It's hard to say goodbye (to a car) | Column

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Jul 24, 2022 | Pontiac, Column, Catalina Safari | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article

My ask at the time was fairly simple: chrome bumpers, bench seat, automatic transmission on the column. After a lifetime of stick shifts and bucket seats, it was time for a cruiser. 

So I started looking around without a real destination. I’d know it when I saw it. It even got to the point where I was just surfing the local Craigslist by year: 1967, 1968, 1969….

Then I saw it: 1975 Pontiac Catalina Safari. Gray over red. Longer than some recreational watercraft. All original, right down to full wheel covers. The car sat an hour away on our side of Orlando, and the asking price seemed fair.

I reached out to the seller and got the full story: It was her mom’s car and, sadly, both of her parents were no longer with us. Estate sale. She was in a hurry to sell, too, as the car was stored at her parent’s old house, and it was also on the market.

My wife and I made the drive over and found the car as described. But the seller was embarrassed: The hood wouldn’t open, and the engine wouldn’t start. Likely the battery had died. She had already called AAA. 

I climbed beneath the front bumper and figured out how to manually pop the hood. Easy. Together we waited for the AAA driver. The new battery immediately brought the car back to life. 

I took the wagon for a spin around the neighborhood and found it to drive like a dream. It was exactly what I needed: chrome bumpers, bench seat, automatic on the column. Relaxing. 


We enjoyed our years with the wagon, and it got more attention than I ever imagined. “No, sorry, no tail-gunner seat, but cool to hear that you shuttled your kids in one just like it–and, yes, of course you can check it out.”

But lately the wagon’s been sitting and, due to the fact that the garage is full and the wagon’s like 19 feet long, it’s been relegated to the driveway. And that hasn’t been good for it. I finally convinced myself that it was time to sell.

Bring a Trailer has served us well in the past, but I know that option also involves the vigilance of constantly defending your car to the rest of the group, and to be honest, I just didn’t have it in me. It’s been a year. 

So we put it on eBay Motors. We sold our Civic Si that way six years ago, and it went smoothly. 

After spending a full day cleaning the wagon, we did a full photo shoot–got lucky on the sunset lighting, too. That evening, I started assembling the listing. That’s when I realized that the Premium package only offers space for 24 photos. Now to whittle them down, and I fully admit that I posted the photos that revealed the blemishes: the rust, the known issues. It was a good car, but I wanted to be up front that it wasn’t a perfect car. 

I launched the auction that Saturday night, and soon after got my first bid–pretty sure it was Jordan, who used to work for us. 

And then came the spam:

“I’m interested & I’ll like to buy it asap & i will be sending a check from my bank to you via USPS delivery,reply me back with your name and address phone number to send the check out and will also arrange shipment through shipper after check clear in your bank & you have cash at hand..”

eBay flagged that one right away. 

I got some more legit inquiries, too, and they all received a similar reply: Bid and let’s see what the auction brings. Soon after, we hit reserve. So, we’re really selling it–assuming all goes through. 

Some background here: I’m bad at selling cars–not like I can’t do the process, but I’m more of a keeper. That Civic Si that we sold? We had owned it for 15 years. My Porsche’s been with us nearly a dozen years. In two weeks, I’ll celebrate 22 years with our Miata. 

The wagon auction ended with a slight bidding war, and I’d call the hammer price fair. The next day I heard from the buyer: He’ll be by the following Saturday at 10 in the morning. He must be local to us, I thought. Maybe Orlando or Jacksonville. 

That Saturday morning, just before 10 o’clock, he confirmed that he was nearby. He rolled in with a big truck and an even bigger trailer. The kicker: He had just driven 16 hours straight through from Ohio. 

He quickly looked over the car. I can’t remember if he even popped the hood. We signed the paperwork, and he handed over a stack of crisp bills. He loaded up the car and headed out. I left for the bank. 

And that was the entire process. By noon, I was back to my usual. 

Am I sad to see it gone? Yeah, it was a cool car. But there’s something about no longer feeling guilty when it rains.

