How do you care for your car? | Column

David S.
By David S. Wallens
May 2, 2022 | BMW, Mazda, Porsche, Miata, M3, 911, Column | Posted in Columns | From the April 2022 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

How do you view your cars? Are you a caretaker for a future owner, saving them for a son or daughter–or just whoever ponies up the cash?

Or is what’s yours yours? Do you use them as you please, even if that means leaving little other than memories, perhaps some trophies and charred, smoldering husks?

For many of us, cars represent a means to an end–and that end is typically going fast. Swap engines? Cut away any extra weight? Carve out fenders for bigger tires? It’s all on the table. 

And when that car meets its end–is rendered obsolete, reaches the final chapter of its development, or simply finds the wall at Turn 2–you start over with a new one. Rinse and repeat.

But lately, so many of our favorites have experienced skyrocketing values. Have you priced an early Miata lately? Or an MR2 Turbo or E30 BMW

And did someone really just pay nearly $40,000 for a Honda CRX? That’s at least 10 times what we paid for them back in the day. 

Of course you know about these prices, because you, like us, are always on the hunt. I recently did a little shopping for another wishbone Honda. We’ve been lucky to own a few over the years, and I had the hankering for another. Good track car, right? 

Guess what? I couldn’t even find any worth calling on, and I was casting a fairly wide net. Go back 10 or 20 years, and you had the luxury of holding out for an ’88 CRX Si–only year without door-mounted seat belts–or a Civic Si in the good color. Today, I would have even taken a sedan. I found car after car just pounded into oblivion. 

As we learned in economics class, it’s all about supply and demand. Years ago, after a certain Porsche Turbo fetched a ton of money, I asked a friend in the biz what he made of the sale. His reply was to the point: Two dudes wanted it. 

Also helping today’s prices is how easily cars can be turned into cash. Back in olden days, landing that right car took some time. First, you had to scan through columns of text just to find the ad. Then you had to pick up the telephone and make contact. Perhaps then some photos were dispatched via the mail. If the car sounded promising, you made plans to see it in person. Eventually, maybe, a deal was struck. And when the time came to sell the car, the same thing happened in reverse. 

Today, cars represent fairly liquid assets. When it’s time to sell, you sell. If it’s something cool, you have multiple avenues. And if it’s a little mundane, you get an instant offer from your local automotive box store. 

A year ago, we decided to sell our ’75 Pontiac wagon. It was simply sitting and taking up too much space both in the driveway and in my head. We cleaned it up and snapped some pictures right there in the driveway–not my most involved photo shoot but certainly good enough. 

[It's hard to say goodbye (to a car) | Column]

I stuck the car on eBay, and eight days later we had a winner. He drove down from Ohio or Indiana or somewhere up north, handed over a stack of crisp hundreds and loaded up the wagon. Haven’t heard from him since. I’d call the whole thing a win.

Are our cars heirlooms, commodities or somewhere in between? It’s fuel for countless internet debates. 

Some enthusiasts are preservationists, realizing that these are special cars that ought to be saved. Others feel that they can do as they please. Plus, they might argue, it’s a keeper, so who cares about the next owner?

Maybe there are degrees of this. At one end, you have cars parked in a bubble and never driven. Then, well, look at our $2000 Challenge coverage for cars that have been cast off yet given a second chance. 

I think my personal point on the scale depends on the car. When I built my Miata 20-plus years ago, I set out to create a neat street car. Today, I dig the fact that it still wears original paint and now carries a kind of ’90s retro cool. I’m still making mods, but I’m not eager to lose the car’s original character.  

The M3 and Porsche both wear original paint, too, so I guess I’m a bit of preservationist there. Still, I’ve been going out of my way lately to actually drive them a bit more so they don’t constantly sit. But after watching a similar 911 Carrera fetch an even hundred grand at Mecum’s Kissimmee sale, I just upped the coverage yet again.

