What's in Your Garage?


Written by Tim Suddard

From the Nov. 2016 issue

Posted in Columns

All of us reach a point in life where certain numbers become hard to discuss. Weight, bank balance, speeding tickets: all can be tricky figures to own. I can add “number of cars in my garage” to the list of topics I find awkward.

When people ask me how many cars I have, I joke that, like sexual conquests, this is not the kind of thing a gentleman discusses. The truth is that I’m not polite so much as ignorant. I often just don’t know the number, since cars come in and out of my life with such regularity, I have trouble keeping track.

I understand this is pretty low on the scale of life’s problems, but I thought I should address the issue because a lot of people ask me what’s in my garage.

First, let’s take the easy questions: A lot of folks have asked me if I still had the Tiger or the Shelby or the TR3. The answer is yes to all of those.

As for the rest of my cars, I did count them recently. But before I divulge a number in a most ungentlemanly way, we need to decide what counts as a real car. Do parts cars count? Do cars that you bought for your teenage kids count? Do daily drivers count? How about motorcycles and RVs?

You see? This isn’t as easy as it seems. Counting only finished cars and real projects that I intend to complete, I came up with the figure of 23 the other day.

Our readers average 5.7 cars apiece–which in itself is pretty impressive–so I feel I need to start justifying why I need all of these cars to do my job. (You may not require the explanation, but since my amazing wife and partner is the first one to read my columns, I at least need to justify this to her.)

I never really intended to have 23 cars. The salesman in me offers several explanations, and the line I have been using most often–to the point that I nearly believe it myself–is that since all these old cars are going up at such an alarming rate, I am saving money and guaranteeing we will continue to have good fodder for magazine stories by dragging home cheap and popular project car candidates. Do you like that one? Do you believe it?

We genuinely use these cars to create editorial, participate in a myriad of events from races to concours, and publicize our brand. Heck, right now I am even working (not very hard, by the way) as I write this column about all these cars.

Still, the German in me needs to make order of all of this. I cannot come up with any real theme for my collection, which is more like a scattering of junk through several outbuildings. I like British cars, so nearly half of my cars are British. I like Triumphs, so I have five of those. I have an MG TD, a Lotus Elan, a Sunbeam Tiger and a Bugeye Sprite. I also like Fords, and while I prefer the small-block-powered cars, I have two big blocks as well.

I have thought that the criteria for my collection should be important sports cars; from the MG TC (or the Mercer Raceabout, if I could ever afford one) to the Miata or even the Boxster I will own next, this would be perfect for a guy who owns two sports car magazines. But there would be no room for my Edsel wagon or Mercedes 220SE Coupe in that collection.

Truthfully, I collect what I like and what falls in my lap. I can resist anything but temptation, and late-night browsing on eBay plus daily doses of Bring a Trailer and BarnFinds mean temptation is never far away.

A smart man would keep two or three nice cars and get rid of all the rest. I have never been accused of being that smart; besides, I like having dozens of cheap sports cars around to tinker with and learn about.

I guess I am most in it for the learning. I love to take apart yet another car and learn about how it is made. I really enjoy getting to know the people in the hobby surrounding each marque. Lately, for example, I have dived head-first into our nearly impossible Lotus Elan project, and having never messed with a Lotus, I have found both the car and the community to be just fascinating. And of course, putting my sales hat back on again, it is good for our business to get to know as many clubs and vendors as possible for each marque.

I do occasionally sell a car, as I did recently with our completed Mini project, and have decided I am going to use that money to enlarge my garage. I think if I could get every car in one place, then stick to a slowly rotating collection of about 15 cars, my life would be a little less hectic. I might even take the time to drive some of these cars a bit more, instead of spending it all banging away in the garage. Hey, I can dream.

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Reader comments:

wspohn HalfDork
Dec. 9, 2016 3:11 p.m.

Tim, you are a great example to hold up to spouses when they say that we are bad- if others are worse, it somehow seems to help.

Next time I get the 'too many cars' litany, I am going to tell She-who-must-be-obeyed that I am nowhere near as bad as Tim is!

I've owned close on 80 cars, but am now down to 8. I think my peak was around 13 or so.

petegossett UltimaDork
Dec. 9, 2016 9:47 p.m.

