Is nostalgia worth the extra cost?

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Feb 4, 2023 | Honda, Mecum, Radwood, JDM, crx, Column, Mecum Orlando, Nostalgia | Posted in Columns | From the Oct. 2022 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

I didn’t think it would go like this.

It was an assignment, just like any other. Go, get the story, say hi, come home.

In this case, the assignment was Mecum’s Orlando sale. I assigned this to myself, so in the end I guess I’m to blame.

This particular sale is a newer addition to Mecum’s calendar–the inaugural one took place last year–and while it lacks the million-dollar stars found at Monterey or other high-profile sales, the lots in Orlando seem to appeal to those of us who grew up in the ’80s. If you’re looking for an IROC-Z, a 5.0 Mustang or a screaming chicken Trans-Am, this is your place. 

Somewhere in the October 2022 issue you’ll find a report. Some cars fetched strong money–see the six-figure Porsche 911 Carrera–but there were good deals in the mix as well. Glad to see that someone (not me) snagged that Euro-spec BMW 323i. 

The day itself went well: not much traffic, a good lunch with some old friends, and a thousand photos taken. I even got a decent parking spot.

But then, toward the end, I figured I’d take one last pass. After a car crosses the block, whether it sold or not, it returns to the floor. I’m told that the batting order is carefully crafted, but to us plebs, it’s just 1500 cool cars parked in long, long rows, all in the comfort of convention center climate control. 

And there it was, clearly marked as unsold: a black-on-black, Japanese-market Honda CRX SiR. This was the real deal: right-hand drive, high-winding B16A engine and that teeny, tiny rear seat. 

I put down my camera gear and climbed in. What could be the harm in checking out just one car a bit closer than the rest?

Instantly I went back 25 years to our first CRX, a 1988 model wearing timeless Barbados Yellow. The sport compact scene was blowing up, and we fell into owning one of the day’s icons. 

It was so good that we bought another one, and during that period, we owned the full run of those now-celebrated ’90s Hondas. We autocrossed them, tracked them, worked on them. For a while there in the Before Times, my wife and I both drove them to work. 

A year or two ago, though, I cleared all the Honda spares from our garage. I figured that chapter had been closed. 

Thanks to a few minutes on the floor at Mecum, though, I got the bug. Badly. Another CRX? Honda’s follow-up model, the del Sol? Another Civic? Integra? Integra Type R? Japanese-market Integra Type R?

Bigger question: Is this about reliving an experience or making new ones? I’m honestly not sure, and my search history doesn’t really care.

But I haven’t bought anything–at least not yet. Back then, those old Hondas were just Hondas. You could easily find a good, desirable car for about $3000. You didn’t even have to travel far to get it. 

Today, the cost of entry has gone up–considerably. That Japanese-market CRX went unsold at nearly 10 times that amount. And while I admit that I’m easily nostalgic, I’m also fairly thrifty–or at least I have trouble spending money on myself. Plus, my garage is rather full. 

So I’ve been focused on something else from the Before Times. These projects cost less and take up less space: I’m restoring two of my old BMX bikes. Maybe “restoring” implies too much work. How about “making proper”? I rode one in high school and the other soon after college, and both need just a few things to return to their proper periods in time so they can be Radwood-ready. 

Likewise, prices for bike stuff have gone up. I’m looking for a simple chainring to replace one that went walkabout in 1986 or so. Back in the day, that was a $6.99 part–or free from a buddy who had an extra. Now I’m seeing used ones regularly advertised for north of a hundred bucks. (The top asking price for that very part: $375 on eBay, and someone please tell me that’s just a front for a money laundering operation.)

Whether you’re dealing with cars, bikes or whatever, nostalgia be a strong siren. None of this makes any sense, but I don’t think it’s supposed to. 

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docwyte PowerDork
8/5/22 11:57 a.m.

