Suffering From The Fever


I have the fever.  I mean The Fever.  No, I am not ill, so this is not the kind of fever most people get.  The Fever I suffer from is like a seasonal allergy, but where an allergy makes you avoid things, this Fever makes you crave instead.  And this Fever is much, much stronger than most other seasonal ailments.  What I suffer from is Car Fever.

This has been going on since I was in my teens.  In summer and winter, I am typically fine.  There are outdoor things to keep me occupied in the hotter months of the year and plenty to do indoors in cold weather.  But without fail, every spring and every fall, something happens inside of me to set off this almost irresistible craving for a new (or at least different) car.

At last count, I have owned 29 different cars in my lifetime.  Although only a handful have been either new or nearly so, 29 cars is still 29 cars.  In 40 years of car ownership, this works out to about one every year and four months.  That’s a lot of turnover.

It all started innocently enough.  My very first car (a 1967 Ford Galaxie convertible) provided a year and a half of happy ownership.  But then I got it painted and decided that it was too nice for daily driving.  So I bought another for regular road duty, a 1963 Cadillac.  It was September of 1978.  In March of 1979 I realized that the costs of keeping one and driving a second was killing me, so I sold them both and bought another- a 1968 Mustang.  In October I fell in love with yet another (1959 Plymouth Fury) and in one of my less savvy financial moves traded straight up.  It was a very nice Plymouth, if that helps.  Then came spring of 1980 and, guess what?  You are catching on.

Financial exigencies eventually slowed me down in my endless cycle of new love, but the almost primal urge to replace (or augment) whatever keys were in my pocket at any given time has never left me.  And I am writing this because it is early October again, and I am in a misery not much less severe than nicotine withdrawal.

In my spare time, I noodle around the internet on various car sites.  I have lately been in a Studebaker mood, which is not all that common among people my age (or any age, for that matter.)  Why Studebakers?  They were the last homegrown car company in my home State of Indiana and I just find them fascinating.  Besides, they make perfect “play cars” because they are dirt-simple and mechanically robust.


There is a guy locally offering a black 1948 Commander sedan that looks really, really nice in the pictures.  The problem is that the engine is stuck, so the price is low.  There is a guy in Texas who has posted a video series on getting a white 1958 Commander sedan back on the road.  The problem is that it is ugly and unpopular (and a little rough inside), so the price is low.  So, one won’t run, and the other doesn’t look that great.


The ’48 is appealing because it was one of the most advanced cars on the market at the time.  It was also a car that would have made its first owner overflow with pride at having a modern new car when his friends and neighbors were still on waiting lists and most of the competition was still selling thinly disguised prewar models.


The ’58 calls to me for the opposite reason.  It was made by a company on the brink of bankruptcy that had almost no money available for a new model, and virtually every detail of the car shows it.  The few people who bought them were those loyalists who wouldn’t think of buying another brand “because a Studebaker was always what Dad (or Grandpa or Uncle Clem) said was best.” This could have been the least appealing new car of 1958 which has a charm that only lovers of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree could understand.

This isn’t about hoarding or showing off.  My thing is experiencing something new.  Listening to the sounds, smelling the smells, and running my hands across the smooth cold chrome plated surfaces that have disappeared from our modern vehicles.  It’s all about the machine and how that machine was designed to interact with us on a visual and tactile level.  I love to fall into the whirlpool of stupid little details like the feel of the action of the shift lever or the sound of the starter as the engine fires to life through parts whose basic design goes back before the days of the Coolidge administration.

I have no business buying another car.  I have my little red ’97 Miata (in addition to two regular cars for daily use) and who needs more than that, right?  I completely agree.  Besides, I only have a 2 car garage so another old car would push the Mrs.’ minivan out into the driveway.  I am willing to scrape ice off of my own windshield to keep a cheap old car happy and dry in the garage, but Mrs. JPC (who is normally quite patient with me about these things) does not share that outlook.  You have no doubt heard the expression “Happy Wife, Happy Life.”  Her car parked outside year around would bring about that expression’s opposite.

I also have a huge list of things that need to be done in the house, in the yard, at my office and yes, with  my other cars.  I also have plenty of places in my life that should get that money before I spend it on another car.  But knowing what I need to do or what I should do doesn’t make this Fever go away.  In fact, putting on the brakes of reality only make it worse, in the way that not giving in for that oh-so-needed cigarette makes the cravings of a new ex-smoker continue worse than before.  Sadly, I don’t think my priest would consider this an appropriate case for an anointing of the sick.  Unless it has developed into an active Studebaker lust, in which case confession might be more appropriate.

I suppose that I could just sell the Miata.  This addresses all of the above by not adding to the time or expense involved.  At least until I start fiddling with a new car in my obsessive way.  But then this is perfect weather for cruising with the top down, which makes the Miata hard to give up.  And in any event, my Fever doesn’t make me itch to get rid of a car, just to acquire one.

I have picked up a little wisdom through the years, at least enough to realize that the cycle would start all over again next spring no matter what I do now.  And isn’t knowing that you have a problem the first step in recovery?

The good news here is that it is only about cars.  I have known people who go through a never-ending series of short term relationships with love interests, homes, jobs, hobbies, addictions and a number of other things, and I have at least been stable in these other areas of my life.  I also realize that buying another car to fiddle around with is not going to make me 20 years old again, a time when I had few responsibilities and could justify spending way too much money and time on something in the garage.

