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How I Talked My Wife into Letting Me Buy a Classic Corvette

by Ryan Guina

I wasn’t too into cars when I was growing up. I remember having a car calendar when I was a young kid – it had an assortment of exotic cars and regular sports cars, such as the Ferrari Testarossa, Lamborghini Gallardo, Camaro IROC-Z, etc. I don’t really remember the other cars on the calendar; at the time, I thought they were cool, but never put much thought into owning one of them.

When I got my license I had a realistic view on cars, and I was happy when my dad bought a new truck and gave me his old car – a Toyota with almost 250,000 miles on it. I drove it for a few year until the engine gave way, then I got another used Toyota with over 150,000 miles. They were reliable cars, but certainly nothing flashy.

1973 Corvette Stingray

After years of driving modest cars, I bought a classic muscle car

Since then, I’ve always taken the pragmatic approach to cars. I wanted something that offered utility and was affordable in both purchase price and ongoing costs like insurance, gas, and maintenance. I drove beaters for a few years while I was stationed in the UK while serving in the military. I owned two cars over there, and the most expensive was less than $2,000, and the other cost me less than $600 (around $700 after I added a CD player and speakers).

When I returned to the states I bought a used Toyota Tacoma. I loved the utility of owning a pickup truck, and I got a lot of use out of it.

…And Then I Caught the Car Bug

I don’t know exactly when, or where, or how it happened, but I caught the car bug. I started appreciating nice cars and I got it in my mind that I would own one. I started looking at nice sports cars, and I settled on the Corvette as being my car of the future. But I didn’t want just any Vette. My favorite was the C3 body style (quick Corvette history lesson: Corvettes are often classified by their body style with C1 being the first generation, C2 second generation, etc. There are variations within each generation, making some of them more or less desirable than others in the same generation. The C3 ranges from 1968 – 1982).

The problem with Corvettes is that they don’t really fit my previous qualifications for owning a vehicle: inexpensive to buy, insure, fuel, and maintain. And they aren’t exactly utilitarian either, with only two seats, and limited storage.

I still had my truck and thought about buying a Corvette, but I was coming up to my time to separate from the military and having two vehicles wasn’t very practical when I didn’t have a job lined up. And it also turned out I needed to have back to back surgery on both of my knees. I was living alone and my truck had a manual transmission. I made the decision to trade-in my truck and buy a new Mazda 3 with an automatic transmission.

The Dream Was Officially on Hold

A few months after my knee surgeries, I separated from the military, moved across the country and got married. My dream of owning a Vette or any other “fun car” was officially put on hold. But that doesn’t mean I still didn’t think about it. In fact, I used that time to learn more about them, which years I liked the best (I prefer 68-73, with the 70-72 being my favorites), how much they cost on average, and what to look for.

There were a few times I almost pulled the trigger, but my wife and I only had a two car garage, which made it impractical to have 3 cars in the winter up north. Then we moved to live closer to my wife’s family and we bought a new house which had a three car garage. The dream was officially back on – at least for me.

…And Now to Convince the Wife

This is where it became interesting. My wife knew I wanted a classic Vette, as I had been talking about it on and off for several years. But she didn’t think we needed it. And she was right. We didn’t. In fact I barely drive my Mazda 3 (I still have it 6.5 years after buying it new, and it has less than 55,000 miles on it. I hope to have it for a long time).

1973 Vette

It's a want, not a need. But's it's fun!

My wife had several other legitimate concerns – would it fit in our budget with a baby on the way (I bought the car in December and she was pregnant with our second child), it was winter and I couldn’t drive the car so it would just sit there, it was an unnecessary expense with uncertain additional expenses (classic cars invariably come with unknown expenses), etc.

My wife’s arguments were understandable, and I acknowledged them. But I also recognized this was something I really wanted, so we had a nice conversation about it, I made my case for buying it, and in the end she agreed.

My case was basically this:

“I know we don’t need the car, but it’s something I’ve wanted for a long time. I know the market for these cars, and this is a good deal based on everything I’ve seen over the last couple years. Even if it needs work, I can buy this at a price where I know I can put some money into it, and turn around and sell it if I have to without losing money. So my proposal is this: Let me buy the car and keep it for a year. If at any point the car becomes a burden by taking up too much space, taking up too much of my time, costing too much money, or it just sits there, then I will sell it. You just say the word and we’ll sit down and talk about it and if you feel strongly about it, then I will sell it; no hard feelings. All I want is one summer with it.”

Giving my wife the ultimate veto power was the selling point for her, and worth it for me. A car is fun, but it certainly isn’t worth causing issues for us.

The other key to this story is that the car was a great deal and it fit within our budget. I bought the car for $5,000, and I’ve put some money into it since then, but not enough that I couldn’t sell it tomorrow and get my money back, and possibly a little extra. But I didn’t buy the car as an investment or to make money or as a status symbol. I bought the car because it is a blast to drive and it’s something I’ve always wanted.

This officially goes down as my biggest splurge ever, but so far it has been well worth it. It’s a blast to take the T-tops off and drive down the road on a nice summer day!

