If you think about the classic car community, as a whole it is obsessed with categorizing things. It’s difficult to be just a “Car Guy.” When we talk about people within the community, we say he’s a “Ferrari Guy” or he’s a “Muscle Car Guy” or he’s a “Concours Guy” or he’s a “Racer.” And the categorization doesn’t stop with people. We’re constantly categorizing our cars, as well. Go to any historic race or rally, anywhere in the world and the field will be portioned down into ever finer groupings, “Sports and Grand Tourers, under-1500-cc built between 1950 & 1959,” is but one example. Saunter around any concours field and again we can’t help but place each and every car into tight little bins like “European Pre-War Classics, 1920–1939” or “Right-hand Drive Lithuanian Micro-Cars of the Maharajas.” However, after years and years of being a party to this automotive phylogeny, I’ve come to the educated conclusion that there really are only two categories of classic car—cars you own and cars that own you. And, without hesitation, I can say that I have had many, many cars that owned me, but surprisingly few that I’ve owned.
My very first “classic car” owned me without question. I was in graduate school when the realization struck me that I now lived in an apartment with a garage, ergo I now had a place to work on an old car. Being a student, I didn’t have any money to buy a “nice car,” nor did I really want to. I wanted something that I could restore myself. Like most first classics, I paid way too much for a “drivable car” that was in much worse condition than I could have possibly realized at the time. I worked on that first car piecemeal. Rather than going all-in and tearing it apart and fully restoring it, I did a component here and a component there. The reality was that I was afraid to take it all apart for fear that it might never run again! And because I never took it all apart to fully sort it, I was always afraid to drive any farther than a 20-mile radius of my apartment. While I loved that first car, it clearly owned me and not the other way around.
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