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How many vintage cars are enough?

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 Sure, I want all of them…but would that be sensible? Photo by author.

When I was a teenager, I thought there was no such thing as owning too many vintage cars. They looked great, were easy to work on and were considerably cheaper and usually quicker than a new car. Over the next 30 years, however, I came to grips with the realities of such a desire. Since owning multiple vintage cars requires resources to buy, build, house and maintain them, one of the biggest considerations quickly becomes the size of your bank account balance.

Some of us got into the “old car” hobby back when muscle cars were still relatively affordable and the standard models upon which they were based could be downright cheap, making them great daily drivers (and sometimes parts cars). Consequently, it wasn’t unheard of for a 20-something-year-old enthusiast to have more than one of them at the same time in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Many of us had to low-buck it, so our time became the currency required to restore, modify or maintain our vehicles of choice because we were doing most, if not all, the work. I know that statement sounds counter-intuitive to owning more than one muscle car. Why own more than one if you don’t seem to have the resources to get the first one finished? The reason is in the latter 1980s there was continuous reporting and talk of increasing prices and stories of muscle cars being shipped overseas to collectors. The foreboding feeling that you had better get what you want now before it’s too late was becoming prevalent in the hobby. That’s why many purchased a second muscle car even if their current one wasn’t finished yet.

When multiple cars were involved, however, spreading the labor out slowed progress on all of them unless you just set the other(s) aside to build later. Paying pros to do the work increased the overall cost with each new project.

None of that has changed except for the fact that today muscle cars and most vintage cars are worth more, and everything needed to restore them costs more. Nevertheless, many of us still own more than one and some have even amassed impressive collections. Can you recall how many cars you wanted to collect back when you were younger? If you’re like me, you probably haven’t even come close to that number, but it doesn’t stop us from trying. Now may be a good time to revisit some of your past car count goals and determine whether or not, in a hobby fraught with impracticality, owning however many cars you currently have or desire is practical for you?

I’ve seen collections containing from 8 to 100 or more cars over my career and friend and fellow magazine writer and author, Rocky Rotella, has seen plenty of them as well. He and I have discussed our opinions on this very topic.

In my experience, what all the collectors had in common was an owner with a passion for them, a safe place to house them and the means to repair and maintain them. Possessors of larger collections employed a mechanic or restoration specialist. That doesn’t mean the owner didn’t participate in the work at all, but he knew what his limitations were, be they skillset or time, and he sought out qualified assistance.

Keep in mind everything is relative. The hobbyist/collector with 60 cars may feel that he can support 70 and the hobbyist/collector with 2 cars may be completely overwhelmed. Sure, most of it boils down to financial resources, if we all had tons of money, we’d all probably have tons of vintage rides, but even the most proficient collectors can end up slaves to their own collections if they over extend.

Finances aside for a moment, another way to see how you stand with you current car count is to simply ask yourself, “Am I enjoying my cars in the manner in which I originally intended? If you love to show your cars, are you actually showing them regularly? Is the cruiser cruising, is the racer racing, is the restorer restoring etc?

If you can honestly answer “yes” to that question and you aren’t in hock up to your eyeballs because of it, you likely have yet to surpass your vintage car ownership quota. If you are satisfied with your current count, stop right here and know that you earned the envy of many of the rest of us. If, however, you answered yes but still want more then assess your finances, facility and time constraints to determine whether or not it’s feasible to add another.

On the flipside, a “no” brought on by the harsh realization that you haven’t enjoyed your vintage machines the way you wanted to and you don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future means it may be time to thin the herd. Examples include languishing unfinished projects due to lack of time, finances or interest, or even finished cars that for the same reasons have sat idle for too long and haven’t seen basic maintenance in that time.

How many vintage cars would satisfy you? Is that number higher than what would be practical for you? What are some other ways you can think of to determine if you have too many, too few or just the right amount of vintage cars.