By Stan Albert
Have you ever had a dream? Maybe about that cottage up north, maybe that cruise around the world, or a Mount Everest climb or a vintage car?
I had a dream – or was it a nightmare?
It was a Victoria Day weekend and an old friend phoned to ask me to come over to his place. He said he had a surprise for me and that it was something I always wanted.
Inside his large garage was a 1973 Mercedes Benz 230 SL convertible in not-too-bad condition. What a beautiful little car. The interior had a custom Benz wood-grain interior, complete with a matching wood steering wheel and a Blaupunkt radio (no FM in those days). The mileage was only 115,000 miles. But hold on! The best part was the car was to be a gift as a token of my friend’s appreciation and friendship.
I asked my mechanic friend what he thought about restoring the car before I took ownership of it. Since he had never restored a car of collector vintage, my wife had some concerns about his ability to do so, but I pooh-poohed her and won the argument.
The car arrived at my mechanic’s lot a couple of days later. I had an appraiser come to examine the car. To my astonishment, he kicked the under-panels on the body of the car and chunks of rusted metal fell to the ground. The appraiser told us the car was worth only about $1,500 as is and could be sold only for parts. He offered to buy it for $1,500. After a brief discussion with my mechanic, he convinced me that he could do the work himself to my complete satisfaction. I had seen a number of older cars being restored at his garage and was confident he could do the job at a nominal cost. He wanted to be involved in the project.
That was in 2008.
As the spring rolled into summer and then fall, bills for essential car parts such as headlights, tail lights and a new battery were mounting. I had no idea how much all of this would cost.
On Thanksgiving Day, my wife and I received another call from my old friend, asking us to come to a barbecue at his home because he had another surprise for us. He had begun cleaning out his garage and found a steel roof that went with the car. I took it to my mechanic to complete my dream vintage car. I had found in my research that there was a vintage Benz auto club, which I joined at a nominal cost, expecting that I would soon be able to take part in their regular car rallies.
As winter 2009 approached, I asked my wife if I should put the brakes on the spending or if we should continue with the restoration project. After some brief discussion we decided we were in for a penny, in for a pound (as the saying goes). Since this was my dream, my wife encouraged me to continue, so on we went.
I saw my car parked outside of the mechanic’s garage a number of times and was concerned that the convertible roof was on instead of the metal roof. He kept assuring me that it was only temporary and it would be safe from the elements. This proved to be untrue. As the winter of 2009 morphed into spring, the mechanic had only a small amount of spare time to work on the car, since his garage is very popular in the neighbourhood. It was as though both he and I had some sort of addiction to this never-ending project.
Finally, in mid-summer, my wife and I got the chance to take the car for a spin. It was to be one of our few driving experiences in the car that summer.
As 2009 rolled into 2010 and then on to 2011, 2012, 2103 and 2014, we replaced and/or repaired some major components such as the floor panel, carpeting and the canvas top. We installed new seating and a re-built transmission – which was the straw that broke the camel’s back (and my bankbook).
With much regret I decided to sell the car through one of the auto magazines, but I didn’t get any interest. I received a call from a friend of my son in Eastern Ontario, who offered a fraction of what I was hoping to get for the car. We all know that something is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. Finally, I was satisfied to let go of this particular dream.
Well, I think one of the most important things in life is to have a dream. But to make that dream a reality, make sure you do your research. Make sure you have the financial wherewithal to bring that dream to fruition. Acknowledge that making a dream come true requires total commitment. And make sure you can recognize when it’s time to let that dream go and move toward having another plan.
Stan Albert, broker/manager, ABR, ASA at Re/Max Crossroads’ iRealty office in Toronto can be reached for consultation at [email protected]. Stan is now celebrating his 44th year as an active real estate professional.