Have you ever spent a lot of money on a luxury item like a classic sports car?


Published or updated June 7, 2012.
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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mike Holman

She’s beautiful. :)

$5k is pretty reasonable. I would have thought something like that would cost a lot more.

Hmmm…we’re about to build a 2-car garage, but we only have one car. What to do….

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2 Ryan Guina

Thanks, Mike. It’s a cell phone pic, so the quality isn’t great. But it shines up well. $5k is actualy a great price for a 1973 or older, especially for a manual transmission, which is actually more rare in those years (1973 is the last year of the chrome bumpers in the rear; 68-72 had chrome front and back).

The car sat for several years and I think the previous owner was tired of messing with it. He also thought it needed an engine rebuild, but the engine seems strong. I did have to give it a full tune up, with new points, distributor cap, wires, plugs, timing, etc. The carb needed to be cleaned and adjusted, it needed some new bushings and other things. I also ran several cans of Sea Foam through it, which helps clean out the fuel system (definitely a good idea since it had been sitting for so long).

All in all, it needed a good bit of work to be road worthy, but it wasn’t prohibitively expensive. There are still a few things which need to be done – the radio doesn’t work, the weather stripping is bad, and a few other items, but I can take it out on the road in nice weather, which is all I really care about. It’s a blast to get out on the open road, and it’s fun to take around town. It definitely turns heads!

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3 Sher

I can’t say I have spent a lot of money on a luxury item. But, I plan to! :-) The car is beautiful and good on you (and your wife) for spending the $5k to get something you really love. Congratulations!

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4 Peter

If I were ever to buy a classic car it would be a Corvette of similar vintage, although if I did go down that road it would have to be a good deal and in good running condition since I’m a moron when it comes to cars.

When I was younger the Corvette i wanted was one of the same body style you have here, but in a sparkly bass boat blue color. A neighbor had one when I was growing up, and I loved it.

Some day, some day.

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5 Ryan Guina

I got a good deal on my car, and the price was god enough that I knew I could put some money into it without blowing my budget. I wouldn’t have had that confidence if my friend hadn’t gone with me or if I didn’t have access to a good mechanic.

My color preference wasn’t yellow, though it has grown on me. My year preference was actually 1970-1972, but I was happy enough with this year, color, and price that I decided to go ahead with it. And I’m happy I did!

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6 Mac Hildebrand

Now to convince the wife to get a new paint job!

This type of purchase is great because it shows us, your readers, the tension between dreams and reality and the financial struggle in the middle. Everyone has goals like this… not all cool cars, but vacations, personal studios, etc. that they want to make a reality. This makes me want to look into the 74 Starsky & Hutch Ford Gran Torino…

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7 Ryan Guina

Mac, a paint job would run several grand, so that’s not in the cards at the moment. Since she has veto power on ownership, I’ve got to keep this car in the “all fun, no trouble” category for now!

Very true on financial goals. Sometimes you have to sit down and have honest conversations with your spouse about what is important to you as an individual and as a couple, then find a way to do it. The Corvette is just a small example for me, and it’s also something I’m willing to part with if she ever gives the word. Knowing that she has that ability gave her the comfort to say yes, once I showed her that we could afford it, and reselling it wouldn’t be a problem if she wanted me to do it.

As for the Gran Torino, go for it!

8 Hank

Awesome car! The only thing I’m not crazy about is the color. All Corvettes need to be red. That should be a rule and the only option available from the factory. I love you negotiation tactic though with your wife. I’ve got to put that in my bag of tricks. I am really dying to buy a dog, but I don’t know if I can make the same argument for reselling if it doesn’t work out.

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9 Ryan Guina

Thanks, Hank. Yellow definitely wasn’t my first choice, but it has grown on me since I bought it. And to be honest, I think I got a great deal on the car, so sometimes, you have to take the option that is available to you. As for repainting it, it would cost several grand to get a quality paint job done, so I’m not in any hurry. I’ll just enjoy it as-is for now. I’m not sure if I would repaint it red though. I also like blue, and a couple other colors. The only color I don’t like for most Corvettes is white. I’m just not a fan of white Vettes.

I agree on the dog – you might be able to give it away if it doesn’t work out. But that’s a lot different than a car!

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10 Glen Craig

Nice!

I splurged years ago on my Warwick Thumb bass. She’s a beaut!

Good luck with the car. Drive her well and enjoy it.

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11 Ryan Guina

Thanks, Glen. Warwicks are very nice basses – I can see which you splurged to get one! I’m all about buying quality, and spending money on items you know you will use and love. Back when I was single I splurged on a lot of music gear. I had a Fender Strat (which I sold to get a Tele), a Gibson Les Paul, a Paul Reed Smith, a 5-string Jazz Bass (which I sold to get a 4-string bass; easier for me), a digital recorder, and some other gear. I’ve since sold most of it, but I still have the Les Paul and the bass. I don’t play much any more, so it may be time for me to sell most of it.

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