Article and Photos Submitted by DESMOND WHITNEY
What is the hold classic cars have on those of us who read the Intermarque Monthly? I have been asking myself this question a lot since the sale of my long beloved Citroën Deux Chevaux.
I owned my 2CV for 20 years and its otherwise light frame carried the buoyant weight of many happy memories, but my life has changed—most particularly, my children, who loved the car, have grown and no longer live at home—and the car was being driven less and less, to the point where one could say that it was hardly used at all.
Throw in the occasional frustrations from a temperamental carburetor, vapor lock on a hot summer day or a new rattle to diagnose, and I decided not only to sell my car but also to end the chapter of my life as an owner of classic cars. The 2CV would be the last in a long line of cars from the past that I have owned.
And so it was, with complete contentment, that I handed over the keys to the new owners of my car. For the first time in years there was room in the garage; the bicycles and machinery that had been carefully squeezed into corners would now be accessible without thought or effort. Twenty years of oil leaks could be cleaned from the floor and I would be able to walk without having to watch where I stepped. And, of course, I now had more cash in the bank.
So, how is it that, as I write this not 10 days after the sale of my 2CV, I am awaiting the arrival of a semi that will be delivering my newly-purchased 1968 Saab 95 from Florida? The short answer, of course, is that I was more ambivalent about all this than I realized and, as it happened, the perfect car came available at the right time. (I had been eyeing Saab 95s for many years.)
But the deeper question is: what is the hold these cars have on me that I will tie up money, give up precious garage space, endure occasional frustration and be limited to driving it for only six months out of the year?
I suspect that every reader of the InterMarque will have his or her own reasons. Here are some of mine.
1. Because I love being connected to the amazing mechanical process that propels a ton or more of metal up a hill. My 2015 Toyota does it too, of course, but modern automobiles are so advanced that we have become isolated from the magic.
2. Because, whether a classic car is beautiful or, shall we say, eccentric, it is a pleasure to behold. The first winter I had a garage large enough to accommodate my 2CV, I put a car cover over it. It wasn’t long before I removed the cover, however, because I got so much pleasure seeing it every time I drove in and out of the garage.
3. Because I love driving a car with freewheeling and the old Saabs are the only cars I know of that have that feature. (For those unfamiliar with “freewheeling,” it is a mechanism that disengages the engine from the transmission when you take your foot off the accelerator. There is no engine braking and the engine drops to an idle. It is an amazing sensation because the car glides when you otherwise expect it to slow down. On top of that, you can also shift without using the clutch. When you resume acceleration, the freewheel mechanism re-engages the transmission and off you go.)
4. And most of all, because a classic car is a time machine that transports me back to an earlier era. Better still, it is a selective time machine, causing me to reconnect with only the positive parts of the past. Whenever I drove my 2CV around the Twin Cities, there was always a part of me that was simultaneously in France in the 1960s.
What have the past two weeks taught me? That my addiction to classic cars is stronger than I realized and that, rather than fight it, I am going to adopt what I will call The 3-Step Program for Unrepentant Addicts:
Step 1: Recognize that you have an addiction.
Step 2: Recognize that you LIKE the addiction.
Step 3: Assuming it doesn’t jeopardize your marriage or your career, feed the addiction.
Postscript: The Saab has arrived, just in time for autumn drives. I had forgotten that the delight of getting acquainted with a “new” car is a pleasure all its own and, pursuant to the tenets of the 3-Step Program, I have resolved to fight my addiction no longer.
Indeed, I have decided to go one step further (perhaps a Step 4: Indulge to excess). I am 63 and there remain nearly as many cars I would love to own as there are likely to be remaining years of driving in my future. With that in mind, I am resolved to replace my cars more frequently – not just more frequently than every 20 years, but perhaps as often as every year or two.
So, if there are other fans of the Saab 95 out there, watch the InterMarque classifieds this time next year and you might have a chance to buy mine. And I will be watching those same classifieds for what might turn out to be my next fix.