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View comments on the GRM forums
thedoc GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
12/17/20 1:48 p.m.

I regret selling 90 % of the cars I have.  My only solace is the same as yours.  The car was going to get ruined by the elements.  Sadly, I have also seen cars ruined in bad storage as well.  To know the car (s) have gone to good homes, well, that makes it at least bearable.

We just had a miata that needed frame repair.  We sold it to someone who had always admired the car and was willing to do the rust repair.  So a car that was going to be scrapped went to someone who would fix and enjoy it.  Win, win.   I was still sad about it and my son had a quote from, I don't know where:  Don't be sad that it's over, be glad that it happened.   As I have had very few cars that I did not love or enjoy, I have much to be glad about.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/17/20 2:24 p.m.

I know, we want to keep them all. Then there's reality. 

This piece was originally written for the magazine--you'll see it in print soon--so there's a hard word count that kept me from going further on the topic. But selling the wagon freed up space--physical space at our house and also space in my head so that I can concentrate on the other cars. No more car Tetris when pulling something from the garage. No more watching the wagon sit outside. (Because, let's be honest, we don't go many places these days.) Lately we've been taking the dog to the beach. The wagon's a great cruiser, but I'd feel terrible taking it even closer to the ocean. 

I faced the same thing a few years ago when we sold my parents' Nissan 240SX. They bought it new. It was still stock. But we weren't using it. I'll admit, I felt a relief when it left. Same thing this time. 

A while ago I realized that I don't really need more stuff. I don't need more bikes, more guitars. What I really need is time to enjoy what I have. So that's where my head is. 

bobzilla MegaDork
12/17/20 3:03 p.m.

This is a topic that I've been having with some other members. I would love a newer, nicer race car. Something with a gamma-turbo preferably. But to do so means I have to sell the truck (78 C10) and the Tib. The Tib, while I love it, I'd part with it easily. The truck... well that's something more special. That's a 3 day adventure I made with my Dad on top of the $9k I have in it. Sure, I could finish the interior, paint it and sell it for $15 and make a nice profit. But I can't. I think its also why I've not done anything to it in a while. I'm afraid it'll be done I have to sell it. 

mr2s2000elise UltraDork
12/17/20 3:06 p.m.

I regret selling 99% of the cars I own 

but like a drug addict - I need the next high of the next find. The high is better than owning the car. The find and hunt is more fun than the ownership. I usually get tired of the car in a week to a few months max .


In order to do that I constantly need to sell what I have. We have 12-18 car turnover per year in the household. 

wife used to get annoyed but last 10 years she knows it's the reality of our life 

outasite HalfDork
12/17/20 3:10 p.m.

So many cars, so little time. That's why I have owned so many cars.

bobzilla MegaDork
12/17/20 3:15 p.m.

Also.... title makes me hear this: 

Tom1200 Dork
12/17/20 4:00 p.m.

We've had the Datsun for 36 years; I say we've because I sold it the day after I bought it in 1984 to a friend, we did many road trips in it up until we converted it to an SCCA race car in 1989, then I sold it again in 1997 to fund our D-sports racer project but then got it back in 2002.   This Datsun is the only car I've ever regretted selling (after I sold it) but fortunately I got it back.

I've had the Formula 500 for 6 years and that appears to be a keeper as well.

Historically I've been a car-monizer................dumping the older one for a flashy new one at the drop of a hat.

I'm in a similar place David is, I just want to enjoy myself..............I've finally figured out I don't need more than I already have to do that.

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
12/17/20 5:37 p.m.

I really miss the xb and kinda wish that I had bought it back from insurance to fix it. 

My mkiii jetta was fun by the time I got ride of it, but getting it to under 2550lb took work and I didn't ever think that vehicles would get to the point where that was considered lightweight. 

Streetwiseguy MegaDork
12/17/20 6:06 p.m.

The only one I miss is my 66 Delta 88 2 door hardtop with a 425, bucket seats and console.  I sold it in about 1981.

12/17/20 6:48 p.m.

