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Rules for Auto Enthusiasts

Bench Racing

by Ryan King

The world of automotive enthusiasts is both complex and varied.

We each have our own level of interest.

For a lot of people, simply being a fan and appreciating cars is enough.

For some, only becoming a smalltime restorer, racer, or collector is adequate to satisfy their urges.

It all depends on what works best for you.

Regardless of your level of interest, here are some wise rules to live by that will help you make your hobby one that is fulfilling, rather than frustrating:

  1. No matter how much involvement you require to feel satisfied, engage only as far as you can appreciate what you are doing, find enjoyment in your participation, and most importantly, live with. That "living with" part is crucial. In this hobby, you really need to understand the concept of sustainability, because it is very resource intensive and can easily lead to financial, energy and physical, as well as mental and emotional burnout.
  2. Educate yourself. This is a very, very rich subject to immerse yourself in. Whether you are talking history or technology, repair or use, restoration or fabrication, owning one car or 100, this is a hobby that doesn't just benefit from knowledge, it demands it. And because it demands it, one of the most financially damaging things you can do is think you know something – you actually have to know. It's critical.
  3. Do the best you can. In every aspect of the hobby, strive to do the best you can: buy cars and memorabilia in the best condition you can. Develop workspaces to the best that you can. Educate yourself the best you can. Etc. You might be surprised to find that engaging in a hobby in a half-assed way is an excellent way to ruin your hobby for yourself. It's very easy to get depressed and lose interest when you surround yourself with junk and/or aren't able to realize a dream because you find you can't turn the junk you have into the gems you wish you did.
  4. Learn to recognize where to draw the line. The truth is that doing the best you can isn't enough to find success. You might dream of owning a Camaro, and the best Camaro you can afford might be a disaster. If it is, you won't have the resources to do anything about it. You will be buying a pile of parts and a pile of parts it will stay. There also has to be a minimum standard you can live with, and a maximum you can achieve. Figure out what those are and be diligent about sticking to them – it's necessary to think critically about your limits every step of the way.
  5. Economics plays an important role in collecting and hobbies – especially one as intensive as a car hobby. The problem is that hobbies – especially collecting – have a very different set of rules than personal finance or even business, and the overly simplistic economic concept of supply and demand just doesn't even begin to touch on them. When it comes down to hobbies, value, worth, and cost stem from one single principle: what will you or someone else spend on it. That is, value, worth, and cost are dictated solely by personal values and desires, and those values run amok in the hobby world. You might be willing to part with $100,000 dollars for your dream car, or you might only be willing to part with $1,000, but neither is actually representative of market value – which fluctuates constantly. Meaning that you will either spend an amount you will never, ever be able to come close to recouping should you want or need to, or never ever get your dream car. And when it comes to space, equipment, and such for work, the costs get weird because you may be forced to decide between the worth to you to perform whatever work you want to perform versus the cost of a piece of professional equipment that only makes financial sense for a volume operation – meaning that if you want to do your own frame straightening for fulfillment reasons or because you think it will be cheaper or because you want it done to a personal standard, the harsh reality is that it's going to require a lot of time, education, and money to do it well, and a lot less costly to have someone else do it – but on the flip side, there's a good chance they won't do the job to your personal standards or you won't be able to fulfill a life-long dream, or whatever else plays an important personal role in the decision.

Ultimately, a hobby is about your fulfillment in life. Whatever you need to feel fulfilled is what you should work to achieve and has nothing to do with anyone else's values or desires – unless you make it about that (and if you do, I wish you the best of luck).

If you're interested in more about collecting and hobbies, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the out of print book by Laurie Rozakis, the Complete Idiot's Guide to Buying and Selling Collectibles, Second Edition. The summary for chapter four is where I got the inspiration for this post.

Enjoy!

Ryan