Tim, I reached a point many years ago where I struggle to remember whether I still own certain items. Have you ever forgotten any cars you currently own, or conversely, still think you had one that had been passed on down the line?

Claff Reader
Dec. 9, 2016 10:11 p.m.

Sometimes I've come home from work and had to look around and take a mental inventory to figure out what the wife took to work.

smokindav New Reader
Dec. 10, 2016 7:19 a.m.

I certainly appreciate the urge to collect a number of cars all at the same time. I, however, indulge my obsession by owning a lot of cars, but just one at a time.

I find it hard enough to keep one car at 100%. I would be incredibly frustrated owning more than one fun car at a time as my enjoyment is in the user experience, not the fixer experience.

wannacruise New Reader
Dec. 10, 2016 1:58 p.m.

Since I love all cars especially vintage I can see the plus'es of any form of ownership but I, like Smokindav, am finding it hard to maintain cars in quantity. At this point (3) is my limit. Since I have restored each of my cars and many before them (save one C5 Vette ) It ultimately leads to the fact that I will maintain them too. With 3 to maintain and other peoples to work on occasionally I am maxed out. But at this point in my life there is no other place I would rather spend my time than in my home garage/shop. Unless it's a road trip. But there is always the chance that I will fall in love again, and bring her home.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
Dec. 10, 2016 9:13 p.m.

Ironically, I just came in from working on my latest find, a 1971 Alfa. I was sick as a dog today, and spent much of the day in bed. Still, despite my wife's urging to take it easy, I went out to the shop to fix just a few little things.

PeteGossett, I don't forget what cars I have, but I used to have a recurring dream where I had left 10-15 cars in the basement of the garage of my family home. I think Freud would have a field day with that.

I tend to gather too many, then get frustrated an pare down and then start gathering again. I often think that when I get older, or smarter I will get rid of all but a few, or all of them and get one really nice Ferrari or ultimately a 289 Cobra, but then I start going through my collection and say stuff like I can't get rid of the Model A, because it is the first car I restored, I can't get rid of the Edsel, because it is so cool and holds a bunch of people. I can't get rid of the Tiger because it is so bad ass.

Then I just resign myself to leave things the way they are.

Ultimately, I love learning about cars, restoring them and sharing them with you guys. I think I have created the perfect job around my addiction.

Thanks for the all the great comments from our regular readers and super cool to see some new faces on our forum.

petegossett UltimaDork
Dec. 11, 2016 10:46 a.m.

In reply to Tim Suddard:

You have a better memory than I do Tim! Though your dream is quite similar to one of mine - my 2nd car, a '70 Ford XL convertible, still parked in my parent's garage. I do know where the car is, though at this point I don't have much desire to own it again.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
Dec. 11, 2016 10:49 a.m.

I kind of like the big 1970 Ford convertibles and they are still cheap. No wonder I have so damned many cars!

914Driver MegaDork
Dec. 11, 2016 11:17 a.m.

Currently three cars, two motorcycles, one truck and a SBC on a stand. She'd rather have me there than ogling college girls in some smokey bar or throwing chicken wing bones at the TV on football day.

My particular obsession is easier on the wallet and less stressful.

wspohn HalfDork
Dec. 13, 2016 9:56 a.m.

Apropos car collecting, I have never understood the people that amass multiple examples of the same model. That is an obsession, not a hobby.

I can see having several similar cars - I have an MGA Twin Cam, a rebodied MGA and a stock Mk 2 MGA coupe, all different versions of a shape I am obviously taken with.

But how do you explain the guy I know that has accumulated a dozen MGB convertibles? What can he possibly get from the other 11 that the first one didn't give him, except perhaps the dubious pleasure of owning more than the next guy? I can see an MGB convertible, a GT and an MGC making a nice collection, but a dozen cookie cutter cars is like fiscal stuttering to no sane end!

Seen the same sort of thing with another guy who cornered the market on Nash Metropolitans, for reasons best known to himself. I think he topped out at around 15 and used to take them to shows towed by a big full size Nash model the name of which escapes me at the moment.

MotoCARR New Reader
Dec. 14, 2016 3:37 p.m.

I think at last count I was up to 28(+7 bikes) cars owned to date, with 23-28 currently having plates.

