: The Cost of Nostalgia -- Owning the same car twice.

07-07-11, 02:32 AM

Relationships end for a reason.

Maybe she started nagging and criticizing. Maybe she spent all of your money. Maybe you were lazy and unambitious. Maybe she cheated. Maybe you didn’t pay her enough attention. Or worst of all, maybe she forgot to flush and you saw what was in the toilet — the horror!

A few years after the breakup, you run into her. You wonder, “How did it ever end? It was so good!” You find yourself talking to her for hours as if you were never apart. You rationalize your idiocy by convincing yourself that the unstable, untrustworthy flake you despised for years was the one that got away.

And so it goes with automobiles.


The first car I picked out for myself was a 1988 Mazda 929. The Nissan Sentra I was given as a parental hand-me-down had finally called it quits after being rear-ended three times. I took my insurance check to a shady dealer in a bad neighborhood and took my Mazda home.

It was rear-wheel drive with metallic brown paint, feather-light steering, automatic climate control, power leather seats, a sunroof, and motorized oscillating vents. Fancy stuff for an eighteen-year-old guy back then (2000).

Never mind the dented door, the cracked glass, or the yellow mustard that squirted out of the wiper washer nozzle (yes, this happened). Never mind the timing belt that broke and left me stranded outside of town. The radio worked when it wanted to and the leather upholstery was badly cracked and faded. Then one day, the oil pan rusted out and the car spewed enough smoke to cover five lanes of traffic. The engine seized and that was the end. I sold it for $50.

Being the irrational young man that I was, I went out and bought another.

I was 20 years old, making peanuts working at a hotel, and had to borrow a bit of cash from a friend to buy a white 1988 Mazda 929 that I found listed in a local circular. It ended up needing a set of tires, new upholstery, rear glass (I was dragged into a bit of a physical confrontation with some questionable characters), and darn near everything else. I spent so much money trying to keep my beloved heap together that I fell behind trying to pay back my friend, which I finally did several months later.

One day, it overheated on my way home from school and the head gasket blew. The head was machined and the gasket was repaired, but a cylinder was dead beyond revival.

I sold it to a dealership and handed them a mountain of records. I couldn’t believe it when I was offered $950 for it, about $950 more than I thought it was worth. As far as I know, that car sat on their lot for a year and probably ended up being traded for a roll of Mentos.

Despite the headache-inducing reliability issues, the 929 is still a car I remember very fondly, both of them.

One evening in 2007 I was driving home from my office in Kirkwood, Missouri, perched behind the wheel of a shiny Range Rover — I had finally pulled myself out of the poverty of my early 20s. I chased down a man in a smoke-belching 929, waving and honking at him the entire time. He finally pulled over and put his window down, looking back at me with a scared-****less expression. I put my window down, smiled, and said, “I love your car! I owned two of them!” and drove off.

He probably thought I was nuts. [I was.]

I romanticized my memory of the car so much that I became convinced that total strangers shared my fanatical level of affection.

I went through the same experience with a 1992 Infiniti Q45 I owned from 2003-2005. I bought it through autotrader — my friend Bo found the ad — and I spent every waking moment polishing, cleaning, and detailing it. It needed timing chain guides, the air conditioning was broken, it left me stranded about three times within the first couple months, and it had a serious alignment problem. Still, to me, it was automotive nirvana.

I paid $3600 for the car and proceeded to spend $7000 over the course of two years trying to keep it together, and that was mostly with labor I performed myself. I received free help and technical assistance from the good people at NICO Club. [Huge thanks to Wes.]


The infatuation was strong — I started Q45.org as an archive of the most important articles and posts from NICO and accumulated a mountain of Q45-related brochures, books, articles, and advertisements. I never did get the air conditioning to work for more than a few months at a time.

Finally, at 200,000 miles (35,000 miles later), I sold it for $900 to a guy from California. Last I heard, it was sold to someone else who then installed a body kit and a new transmission.

It didn’t end there.

A year later, in 2006, I got nostalgic and bought another Q45, this one from Los Angeles. I flew across the country and drove it home, discovering the remnants of Route 66 along the way.


Somehow, It wasn’t the same. It was too perfect, too well maintained, and didn’t “need” me like my last one did. Aside from a few squeaky suspension bushings, the car was flawless. I was even free to invest my time and energy into upgrading the sound system and buying a set of wheels (not pictured). I even played around with the exhaust.

It did have an intermittent injector issue which I could have repaired for ten dollars and 45 minutes of my time, but I used it as an excuse to leave — after less than a year of blissful motoring pleasure I sold it.

Why? Because I developed a love for misery. I longed for the stimulation of pain and suffering.

The relationships you remember most are the ones that excite you, the ones that make you crazy and cause you to do irrational things. But they’re never good for you.

And so it goes with automobiles.


