Saturday, July 29, 2006

The stages of 'project car' ownership

They say the stages of grief are shock, denial, anger and acceptance / capitulation, or something like that. I wonder if there is a reverse sort of sequence that first time buyers go through.

For me, the first stage was capitulation. Prior to that stage, there had been this lengthy period of 'wow, those are cool' feelings towards certain vehicles on the road. The feelings had staying power for only a small number of makes and models. And at some point, where the strength of the feelings and the budget to do something about them met, capitulation happened. I stopped staring, and started looking. Result: a rather used 280ce sold by someone who seemed happy to be rid of it.

Once a person starts looking, with intent to buy, a certain suspension of judgment happens. Its voice says "THIS IS THE ONLY CHANCE YOU WILL EVER HAVE TO BUY ONE!" and it sounds a bit like the voice that makes me pull out my 5 iron to aim between two trees when I've badly missed the fairway, instead of just chipping out sideways and settling for a bogey. The results aren't necessarily any prettier, either. This is more like greed/lust than anger, but in my limited catalog of feelings the two aren't that far apart on the page, in terms of their effect on my judgement.

Then, denial. Well, if not denial then a kind of grim perseverance in the face of evidence that would shock a person who hadn't first passed through the states of capitulation and 'gotta have it'. I had a budget, a sense of what I would pay to buy the car and then fix it up. In my budget (which was based on nothing whatsoever beyond wishful thinking) I figured a dollar in repairs for every dollar of purchase price. Having talked to two mechanics and a body man, I am now hoping to hold it down to TWO dollars in repairs for every dollar of purchase price. And I conveniently won't count things that didn't have to be changed out, but I changed them anyway...

The remaining stage in this reversal of the grief process has yet to become clear. Of course, I am probably weeks or months from experiencing it yet, so I don't know what it will be. I am aiming for a sense of contentment that THIS is a vehicle that fits who I am, that is fun for its own sake but still practical, that is different in a good way.

It's not about transportation. I've got transportation. The Motor Sofa eats up the miles with utter reliability, without fuss, with enough room to carry golf clubs and luggage for my lovely wife and me, and with a sound system that continues to impress. The Benz can't do all of those things, but I didn't buy it to give me what I already have. I bought it because it is a piece of art that no Toyota will ever be. It meets a need that no Toyota will ever meet. And it is the pull of that need that hauls me through those stages of capitulation, greed and denial, to that yet-to-be-labelled state of grace on the other side.


Frank Bevelacque said...

I too have a 280CE with some of the same problems. Most of my "body issues" stem from leaking window seals, front and rear. I'd advise replacing those too prior to painting. There's a company called Sherman that sells new replacement sheetmetal panels for Benzs. I've not bought anything yet but their prices are reasonable.

Halfwise said...

Thanks Frank. I have new seals coming and am suspicious that there may be a leak here and there under the old ones. On the other hand, if there isn't one, I am reluctant to pull the windshield and rear window out because of the risk to the trim strips. Somehow the side seals don't scare me as much.