How Many Cars Do You Need? X=Y+1
Written by David Freiburger on August 21, 2019
How many cars do you need? The title says it all, where X is the number of cars you need and Y is the number you currently have. Of course, I’m pretty well known for having too many cars, and my count today is between 20 and 25, depending on how you count loose bodies and frames (which is fodder for another editorial entirely).
Dreaming about, hunting for, and possessing a glut of projects are symptoms of one of the many metal disorders that define the myriad styles of gearheads you run into—and I’m not really joking about the metal disorder. It’s part hoarding, part fantasy, and many parts procrastination that make up my problem. For others, its radical obsession (like people who collect all Chevelles, for example), OCD (people who must have their cars absolutely perfect, or chalk-mark original), egomania (people who have cars to attract attention), and so on.
In my life, the too-many-cars thing came about from too much access to free storage back when HOT ROD had a fenced lot that was used by me and just a couple other guys. Real estate is everything when it comes to car hoarding, as is access to great deals. Especially when I was the editor of this mag, I also had dreams to match the dozens of cars: hot rods, muscle cars, cheap cars, drag cars, land-speed cars, Carerra Panamericana cars; I was the man of a thousand schemes. It was my job. And, I’ll argue, I’ve learned more about cars by having these dreams because every plan involved research into a race category or market segment, plus discovering things about many different years/makes/models, plus the hunt for a car, plus the hands-on playing with it.
I only ever converted a small percentage of the dreams into reality, but at least some of the knowledge remains. I’ve come to realize about myself that the research and the hunt is most of the fun. Once a car is in hand and I’ve fiddled with it a little, it often gets out of my system and I’m done with it, mentally and physically. That’s why so many projects remain unfinished: the reality of time and money kicks in. I’ve been the subject of much ridicule from friends and strangers alike for this. I’d like to argue that it’s my version of the hobby and my own way of enjoying it, so who’s to care? But the reality is that, when the free storage runs out, the scheme falls away, and the next dream begins, I end up with a lot of cars sitting around. Between the storage and the hassles of moving them around or trying to sell them, cars start to own you.
I’m at a half-life point where I’ve finally realized I’ll never finish all my cars and I’ve slowed down the acquisitions a lot. I’m lucky that my job hosting video shows continues to fulfil much of the need for the hunt and the kill, so I get a lot of experiences with a lot of cars without having to own them. There’s good news and bad news in the fact that I’m overwhelmingly busy—too slammed to buy more cars, but also too booked to wrench on the ones I’m actually focused upon. Even so, I’m currently dedicated to building my 1969 Mach 1 as a daily driver, and I’m also on top of bringing back our land-speed-racing Camaro. The “F-Bomb” Camaro is also moving to the front burner, and I’m fairly content with the status of my 4×4 projects. That leaves another dozen projects still wallowing and no time or heart to sell them.
So I guess my advice is not to become me. Don’t own more cars than you can afford to store or to work on actively. I’ve always said that the best amateur racers are the ones who chisel away at the same car for years, as experimentation and experience is the only way to be fast. So be that guy. If not, apply my latest hypothesis, which is that every gearhead needs five cars: one daily driver, one pickup truck, two long-term hobby cars, and one car that rotates in and out (meaning you sell it any time you want to get something else).
Hey, it’s a theory. I know you won’t listen to my advice. Neither will I.