Last week I was shell-shocked by the fact that Hampton, the 49,000-mile ’73 2002 that I spent months helping to become the best version of its authentic survivor self, did not meet its reasonable reserve on Bring a Trailer.
A lot of thought, time, and effort goes into deciding when to sell a car, preparing it, and pulling the trigger on it, and a big part of that, at least for me, is how the sale (or no-sale) affects garage space. The fundamental problem is, of course, too many cars and not enough room. There are nine should-be-garaged cars on my Hagerty policy, but there is accessible space for only three here at my house in Newton and another four in Fitchburg, so I have two cars too many—or, the way I look at it, two spaces too few.
Now, it’s not like this problem has crept up under cover of darkness and ambushed me. I created this situation when I bought Hampton in the fall of 2019, and bought back Zelda the Z3 late last year. The irony was that I’d sold Zelda a few years before precisely because I’d run out of garage space, and she drew the short straw.
My thinking at the time was that the car really couldn’t sit outside indefinitely (no convertible can; they all leak eventually), the car wasn’t really worth much and could be easily replaced if I wanted another, and my neighbor and friend Kim (who used to love borrowing it) was champing at the bit to make the car her own. I never expected her son to smack it into a median strip and for me to buy it back in order to save it from the fate of being parted out.
And Hampton? Well, I always figured that Hampton was only sojourning temporarily at the House of Hack.
In addition, for many years I had a spacial safety valve. Although I haven’t worked full-time at my old engineering job since I left to go to Bentley Publishers in 2015, I’m still technically a consulting employee, and I still keep their work truck (that big white Chevy with a utility body on the back that occasionally pops up here in photos of me towing cars) registered and inspected for them. As part of the quid pro quo, I’ve often kept one or two cars in a small warehouse space that houses the remnants of my old engineering group, and where one employee still works.
Last fall, however, I had an inkling that they might close the space, so I elected not to put any cars in there over the winter—which is why, when my friend Mike asked me to help him sell his Colorado Orange ’73 2002tii for him on BaT, I jumped at it and asked for two over-winter spaces in his huge garage instead of a fee or a percentage of the sale. My Z3 M coupe and my ’73 3.0CSi went in there last fall.
Obviously, this couldn’t go on forever, nor should it. But the way that it ended was most surprising: my M coupe and I were asked to shoot an episode of The Next Big Thing With Magnus Walker this weekend.
So, if you don’t know, big-time Porsche guy Magnus Walker has teamed with Hagerty to do a video series on cars that he thinks are up-and-comers. He’s done episodes on the E39 M5, vintage station wagons, the Dodge Viper, and others. A few weeks ago, Larry Webster, former editor of Road & Track and the current media director for Hagerty, heard that the Next Big Thing team was looking at doing an episode on the Z3 M coupe, so he put me in touch with Magnus Walker’s people (I had to talk to them myself because I don’t, you know, have any people).
I told them that as long as they understood that my M coupe is a driver-quality 240-horsepower silver S52 car, not one of the big-money low-mileage zingy-colored S54 cars that people throw piles of cash at on BaT, I was probably their guy.
(Actually, what I said was—and I’m not making this up—”Well, I once described my M coupe in Roundel magazine as ‘a vixen of a car, a dirty mistress who sticks her tongue in your ear and unbuttons your trousers in full view of polite company and doesn’t care,’ so I’m probably your guy.”)
They asked about using not only the M coupe but also me, my garage, and some of my other cars as additional color, and they were very interested when I said that I also had an arrest-me-red E9 3.0CSi that makes my knees weak when the sun hits the paint.
An advance crew is coming here on Sunday to make sure that my garage and I are Magnus-worthy. Then the plan is that Magnus and I will drive the red E9 on Memorial Drive into Boston early Monday morning, and a crew will video the car with the iconic view of the Charles River and Beacon Hill in the background. Then we’ll head back to my garage, where Magnus will needle me for selling my 911SC at exactly the wrong time (if he doesn’t intone “You daft wanker!” I’m going to be sorely disappointed). Then we’ll jump into the clown shoe and head for the wilds of western Massachusetts.
Well, sort of; we’ll troll the roads of my misspent automotive youth and head out out Route 2 to Route 202. It’s not the canyons of Los Angeles County, but it should be adequate for them to capture the footage they need.
But I’m sure that you see the problem: Suddenly, both the E9 and the clown shoe needed to be back at my house. So on a pair of successive days this past week, Maire Anne ran me out to Mike’s house off Route 495, and I picked up first the M coupe, then the E9. It’s not a crime against the Automotive Powers That Be for the shoe to sit outside, but the E9 automatically gets dibs on prime garage space. That meant booting either Louie the 2002tii, Lolita the Lotus Europa, or Zelda the Z3 onto the asphalt.
Zelda, yer out!
Actually, I’d been planning for this eventuality for some time, and had been looking on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for a used, well-priced high-quality cover, either the genuine BMW cover or one from Covercraft. By utter coincidence, the day that the E9 came home and Zelda was booted outside, a lightly-used Covercraft Z3 cover showed up on FBM for $85.
I burned rubber out to Framingham and did the “Shut up and take my money” thing. Now I won’t feel quite so bad about leaving Zelda to fend for herself for a bit. Maybe more than a bit.
So suddenly the garage looks like this:
And the driveway looks like this:
The other thing going on is that my former engineering employer just announced that they’re finally closing that small warehouse where I used to work—and up until recently, stored a car or two. As I said, I had expected this, and I didn’t put any cars there over this past winter.
But with the closure also comes the question of what they’ll do with the work truck that I mentioned earlier. It’s a killer tow vehicle, and it would be a handy thing to own. But as you can see from the photos, the right side of my driveway is now completely full, and if I buy the truck, the left side will be, too.
Suddenly I realized something. As I said last week, the house where I rent the four spaces in Fitchburg was just sold, and I haven’t heard from the new owner whether he or she will continue to rent the garages to me, and if so, at what cost. Obviously, this is one of many things that factors into our looking for a house and property with more space for the cars, but that process is temporarily stalled while we do a better job lining up our financial ducks so that we can be ready to pounce when we see something we really like (we can be ploddingly deliberative people).
I had thought that, if necessary I could survive through to the fall by selling Hampton and bringing the remaining cars from Fitchburg to Newton, garaging the fragile, valuable ones, and letting the others sit in the driveway for a bit. But I now realize that even without Hampton around, there’s not enough room in the damn driveway!
As Johnny Mercer wrote:
Rob’s upcoming book, The Best Of The Hack Mechanic: 35 years of hacks, kluges, and assorted automotive mayhem from Roundel magazine, will be out in the spring. His seven other books are all available on Amazon, and signed copies can be ordered directly from Rob here.