I've owned numerous cars in my 50+ years of driving. I never owned more than 3 at a given time due to economics as well as space and practicality. Of all the cars I've owned and sold only a few have a spot in my heart, and not because the rest were clunkers. I replace vehicles for reasons but I'm not a flipper, trying to fix a craving I'll never be able to achieve. I've owned vehicles for periods generally ranging from 7-15 years. The only vehicles I have regrets over having sold, but only in the hindsight of time, lots of time, were my 1972 Fiat 124 Spider bought new and kept for 6++ years, my '74 X1/9 bought used but sold a few years later due to the impending arrival of my son 40 years ago, and most recently my '01 Dakota that I decided to replace after 16 years as a retirement gift to me. I replaced it with a CPO Ram 1500 4X4 and while the Ram is a nice truck, the Dakota was more "me".

docwyte PowerDork
12/18/20 8:57 a.m.

I just don't have the space and money to keep them.  I wish I still had my G60 swapped '91 GTi, my '93 Corrado VR6, my supercharged E36 M3 and supercharged E46 M3 and my first 951 S.

bmw88rider (Forum Supporter)
bmw88rider (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
12/18/20 6:46 p.m.

I miss my MR2 turbo.....A lot. I'd sell everything I have for that one back.

mr2s2000elise UltraDork
12/18/20 7:52 p.m.
bmw88rider (Forum Supporter) said:

I miss my MR2 turbo.....A lot. I'd sell everything I have for that one back.

Should I sell you my 9k mile 95 MR2 turbo ? 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/18/20 9:11 p.m.

And, ironically, I just (finally) signed the notice of sale. It will leave for DMV tomorrow. I guess that's the final step. 

grover GRM+ Memberand Dork
12/18/20 10:28 p.m.

As someone who sold a vehicle yesterday I can relate. I'm very happy with the new car- but I will deeply miss the truck. My last ride in it was to the car wash with my 10 year old daughter. She got in first while I grabbed my jacket, and of course she had folded the center armrest up and buckled in the middle seat- she always did. I'm going to hang onto that memory for a few decades. 

bmw88rider (Forum Supporter)
bmw88rider (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
12/18/20 11:03 p.m.

In reply to mr2s2000elise :

I would say yes but it's too nice. I would feel guilty putting miles on it. 

thedoc GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
12/19/20 5:52 a.m.

On the other hand, keeping a car forever, really has it's advantages.  If you follow "roadkill" David Freiburger has talked about Mike Finnegan and his gasser, "blasphemi".  Mike has kept the car and dumped huge money into it.  Frieburger talks about how Finn knows the car and drives it really well.  I have an 06 mustang gt that I bought new in December of 05.  Great story on how I bought the car, and I got a smashing deal on it.  But I also bought it new, so it wasn't cheap.  The problems I have had with the car are minor and I have done 99 percent of the work myself, especially putting the blower on it.

The joy of working on the car is immense. I have had my moments of frustration, due to my lack of skill and facilities.  Here in the rust capitol of the world, working on a car that still has paper hangers from the factory is like being in a resort.  Fun and pampered.  I wouldn't have that if I didn't pay top dollar.   

I also "learned" to auto cross in the car.  I know most of the time when she is ready to bite and can catch it.  I have grown with the car and been able to experience the improvements in tires and suspension.  I think I love that car more today than the day I drove it home.  I am hoping to find another and make it a winter car.  I never hated winter until I started to take the car off the road when it snows.  I don't hate winter as much since I'm driving a fox body, but I dearly miss my big mustang.

I planned on this being a legacy car, so I have treated this car well, pampered, but not spoiled.  The paint looks amazing, to the point someone asked me last year when the car was painted last.  I have just been anal about where I parked it, and how it was washed.  The interior mods have all been as close to oem as I could make them, no holes drilled anywhere obvious.