So I suppose that there is nothing else to do but to try and stay occupied with other things until The Fever has passed.  It always has run its course before, and no doubt will this time as well.  Uh oh, the guy with the white ’58 just knocked $400 from his asking price.  Here we go again.


17 thoughts on “Suffering From The Fever

  1. Go for the ’48 and do an SBC swap!!!!!!!1!

    Just kidding.

    I get these urges too but I have managed never to pull the trigger. If I had, I would have owned at least: a Karmann Ghia, a Ford Ranger pickup, a Volvo 240, a Volvo 240 wagon, a ’67 Impala hardtop coupe, and an’ 89 MGM. I came closes on the last two.


  2. Here’s a thought….

    Buy one of these for Mrs. JPC. It could be early birthday, Christmas, anniversary, whatever. You could say that you have seen the sheer delight in her eyes from being in the Miata and you wanted her to experience the same euphoria you always have and, to ensure her unyielding happiness, you’ll do all the wrenching on it.

    You could also guarantee her the engine will never, ever, fall out while she’s driving it. That should mean something right there.

    Sadly, she might accuse you of being full of something organic, but this entire scenario is just a thought. It’s also something I’d be tempted to do to (for?) Mrs. Jason.


  3. Another vote for the 48 here, do it. Stuck engine is way easier than an interior, ask me how I know. Just find a good engine on Craigslist from someone who is building rat rod.

    A Studebaker can live outdoors under a cover, closed cars were designed for weather exposure. Remember my Curbside Classic article about Studebakers? There’s a 1950 Stude in my neighborhood that is outside from April-November. Besides they’re basically worthless so it’s not like you’re putting your $200,000 exotic on the street. And you’re just going to sell it next year anyway…

    I share your fever, but somehow my hoarding instincts are stronger so I tend towards long term ownership of old cars with constant searching on the side. I sent this link to my Dad yesterday, 38 Chrysler?

    (Dad’s first car was a 38 Desoto which looks the same but there are fewer around)


    • Gaaaa, you CC readers are NOT HELPING! 😭. I believe you about engines v interiors, btw, although the companion rule is that interiors are cheaper and easier than dealing with rusty bodies.


      • Well, what did you expect me to say? You’re from Indiana, I’m from Hamilton. That practically makes us the Batman and Robin of Studebakers, and the 48 is even black! And like I always tell Dad, who else is going to care about these cars?

        I think Paul might call a CC meetup in Detroit next year, you will need something to drive there. 🙂 Always happy to help.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ok, I’m going to help and be the voice of reason here. 😉

    The ’58 is just a big NO. A whole bucket of nope. Listen to your wife, she obviously has good taste.

    I’ll admit that the ’48 is tempting, but… Do you want to wrench on it?, Do you want to pay a bunch of money for somebody else to wrench on it? And really, wouldn’t you rather have one with the bullet nose?

    This is clearly the worst time of year to buy a fun car. By the time you get it sorted out it will be too late in the season to drive it, it will fill up your garage all winter, and by the time spring comes around it won’t be new anymore.

    So obviously this gives you 6 whole months to window shop before buying something in the spring! 🙂


    • Finally someone has my six. 😃. The thing about wrenching is that I really want to, just like I want to host lots of parties during the holidays. The problem is that in real life, I have a hard time actually making it happen.

      And I am one of the few who never much cared for the bullet nose. Jason Shafer said it best when he called it the 57 Chevy of Studebakers.


      • I like ’57 Chevies, always have from the days when they were still pretty common sights on the roads. But as a young child, the bullet-nose Studes were kinda creepy, like a 3-eyed human, and that feeling has stuck with me for 55 years. My suggestion is a Studebaker pickup. A cool classic, and a practical dump and Home Depot vehicle rolled into one.


      • I will have to try Turkey Hill again. I remember being disappointed with a lack of density, but that’s been quite awhile and they may have made changes in that time.
        I knew that Breyers was from Philly. My grandmother used to tell a story about how one of the Breyers was in my aunt’s circle of friends


  5. Pingback: A Cheap Date | J. P. Cavanaugh's Blog

  6. That “bullet nose” on the Studebakers is not a bullet nose. It’s an airplane propellor. My parents had a 1950 Studebaker Champion when I was born. It was the first car I rode across the country in, when I was four, and the Studebaker was 7, with 90 thousand miles on it (10k-11k of that from three prevoius x-country trips my father had taken alone, while the rest of the family flew).

    As for the aesthetics of the nose like a swirling propellor, as I call it, I can’t judge. That car played a special role in my life, as the first car that I knew intimately. I filled the rear ledge with pine cones, which stayed there until the cross-country trip, when I reluctantly agreed that we could get rid of them. EArlier, I had asked my parents to put a fence across the rear ledge, to keep the pine cones from falling down onto the seat. It SEEMED like a good idea to me! My brother and I and Mab, the 75 lb airedale spent days back there, both on the Seattle to LA trip at the beginning of the summer where I turned 3, and LA to Seattle at th end of the summer, as well as the x-country trip from Menlo Park to Cambridge. Those were real good times in the back of the Studebaker, even when Mab stretched across the rear seat, pushing my brother and me onto the floor.

    I’m usually very opinionated on automotive aesthetics. But this time, I’m not going to weigh in. Because I loved the ol’ Stude, but, yeah, maybe it’s a little bit ugly.


    • I love reading memories of old childhood car trips. My own was in the back of a 64 Olds Cutlass from Indiana to California and back in the summer of 1965 when I was about 6. No dog though, just me and my little sister.


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