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Waiting for someday: The longest of the long-term parkers

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Photo by Rennett Stowe.

I’m glad to see from the comments to our most recent Open Diff that I’m not the only one plagued by background anxiety over unfinished projects. If y’all like, I could work to arrange some sort of group therapy sessions for us. On the other end of the spectrum, however, came a good number of comments from folks who have no problem holding onto project vehicles for decades. In fact, it became something of a contest that wal kicked off with his comment:

I’m not sure what my limit is yet. I have 4 sitters and have had one sitting for 25 years. Thanks for reminding me of my background anxiety… that is real.

Scotty G laid claim to the record with his comment:

I’ve had two nice motorcycles in storage since the summer of 1986, is that the (embarrassing) record so far?

Okay, 33 years, not bad. Brian64SS might not be able to beat that, but his car did:

The previous owner of my ’64 Impala 4-door hardtop started disassembling it for minor body work and paint in 1980 then got bored with it. It sat in the same half of his garage until I bought it in 2015. His limit was at least 35 years(!) Mine is much shorter. I try to keep them drivable with the least possible down time. The 4-door has been down for about 6 weeks waiting for me to rebuild the power brake booster, which is too long. I expect to finish it this week. Haven’t driven the SS probably since June.

And Graham Lloyd was able to top that:

I kept some cars for a long time. Too long now that I look back at it. The usual reasons come into play. Most of them were reasons starting with the word “someday”. Well, “someday” arrived. I finally realized that I don’t have enough life left in me to restore these cars.

Other reasons came into play to keep them. I had my 66 GTO for 38 years before I decided it was time. I bought it when I was 24. Who doesn’t want a tie to their youth? And it was no longer just a car. Memories, etc. But, it needed re restoration. And I am no longer into muscle cars. And just the cost of restoring it again will exceed its value. 20 years sitting and I didn’t have the interest in it as I used to.

My 64 GTO ragtop sat for 30 years. Another example of life’s priorities. I put it back on the road a couple of years ago. Had fun, but it doesn’t do anything better than my 62 Tempest ragtop. Except go faster and drink more gas. I always wanted a convertible but now I had 2. The big bucks the GTO was worth made my decision.

A couple of other reasons I kept these cars.. From time to time, someone would hear about them and want to buy them. I know that the purported values are fiction. But, dumb offers lead me to say “not for sale” and leave it at that. I don’t have the patience for people who think I don’t know what they are worth. Especially when I tell them over the phone that the price is firm.

And those who think that being rude is acceptable behaviour is another turnoff. Insulting my car and it’s condition, etc. has lead to more than one person being told that staying on my property will be bad for their health. I think these comments come out to try to bring the price down. They get worse as the offered prices are rejected. I didn’t ask concours prices. i know what they are worth.

What did it take to finally part with these cars? Unfortunately, the answer is mortality for the most part. I went from 11 cars to 5. I have only one project car now. I went through the ordeal of selling my late wife’s possessions. I don’t want my son saddled with the burden of selling a bunch of cars. Especially project cars.

Changing tastes and economics also play a part. The cars left because I no longer have interest in them. I was going to spend my retirement restoring cars, but when I can buy nice cars for less than half the restoration costs of things I can’t do, why do it. Enjoy the driving. and have only one project.

Thirty-eight years is pretty impressive. (My anxiety-via-sympathy meter is just about pegged at this point, btw.) But then we heard from jim r with his own claim on the record:

If this is a contest I may be the winner. The reason I started taking Hemmings again was to sell a  ’29 Plymouth I bought (surprise surprise) through Hemmings. The car was complete but disassembled and in dry storage when I bought it in 1972 at the age of 15. We didn’t have enough room in my Dad’s garage so the chassis and body were stored at my Uncle’s and the rest of the parts stored at Dad’s. Life goes on, I moved to a farm in Va. and when I built a shop here I hauled her down and stored it in a corner hoping to get to it one day. A couple of years ago we bought another tractor and in trying to find a place to keep it in I looked around and said ENOUGH! I started selling off stuff we hadn’t used in years or at all  and I knew I’d never finish the ’29 so last fall it went to live with a guy in S.C. 46 years after I brought it home. But wait! there’s more! I still have a’34 Ford ton and a half I bought off a spinster on the edge of town. Her brother drove it in the barn just before he died in’64, I bought it 10 years later in ’74 at 16 and at 62 I still have it tucked away in a shed waiting for resurrection.

Longer still is the timespan mark hopkins has held onto his car:

I have many vehicles (stored safe inside) that I have not driven in many years. The longest is my 1934 Dodge that was last driven in 1971. I build a new project and one of the running cars I will sell or it goes nighty nighty.

Like Brian above, jack whiting benefited from a previous owner’s unwillingness to let things go:

I’m glad Harry parked the car he bought new when he was 67. A 56 Dodge 2 door wagon in 1970 at some cow corrals on an old homestead in dry western South Dakota because he was too old and drinking too much. I bought it and cleaned out the mice with new interior and old exterior with nothing missing except the key. This year 2019 is the first time it’s been in a garage but it survived to go again as soon as I get the block back from the shop. Thanks Harry. I’m gonna leave your Camel butts in the ash tray

As long as I read all the responses correct, 48jeep came in the winner with his project:

My 63 Avanti has followed me around through two marriages and four homes since I bought it in 1968. I currently have it stored in my shop.  I keep wanting to work on it but life keeps getting in the way.

But a close second has to be Earle W, who now owes us all photos:

It takes a special kind of person to hang on to something near and dear for decades, I am one of those types. Mark Hopkins seems to fit the mold also, but I think I have even him surpassed. Let’s start at the beginning: In 1966 while on Christmas vacation I was a junior in high school and needed dependable transportation. I ditched my not so dependable ’57 Chevy Bel Aire and bought a 1963 Impala convertable. I was “styling”. I drove the Impala through my junior and senior years of HS and for the first year of active duty in the US Air Force. The car went cross country twice when I was stationed at Nellis in Nevada. I lived in New Hampshire at the time so it was out and back when I was reasigned to a base in Germany.

January of 2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of when I parked the Impala in my – then – Mother’s unused garage. My 18 month tour in Germany turned into four years and when I returned I was not in need of the Chevy – it sat. The garage has changed hands, it’s now my brother’s, but we struck a deal when he bought the “homestead” in 2000. I promised him I’d pull the car out when I had a place to put it. I have that place now, a somewhat oversized Toy Box that, if all goes well, will become the new home of my beloved ’63 next spring. We have a small gathering/celebration planned for the appointed day. Don’t be surprised if there are pictures of the event.

Any plans of restoration are on hold for the unlikely winning of a large jackpot in the lottery. I’m just hopeful that there is something left that resembles the pride and joy of my long gone youth.

So props to you all for holding on to your dreams despite all sorts of adversity for – in some cases – half a century. The stories you’ve shared made the simmering background panic induced by them worth the read. Now, for petesake, get out there and do something with those vehicles.