With hindsight being what it is, it would be nice to but the best model of what we want and keep improving them.  It would be cheaper in the long run.  As I said before, I have rarely in my life had a car that I didn't love and wasn't a pleasure to drive. This is why it has been so hard to sell a car.  Usually it was because of lack of storage an I didn't want to be responsible for a car being destroyed by the elements.  We lost most of the money when we sold our truck, but we never used it an it was rusting.  The kid who bought it for really cheap was more than thrilled with it.  That made it at least palatable.  

Sorry for the long story, but my point is:  Sometimes I'm just not going to say goodbye.  I have too many memories in my big mustang.  My kids rode in car seats in that thing, auto cross schools, almost epic road trips, Mt. get the point.  I have asked to be buried in the car, if I am, my son wants to pull the engine for another car.  I'd say that would be fitting and I wouldn't be saying good bye!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/19/20 9:29 a.m.

In reply to thedoc :

I agree, some cars are keepers. If we had more indoor parking space, perhaps the wagon would still be here. 

In five days, we'll celebrate 22 years with our Miata. It's not going anywhere. In fact, very soon you'll see some updates on the site as it's being moved back to the front burner. New Falkens just arrived, and wheels are on the way. (Gotta periodically change it up.) It's a keeper.

Ditto the 911: 12+ years with that one and no plans to part. It saw our Porsche mechanic this week and returned with a clean bill of health. Definitely another keeper. 

If only more room and time....

drock25too Reader
12/19/20 10:27 a.m.

I miss several of the cars I have sold. The one I miss the most is my first car. A black over white 1965 Buick Riviera. Wish I could have kept them all. So much so that when we were looking for a house, my wife saw an ad for a "Fixer Upper" with a 33 car garage. She called immediately, sadly to find out it was a misprint, should have been 3 car. But she tried to feed my addiction.

12/19/20 11:00 a.m.

That wagon was great. I enjoyed seeing it at one of the Challenges. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/19/20 9:55 p.m.


Thanks. The wagon was fun--but totally enjoyed cleaning up the Miata today. Excited to get back Miata'ing. 

Sneak peek (lights out for mood):

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
2/18/22 10:38 p.m.

Not a thread hijack but we're all discussing selling here.  My wife keeps insisting I should sell cars on Facebook Marketplace because "that's where everybody is."  I'm certainly not there.  I'm wondering if anyone here has done that and how it went.  I'm also going to assume David checked that venue out but went eBay anyway.

frenchyd MegaDork
2/18/22 10:43 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

60 years in July. Next person to own this will have to get it from my will.  

RyanGreener (Forum Supporter)
RyanGreener (Forum Supporter) Reader
2/19/22 5:45 a.m.

The only car I regret getting rid of was my first car, my 1987 Supra. They're so expensive now cause they are "rare" and a lot of them are in not-so-good condition. I've been through a lot of beaters/track cars/appliances throughout the years though and can't say I miss them...except my DC2 Integra.

Loweguy5 GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
2/19/22 6:40 a.m.

I love acquiring cars more than I love owning them.  I've sought out many Holy grail cars from my youth only to not really connect with them.  One such car was my 1987 Grand National.  I've lusted after one since I was in high school.  I found a decent example, negotiated a good price and bought the car on the spot.

I almost instantly hated it.  Sold it on 6 mos later at a profit.

At this point I've owned around 110 cars and felt little sadness in selling them when the time came.  Oddly I seem to connect the most with cars that aren't particularly exciting or fast.  My 2020 Mustang GT was a stick and was both quick and fast, but it just didn't do it for me.

Yet every time I get behind the wheel of my 05 Ram 2500 diesel it's like I'm a little kid.

I enjoy the hunt and the acquisition the most.  The idea of finding a special, odd, or just super clean older car is exciting to me.  Often after I've had the pleasure of cleaning and tuning them I'm happy to send them on to their next home.

I know, I'm a weirdo.  Haha.

Mndsm MegaDork
2/19/22 10:06 a.m.

