Orleans in the early 1970s:
1) Aston Martin DB6 being sold by owner for $3,500
2) Ferarri Daytona being sold off a used car lot for $12,000
3) Cadillac-engined Allard in the NOPD auction lot

I have a clear memory of each encounter, and of course deep regret.

Arthur Henriques
Arthur Henriques

The one that got away for me was my 1972 BMW 2002 TII inka orange. I was 18 and saved up for that car, and took out a loan for the rest. My father fought with me why I was buying an old car etc. It was the simplest most fun to drive car I’ve ever owned, and I’ve owned many. Sadly it was totaled by a woman in this country illegally without a driver’s license or insurance.

Greg Horwitz
Greg Horwitz

I owned an 1993 RX-7 a few years ago and I miss that car dearly. What set mine apart was its condition, 100\% factory original (including the tape deck head unit). Obviously this is no supercar, but at my age I thought of it as if it were a Ferrari. The interior was beautiful tan leather seats, tan carpet, and black dash and door cards. Sitting that low to the ground in such a clean design, she was my baby supercar. The only downside was that the engine needed a rebuild (surprise, surprise; although it did have 90k on it,… Read more »

Sebastian Gaeta
Sebastian Gaeta

I will never forget in 1999 watching my ’72 Aubergine 911T roll down my driveway with the new owner behind the wheel.

It was spotless.

I remember thinking that “those early cars are everywhere and will always be cheap” as I turned to look at my newly acquired 1980 911SC that I viewed as an upgrade.

David Corcio
David Corcio

For me, it was an all original 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang Convertible. We were helping my uncle clean out his father-in-law’s garage and during the “excavation” process, we stubbled upon his treasure. There it sat, covered up and unassuming. It was in perfect condition; flawless baby blue paint with pristine white interior. I wanted the car right away, but I was 15 at the time and I didn’t have a license, nor did I know how to drive a manual. I practically begged my dad to get it for me, and I even promised that I would get a job… Read more »

Pelle Bergschöld
Pelle Bergschöld

I once had a Range Rover Vogue, a very late Classic softdash model. Having bought it somewhat unaware of the difference between a regular RRC and the softdash version, I soon found out that this is the ultimate timeless way of transportation, as practical as it is elegant, and with an interior design that actually could fit in any modern albeit perhaps somewhat not so forwardly designed car in the market. Also, the passenger safety system with the twin air bags places the car firmly on the acceptable side as a family transport. And we loved the car! All the… Read more »

Ashton Menefee
Ashton Menefee

Back in 1992 yy father and I were looking for a fun project / track day car, found a 1957 Porsche 356A in primer, all mechanicals and body work done, really nice, $5000, passed and bought a 1974 2002 with roached paint and side draft 44 Mikunis. It hauled ass. Shoulda bought the 356A. Then, back in the late 70’s, maybe around 1980, my father was looking for a second collector car to join his 1935 Alvis. Passed on a clean Shelby Mustang GT350 for $5000, white with blue stripe, and a nice BMW 3.0CSL, for a 1953 Mercedes 220A… Read more »

Steve C
Steve C

there have been a bunch. but the one that sticks out is a 1958 porsche 356 speedster. it was 1981, i was in college, and had a part time job at a little speed and tune shop in santa ana, california. the speedster was a customer’s car. he owned a bar, and was looking to sell it to raise some cash to invest in his business. i was delivering the car to his bar one day and he offered to sell it to me – he wanted $15,000 but he’d take $12,000, since he liked me. i will repeat, $12,000.

Thomas Bannon
Thomas Bannon

Where to start…probably placing blame on my father for giving me this disease of car-aholic without the inheritance to fund it…i digress…just short and to the point. Porsche 912, all original numbers matching left by brother in Washington state, gave me the car if I would just go get it…what from Florida, naah. Had a 1972 Corvette convertible in 1978 all original…but wouldn’t a 400 horse 327 with dual 650 holly’s be better..oh yeah while we’re at it, lets put side pipes on and mud in the rear exhaust outlets and put a hood scoop and front spoiler…ops. Bought a… Read more »

Lucas R
Lucas R

Definitely, my 1966 Fiat 1500 Berlina and my 1973 Renault 12 TS. Both cars were amazing to drive, yet underpowered and needed thorough restoration, but still… The Renault was cheap to run, parts available pretty much anywhere in my country, and it was a competent daily driver, though pretty much the slowest thing on the street right in front of a Citroen 3CV and a bicycle… The Fiat was a hoot to drive, not that cheap to run because parts are scarse now, and really cool to look at. I sold them both to buy far newer and reliable cars… Read more »

Richard Love
Richard Love

In the mid 70s we bought a Lusso for 7k. About a year later we had to have the cams reground for $250. I got concerned about future expenses (it was my daily driver) so we sold it for 8k! Also had Porsche Speedster we sold for $12,000 in the early 80s. The late Senator Sam Ervin of Wategate Committee fame referred to the “firefly” effect. All the illumination is behind you.

Richard Tack
Richard Tack

Being in the automobile business since 1973, this is a particularly sore subject. Having bought and sold thousands of cars, the list of “shoulda/woulda/coulda/but didn’t” cars is extensive. The first of many , was one that I actually owned without intention to resell; bought brand new, a 1968 L78 Camaro SS/RS. List was around $4100 and I got it for $3800 and change. With $2k down, the payments were around $74 a month. Two years later, sold for $1800. There were a slew of other resold temporary keepers. Who doesn’t buy an 1965 442 with every option available for $900?… Read more »

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

When my Dad brought the Daytona (in the banner picture above) back in 1974 he was offered an Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato for less money than he paid for the Daytona. With the benefit of 40 years of hindsight it’s easy to say that was a financial mistake but the Daytona was brought to use everyday and was far more suitable for that than what was then a 12 year old used semi racing car. More of a lucky escape than a what might have been I put an offer in to buy a 308GTB carb a few years ago.… Read more »

Martin James
Martin James

For what its worth .. when the time came to buy the 365GTC/4 … there was a lovely Espada on offer for a similar [ trust me …you don’t want to know how low both prices were ] … price and in equally good condition . Sometimes … emotionally … I look at the Espada as a missed opportunity … but when I remember how much I enjoyed the years with the 365 [ almost a daily driver ] .. and how nicely the GTC/4 filled the bank account when I sold it versus what the Espada would of garnered… Read more »

Martin James
Martin James

That one’s easy as well as a bit of a tragic tale . A 65 Corvette convertible .. 327 .. manual .. burgundy red with I think GM called it papyrus white interior and top . It belonged to a friend of my father’s who was a confirmed bachelor and was the 2nd sports car I’d ever been in as a kid . The first being his Austin Healy 3000 which he’d traded in for the Vette in 65 . I still remember the day ____ sat me on his lap and let me steer and shift while he operated… Read more »

Barry Ickx
Barry Ickx

Well I am in a similar situation for a 2008 BMW Z4 coupe. The owner (which is a close friend of mine) told me he’d sell me the car once I have the money. Four years have passed and I think it will take me another one to achieve this goal. Although I know a Z4 is not the big dream for a big petrolhead, here where I live even Z4s don’t come that easy and I actually like it. Hopefully the dementia will play its part on my friend so he can live up to his word. Not surprisingly,… Read more »

Martin James
Martin James

A Z4’s a fine car to desire … but easily replaced should the one you’re aiming at be sold before the pennies are saved . Whereas that C2 was not only a rare bird indeed … but i had a ton of emotional connections to the car as well

And not to be too blunt here but err … dementia is nothing to joke about .. so rather lets hope either your timing is good or you find another to grab once the coffers are full