As I wrote about back in April, when I went out to the warehouse in Monson MA where I store five cars, all five of them had issues that prevented starting, driving, inspection, or all three. The Bavaria was the most trivial, with a battery that was not only dead, but fully discharged down to 9 volts, even though I’d left it disconnected. The ’79 Euro 635CSi’s handbrake lever had a broken cross-brace. The 2002tii’s brake fluid reservoir was mysteriously empty. And Bertha, the dual-Webered hot-cammed heavily-patina’d ’75 2002, was also low on brake fluid (likely leaky clutch hydraulics) and ran so poorly that I curtailed my customary exercise drive down to the Connecticut border and back. The Lotus was the worst, as the plugs on the bottom of the Strombergs’ float bowls were both leaking gas. Except for Bertha, I’ve addressed all of these issues by either fixing them in the warehouse or swapping them home for a bit. (Actually, in the case of the Lotus, after I fixed the leaky float bowls and tried to drive it home, the thing died repeatedly on me due to a fuel filter restriction, requiring me to remove the filter in a parking lot while having that quintessential experience of gas running into my armpits, and blow it out. Ah the joys of owning a 50-year-old car.)

Since buying the 2008 Nissan Armada in February, the car count has been up at a seemingly unlucky 13. That divides up into three cars in the garage at the house (usually the E9, Hampton the survivor 2002, and the M Coupe), the five in Monson enumerated above, and five in the driveway—the daily-driver 2003 E39, my wife’s Honda Fit, the Armada, the Winnebago Rialta, and whichever car I deign needs to sit outside even though it really shouldn’t. This generally rotates between the M Coupe, the Euro 635CSi, and poor Zelda the Z3 which is consigned to live under a cover in the driveway, even through the winter.

For years, the number of cars and their maintenance demands, both temporal and financial, didn’t bother me. In fact, it’s been central to both my self-image as a whack-job car guy and my income as an automotive writer (needy cars equals content). But for some reason, this year it’s all seemed more difficult. As much as like to think that I think I’m still that 28-year-old kid who bought the partially wrecked 3.0CSi and wrestled it into the gorgeous beast that it still is while juggling career, family, the other cars that came and went, writing for Roundel, and never enough income, the grind of the hour-and-15-minute drive each way to Monson to deal with the cars and the fact that I’m doing less recreational driving makes me ask myself why I own them (well, some of them) if they’re not seeing use. Historically, my big regular trip has been to The Vintage, with sojourns to MidAmerica 02Fest and Southeast Sharkfest every few years and occasional mini road-trips to upstate NY for Vintage at Saratoga and to Vermont to see friends. On the one hand, as long as the cars give me pleasure and aren’t breaking the family finances, why not keep them? But on the other, even though I often say that the major enabling factors of my doing what I do are affordable insurance through Hagerty and inexpensive storage out in Monson (and of course my endlessly-supportive wife), the total cost of those are non-trivial. The Monson warehouse costs me $70 per car per month, which is as cheap as I’m ever going to find indoor storage, but when I have to write the $1050 check every three months for cars that I’ve done my thing with—that is, bought in needy condition, nursed back to health, made them into the best version of what they seem to want to be, and enjoyed—but am not really using and, let’s face it, aren’t skyrocketing in value like an E30 M3, I begin to ask myself reasonable questions.

My cars sitting like mushrooms among eclectic company in the Monson warehouse.

I have already lightened the load by one. As I wrote about last month, even though it may have seemed like low-hanging fruit, deciding to sell the 1996 Winnebago Rialta was accompanied by a lot of hand-wringing. My wife and I loved the little RV. I bought it seven years ago thinking we’d do a big western road trip in it to see our son Kyle in Santa Fe, but the one I bought was an early one with the 5-cylinder 110 hp Audi engine, which, in a 7,000-pound vehicle, made it as underpowered as the old VW busses of yore. Maire Anne and I loved using it to stay in campgrounds on Cape Cod for $45 a night, and owning a vehicle with a bathroom in it was life-changing, but every outing always had some issue associated with it. Most were minor, but due to some family health issues, we didn’t use it at all last summer. When I fired it up in May, there were a host of new things to deal with. I had the feeling that the ratio of its maintenance needs to its use and enjoyment were out of whack and decided to sell it. I priced it realistically, and it sold quickly. Maire Anne and I will both miss the Rialta, but we will always have the great memories of the beach trips.

The problem comes in thinking about what may be next.

As headache-inducing as the ’74 Lotus Twin Cam Special is, I love the crazy little thing. And as much as I readily admit that buying the Armada was a mistake (its sort-out needs are bottomless, and I have yet to use it to tow anything), I feel that if I don’t press it into service for something, anything, whether it’s to do the bag-tag-and-drag I envisioned, or to stuff a transmission, a set of wheels, and a pair of Recaros in the back, or to drive six people somewhere, or even to slog through winter snow, I won’t have scratched the surface of justifying its purchase. My wife’s Fit isn’t going anywhere. Thus, where the axe falls next will likely cleave off a BMW.

So I thought I’d see how I felt about parting with Sharkie the 1979 Euro 635CSi. I bought the car because it has “the look”—it’s an early E12-based Euro 635, Polaris with the stock air dam and spoiler and black stripes, 5-speed, sport interior, and BBS RC090 wheels. This one has some quirks that hold its value down, though. Sometime in the past, it lost its original Euro 218-hp M90 engine and dogleg close-ratio 5-speed, replaced by an M30B34 and overdrive gearbox from a U.S.-spec car. And it was clearly hit in the nose at some point, as you can see the rework in the inner fenders. I love this car, but I’m not driving it. As is the case with the M Coupe, I’ve walked up to the water’s edge of selling it several times, but every time I bring it home and prepare to post the ad, I look at it in the driveway and think “Damn that’s a pretty car,” and back off. This time, I squeezed the trigger without fully pulling it. That is, I wrote up a ridiculously detailed and truthful description and posted the car on my own Facebook page as well as the pages for The Vintage, Sharkfest, and one of the E24 groups, but technically it’s not “advertised” anywhere in that it’s not on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or BaT. No takers yet. And honestly, I’ll be relieved if it doesn’t sell.

Sharkie, can I really let you go? We shall see.

As I look down the list, the other cars that are vulnerable are the Bavaria (I loaned it to my friend Jose in May to drive to The Vintage and back, but I haven’t road-tripped it myself in quite a while), Bertha the ratty 2002 (no road trip since its coming-out party at The Vintage in 2019), and dear little Zelda (if I regret selling it, I could easily buy another inexpensive Z3). Surprisingly, the M Coupe, which I’ve come close to parting with several times, seems to not currently be in my sights, as pressing it into service a few months ago reminded me how completely different it is from anything else that I own.


So, I’m fine, no one’s sick or dying, no panicked decisions, no fire sale, and maybe nothing will happen at all. Just thinking.

And my friends are already taking bets on what will fill the Rialta’s hole in the driveway.

Rob Siegel


Rob’s newest book, The Best of The Hack Mechanic, is available here on Amazon, as are his seven other books. Signed copies can be ordered directly from Rob here.





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