Obsession: The New Normal?

By Tim Suddard
May 30, 2018 | Project Cars | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article


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I like to think of myself as a guy with a hobby, one where I like finding cheap, older cars and fixing them up to drive on the street and maybe put on track or on the autocross course a few times a year. This makes me sound reasonable, and my habit healthy. “Get a hobby” is often tossed at people who need to achieve some measure of balance and mental health in their lives. So using “hobby” to describe my activity makes me feel normal, even virtuous. Now, if finding one old E30 or early Scirocco and fixing it up is cool, normal and okay, then isn’t it equally okay to have maybe one or two extra cars for spares, or to restore next? I’m pretty sure even at the two- or three-car level, most of my friends and family would still be on board with my, uh, tendencies. Extrapolate this out just a wee bit further, though, and things start to get weird, right? One old car is absolutely normal. Two to three are just the mark of a serious hobbyist. But right around the next corner, the hobby turns into an obsession. Most polite circles regard having 10 broken-down cars in your back yard as pretty weird. Not that I am judging. I am merely trying to rationalize my own hobby turning into a terrible, uncontrollable obsession. As you have probably noticed, this is something I do a lot. Initially I justified my habits by telling everyone that I needed to keep collecting forlorn cars to provide editorial fodder for this and our sister magazine, Classic Motorsports. That lost some of its punch once I realized I had many years’ worth of “editorial” stashed in my garages. Then I started telling everyone–especially those closest to me–that these cars were a good investment and would one day form the backbone of our retirement plan. This is a lie, but a white one, because while many of these cars have gone up in value, factoring in the cost of maintenance, insurance and upkeep kind of kills the argument. Lately I’ve changed it up by promising that I will focus on more valuable cars. Although I do have a Shelby Mustang, a Sunbeam Tiger, and the Elva Mk VI sports racer that the factory entered at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1962, the truth is I am just as excited to mess with the $2000 Bugeye Sprite and the $450 1991 BMW 318 is that I just dragged home. So if I am being honest, it is not the type of car, the money, the ease or difficulty of the project, or even the editorial value that really matters. I just can’t resist the projects. Which makes this sound more like an addiction than a hobby. Getting to drive something I have built myself is not even my primary motivator. When I finish a car, I drive it or race it just a few times before I immediately dive into a new, much less shiny–but no less irresistible–project. It comforts me to know that I am not alone. I go to events like our Ultimate Track Car Challenge, the Classic Motorsports Mitty and especially our $2000 Challenge, and I see people–a lot of people–just like me. If you’ve ever wondered where you fit on the spectrum from hobbyist to addict, ask yourself a few questions: Have you ever given yourself a fake deadline by entering an event like a concours or our $2000 Challenge way before the car was ready? Have you ever spent a frightening amount of time reading and rereading a rulebook looking for just one more advantage? Have you ever purchased the next project car before you finished the one you were working on? Did you then lose interest in the one you were working on and start on the newly purchased project? I think at this point a lot of you are sheepishly raising your hands, or at least mildly nodding your heads in agreement. I know you are: I have met a lot of you. I see what is in your back yards, what you bring to events, and what you post on social media. The good news? If enough of us confess, we might become the new normal. Rise up with me and shout it loud and proud: Yes, I am obsessed with cars and I don’t want to change! Come to think of it, that’s actually a good way to call to order my new Car Obsession Support Group. Want to participate? Shoot me an email at tim@grassrootsmotorsports.com and tell me about your obsession-I mean hobby. Be it Corvairs or Honda Civics or even Mitsubishi Diamond Stars, you can trust me with your passion. I won’t judge, because like me, you are part of the new normal.


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View comments on the GRM forums
Steve New Reader
5/30/18 10:15 a.m.

I must be perfectly fine then, I've never had more than 7 cars and 13 motorcycles at any one time. I will add though, that all the motorcycles were kept completely out of sight.............

te72 Reader
5/31/18 12:32 a.m.

Tim, I can safely say that I don't share in this "plight" due to a likely abnormal level of self control. I limit the cars to what can be parked in the garage. If they won't fit, I can't bring myself to buy it. We have two Miatas, I've barely modified either of them, despite the relative affordability and driving rewards of doing so, all because of a seemingly never-ending Supra project.


Oh yeah... that Supra project. Right... about that...


I'd only been collecting parts for it for about 4 years before having a house build commissioned, so as to facilitate the building of said car in the garage. Figure that was cheaper than renting shop space somewhere and having a mortgage, right? Surely, it must be so? Isn't it normal to have a house built so you can build a car?


Ok, so I suppose I probably fit in with you lot well enough, it's good company at least. I can't say my pace on projects is anything beyond glacial, but hey, I don't have a magazine to run! =P

frenchyd SuperDork
5/31/18 1:09 a.m.

In reply to Tim Suddard :

Hello My name is Frenchy. I’m a gear head addict.  

