Enjoying your passion in the long run - Part 3

The road to hell is paved with good intensions. And so it is in the car world.  

The third question I think every enthusiast or future enthusiast should ask themselves is "Am I doing this for me?".  The easy answer is typically yes.  But the VIP-ish status that certain cars can give you becomes addicting in fairly short order.  It can become difficult to know when you're keeping that ride of yours for the admiration, ego boosts and access it garners or if you're keeping it because it truly makes you happy to drive and that it fits your needs.  

Here's an example of how the wrong car can get you into the right places.  I didn't buy my 2006 BMW Z4M because I wanted attention.  I bought it for a much more noble reason and that is because I have a long, sordid history of buying questionably useful and impractical cars.  Sure they can be heartbreaking at times, but they typically make up for it by being characterful and hillariously fun to drive.  My first car was a red 1977 MGB that I've owned for 25 years, though it's only run (mostly poorly) for 3 of them.  Many coupes and utes later, the Z4M was to be my glorious re-entry into red roadster-dom.  And my gosh, it was.  Having relieved myself of the 230 hp 3.0L model, I'd previously owned, I was ready for something a bit more serious.  100 horsepower more serious. Richard Hammond had compared it to a ghost pepper who's spicy temperament made him rank it above the Boxtser S the year it was introduced.  I was sold. I set off to experience the little beast straight away.  I took it to autocross with Seattle's Porsche Club and aside from it's amazing handling characteristics, I must admit that I loved how even Porsche owners gathered round the car to discuss how well engineered and rare a vehicle it was.  Bear in mind that the comments were coming  guys who were driving some of Stuttgart's finest aircooled and GT labeled masterpieces.

I upgraded the tires and brought it to the high speed track days (HPDE) and was keeping up with makes and models I was sure I had no business tailing. Again, came the admiration and discussions.  I was invited to show the car at the infamous LeMay automotive museum. Sure it was on the lawn outside and not inside of the doors, but I felt it quite good company.  They don't allow just any car to grace its lawn and I might add there was a BMW M1 present as well.

Women stopped to ogle the car and watch it drive by, children gave me the thumbs up and a man at the grocery store even stopped to shake my hand and congratulate me for driving it as if I'd engineered the machine myself. I even made it into the super exclusive Exotics at Redmond Town Center show.  You should have seen some of the amazing cars they turned down because they simply didn't come off as quite ...special enough.

 One day it dawned on me, however, that I was the only person I saw on the road actually driving this car.  Was it because the car was that beautiful and rare? Or was it because outside of the race track, this car was simply a terrible place to be? I'll give you a hint.  I didn't like it in there.  The ride was stiff, the seats were great for the perfect racing position but nothing else and with the top up, the cabin was so small that one could easily mistake themselves for being buried alive.  That's not a good feeling when you live in a city that rains 9 months out of the year.  Luckily, I'm not shy and could often be seen barreling down the highway in the pouring rain.  The good news is due to aerodynamics, you don't get wet unless you drop below 60 miles per hour which I tried to do as infrequently as possible.  The hood was so long that you couldn't see where you were going if you started down a hill and the windshield was so short you couldn't see when the light turned green if you were the first driver to the intersection.  I could barely find a single modification for under $1,500 or even a repair for less than that amount either.  It was a terrible primary car and probably not that great of a second one either. I'd say if you'd already had your transportation needs taken care of, you might be happy making this the third or even fourth horse in your stable. But when the complements, car shows or track days came, it was a beautiful thing.  One fateful day, I discovered an obnoxious clanking noise upon deceleration and know amount of online research, shade tree wrenching or even trips to the mechanic would hunt it down. With any other car, the decision to part ways before something catastrophic and expensive happened would have been a fairly easy one.  Even though this car had given me hell on a daily basis, it had given me something else that was far more seductive than comfort and sanity.  It had given me an air of exclusivity and enhanced ego.  I rationalized keeping it for far longer than I should have because I was that guy with that car.  One day my wife said to me, just because you get rid of this car doesn't mean you can never drive another sports car.  And she was right.  I traded it in and picked up a 370z, which,  with a couple of cheap mods (they're all cheap btw) is every bit as capable and several times more comfortable than the Z4M.  So before you LS swap your Miata or 2JZ and single turbo your Silvia, ask yourself.  Am I doing this for me.


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