Column: It´s Hard To Say Goodbye (To a Car)

David S.
By David S. Wallens
May 10, 2021 | Pontiac, Column, Catalina Safari | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article

My ask at the time was fairly simple: chrome bumpers, bench seat, automatic transmission on the column. After a lifetime of stick shifts and bucket seats, it was time for a cruiser. 

So I started looking around without a real destination. I’d know it when I saw it. It even got to the point where I was just surfing the local Craigslist by year: 1967, 1968, 1969….

Then I saw it: 1975 Pontiac Catalina Safari. Gray over red. Longer than some recreational watercraft. All original, right down to full wheel covers. The car sat an hour away on our side of Orlando, and the asking price seemed fair.

I reached out to the seller and got the full story: It was her mom’s car and, sadly, both of her parents were no longer with us. Estate sale. She was in a hurry to sell, too, as the car was stored at her parent’s old house, and it was also on the market.

My wife and I made the drive over and found the car as described. But the seller was embarrassed: The hood wouldn’t open, and the engine wouldn’t start. Likely the battery had died. She had already called AAA. 

I climbed beneath the front bumper and figured out how to manually pop the hood. Easy. Together we waited for the AAA driver. The new battery immediately brought the car back to life. 

I took the wagon for a spin around the neighborhood and found it to drive like a dream. It was exactly what I needed: chrome bumpers, bench seat, automatic on the column. Relaxing. 

Sold. 

We enjoyed our years with the wagon, and it got more attention than I ever imagined. “No, sorry, no tail-gunner seat, but cool to hear that you shuttled your kids in one just like it–and, yes, of course you can check it out.”

But lately the wagon’s been sitting and, due to the fact that the garage is full and the wagon’s like 19 feet long, it’s been relegated to the driveway. And that hasn’t been good for it. I finally convinced myself that it was time to sell.

Bring a Trailer has served us well in the past, but I know that option also involves the vigilance of constantly defending your car to the rest of the group, and to be honest, I just didn’t have it in me. It’s been a year. 

So we put it on eBay Motors. We sold our Civic Si that way six years ago, and it went smoothly. 

After spending a full day cleaning the wagon, we did a full photo shoot–got lucky on the sunset lighting, too. That evening, I started assembling the listing. That’s when I realized that the Premium package only offers space for 24 photos. Now to whittle them down, and I fully admit that I posted the photos that revealed the blemishes: the rust, the known issues. It was a good car, but I wanted to be up front that it wasn’t a perfect car. 

I launched the auction that Saturday night, and soon after got my first bid–pretty sure it was Jordan, who used to work for us. 

And then came the spam:

“I’m interested & I’ll like to buy it asap & i will be sending a check from my bank to you via USPS delivery,reply me back with your name and address phone number to send the check out and will also arrange shipment through shipper after check clear in your bank & you have cash at hand..”

eBay flagged that one right away. 

I got some more legit inquiries, too, and they all received a similar reply: Bid and let’s see what the auction brings. Soon after, we hit reserve. So, we’re really selling it–assuming all goes through. 

Some background here: I’m bad at selling cars–not like I can’t do the process, but I’m more of a keeper. That Civic Si that we sold? We had owned it for 15 years. My Porsche’s been with us nearly a dozen years. In two weeks, I’ll celebrate 22 years with our Miata. 

The wagon auction ended with a slight bidding war, and I’d call the hammer price fair. The next day I heard from the buyer: He’ll be by the following Saturday at 10 in the morning. He must be local to us, I thought. Maybe Orlando or Jacksonville. 

That Saturday morning, just before 10 o’clock, he confirmed that he was nearby. He rolled in with a big truck and an even bigger trailer. The kicker: He had just driven 16 hours straight through from Ohio. 

He quickly looked over the car. I can’t remember if he even popped the hood. We signed the paperwork, and he handed over a stack of crisp bills. He loaded up the car and headed out. I left for the bank. 

And that was the entire process. By noon, I was back to my usual. 

Am I sad to see it gone? Yeah, it was a cool car. But there’s something about no longer feeling guilty when it rains.

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Comments
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thedoc
thedoc GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
12/17/20 1:48 p.m.

I regret selling 90 % of the cars I have.  My only solace is the same as yours.  The car was going to get ruined by the elements.  Sadly, I have also seen cars ruined in bad storage as well.  To know the car (s) have gone to good homes, well, that makes it at least bearable.

We just had a miata that needed frame repair.  We sold it to someone who had always admired the car and was willing to do the rust repair.  So a car that was going to be scrapped went to someone who would fix and enjoy it.  Win, win.   I was still sad about it and my son had a quote from, I don't know where:  Don't be sad that it's over, be glad that it happened.   As I have had very few cars that I did not love or enjoy, I have much to be glad about.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/17/20 2:24 p.m.

