Answering a question with a question isn’t my way of being rude. It’s my way of finding out what the questioner truly wants to know.
Their question comes in a variety of forms. What’s the best car? What’s the best car on sale right now? What’s the best car ever?
I want to know how much money they’re allowing me to spend, to which era I’m limited, whether I’m buying for my current life situation as a married work-at-home father or for some other situation, such as life on my neighbor’s farm.
With a recent move to a new province, I’m getting the question with far greater frequency — the result of meeting new people who are confused or delighted or dismayed at what I do for a living. I’m not sure I’ve ever had the answer pinned down before, but being asked so often has forced me to develop a thoughtful response.
What’s my favorite car? I now know.
Willyam asked: What are some vehicles that were right for only ONE generation, before they went back to being awful? Just one brief, shining, moment… when everything came together and the product was genuinely good, you know? It makes me think of Richard Burton signing:
In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here… in… Camelot!
I won’t spoil the fun by listing all the usual suspects here. Instead, I’ll give you my own eccentric opinion about a moment when a really crappy car became surprisingly desirable.
One dollar of depreciation in four years.
Fifty-five miles per gallon.
Forty-eight thousand miles.
I may have very well owned the cheapest car in America a few years ago. Back in 2009, I bought a 2001 Honda Insight with 145,000 miles for all of $4001 at an auction. After four years and with 193,000 miles, I sold it last year for exactly $4000.
That’s all well and good, but let’s face it folks. I’m in the car business. Plus, a first generation Honda Insight is pretty much a cheat when it comes to cheap cars. It was designed with stingy bastards like me in mind who use the edge of the technological envelope instead of individual ingenuity and improvisation.
That Insight was a cheap car… but definitely not a beater. Why? Too much money and too few stories about personal travels and other unique mayhem. To me, a beater is a concept that has far more to do with the owners than the actual car.
No one’s going to accuse me of not having a nostalgic streak, especially when it comes to cars. That’s what motivated me to write the Auto-biography, my time travel through words. How about the real thing, in steel, glass, rubber and wool? One of my main motivations for starting Curbside Classics was to document and re-experience the cars from those early years, and few were as influential as the original Olds 88. Most of the time, the reliving is somewhat vicarious, but once in a while, I get lucky, and it’s the real thing. So let’s literally open the door to the past, and hop in for a ride with me in this beautiful 1951 Super 88. And if it gets a bit crowded, good; that’ll make it all the more authentic.
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