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Open Diff: The list

Published in blog.hemmings.com

2001 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Photo courtesy Chevrolet.

Those of us in the car hobby may not agree on everything, but one thing typically binds us together: “the list.” We all have “the list,” one that records cars, trucks, and bikes we’d like to own while we’re still healthy enough to enjoy them, in the manner that the engineers and designers intended.

The list may be mental or physical, written down on paper or recorded as a series of 0s and 1s in the digital realm, but the vehicles on it change as one ages. Sometimes, it’s practicality that intervenes: As enjoyable as an air-cooled Porsche 911 might be, it isn’t a great choice for hauling kids, pets, or oversize cargo. That sixth-generation Ford F250 Ranger may have been a dream ride in one’s college days, but its incessant thirst for gasoline and rough ride will likely limit its weekend-driver appeal, at least when other members of the household are involved.

Money comes into play, too. The cost of living in the modern age limits disposable income for a lot of us, leaving fewer and fewer dollars available for a hobby vehicle. As regular readers know all too well, $5,000 doesn’t buy what it used to, and many projects begun with the best of intentions – and plenty of motivation – end up stalled, sold off years (or decades) later for a fraction of the money already invested. Cars that were cheap and plentiful just a few years back (Fox body Mustangs, for example, or first-generation Mazda Miatas) grow more expensive by the minute, and harder to find in reasonable, unaltered condition.

And then there’s the care and feeding that a vintage vehicle demands. Parts break, or wear out, requiring regular repair or replacement before driving. Despite the bill of goods we were sold on modern life (Cell phones and email will give us all more time! No one will have to work 40 hours per week in the 21st century!), free time is as hard to come by as extra cash these days. When the weather turns nice, would you rather be out driving, or under the car replacing that worn tie rod end or leaking shock absorber? The amount of wrenching required to keep a vintage vehicle on the road may well impact the ones that make “the list,” especially when the cost of replacement parts and the regularity in which they’re needed are factored in.

Working at Hemmings means my own list evolves daily. I’m still not giving up on that McLaren F1, though I fully understand that owning one will require divine intervention, likely in the form of a winning Powerball ticket. Should this happen, I’ll gleefully write a check with as many 0s as needed to park one in my garage (after I install the fire suppression system, security cameras, and alarm, of course). In the meantime, I’ve long been obsessed with Datsun 240Zs, second-gen Chevrolet Corvairs, Mercedes-Benz Unimogs, and Japanese motorcycles of the 1980s. More recently, the price and performance potential of SN-95 Mustang Cobra convertibles and C5 Corvette Z06s have put them on my radar, too. I’m out of both disposable income and garage space, but speaking for myself, “the list” grows longer with each passing year.

What vehicles are you always keeping an eye out for? How has you list changed over the years, and how successful have you been at achieving your automotive goals?