I just had to give up the Corolla I bought from another grmer back in 2014. I still think about it repeatedly and the decision eats me. But the truth was- I was probably never getting to it, and it was a northern car. I hadn't been under it in a while but I know I had to replace ALL of the brake lines at one point. The interior was pretty cooked. It was a well worn, 28 year old car. The engine was tired, the exhaust was leaky, most of the electrical was showing it's age, it had a habit for batteries and hurts to give it up, but from a pure cost standpoint, it was time to go. It also cleared a spot in my inventory for another vehicle, freed up a project slot and the money with it to focus on my speed3...and it stopped me from trying to figure out what to do with it. Like, it's gone, is not coming back, the end. If I want another one, they're pretty easy to find around here- it is Florida and corollas don't die here. Doesn't make me happy, but it is what it is. 

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
2/19/22 10:51 a.m.

I guess I'm the exception.  I've owned quite a few cars, but I only really miss two of them.  I miss my 94 Miata R in white, and my 85 SVO.  Neither was the fastest or best car I have owned, but I really liked them.  For me, I have to feel the car is a great value and does things I like, feels right, and I enjoy it.  I really enjoyed both of those cars.  I sold the SVO because I was moving and leaving the Navy.  I think I sold the Miata to make space for Corvettes, which I regret. 

I really like my current Impreza (rallycross car) because I have about 2 hours on dirt in timed events in it and the car has 3 hours of running on dirt with various drivers and has done zero complaining.  Next event is 3/5.  I also really like my current 96 Camaro SS largely because it's such a throwback and I got it so cheap.  If I had overpaid for any of them, I'd be sad.  I've done that before and it takes the fun out of it for me. 


GCrites80s Dork
2/19/22 11:52 a.m.
Loweguy5 said:

I love acquiring cars more than I love owning them.  I've sought out many Holy grail cars from my youth only to not really connect with them.  One such car was my 1987 Grand National.  I've lusted after one since I was in high school.  I found a decent example, negotiated a good price and bought the car on the spot.

I almost instantly hated it.  Sold it on 6 mos later at a profit.


I know, I'm a weirdo.  Haha.

I've heard this from several people now. Having never driven a GN (or any G-Body of that era even though my family had tons of them when I was a kid) what is it about the GNs that disappoints? Do a few minor mods like moderatley increasing boost help?

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
2/19/22 3:32 p.m.

In reply to Loweguy5 :

I totally relate.  Never meet your heroes.  It all reminds me of a certain member that got a C5 Z06 and felt meh about it.  I get it.  I really loved my C4 ZR1s engine.... the rest of the car was a C4 Vette.  I've owned lots of cool cars and they were okay.  The ones I really like are the ones that were inexpensive and my efforts made them better or nicer in some way.  It's the cars I connected with that I miss. 

Teh E36 M3
Teh E36 M3 UltraDork
2/19/22 7:49 p.m.

I wept the day I accidentally sold my MG Midget I'd had since it was a $250 impulse buy of my father when I was 12 or 13. Sold it when I was 38 on an impulse. My wife took video and it still hurts. I shed blood for that stupid thing. A lot. Towed it around the country as we moved for the Coast Guard. Sigh. 

Loweguy5 GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
2/19/22 8:00 p.m.

In reply to GCrites80s :

Honestly I think what made me dislike it was that it was a hot car built with the best technology in 1987, but I've driven performance cars from the last 5 years.  

To clarify my point, in its day it was ridiculously fast.  Now, when compared with quick cars from the last 20 years, it didn't feel very fast.  No question it jumped from 30-80 mph pretty impressively, but the rest of the 80s car around it wallowed around on a soft suspension, the interior was cramped for a fairly large overall footprint, and the total package just didn't excite me.  The only way I would want one of those would be with a near total modernization and upgrading of the suspension and powertrain which would make no sense finacially.

On the other hand, many years ago I bought a 1989 Taurus SHO with a stick from the original owner who was a professor at a local college.  The the princely sum of $2500, that well maintained 4 door was a mountain of fun and I miss it to this day! The paint was a little faded and the interior showed some wear, but mechanically it had been looked after.  While my ex-wife was driving it one day the transmission failed and at the time the repair cost outweighed its value to me and I sold it to the shop I had look at it.  I still miss it dearly and would buy another in a heartbeat.