Its been  4 hours since I obsessed about a project and 10 hours since moving parts around to store some more parts.  

Right now I have sufficient work lined up to keep me busy until my mid 80’s,  but the MG TD was last painted in 1974 and in another 10-15 years might respond well to a light refreshing. 

Plus there is that whole man cave idea to finish.  

Ahh heck, one more project car will get me to a nice even 100 

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
5/31/18 5:45 a.m.
volvoclearinghouse UberDork
5/31/18 6:20 a.m.

I can't tell you how many cars are currently taking up residence on our property.  I just refused another one yesterday, actually.   

But, my wife cannot say how many chickens she has.  So that evens it out.  Sort of.  

I answered 'Yes' to every one of your questions.  

thedoc GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/31/18 6:52 a.m.

I think that part of our "obsessiveness" is that for some of our cars, parts are scarce.  When I was into british cars, we would strip those suckers for parts.  Any old car is going to need parts, and you never know what part and where it will come from.  I think we are the new people who have lived through the great depression. You end up with attitudes about things and storage that "normal" or unaffected people never had.  Same things with cars.  You might buy that great deal on the miata just because it's a great deal and might not come around again. Or it has a hard top, better seats, etc.   You get my point.

Or it might be that we have never grown up, and we  now think our cars are hot wheels or match box cars.  Think about it.  We still lie on concrete, tarmac, dirt or grass.  We think nothing about grease all over us.  We really are just big kids.

I don't think we are obsessive.  I think we have a hobby that has turned into a life style.  Thank God we don't drink...

docwyte SuperDork
5/31/18 7:54 a.m.

It's not the new normal.  Hate to tell ya. 

SVreX MegaDork
5/31/18 8:06 a.m.

In reply to thedoc :

Are you saying there are people around here who don't drink??  What's wrong with them?  

SVreX MegaDork
5/31/18 8:07 a.m.

In reply to docwyte :

It's not new, or it's not normal?? cheeky

maschinenbau GRM+ Memberand Dork
5/31/18 8:20 a.m.

Well this has been quite a week of self-awareness. I raised my hand at every question. I have even used all the excuses you outlined earlier. Even the one where I claim the project could be an investment. I have been known to show my wife recently sold eBay listings of hot rod Model A's and old Datsuns with build qualities far exceeding my ability. See? This will all surely pay off! One day!...

Two nights ago I decided to purge the garage of parts I won't use or sell. I completely filled the truck bed soley with parts from the current project's donor car, a car which I don't even have anymore. Then I found another load of parts from the other, older project's donor car, another car I don't own anymore. Then it got scary. I started finding parts from a project I haven't owned in two years. Parts I will never use and are definitely not valuable, like a partial engine harness from a junkyard LT1. In the house and at work, I am a "neat-freak" and quick to throw things away in the pursuit of a tidy space. But in the garage, I realized this week that I am a horder, and addicted to cars and their parts.

Speaking of that garage, it has three cars taking up two car's worth of space. One of them runs, but I drive it maybe once a week. The cars we actually drive and spend time in sit outside in the driveway, getting covered in snow and beat by the sun. Yet I browse classifieds weekly for new projects. 

6 weeks ago I set aside a ambitious project I had been working on over a year to start another, equally ambitious, over-the-top project. The bright side, or scary part, is I had generous support - the GRM community and like-minded friends came together for this massive undertaking. That  weekend was inredible and will go down as a highlight of year 2018 for me. If this obsession ain't right, I don't want to be normal. Seems like I found the right place for me.

airwilf New Reader
5/31/18 10:10 a.m.
SVreX said:

In reply to thedoc :

Are you saying there are people around here who don't drink??  What's wrong with them?  

If you can't drink it or drive it, it ain't worth owning !

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
5/31/18 10:19 a.m.

I am definitely guilty of accumulating more projects than I really have time for. Cars, guitars, bicycles, and so on...  hell - just my massive stack of unread books and plastic model kits I've collected since I was in high school (more than 30 years ago). 

Unfortunately, I have also reached a point where I have so many projects staring at me I get project-paralysis where I can't decide which one I need to work on next and then end up not working on any of them. 

Trackmouse UltraDork
5/31/18 10:30 a.m.

As long as you are driving ALL of them, it’s not overboard. Look at Jay Leno. The man possesses more cars than he can drive in a year, yet he still tries to drive them all. Granted, Jay has the time, money, and resources to do so. 

So the amount of vehicles on hand isn’t important, it’s the time to use them as they were created to do so. 

te72 Reader
6/1/18 12:53 a.m.
SVreX said:

In reply to thedoc :

Are you saying there are people around here who don't drink??  What's wrong with them?  

I say if your project doesn't drive you to wanting to drink at least once in a while, you either have the patience of a saint, or you never have to work on your car haha.

egnorant SuperDork
6/1/18 8:02 a.m.

I'm so far off the chart it makes ya'll look normal.


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