As disclosed a short time ago, I am a qualified CPA here in Australia. The Australian Society of CPA’s once used the marketing phrase “Profit from our experience”. Given that marketing is the art of selling something rather than actually providing something, this is the first time I can personally say I’ve been able to use that phrase sincerely.
I should mention early on that this is a third piece in a series that seems to be developing here about my [hopeful] transition from serial car trader to satisfied car owner. It might help to open these in a new window and read them first…… if you haven’t seen them already, of course.
Part 1 – Hopelessly devoted to….changing cars
Part 2 – Legend
I’ll cut to the chase – if you’re an ‘X’ person, then don’t get tempted by ‘Y’ because ‘X’ is you. You can go after ‘Y’ if you like, but you’ll most likely experience some sort of remorse whilst ‘X’ waits on the sidelines for you to finish chasing your tail.
Now, the longer version……
My two greatest loves in the world of Saab automobiles (so far) are the Saab 99 Turbo and the Saab 9-3 Viggen. One old, one new. One nostalgic, raw and maybe slightly touchy, the other new, comfortable and quite reliable.
Both met their own unfortunate demise and I’ve been trying to fill the holes in my automotive life ever since. Only one attempt – the Alfa Romeo 33 16V – came close to the expectations I had for it, I’m afraid.
Here’s where I’ve made my biggest mistake – and had what I think is my biggest revelation.
Earlier this year I bought a car that I’ve always been keen on – my 1999 9-3 Monte Carlo. I’ve owned a Viggen before, which I came to really love prior to writing it off in a track day accident. I didn’t expect Viggen-like performance from the Monte (which has a 2-litre HOT engine and significantly less torque) but I guess I was channeling the Viggen a little at the time.
The truth is, I just didn’t have the money for a Viggen when I bought it. The only Viggen I would have allowed myself to buy belonged to my mate Richo, in Sydney, and I just couldn’t spend the amount he was (quite rightfully) asking.
The Monte had the curiosity factor for me, but when a car looks so much like a car that you’ve owned before, it’s disappointing when it doesn’t go like it, too. The Monte didn’t hold my interest tightly enough and whilst I had plans to upgrade it, those plans took some time to come to fruition.
Whilst I was getting my upgrade plans in order, I came into a little money via the sale of various assets, a government stimulus cheque and a few other bits and pieces. It all happened at the same time and all of a sudden, I had a sum serious enough to really consider a decent ‘toy car’. The Monte wasn’t holding my interest well enough – so why not?
It was at this point that I should have paused and answered that ‘why not’ question rather than be my impulsive self. Instead, I shopped around and picked up a car off my toy list – a Mazda MX-5.
Now – a word about the MX-5.
It IS hilarious fun. It a classic, lightweight roadster that really does look great, especially with the hardtop on. It features something that I really like in a car – very few gizmos. And it corners like a go-kart.
But it’s not something I can fall in love with. It’s a ‘Y’ and I’m an ‘X’ guy. What can I say? I’ve only had it a few short months but I know I probably won’t have it any longer.
Well, that’s a question with a two-fold answer.
First, I finally got 80% of my upgrades together for the Monte Carlo and once they were installed, they changed the car completely. With the Hirsch ECU upgrade it’s now got the power that I want. I can boot it and really feel something in my guts. With the Viggen shocks and springs, it feels a lot firmer. It’s not a Viggen. I know that. But it’s a mighty fine substitute.
It’s also got something I really like in a car – an air of rarity. It’s one of only 50 Monte Carlos, to start with. And to my knowledge, it’s one of only three cars in Australia that can truthfully wear a Hirsch badge at the moment. That’s not an ego thing (other cars have more aggresive tuning) but I do like the fact that it’s different.
Secondly, the MX-5 just doesn’t ignite any passion within me. It’s a lot of things, but an automotive aphrodisiac is not one of them. Not for me, at least.
I don’t have any buyer’s remorse. It’s been a valuable learning experience for me. All I can say is ‘thank goodness I didn’t buy the Porsche 944 I was looking at’. I’m sure I’d feel totally hollow about all this by now.
But I have learned that I should have waited for the Monte to become the fun car I tried to acquire with the MX-5. That would have left garage space and a whole pile of money for the car I believe will really satisfy my Saab lust – another 99 Turbo.
I guess that’s the moral of this whole story.
Profit from my experience: Be true to what you love in the automotive world.
I’ll finish this rather long-winded tale with an email I received from a former Saab owner in the UK. Slightly fed up with some problems his slightly older Saab was giving him, he made a switch to a BMW.
Here’s what he had to say this week via email:
I was just driving back from a meeting today and feeling the beautiful thick leather steering wheel, feeling the road through the car – and it dawned on me. Though I love the way the BMW drives, the feel of quality, the sure footedness and the thud of the suspension as it absorbs the road, I’m not in LOVE with it as I had been with my Saabs.
There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s good looking, some would say sexy even, finished with a quality that’s obvious… but there is something missing between car and driver… it’s almost like it’s too good… too perfect… looking to fulfil too much desire to be real and hence there’s a lack of real connection as a result.
The connection to the road is what BMW is famous for, but I wonder about the connection to the owner…
Now that’s what I’m talking about.
I’m not sure when or how it’s going to happen, but whilst I’ll happily keep the Monte Carlo as a fun daily driver, I think I’ll be selling the MX-5 soon and heading back to something I can be passionate about.
Somewhere out there, even if I have to build it myself, there is a 99 Turbo for me.