I know, we want to keep them all. Then there's reality. 

This piece was originally written for the magazine--you'll see it in print soon--so there's a hard word count that kept me from going further on the topic. But selling the wagon freed up space--physical space at our house and also space in my head so that I can concentrate on the other cars. No more car Tetris when pulling something from the garage. No more watching the wagon sit outside. (Because, let's be honest, we don't go many places these days.) Lately we've been taking the dog to the beach. The wagon's a great cruiser, but I'd feel terrible taking it even closer to the ocean. 

I faced the same thing a few years ago when we sold my parents' Nissan 240SX. They bought it new. It was still stock. But we weren't using it. I'll admit, I felt a relief when it left. Same thing this time. 

A while ago I realized that I don't really need more stuff. I don't need more bikes, more guitars. What I really need is time to enjoy what I have. So that's where my head is. 

bobzilla
bobzilla MegaDork
12/17/20 3:03 p.m.

This is a topic that I've been having with some other members. I would love a newer, nicer race car. Something with a gamma-turbo preferably. But to do so means I have to sell the truck (78 C10) and the Tib. The Tib, while I love it, I'd part with it easily. The truck... well that's something more special. That's a 3 day adventure I made with my Dad on top of the $9k I have in it. Sure, I could finish the interior, paint it and sell it for $15 and make a nice profit. But I can't. I think its also why I've not done anything to it in a while. I'm afraid it'll be done I have to sell it. 

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise UltraDork
12/17/20 3:06 p.m.

I regret selling 99% of the cars I own 

but like a drug addict - I need the next high of the next find. The high is better than owning the car. The find and hunt is more fun than the ownership. I usually get tired of the car in a week to a few months max .

 

In order to do that I constantly need to sell what I have. We have 12-18 car turnover per year in the household. 
 

wife used to get annoyed but last 10 years she knows it's the reality of our life 

outasite
outasite HalfDork
12/17/20 3:10 p.m.

So many cars, so little time. That's why I have owned so many cars.

bobzilla
bobzilla MegaDork
12/17/20 3:15 p.m.

Also.... title makes me hear this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oK9gLkXe0xw 

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
12/17/20 4:00 p.m.

We've had the Datsun for 36 years; I say we've because I sold it the day after I bought it in 1984 to a friend, we did many road trips in it up until we converted it to an SCCA race car in 1989, then I sold it again in 1997 to fund our D-sports racer project but then got it back in 2002.   This Datsun is the only car I've ever regretted selling (after I sold it) but fortunately I got it back.

I've had the Formula 500 for 6 years and that appears to be a keeper as well.

Historically I've been a car-monizer................dumping the older one for a flashy new one at the drop of a hat.

I'm in a similar place David is, I just want to enjoy myself..............I've finally figured out I don't need more than I already have to do that.

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
12/17/20 5:37 p.m.

I really miss the xb and kinda wish that I had bought it back from insurance to fix it. 

My mkiii jetta was fun by the time I got ride of it, but getting it to under 2550lb took work and I didn't ever think that vehicles would get to the point where that was considered lightweight. 

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
12/17/20 6:06 p.m.

The only one I miss is my 66 Delta 88 2 door hardtop with a 425, bucket seats and console.  I sold it in about 1981.

PAUL TABONE
PAUL TABONE New Reader
12/17/20 6:48 p.m.

I've owned numerous cars in my 50+ years of driving. I never owned more than 3 at a given time due to economics as well as space and practicality. Of all the cars I've owned and sold only a few have a spot in my heart, and not because the rest were clunkers. I replace vehicles for reasons but I'm not a flipper, trying to fix a craving I'll never be able to achieve. I've owned vehicles for periods generally ranging from 7-15 years. The only vehicles I have regrets over having sold, but only in the hindsight of time, lots of time, were my 1972 Fiat 124 Spider bought new and kept for 6++ years, my '74 X1/9 bought used but sold a few years later due to the impending arrival of my son 40 years ago, and most recently my '01 Dakota that I decided to replace after 16 years as a retirement gift to me. I replaced it with a CPO Ram 1500 4X4 and while the Ram is a nice truck, the Dakota was more "me".

docwyte
docwyte PowerDork
12/18/20 8:57 a.m.

I just don't have the space and money to keep them.  I wish I still had my G60 swapped '91 GTi, my '93 Corrado VR6, my supercharged E36 M3 and supercharged E46 M3 and my first 951 S.

bmw88rider (Forum Supporter)
bmw88rider (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
12/18/20 6:46 p.m.

I miss my MR2 turbo.....A lot. I'd sell everything I have for that one back.

