What Makes a Car a keeper?
Car and Driver: one car to keep for life.
A question I ponder from time to time is: “Will I keep the car I own now for my forever?” I love hearing stories about someone running a million miles in the same car. Or how about someone who has their Dad or Mom’s old car they loved and now want to restore it to its former glory or even better.
But what was it that made the old folks keep that car all these years to be there for the restoration? Was it the car itself or something else? The car might or might not be something special in and of itself, but rather the owner’s experiences in that car precipitated the keeping. Or perhaps both are the drivers of the happening.
There can be another keeper such as the car might be worth more than its cost to the owner someday. This is different and the car is being looked at as an investment. No emotional content here. And unless they spent big $$ buying the car they need to be very lucky or have to wait a very long time just to get most or all of their money back. Don’t forget about inflation over time.
Another more common reason to keep a car is economics. Cars are a money pit and avoiding new or just other used ones is a good idea financially unless the current car needs expensive repairs.
The keeping driver that interests me now is about fun to own cars that may be the last of their kind. While we still revere that ’67 396 L78 Chevelle or that ’70 440 Six Pack Barracuda, they were awful cars compared to the cars we have today. Although they look super bad.
They handled as if they were suspended on rubber bands and took eons to stop. As for speed, most of the muscle cars were high 14 or 15 second cars at their best. The fast ones could just get to under 14 seconds. So while they are very cool, if you own old school muscle you probably only take it out in nice weather on Saturdays and Sundays for a scenic drive or a car show. You wouldn’t dream of taking it to any kind of a race track. Nothing wrong with that at all.
The kind of keeper I am talking about is the one where the car is everything you could want in a fun car, speed, handling, looks, tech, comfort or whatever. A car that makes you stop and think how much is enough? We are bred and socialized from birth to be relentless consumers. This gives us an innate drive to always want more and the latest and greatest. I am guilty as charged. But what if we stop and think about who we are and what is really important to us to satisfy our car addiction? Can we overcome our advertising brain wash to truly understand what would be enough to satisfy?
I fell in car love with the 5th gen Camaro when it came out. But I always wanted a Corvette. So when the 7th generation Corvette started showing up in showrooms I decided it was time. This seemed like the ultimate Corvette and we know now it is the penultimate rear drive Corvette. After driving a M6 C7 I really liked it, but after getting back in my 2013 Camaro 1LE I lost my Corvette fever. The Corvette was cramped inside and was not a very useful car. So if I could only let myself have one toy car I wanted that car also to be at least a somewhat useful car. And while not as athletic as the Corvette, the 1LE also was very satisfying to drive.
If that 1LE was not totaled by my friend I might still have it. See below. But it was and I used my insurance $$ to buy a 2015 M6 ZL1. I did really like that car but Its GM Stabilitrac brain went hay wire and GM bought it back. Since the 6th gen Camaro had just come out I decided to try a 2016 M6 SS Camaro. Once the 6th gen ZL1 came out I read everything I could about it. Was this the ultimate car for me? After owning the SS for two years I took the plunge and bought an A10 ZL1.
That car has the best and most fun automatic I have ever experienced. But in the end it was still an automatic and I got bored. And the car was so fast you could not use very much of it safely on the street. I know what too much power in the wrong hands does at the track. 😦
I was missing the SS.
Since it was noticeably lighter to drive and also was low 12-high 11 fast, it was also thrilling to drive and got 35 MPG on the highway. I started thinking about the extra complexity of the ZL1 over the SS and the possible impact of keeping it once the warranty expired. Then I looked at the trade in value after one year of ownership I realized that besides my future worries I was burning money fast. And the 2020s were about to come out. Another depreciation hit. So I sold my ZL1 and decided to take a car break with no fun car. So I looked around for a while at used SSes and patiently waited until something really caught my eye. I even considered a Mustang or possibly a Challenger. After driving a number of them the Camaro still stood out. It is the lightest of the modern muscle cars, the best handling, was just as good looking as the other two. I would stick with a Camaro.
Then I read about the new for 2020 LT1 Camaro. The name is confusing since it is the same name as the SS motor, but once I saw a few pictures my curiosity was piqued. What the LT1 was is a SS without Brembo rear brakes and track cooling. It still has the responsive and torquey LT1 engine and the SSes world class chassis and suspension. No Magnetic Ride is available, but after owing 3 Camaros with it I will not miss it. And I liked the idea of less complexity. Also looking at the value priced LT1 I could appreciate the basic lines of the Camaro without the busyness of aero aids that are useless at street speeds. And once I looked over the available options I realized I could build it my way. I could not option it the same way on the 1SS. And the LT1 is the lightest V8 powered Camaro coming in a little over 3,500 pounds. I became smitten with the LT1. Did GM build this car for me? The porridge at the just right temperature? So it seemed to me.
More on this next time…..