Last week, I wrote a short article about my impending relocation to Kansas and asked for your input on my plan to purchase some kind of an old car to play around with while I am there. I got a huge response and, thanks to so many people’s thoughtful responses, I’m already considering cars I might otherwise have passed right over. Since the move is still some months away, the article was intended to help launch my search and I was having fun reading everyone’s replies and cross checking the various suggestions on Craigslist when, about 235 comments in, I got an interesting offer…
One of TTAC’s most consistent commenters, golden2husky, wrote and asked: “How about a near flawless 1995 Probe GT 5 speed, 71K, spent its life in a heated garage and never saw salt? A Corvette will be taking its place and it needs a loving home….and in Leavenworth KS, the discreet Melissa Etheridge window sticker will be a bonus!”
I won’t lie, the second generation Probe GT was already high on the list of possibilities. They seem to regularly appear on the Kansas City Craigslist at good prices and I’ve always thought they were good looking little cars that have aged really well over the past two decades. They have a sleek, modern design that makes them look surprisingly up-to-date and, although they may not be as powerful as most of the cars being built today, the 164 horsepower that wikipedia says the V6 made is more than adequate for my purposes. With a five speed stick under your right hand, a car like that can be a lot of fun and this one sounded like a peach. Naturally, I responded right away.
The pictures I received backed up golden2husky’s claims of a low mileage, garage kept one owner car and it was clear to me that the little Probe had been affectionately cared for since the day it was purchased. It was a stunning, ruby-red jewel of a car with a grey leather interior and, although he wanted a little more than I had stated I wanted to pay, his price was not outrageous for such a fine car. I was tempted, but in the end I had to decline. The reason, however, has nothing to do with the car and everything with my state of mind.
Over the past decade or so I have owned two older cars that may have been as nice as golden2husky‘s Probe, my father’s 1984 Cutlass Supreme and my 2002 300M Special. In both of those cases I started out with the full intention of driving the car every day and, for a while, I did. It’s a lot of fun owning and driving an older car in great shape. People notice it. They see it parked on its own at the back of the supermarket parking lot. They ask about it when they see you pumping gas and sometimes they even chase you down with offers to buy it. Your heart swells with pride and you begin to think you have something really special, something that needs to be protected and preserved.
Soon, you buy into the notion and find yourself driving your “classic” car less and less. Every day becomes once-in-a-while and then, when the car enters the garage and you get it snugly secured under its cover, once-in-a-while becomes the occasional sunny day. Driving and tinkering goes by the wayside and you fall into an endless pattern of washing, waxing and self admiration. You feel good that you own such a wonderful car, but gradually it dawns on you that no one ever asks about it anymore, they don’t see it anywhere in the supermarket parking lot and it isn’t on the road enough to cause anyone to chase you down, either. The same impetus to protect and preserve your car has left it locked away in the garage, like a fairytale princess in a tower and you, the formerly happy owner, have become the dragon that protects it from all who could possible do it harm.
In my case, because I couldn’t find it within myself to turn my “classics” back into daily drivers, I ended up walking away. In the case of the Olds, I gave it to my nephew who used it for a while and then wisely sold it before he became trapped in the same untenable situation I had been, and in the case of the 300 sold it to a local man here in Buffalo who, for at least the time being I am sure, uses it on a regular basis. As I looked at the photos of Golden2husky’s Probe I realized where purchasing it would lead and, after a long hard look in the mirror, knew I had to take a pass. I just don’t have the self control it takes to use such a fine car every day but if you do, you know where to find it. For me, so long as I want to have any real fun at all, there can be only junkers.
Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.