There are four types of Gearheads in this world: The Fixer, the Collector, the Racer, and the Hoarder. Fixers are those who mainly love the project of taking a junker and turning it into a custom ride or show quality restoration. Collectors are those who want to have a warehouse full of their four-wheeled trophies and investments. Racers are lead-footed speed junkies who can never satisfy their need for speed and will throw every cent they have into their race car. Lastly we have the hoarders, who dream of being racers or fixers but think they are collectors. We all know they have a far greater problem that a speed addiction or a rare part hunt, but we do not know why they choose to hoard their cars in a barn, field, warehouse, forest, or back yard and let it slowly rot into the earth.
When I was 16 years old, and finding any excuse to drive, I was exploring my city when I spotted a familiar shape in the backyard of a very rundown house on the side of the road. Naturally, I ripped the e-brake and turned around to satisfy my curiosity on what exactly that familiar shape was. What it turned out to be was a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner almost hidden away by over grown weeds. I knocked on the door to see if anyone was home and was greeted by an elderly woman who was kind enough to let me step into the landscaper’s nightmare of a yard to get a closer look at the car. The Plymouth was in sad shape with 90% of its paint burn off from the sun leaving only primer and getting eaten alive by Mother Nature, but it was full of potential in my eye. The same eye that began to twitch when I discovered the faded remains of plum crazy purple paint on the lower body of the car and pistol grip shifter sticking out of the floorboards inside the dusty interior.
Like any good Gearhead, I asked the elderly woman if the car was for sale knowing full well that any amount over 50 bucks would be too rich for my blood. That’s when I heard the all too familiar phrase, “not for sale”, which has the same heartbreaking weight of disappointment as a love interest telling you they just want to remain friends. Being as I was just a broke kid, I thanked her for letting me see the car and went on without giving it another thought… until recently. Nearly 6 years later, I was visiting my hometown to see the family and was cruising the streets when I passed the same house and noticed that the Plymouth was still there! The only way you can spot the car is if you wait for the wind to make the weeds dance which allows you to see the front fender of a car behind them. By now the car probably has weed growing through the rust holes in the floorboards and wrapping themselves around the pistol grip shifter.
My story is one of countless others of Gearheads discovering or chasing cars that an owner will refuse to sell based on a day dream of restoring it someday and then having to drive past it for years watching in depressing agony as the car falls further into decay. That is the clear difference between a hoarder and the other 3 types of Gearheads, because the other 3 would rather sell their cars to each other than let it face the long slow dead of rusting away into the wind. All Gearheads have a reason for what they do, and a car hoarder is no different, there is usually an emotional meaning behind keeping their cars.
Most car hoarders have a sentimental attachment to a car, whether it belonged to a family member who passed away or holds a special memory in their life. I have met people who own the car their father or mother had when they passed away and hold on to the car because of the sentimental value but cannot bare to look at it because it reminds them of the grief of knowing they are no longer with them. This leaves the car which no option but to just sit and rot with no chance of ever driving or being restored. Or they are saving the car for their children to grow up and restore together. The last reason I usually get is when they say that they have plans on restoring the car, “someday”, which never comes because life will always get in the way of a project.
A collector can turn into a hoarder when the collection begins to turn into a health hazard due to not being able to walk into a garage without falling over a car part or not being able to exit the garage in an emergency because there is so much stuff in the way. Keeping a collection of cars and not using them is also a sign of turning into a hoarder. Because not only does it defeat the purpose of a car, but it is no different than letting a car sit in the field for years at a time. A car has to move to live.
Whether you’re restoring a 68 Impala you found at a salvage yard, fitting a roll bar to your 700 horsepower street machine, or deciding which car out of the stable to take to the car show, remember to always keep them moving. Keeping a car stationary is like keeping a work of art covered up in the basement; you take away the purpose it was created for. Life has a habit of being over possessive in keeping Gearheads away from their cars, but we shouldn’t use it as an excuse. I will be returning to that home to ask if the Plymouth is now up for sale in order to rescue the Mopar from its fate. It is always disheartening seeing a classic being put out to pasture to get washed away by time, or locked away in a barn to turn into an urban legend. As Gearheads we should be trying to save them for the future generations instead of letting them fade away into the past.