Most car collectors whose collections don’t reside on blocks in the yard have a lot of money. But having a fun car doesn’t have to be the exclusive purview of the financially well-endowed.
In fact, having a “fun” car in addition to a daily driver can actually be a money-saver for people afflicted with two very common enthusiast ailments: NCA (New Car Addiction) and Mod-itus.
Symptoms of NCA include increasing annoyance with your car’s squeaks and rattles, the sudden feeling that it doesn’t have enough power, and frequent mental math to price out that expensive new toy you saw on the dealer lot. In most cases, buying a new car means taking a hit on taxes, licensing, and above all, depreciation — buying a new car is expensive even in the best of times. And if you’ve spent money on mods, you are very unlikely to get much of it back. Thankfully, for those suffering from NCA and Mod-itus, there is a viable treatment option: a second car that’s fun and not daily-driven. Having an occasion-only automobile in addition to a daily driver scratches the itches of NCA and Mod-itus, and allows the enthusiast a Zen-like acceptance of their daily driver’s presumably ever-worsening faults.
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Viewed in totality, having an extra fun car can actually save you money. You can pour all of your obsession and expectations into a vehicle that doesn’t have to be practical, reliable, or even comfortable. For my fellow rust-belt inhabitants, when you put your fun car away for the winter, every spring, pulling the cover off and firing it up is like getting a new car! NCA itch, scratched! Add in a set of coil-overs and an exhaust and even Mod-itus can become a manageable condition — and it costs a lot less than buying an entirely new car.
When I got my 2005 Mazda RX-8 as a fun weekend-only ride, I stopped worrying about my daily driver Mazda3 not being the sports car I really want — that means I’m not blowing cash on mods for the 3, which is mostly stock. Now I can actually enjoy the 3’s everyday practicality while I get my fun-car fix from the RX-8. Since the RX-8 isn’t my daily driver, I don’t worry about blown apex seals preventing me from getting to work, or the fact that it gets the gas mileage of a Suburban towing a boat. Rev it to 9K a dozen times today while laying down rubber? Sure, why not. Do some donuts in an empty parking lot? As long as I’m not late for dinner. In short, having a fun car you don’t really need lets you experience the driving euphoria you felt when you first got your license — you can drive like you’re invincible and only vaguely deterred by consequences or concessions to logic and reason.
I’m not the only car enthusiast I know who has delegated car duties to multiple vehicles. On my quiet suburban street, at least three of us have fun, totally superfluous cars. Guy, a few doors down, has a slammed 1965 Ford Galaxy wagon riding on chrome Torq Thrusts. He only uses it for ice cream runs and cruises with his Newfoundlander, while he daily drives a late model Honda CR-V. My neighbor Mike (pictured) has a Focus wagon and a GTI that he and his wife use to transport their brood, but Mike also has an old-school Mini; right-hand drive and imported from Japan. Our fun cars may differ, but all of us have stopped looking for our daily drivers to satisfy our car enthusiasm.
“I am the primary wage earner in a household with two small children, so my constraints are time and money,” Mike said as he checked the oil on his 2000 Rover Mini Mayfair. “Now that I have a fun car, I am strangely at peace with my daily driver having OEM or quality aftermarket replacement parts.”
I asked my neighbor Mike about the cost of having a third fun car instead of spending more money on a nicer daily. “It was a little under $10,000 from purchase to on-the-road. To offset the cost, I am no longer paying for custom stereo installs or expensive upgrades to factory parts every time I get a new daily driver. I’m content with getting my thrills from the Mini.” This is really what it’s all about. Having a car that can thrill you, without taking too great a financial toll. A tall order for a daily driver, but easy to do when you spread the work over two cars.
You can buy an RX-8 like mine, in decent shape, for about five grand. Yes, it will get spanked by a new Accord. Yes, any new car from Italy is likely more reliable, but I don’t really care, since I’m not driving it every day. It’s a fun car, and to me, it still feels special. More importantly, because it’s there, my daily drivers are able to soldier through their lower-cost, long amortization years without being replaced by a clearly superior, all-too-easy-to-justify upgrade.
It’s not easy to live with NCA or Mod-itus, but help is available. Talk to your doctor – or psychiatrist – or simply browse through the classified section and find something awesome that will keep your NCA and Mod-itus symptoms at bay. At least for now.