A Mostly British Obsession

Where My “Retirement Money” Went

1959 Austin Healey 100 Six

Chuck brings up in the comments on my “disconnect” article that I could (possibly) have bought a $120,000 car based on the money flushed down the toilet paid for the cars listed in the column at page right. Is it true?

I did some math based on my increasingly leaky memory…I guesstimate that the purchase price of all the cars combined (over 23+ years, mind) is $150,000 or so. Add in running costs (this includes the very expensive, gosh-was-I-ever-that-flush? bodywork restoration on the ’61 XKE) and you get a total close to $240,000, or $11,000 a year. That doesn’t include gas or insurance, but does cover repairs, restoration, therapy, lawsuits, beer, etc.

We can subtract from that shocking sum the money realized whenever I sold one of the fine machines in the “past indiscretions” category to another sucker enthusiast. That’s about $105,000 (you can see a problem here, but never mind). That leaves us $135,000 in the hole, money I could definitely use. However, if you add back what I could get for the machines I own (everything as-is, but pretending the E-Type is assembled and finished) I’d get back $80,000 – $110,000+. On a yearly basis, the hobby costs me $1,500 – $3,000 in “lost” money, or about $150 to $200 a month.

Chuck’s point stands, though–by taking the bus I could have saved enough to buy a car I don’t particularly covet (which is to say most any new high-performance machine).

I don’t have a Camry or other appliance for commuting in (nor do I commute), so there’s no hidden “sane” car that is also costing me money via a car payment.

Of the cars I’ve sold, money was lost on 17 of them. Worst cases were the ’84 XJS which I lost $9,000 on, mainly due to buying a well-used example and paying through the nose for maintenance and repairs, and my ’98 F150, which I bought lightly used and which depreciated as all new and newish cars do…it went down $10,000 in value during my ownership.

I made money on nine cars, best by far being the ’59 100-Six which I sold for a $4,500 profit, back when $4,500 was a significant chunk of what I’d make in a year. Most of the money-makers only add a few hundred dollars each to the bottom line, but that bit of profit trumps the running costs, so they were “free” transportation while I had them. I broke even on an additional four cars (not including the running costs).

Of my current fleet, I’m very modestly ahead on the ’63 MGB and ’64 MGB, breaking even on the BSA, Ferguson, Ford, Rovers, and E-Type, and behind on the Triumph.

While the numbers are interesting, money isn’t why I do this (clearly!). I enjoy tinkering and buying old wrecks, and most hobbies have a cost–with this hobby, the acquisition costs can be high and you often have a lot of money tied up, but in the final accounting it’s about the same per month as the payment on a $10,000 used car.


  1. Roger

    I should also note that I don’t take vacations–which a lot of folks spend more on per year than I spend on this hobby. So I don’t feel like a total arse.

  2. Allie

    You have two MGBs? I don’t remember this. I only remember the white one.

    Oh wait. I bet the second one is not running. ;)


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