Saturday, October 8, 2011

Saying goodbye to Betty

A couple of years ago, I let myself be talked into buying a car. It wasn't just any car, it was THE car. The car my husband has wanted since he was old enough to know what a cool car is. A 1968 Camaro.

He started watching ebay auctions and scouting craigslist, and soon enough he'd found one that seemed to good to be true (hmmmmm...). No matter that it was in California. It would be worth the drive! He told me if he could get it for a low enough price, it would be the deal of a lifetime. How could we pass that up?

The trouble started right away. We didn't get it for the price he said he'd max out at. The auction closed and the reserve hadn't been met. So he called the guy to see what was up. Maybe he wanted just a little bit more. Turns out, he wanted quite a bit more, but was willing to negotiate. We were out of my comfort zone, and I'll be completely honest - we didn't really have any of this money to spare. But I will take credit for my part in the debacle. I definitely didn't try to talk him down. I let myself get caught up in the oh-so-close to the realization of his dream. The owner threw out another number, I could tell my husband was sure this was going to be and I gave him the go-ahead.

He named her Betty.

Once we got the car home, the trouble got worse. Isn't that the way of things with old cars? Especially old cars that you don't really take the time to inspect because you just road tripped 800 miles (one way) to pick it up. We bought it under the impression that it had a newly rebuilt engine and was in great mechanical working order. It just needed an interior.

That was most definitely not the case. In reality, it needed way, way, way more work than that. The engine was a mess, it leaked transmission fluid like crazy, the electrical system was shot and who knows what else. My husband kept at it for a while, making plans and trying to wrap his head around where to even start with the thing.

Have I mentioned he doesn't actually know how to work on cars?

He can tinker a little, but he isn't a car guy. He figured he'd learn as he goes, and get help from people when he needed it. But pretty soon he was talking about stripping the whole thing down and basically starting from scratch. Do you know what that kind of thing costs? Oh heaven help me....

He got some parts and tools along the way. He took a welding class. He bought books, did tons of internet research and tried to really immerse himself in the world of muscle car restoration. But mostly, the car just sat.

Remember that part about the money? We didn't really have the money to buy the car in the first place. We definitely didn't have the money to even begin to restore it. So there it sat.

About six or seven months ago, he finally said it out loud. He was thinking about selling Betty. I admit, I'd been hoping he'd come to that conclusion. The reality of restoring this car was far more work, and far more expense, than we'd ever anticipated. We're struggling a bit financially, and the poor decision of buying this car had made the burden that much heavier. We certainly didn't have any extra money to put into the car and it's hard to imagine when we would. And even if we did have the extra money, is this what we'd really chose to do with it? Restore an old car? What about all the travel we'd love to do, the family vacations? What about putting money into our house, or actually saving  for retirement? What about our kids' education?

He talked about selling it off and on, but didn't really do anything about it for quite a while. I realized this had to be his thing. I didn't want him feeling like I pushed him into it. This needed to be his decision. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, he listed it on craigslist. He'd been thinking he really should get it running first, but I suggested he might list it as-is first, and see what happened.

A week went by with no response, but suddenly we got several calls. We felt we'd listed it at a fair price, but we weren't sure what to expect. In one of those coincidences that doesn't really seem like a coincidence, two people who were interested in the car showed up to look at it at the same time - one guy was a little late, and the other was a little early. It also turns out, they knew of each other and one guy did not think very highly of the other. He'd started out making casual comments about how the economy was bad and pointing out all the work the car needed, clearly setting himself up to start negotiating price. That is, until the other guy showed up. Suddenly, he seemed to decide he had to have this car. When the other guy left, he said he'd buy it for full price and muttered something about, "Yeah, that guy, he can't have this car. He'd never do it justice." We just sat back and watched the whole thing playout with a little bit of awe.

So now Betty is gone. The garage has a heck of a lot more room, and I'm not gonna lie, I'm excited to get my parking spot back.

Most of all though, I'm so proud of my husband. He wanted that car so bad. It was his dream. But he told me recently that even though he's dreamed of having a 1968 Camaro since he was a kid, it's still just a thing. Sure, it was a big thing, but a thing nonetheless. I heard him tell my brother today that, "Sometimes this is what it means to be a man. You gotta do what you gotta do for your family."

This helps us out financially in a really big way. It also frees us up later to do more things with our money. Not only did we really need the money we got from selling the car, future decisions won't have to be weighed in terms of whether to spend on the car, or take a vacation or sacrifice from something else. It is an emormous weight off of both our shoulders.

I'm sad he had to give up something that was so exciting for him. But I'm so proud of him for doing the right thing and putting aside his material desires for the benefit of his family. That wasn't an easy thing to do and I feel so blessed that he's man enough to make that call.

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