Better to have loved...

| 25 May 2011

It's been nearly a year since my Porsche 912 appeared in the pages of Classic & Sports Car, and perhaps now is the right time to give it a fitting goodbye and explain exactly where it went.

Bought on a whim, as a telephone bidder at auction, I never even wanted a Porsche, but something about CAD461E captured my interest and before too long it was in my garage and my beloved MGB sold to a C&SC reader.

From that moment, it is fair to say that not a day went by when I didn't open the garage door and marvel at the fact that I had a Porsche. Equally, there was not a moment when I was behind the wheel when I didn't marvel at the stunning driving experience and the subsequent smile it put on my face. Even the costs of maintaining such a car couldn't ruin the day-to-day pleasure, although it is fair to say that there were frequent moments when the sums simply didn't add up.

And there was the location of the final straw. In fact, the straw was lurking under a small patch of rust that, when uncovered, turned out to be not so small at all. By the time the rust had been chased out, we were looking at a paper doilie with a Stuttgart badge stuck on the front. My heart sank to new depths.

I get attached to old cars like most enthusiasts. They become friends, and the more you drive them, the better friend they become which means that saying goodbye is truly painful. I shed a tear when I handed my first Morris Minor over to the dealer to sell (AOA 565K if you’re out there), and I could certainly feel a significant lump in my throat when I sat in the driver's seat of my vegetable strainer Porsche 912.

I explored more avenues than a lost postman, but all led to the same bare fact: to sort the rust and stand a chance of having a road-legal 912 would mean parting with a minimum of £10,000.

Of course, it's 'only money', but if you haven't got it then that's a bit of a problem – perhaps even more so when you have a family that might not take too kindly to living off of baked beans for the next decade just so you can continue driving the car you love.

I could have garaged it until either my welding skills or bank balance were up to tackling the job, but I already had a restoration project on the go with the AC Buckland - one would never had seen the light of day again if I had opted to keep the 912. Alternatively I could have sold the Porsche as a going concern and walked away, trying very hard not to think about the small amount of money in my pocket.

But in the end, I made perhaps the most sensible choice. Certainly it was the hardest conclusion to come to terms with, but the 912 went to keeping dozens of other cars on the road the whole world over. Yes, I took a spanner to it and broke it. A horrible phrase, but it meant that I could afford to go and buy another classic for daily use, go some way to paying off the expense racked up over the years on rebuilding the flat-four engine and a front-end respray, and then buy the family some toast to go with their baked beans.

I will put my hands up and admit that it is not really the done thing to break a classic – certainly not when working for a magazine like C&SC and am part of a group charged with keeping the movement alive. After all, our hobby and passion is based largely around emotional decisions rather than those worked out in our heads – restoration projects usually cost far more than the car is worth in the end, and we all take a physical, emotional and financial bashing along the way. However, I’m pretty sure we all have a line in the sand, which, no matter how far away we draw it, is a tough one to cross. Unfortunately, I reached that line with the best car I have ever owned a lot sooner than I thought I would.

The memories are there (driving it to Stuttgart, beating Elliott up the hill at Prescott, first trip with it to Le Mans etc), even though the car may be gone. Still, it’s better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all. Even if it was ‘just’ a car. Sniff.