Datsun310Guy MegaDork
2/19/22 9:16 p.m.

I sold my Datsun in 1996 to fund a piano purchase and pay down some debt. Both kids excelled at music both starting on the piano and playing through high school so it was a good decision.  Today the same piano can be found for free on Craigslist.  

Wife said I'll regret it - nah, I said, I can always get another.  Money's been tight then kids through college and paying for home projects.  Still don't have my Datsun and I won't tell the wife but I should've kept it.  

(wife is Melinda or "Mel" as a nickname)

docwyte PowerDork
2/20/22 11:00 a.m.

I've had some fun cars that I wouldn't mind having back, but the only one that I really felt regret selling was my first Porsche 944 Turbo S.  As it drove away I knew I'd made a mistake selling it.  Which led to buying my second 944 Turbo S, which was a total basket case and I LSx swapped it.  Many lessons learned on that car, most of them painful.

Randy_Forbes New Reader
5/9/22 11:39 a.m.

I'm also "a keeper".  The only car I truly regret no longer having is the Harvest Gold '73 MGB GT that I totaled on May 5th, 1983.  Besides a month's stay at a New Orleans hospital,  I just really miss that car!  At 106,000 miles, it looked like it only had 6000 miles on it.  Since it was always a southern Louisiana car, there was zero rust, only the fabric interior showing minor wear to give the game away.  C'est le vie! 

I did score a nice__nice and rusty, that is__'67 BGT to restore, but I've got a long ways to go on that project.

I am currently struggling with the reality of selling our '99 M Rdstr.  For the first time, I haven't immediately dismissed the idea when my wife brings it up.  It was the first BMW that we owned, bought in November 2000 as a CPO with only 5400 miles on it (currently around 96-98k).  It hardly ever gets driven anymore, and I do feel guilty about that.  The plan was to sell it after we took delivery of a new '01 M Rdstr (THAT's one I'll never sell) but at that time, nobody wanted one with 75 fewer hp than the new ones, so we ended up keepingt it.  I know I'll miss it because of the memories and all.

A car I'm not likely to sell anytime soon is the '57 Healey 2-seater I bought in 1978 while living in San Francisco.  Talk about your love/hate relationship; there's no five (5) minute job on that car that takes less than an hour or two to accomplish!  Since I've had it this long, I guess I'm just supposed to keep it.  Here in Florida, it doesn't see much use between May & October, but it's still a lot of fun to drive when the temps cool down.

I added a '99 M Coupe to our fleet eight (8) years ago, as it was a car I fell in love with after working on it for a previous owner in 2005.  Actually, it was when he had me fit a twinscrew supercharger to it a year later that cemented the attraction.  I missed out when he sold it prior to moving back to Europe in 2012 (during which time we  were building a house and moving to Florida) but it was a mutual friend that had it in the interim, and I didn't let it slip by a second time when she decided to sell in 2014.  It sees the most use during the summer, being a closed car with a/c!

Skeletons in the closet!  If you have any tips on how to avoid impending separation anxiety, I am all ears (eyes, as the case may be).  Or maybe you've always wanted to give a loving home to a triple-black (including hardtop) '99 M Roadster...

rogue_ryder New Reader
7/24/22 12:43 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

I've had good luck on 2/3 cars bought on eBaymotors (long distance buys on rarer cars).  

Despite the 1 car that wasn't as represented I still wish the platform was more widely embraced than FB Marketplace which I loathe or Craigslist (miles better than FB MP but not perfect). Market place is just a horrible mess and Craigslist is full of time wasters, even as a buyer I'm shocked at the slow replies from sellers and ones who flake out on sales. I believe it's due to the relatively low investment in cost to put a vehicle on there. BaT is an absolute nightmare for a seller with the ridiculous comments and demands for service history and records on 30-60 year old cars! What ever happened to using your God given senses to evaluate the condition of a vehicle? If you're devoid of mechanical aptitude maybe take up a different hobby like Golf...


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