07-07-11, 02:51 AM
I like all of your posts, but this one is beyond the others and is just awesome... thanks! And by the way, this part is so true: "The relationships you remember most are the ones that excite you, the ones that make you crazy and cause you to do irrational things."

07-07-11, 03:39 AM
I find that my most enjoyable cars were the ones that ended up just the opposite... Cars that everyone would have expected to be an outright nightmare, that treated me remarkably well. The Range Rover you were driving always stood out as an example of a car that could have done everything in its power to make my life MISERABLE and make me regret ever having traveled down that road... but it spared me for the most part, and I always respected it for that. My white 1998 STS was another car in that category.

Lord Cadillac
07-07-11, 11:48 AM
Cool read. You do know it's okay to link to Infiniti sites... Right?

07-07-11, 01:44 PM
Well, I've obviously gone for nostalgia with Betty, but like the '64 Impala I grew up with, she's proven pretty reliable over 12 years and 70,000+ miles (I bought her with 113,000 miles; she's at 186,000 now). That's not counting the current electrical snafu, which I attribute to age and possibly my own error with the cigarette lighter and HVAC fan. The engine, however, is rock solid. I did a rebuild at 126,000 miles for what turned out to be a burned valve. I could have just had a valve job done, but since I will never sell Betty and drive her regularly, I thought it made more sense to do a full rebuild. And after 11 years, that's proven to be the right decision.

I would enjoy having another first-generation Toyota Celica like the one I drove in high school and college if I could fine one in original, unmolested condition. There's been a '72 Celica on eBay recently that was even nearby in Portland and would have been an ideal candidate, but I can't afford another car right now, and I think the price is a bit high anyway.

I did go through some pain and suffering with Cruella when I first bought her in 2005, but with 200,000 miles and a $999 price tag, I couldn't really complain (and didn't). This was the first car I did a lot of my own repairs on out of necessity (and with help from this site; that's why I originally joined), so I was rather proud of the accomplishment (and shocked when a repair worked the first time). And most of them were a matter of age, mileage and deferred maintenance. Once those were taken care of, she turned out to be a very reliable car, and I developed a tremendous affection for the old girl. And while my niece doesn't keep Cruella immaculate like I did, she's still running strong at 267,000 miles, and I enjoy driving her whenever I visit North Dakota. It's like saying hello to an old friend.

Unlike Jesda, I'm not into automotive suffering. My Celica had a nervous breakdown as it approached 100,000 miles, and I spent the summer of 1986 needing one repair after another, seemingly something every week. And in the job I had that summer, I spent a good deal of my day driving around Abilene visiting advertisers for the newspaper, so the constant problems drove me nuts.

I want a car I can rely on, and for the most part, I've been very lucky. I'm also picky about how they look, so I would have likely passed on those 929s for that alone. For her age and mileage, Cruella was in remarkably good cosmetic condition, with only some cracking on the driver's seat (which I took care of), the infamous door armrest cracking (also taken care of) and a dented rear bumper (which I replaced myself). When I needed a cheap cash car, the Hondas and one Acura I looked at before I changed my search to old lady cars were in horrible cosmetic shape, and on top of that, the Legend had a busted power seat, shot shocks and broken A/C. It was also priced $500 more than Cruella. The $999 price for Cruella was what brought me to the dealer's lot, but the car's condition despite the mileage, and that it ran fine and all the accessories worked — most importantly the A/C — sold me on the car.

07-07-11, 02:23 PM
Cool read. You do know it's okay to link to Infiniti sites... Right?

Copypasta doesnt pasta the links

07-07-11, 03:45 PM
I have never had the same car twice (unless one counts the various year XJ6"s I leased for business). I have thought about buying another example of previous car (1971 Series I XJ6 comes to mind) but when I drove the cars after having sold them 15 years previously, I always found that they didn't measure up, in some area, to my fond memories.

If I had the room and energy to keep them all running I would like to have another Alfa Romeo 164 and an XK 150 drophead would also be nice. Of course they would have to be in at least as nice condition as the ones I sold so many years ago!

johnny kannapo
07-07-11, 06:07 PM
Isn't doing things over & over again with the same results the definition of insanity?

07-07-11, 06:18 PM
Jesda, if you remember, I drove that grey Q45 of yours at the Des Moines meet in 07 (actually that was where I met most of the group for the 1st time) and I remember I got on it from a stop, and it didn't wake up until about 4500 rpms, but when it did, it was like the wrath of god. The engine seemed to rev faster from 4500 to redline than it did from 0-4500, and the power curve just EXPLODED at 4500. Of all the DOHC V8's I've driven, nothing has felt like the Q45's.

07-07-11, 07:17 PM
VH45 really was an underrated motor. Fortunately, you can mate it to a manual and stick it in a 300ZX (or put a manual in a Q45).

07-08-11, 01:59 AM
Great write up, Jesda. I don't know what more I can say than that.