Fun: '88 V8 RX7 Convertible, '91 300zx TT, '00 Miata, '83 Honda Aero 80 Daily: '99 Accord, '11 Optima(Wife's)

APEowner New Reader
Dec. 15, 2016 10:04 a.m.

I've always assumed that the car you're building, all it's parts and all of the parts cars count as one car. I was shocked to find that my wife didn't hold that opinion. The subject came up when discussing our one in one out policy for project cars.

Ransom PowerDork
Dec. 15, 2016 6:53 p.m.

I'm still under the forum average? I'd better go get a Miata!

One newer daily driver, one full size van, two projects, and a motorcycle. That sounds sane enough. Wish I had more room...

frenchyd Dork
Jan. 6, 2018 9:35 a.m.

In reply to Tim Suddard :

I’ve made a rule  that says I need to eliminate any car I don’t feel certain I will finish before I take my long dirt nap.  

I fudge that a bit by not really counting a car in so many pieces that it really doesn’t take up a spot in the garage/shop/ driveway. 

dean1484 MegaDork
Jan. 29, 2018 9:25 p.m.

I can sympathize with forgetting you own a car. I have done that more than once. All have been cars that were either being used by others or stored away in some off site location.  

GTXVette Dork
Feb. 4, 2018 12:37 p.m.

No one needs to own 2 C4 Parts cars Says my Wife,    But, But, Says I,     Just Make One of them Run Say's She,  So I Bought another Fiero.

What ?   Say's She,   The Challenge , Say's I.   Where will you Put it , Inside the shed Next to the GT/X Vette, She Asks ?

I did what you asked I said, I have it running,  WHAT ABOUT THE CORVETTE's,  Oh, That's For Next Year .

I Think,  Therefore I am, I Think. 

jdoc90 New Reader
Feb. 4, 2018 9:51 p.m.

first as a divorced guy with 4 kids, 3 in college , i have no garage !!  i can barely keep a tiny apartment over my head at this point , but i do have 3 1/2 cars outside . a 500$ ebay volvo 240 with 373000 miles . runs great lowered the suspenders 16 inch alloys good tires , new exhaust , just modified the grill . 1992 saab 900 s convert, unfortuntely an automatic , but beggers can't be choosy , it is showing signs of the head gasket getting weak as usual for these around 175k . and a 1987 alf spider veloce i picked up for pocket lint from a overwhelmed married non car guy with now 4 kids, not running , second owner, he did do the fuel pumps , new tires , wrong exhaust . paint fade was nasty ,it is a black car with tan leather .the leather never saw a conditioner in 40 years lol. well i towed it to a friends house , went and bought 4 spark plugs , carb cleaner , scotch brite and fuel injection cleaner, charged the battery , changed the plugs , cleaned the cap , poured in the lucas , and bam it fired up , nasty smokey misfire , but in 5 min it smoothed out a bit ,  in the end it was the o2 sensor that was bad and the coolant sensor, .now i have to do the clutch slave . the fluid was coffee colored , can you say no habla maintenenceo ?! lol. it runs better looks better and made me smile on those few sunny days it was shifting decent ... 

jdoc90 New Reader
Feb. 11, 2018 11:51 a.m.

In reply to GTXVette :

you can live in the one that does not run when she kicks you out .lol

ddavidv PowerDork
Feb. 12, 2018 7:17 a.m.

The bigger the garage, the larger the temptation. I have 3 bays and that is the limit of the toys I allow myself (four wheeled, anyway). Simply telling myself there is nowhere to put another one is good preventative medicine. I've done the 'stored offsite' thing and it never works. You just wind up paying a lot of money for a car you rarely see and never work on.

One way I've found to cheat my system is motorcycles. They fit anywhere. I have one in my family room right now.

Like bikes, I try to diversify my holdings and have different ones for different purposes. Mustang as daily driver/pretty car. '93 Lightning tow vehicle. E36 M3 track car. Each has a specific purpose.

I've tried to accept the idea I don't need to actually own every single car or bike I appreciate. I can enjoy from afar. I also try not to keep buying the same thing over and over as noted above. I spent over 20 years playing with Fiat 124s. Imagine how much broader my knowledge would be if I'd had an MGB or a Ford Falcon or Capri during that period? Variety is the spice of life.

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