It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that I envisioned a Ferrari as part of my very ordinary life.
Of course, two things about that notion are important to mention. First, it actually has been quite a number of years since that was even a semi-serious consideration for me – say, thirty or so. And second, I never thought I would own a 308 (Thomas Magnum’s car above) because it was simply unaffordable to a non-lottery winner like myself. I had my sights set on something much more reasonable from the early 70s: A 308 GT4, which costs a lot less than other Ferrari models because nobody wants them. They are effectively shunned. Translation: Right up my alley –cheap (relatively) and unwanted.
Good deals used to abound, if this type of automobile floats your boat.
However, I guess at some point I lost whatever desire I had for this Italian exotic because of kids, and moving, and money — yep, mainly money, but I replaced it with the Next Best Thing in my Personal Automotive Pantheon: the Porsche 911.
Porsches have always been a lot more available and affordable, and I have spent a good amount of time educating myself on the details associated with the different years and models. Eventually, I determined that an early car from the late 60s or early 70s would probably suit my needs best, and I kept my eyes open for exactly the right car. I suppose the closest I ever came to buying one was test-driving a slightly crusty, green 911T one evening about fifteen years ago now, but I failed to pull the trigger because it had the beginnings of a little rust in a couple of places, and bringing something home that might require real maintenance from Authentic German Mechanics simply scared the bejesus out of me.
Point of reference for those near misses in life: I had my then-young son in tow with me that night, and he still remembers the excitement of that ride all these years later.
In 2013 it’s very clear to me I should have made the deal on that vehicle. What was a $5,000 car in 1997 has become almost $25,000 today. And climbing.
Complete bummer, man.
The entire collector car market has exploded around me this year, and even formerly neglected makes and models are riding the rising tide.
Ferraris and Porsches? I don’t even think about them any more, except when they blow by me on the Interstate.
So what’s a sad, poor Muggle to do?
The second part of the answer to this question came to me today.
But the first part made its appearance a few weeks ago when I read an interview with a major car collector and classic Porsche 911 owner. You see, he also owns a Mazda Miata like mine. Well, not really like mine. I’m sure his is nice, well-cared for, and shiny. Mine is an out-and-out beater. Anyway, he said the Miata is more fun to drive at one-tenth the cost, compared to his foo-foo Porsche.
Score one for me.
The first part of the answer happened this morning.
As I pulled into a space at a nearby community park for some Sunday morning soccer refereeing, one of my fellow refs, an older German gentleman, asked me what I was driving and from whence the car came (see photo below).
“I’ve never seen one like that before,” he said. “It looks good.”
“It’s a Fiat 131 Wagon,” I replied.
And then I thought some more about it.
“You know, it’s probably the only one in the State of California. Maybe even the entire country.”
“It’s great,” he said, and we both hobbled off to work our games.
So what I’ve got with my old Fiat wagon is basically a car that leaks both oil and transmission fluid, shudders like a ship running aground any time I even think about going faster than 60 mph, and something that’s so unique I get bombarded with questions about it every time I take it out of the neighborhood.
It gets noticed, that’s for sure.
They way I look at it, though it’s about as fast as a snail and ugly as a slug, it’s very lovable in a unique, old-car stinky kind of way. I think about that every time I’m passed by Porsche, or Ferrari, or farm tractor pulling a hay wagon.
Did I mention it’s slow?
And there’s another good thing about it. Everyone in my house absolutely hates it, except for twelve-year-old Daughter Number Two. Though she sometimes has a hard time pronouncing Fiat, she knows a classic when she sees one.
Daughter Number One: Just to be clear, don’t even think about asking to borrow it. Both the car and I know you don’t like it.