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise UltraDork
12/18/20 7:52 p.m.
bmw88rider (Forum Supporter) said:

I miss my MR2 turbo.....A lot. I'd sell everything I have for that one back.

Should I sell you my 9k mile 95 MR2 turbo ? 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/18/20 9:11 p.m.

And, ironically, I just (finally) signed the notice of sale. It will leave for DMV tomorrow. I guess that's the final step. 

grover
grover GRM+ Memberand Dork
12/18/20 10:28 p.m.

As someone who sold a vehicle yesterday I can relate. I'm very happy with the new car- but I will deeply miss the truck. My last ride in it was to the car wash with my 10 year old daughter. She got in first while I grabbed my jacket, and of course she had folded the center armrest up and buckled in the middle seat- she always did. I'm going to hang onto that memory for a few decades. 

bmw88rider (Forum Supporter)
bmw88rider (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
12/18/20 11:03 p.m.

In reply to mr2s2000elise :

I would say yes but it's too nice. I would feel guilty putting miles on it. 

thedoc
thedoc GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
12/19/20 5:52 a.m.

On the other hand, keeping a car forever, really has it's advantages.  If you follow "roadkill" David Freiburger has talked about Mike Finnegan and his gasser, "blasphemi".  Mike has kept the car and dumped huge money into it.  Frieburger talks about how Finn knows the car and drives it really well.  I have an 06 mustang gt that I bought new in December of 05.  Great story on how I bought the car, and I got a smashing deal on it.  But I also bought it new, so it wasn't cheap.  The problems I have had with the car are minor and I have done 99 percent of the work myself, especially putting the blower on it.

The joy of working on the car is immense. I have had my moments of frustration, due to my lack of skill and facilities.  Here in the rust capitol of the world, working on a car that still has paper hangers from the factory is like being in a resort.  Fun and pampered.  I wouldn't have that if I didn't pay top dollar.   

I also "learned" to auto cross in the car.  I know most of the time when she is ready to bite and can catch it.  I have grown with the car and been able to experience the improvements in tires and suspension.  I think I love that car more today than the day I drove it home.  I am hoping to find another and make it a winter car.  I never hated winter until I started to take the car off the road when it snows.  I don't hate winter as much since I'm driving a fox body, but I dearly miss my big mustang.

I planned on this being a legacy car, so I have treated this car well, pampered, but not spoiled.  The paint looks amazing, to the point someone asked me last year when the car was painted last.  I have just been anal about where I parked it, and how it was washed.  The interior mods have all been as close to oem as I could make them, no holes drilled anywhere obvious.

With hindsight being what it is, it would be nice to but the best model of what we want and keep improving them.  It would be cheaper in the long run.  As I said before, I have rarely in my life had a car that I didn't love and wasn't a pleasure to drive. This is why it has been so hard to sell a car.  Usually it was because of lack of storage an I didn't want to be responsible for a car being destroyed by the elements.  We lost most of the money when we sold our truck, but we never used it an it was rusting.  The kid who bought it for really cheap was more than thrilled with it.  That made it at least palatable.  

Sorry for the long story, but my point is:  Sometimes I'm just not going to say goodbye.  I have too many memories in my big mustang.  My kids rode in car seats in that thing, auto cross schools, almost epic road trips, Mt. Washington....you get the point.  I have asked to be buried in the car, if I am, my son wants to pull the engine for another car.  I'd say that would be fitting and I wouldn't be saying good bye!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/19/20 9:29 a.m.

In reply to thedoc :

I agree, some cars are keepers. If we had more indoor parking space, perhaps the wagon would still be here. 

In five days, we'll celebrate 22 years with our Miata. It's not going anywhere. In fact, very soon you'll see some updates on the site as it's being moved back to the front burner. New Falkens just arrived, and wheels are on the way. (Gotta periodically change it up.) It's a keeper.

Ditto the 911: 12+ years with that one and no plans to part. It saw our Porsche mechanic this week and returned with a clean bill of health. Definitely another keeper. 

If only more room and time....

drock25too
drock25too Reader
12/19/20 10:27 a.m.

I miss several of the cars I have sold. The one I miss the most is my first car. A black over white 1965 Buick Riviera. Wish I could have kept them all. So much so that when we were looking for a house, my wife saw an ad for a "Fixer Upper" with a 33 car garage. She called immediately, sadly to find out it was a misprint, should have been 3 car. But she tried to feed my addiction.

TIGMOTORSPORTS
TIGMOTORSPORTS Dork
12/19/20 11:00 a.m.

That wagon was great. I enjoyed seeing it at one of the Challenges. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/19/20 9:55 p.m.

In reply to TIGMOTORSPORTS :

Thanks. The wagon was fun--but totally enjoyed cleaning up the Miata today. Excited to get back Miata'ing. 

Sneak peek (lights out for mood):

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