The Project car and EOL

Having just read an excellent article by Jay Leno about the real costs of auto restoration (and sometimes the lack of appreciation of the process) and another great article about agonizing over cars we should have bought (or should not have sold) by Rob Siegel, leads me to another thought:

Just how much time do we have to finish that project car we have or consider taking on?

Siegel says that a long-dead project car “is like your passion simmering on low.” I’ve only had the Inka 2002 for about a year, but that thought often crosses my mind as other things pile up, and here in the Pacific Northwest, the thoughts of nice days always have a wrench vs. drive component to them. I rationalize it by saying it’s a therapy car – which on many levels, it is. When Pam asks if “it will ever be done,” I think the same thing – but can never admit it.

Somehow, being 62 has crept up on me, and it doesn’t help that we’ve all flushed the last year down the drain, at least in terms of getting out and doing stuff. Doing car stuff. At least to the level we used to. Even getting parts doesn’t happen as quickly or as consistently as it used to in a pre-Covid world. It may never get completely back to normal. Some small specialty shops that took care of valve grinding, painting, and upholstery have shuttered for good due to the downward spiral in business.

So, as many of us love to DIY things, the degree of difficulty just increased. As Don Henley once said in a song, “There’s only so many summers, baby.” How many years of your life will you tie up in a car that you may never drive or may never really get to enjoy?

My primary care physician is 44 years old. Bastard. He likes to tease me by saying that I’m not in bad shape for “an old guy.” Or my favorite, the discussions about EOL. End of life. Let that sink in for a few minutes. Though I’m an artist, I’m fascinated with numbers – always have been. If I live to be 90, that gives me about 10 thousand days left to live.

That nice lady Billie that sold me her one owner E30 last summer just passed away at 91 in March. She was still shifting gears at 90, though, so she’s my motivation. That being said, I’ve got 10 thousand days – it seems like a lot. Factoring in the usual 100 days a year of crappy weather we get every year drops that number down considerably, and I still gotta work. Not to mention I have other interests. This time, it’s in the shop getting the shifter linkage replaced, because I just want to get out and drive this weekend.

Let’s say, for math’s sake, we’ve got three or four thousand days left. That’s about ten years. That’s still a lot of time, right? When I see these articles about people that have spent five or ten years restoring one car, I appreciate their passion, but my nuts shrivel right up. Every time ECS Tuning, Turner, or Pelican Parts (and I’m not singling them out – they are just the vendors I use most of the time) send me an email saying those Konis are back-ordered for a month or that Supersprint muffler won’t show up until June, there’s a heavy sigh. Well, that’s 150 days from now. That I can’t drive that car or finish that project. Tick, tick, tick.

This is also the kind of logic that makes me re-think having things professionally done vs. DIY. I love to work on cars – probably more than almost anything in life, but how many days have we got? And, as Siegel points out in his article, “do you love it that much?” This is a personal question only you can answer, and I won’t call you a bad Smurf if you take your E30 in and just pay someone to swap the shocks and springs for fresh ones. It just depends on where you get your joy.

When I look around the garage and see that the E30 convertible still needs a few odds and ends, the M Roadster needs more than that, and I’ve still got that Inka 2002 staring at me, I admit I do get the urge to bail now and then. The most dreaded sentence of all car enthusiast’s life floats in and out of my head: “You can only drive one at a time.” Is letting someone else finish your project defeat?

Time for some serious mindfulness shit. Push that EOL thing right out of my head.

Yet, it’s something to think about. And maybe there’s no place for rational thought when it comes to our passion for cars. But you never know. A year from now, I might just be driving the red E30, my M Roadster, and the 2002 and call it a day.