Obsessing Over Astronomical Auction Results Only Makes Us Miserable
Nothing good or fun ever really comes out watching pristine examples of once-attainable cars sell for absurd cash. So, why bother?
If there's one annoying automotive enthusiast tic that needs to stop, it's all the fussing and hum-hawing over auction results. Every time there's a nearly perfect low-mileage example of an everyman's car that nabs an absurd amount at auction, the internet comes to a halt in outrage.
The latest participant in the boring auction outrage cycle is a nicer version of a car I own: a 5,200-mile 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo in the rare, 1986-only color of Pearl White Metallic. It's believed to be just one of 35 ever made in that color, and someone paid $74,000 for it on Bring a Trailer. It's a beautiful car with a well-documented service history, but unless you're hardcore into Concours events or a museum curator looking for that one perfect example, I can assure you that my $800 naturally aspirated 944 in all its bondoed, stripped-out glory is a lot more fun.
But because the 944 is the "cheap Porsche" that's accessible to the masses, the internet is aghast that someone would pay that much for a nice example of a high trim level with rare options on a heavily curated marketplace like Bring a Trailer.
It's the same faux-shock we've heard already for low-mileage, pristine Acura Integra Type Rs, Honda Civics and even Chevrolet Silverados. While less scrupulous sellers may use this as a reason to mark up their miserable rustbuckets for no reason, the truth is that these cars tend to be outliers.
You're already paying a mild premium when you skip the hassle of wading through barely intelligible Craigslist and Facebook postings to go to an auction platform that's tracked down most of the relevant information about the car for you and posted it somewhere in clear English. And true oddballs—be it by mileage, options, or general availability—will always fetch much more dough than even a nice, regular example.
Your average 944 seller is not going to be looking at some museum-quality showpiece to determine their sale price. Around Austin, you can still pick up a non-precious but street-legal version of the 944 to have actual fun with for around $2,000-5,000 all day long. It won't be as pretty as a $74K BaT special, but then you'll care less about ripping out the interior because track day, bro, or shredding sweet donuts because you have a fun car, and you can.
Therein lies my biggest beef with the recent obsession with auction results: It devalues a car to nothing but a monetary value, which in turn misses the entire point of a car. A car will always be a utilitarian object in my mind, if not for transportation, then to fulfill the basic human need for happiness. We love cars because of what they can do, and what we can do with them.
My most satisfying car days are track day epiphanies where I figure out how to go just a little bit faster, or the conclusions of major wrenching projects that once seemed impossible—not checking online to see if the value of my car went up.
Viewing cars as idle investments or objects that lose value with use only makes sense if your form of automotive enthusiasm doesn't involve driving. I won't knock the restoration and deep-cleaning fans out there, but I will say that I know a lot more enthusiasts who are in this hobby because they love using their cars. (Look at the title of this website, for Pete's sake!)
Some of you even watch auctions for this high-price phenomenon like a bunch of masochists. Unless you're actively looking to buy another car, that time would be better served by getting into a car that you have and enjoying it. Wrench on it! Go for a pleasant drive! A road trip! A track day! Quality time out on the trails! The world is yours to explore with your perfectly enjoyable, usable car. It is the machine which brings us giggle-inducing speed and new places to see all in one. It is best when used.
Even "bad" cars have a certain charm to them. Few things bring a more intense grin to my face than catching air in a beater. The less mechanical empathy you feel, the more you can allow yourself to cut loose and enjoy a car for what it is. I hate to say it, but a $74,000 944 Turbo would be like buying a child on the empathy scale. Every errant speck of dust is going to set off a deep panic alarm within your brain with a purchase like that. If you're into cars for the driving, you're better off plopping down $300 for a K-car you can rallycross.
Auction kvetching simply does not bring us joy, and it's time to Marie Kondo it straight into the sun.
[H/T FlatSixes for the 944 results!]