In one respect you can't put a price on nostalgia.  On the other hand I found that my nostalgia for a VW Corrado VR6 was stronger than reality.  Now that I've bought and sold the Corrado I don't have a desire to own another one. I also discovered that having to maintain a parts horde for an old '90's VW that doesn't have good factory support turns into a much larger amount of money than expected.

RobMason New Reader
8/5/22 1:22 p.m.

One thing i have found is that you really can't go back. It never seems to live up to the memory. Can make new memories - just don't expect it to be the same as it once was. Go a different route than you did in the past. My first car was a '61 MGA that I restored to pretty good show quality. My new one is full race mechanicals and 4 different colors of primer and overspray that I autocross and track - having an absolute blast, but it won't win any beauty pagents.

kb58 SuperDork
8/5/22 1:37 p.m.

Depends what it's for. Pleasure drives, car shows, track rat, or ?. On my first custom car, it had a dead stock drivetrain and a really nice shell and paint job. I dreaded taking it on track and hurting the paint. My second car had a fully-built engine with a much less stressful body and paint job. That one, I dreaded taking it on track and hurting the drivetrain - all self-imposed stress. So, ask yourself what you want the car for, how it would be used, who's going to maintain it, and whether there's time and budget for both.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/5/22 1:58 p.m.

I half expected the article to be about the SiR that you just bought at auction.

te72 HalfDork
8/5/22 2:30 p.m.

Enjoy it while you can, none of us are promised tomorrow, after all. I've had lots of Supras over the years. When I got my first one, they were just old-ish used cars. Now the "JDM tax" seems to have hit hard for whatever reason. Sucks, but it's not gonna keep me from driving them when I want. I don't daily them like I used to, as one is less than friendly due to the cold start tune and the snapping turtle clutch response. The other is more a Point A to Point A car since I detest people who can't be responsible and respectful around other cars, and that seems to be the norm anymore...


Either way, neither of those cars are as good as a modern car, at least in terms of NVH, comfort, efficiency, safety, audio quality, etc... but I'd still rather be behind the wheel of that 90's Japanese goodness. =)

PT_SHO New Reader
8/5/22 2:38 p.m.

Not commenting on the article as such though my nostalgia car is costing me some.  But, saying this up front, if an article is going to be in the magazine, WHY ARE YOU SENDING IT TO ME IN MAIL?  I don't want that.  I subscribe for a reason.  Don't devalue my magazine, I don't want to read it online, that is why I voted for extra subscription costs being OK.  Or put it in the Forums after a few months and gather your comments there.  Berkeley this bogus community building stuff at the expense of the magazine.

Send me older articles, fine, I can pick and choose.  Extra online content, I can live with that.  But do not duplicate.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
8/5/22 2:49 p.m.

In reply to PT_SHO :

I appreciate the feedback, but I don't see how we've devalued the magazine. This isn't a free article--only paying subscribers like you are able to read it. Everybody else only sees a few words and a request for payment.

rob_lewis UberDork
8/5/22 2:50 p.m.

It all has to do with age and success.  As enthusiasts get older and more financially stable, the cars they wanted in their youth are now possible to buy and just have as opposed to needing it for daily driver duties.  The 80's and 90's cars will see an increase in value while I think we'll see a decline in 60's-70's muscle.  Interestingly, I was kicking around picking up something classic/vintage next year for fun and was supervised at how cheap pre-war cars have gotten.  Which points to my theory.  Very few people alive today remember the first time they saw/rode in/drove a Model A.  So, the demand is no longer there.


Nostalgia is not rational, but it is still one of the most powerful motivators of human behavior.  I'll take a $30k ND Miata over a $30k CRX Si, and believe that it's a superior machine in every way.  But if it doesn't pull the heartstrings, then...

frenchyd MegaDork
8/5/22 3:07 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

My MGTD owned since I was 14  provides me with plenty of nostalgia but that's because all those memories are already mine.  
   If I were to get another MGTD  I doubt I would have those feelings of connection.  I don't think you can re-create history.    

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