The fact is that carmakers are no longer producing cars from the past. I checked. Time machine’s out of order, too. So what’s in your care, and how are you treating it?

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View comments on the GRM forums
Noddaz GRM+ Memberand UberDork
3/7/22 1:49 p.m.

For my cars?  

I am sad to say see "deferred Russian maintenance" in the Russian Invasion thread.


JAdams GRM+ Memberand Reader
3/7/22 2:19 p.m.

I do the thing that makes the least financial sense. I buy the cleanest, nicest, preferably one-owner, preferably 100% stock car I can find and then tastefully modify it completely ruining the value and premium i paid for said car. I generally keep all the stock parts incase I want to return it to stock but that hasn't happened yet in the 30+ cars I've owner. They normally just get thrown into the deal when I sell it. 


Actually, I guess buying basket cases and then modifying them to good condition and then doing that can sometimes cost more but still.


As for the other question, I'm more of the make myself happy with the car and don't worry about the next owner because in my head all the cars are keep forever (until they aren't).

Tom1200 UltraDork
3/7/22 3:02 p.m.

I would fall under a rinse and repeat but I seem to be keeping the cars longer. 

We've now had the 1990 E250 camper van (tow vehicle) for 14 years & next month makes 8 years for the 2011 Outback. I'm currently sprucing up both vehicles.  You can't find camper vans for under 15K, so it make sense to fix this one up as we are only into for 7K. The Outback is a 6 speed manual and finding one in the first place wasn't easy, so it's staying as well.

My previous M.O. was rinse & repeat but it's now more of a rinse and re-beat. I've been thrashing the Datsun for 38 years. I keep saying I want to treat it to a cosmetic restoration but I running it. I thought it would get done this summer but now that I'm upgrading the engine in the F500 the Datsun will be pressed into service more. 

I've had the F500 for 7 1/2 years so it may be a long term keeper as well.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
3/8/22 1:55 p.m.

I'd much rather see a cool car fall apart at the seams from heavy use then sitting untouched in a museum.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/3/22 1:51 p.m.

I admit, too, that I like driving cars that just look good. I'm not saying totally original, but stance and presentation matter to me. YMMV.

buzzboy SuperDork
5/3/22 4:08 p.m.

I buy cars that I like and I drive them. That's literally why they were built. I take care of my cars. Keep them maintained mechanically and cosmetically. I hate seeing garage queens though. I was putting 8k on my M3ti when it was my daily and now that it's not, it's moving on. I'm putting close to 15k on my Jeep. I love seeing rare and special cars with high mileage. 

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
5/4/22 2:35 p.m.
buzzboy said:

I buy cars that I like and I drive them. That's literally why they were built. 

I feel like it's easy to forget that the whole point of the automobile was to get us from point A to point B. Sure, we found ways to make them more fun to drive and even make really cool noises, but if the car can't drive point A to point B, then what's the point? Is it even really a car at that point?

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
5/4/22 10:16 p.m.

 Being a caretaker for a future owner is a lot like saving your super model wife for the next guy.....   it's yours, enjoy it,  

dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/5/22 8:23 a.m.

I drive them until they are a smoking pile of junk that is so used up that no one would even want parts from it. 

I do service my cars to a higher standard than many and all preventative work/fix's are done.  I do this so I can ride them hard and have fun with them while having the highest level of reliability possible.   

Cars should be used and enjoyed. A car should not own you. 

dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/5/22 8:24 a.m.
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) said:

 Being a caretaker for a future owner is a lot like saving your super model wife for the next guy.....   it's yours, enjoy it,  


dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/5/22 8:30 a.m.

Where I live rust is usually what kills them. So getting as many miles out of them before they disintegrate is the mission.  

The one car brand that has been exceptionally good at not rusting has been Porsche's. It is a big reason I got away from Everything Mazda RX7 and went 944. 

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
5/5/22 8:37 a.m.

In reply to dean1484 :

That galvanized steel the 944s are built with is pretty amazing.  I wish Subaru used it for WRXs.

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