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.
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).
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?