I was wiping a soft dust cloth across the hood of my 1961 vintage Corvette when a neighbor poked his head in my garage door. "How much you take for her?" Eddie asked, in humor, I suspected. "Couldn't part with my baby," I replied, not giving his question a second thought. Eddie knew how much time and effort I had invested in restoring this classic convertible. In fact, he had lent me a hand re-installing the motor after it had been rebuilt by a high-performance engine specialist. It had been a tricky task inching the heavy motor into its tight cavity without leaving a scratch. "What if I offered you $30,000 cash?" Eddie tried to tempt me. I knew he didn't have that kind of money. It was playful banter. "Well, you'd have my attention," I admitted and went on wiping a light settling of dust from the near-flawless black and silver paint. The following day Eddie showed up at my door with a friend he introduced to me as a classic car collector. "He'll give you $30,000 for your Vette," Eddie said, wearing a big smile. "He wants to take a look at it." I was caught completely off guard, flattered that another car enthusiast would want to see my pride and joy, but not at all ready to part with her - even for a very attractive offer. We walked to the garage, Eddie talking non-stop about how I had restored every nut and bolt to its original condition, how unbelievably fast the car was, how I had never driven it in the rain. I pulled off the dust cover, raised the hood and fired her up. Like three over-grown boys, we stood there admiring the gleaming chrome and rumbling power. Yes, Eddie's collector friend said, he was definitely interested. He'd come back the next day with the money.
It had all happened so fast and unexpectedly that I hadn't had time to ask myself if I really would consider selling the car. I had allowed these men to assume that I would sell but inside I felt nothing but reluctance. This was the first and only car I had ever restored. It was my dream car, the fulfillment of a fantasy that began when I first laid eyes on a '61 Corvette my senior year in high school. Only one who has been smitten can understand the romance that can exist between a man and such a machine.
Peggy was tolerant of this romance. It was good for me to have a hobby, she had often commented. And besides, she enjoyed going out on weekend cruises with her hair blowing in the wind. It was fun, too, watching people point and smile at the sight of a classic from the muscle car era. But from time to time the car had become a source of mild tension between us. For years, Peggy had wanted to convert my garage into a guest house. Each time the subject came up, however, there was always the problem of where I would store my Vette. If we added an attached garage to our house, two one-hundred year old oaks would have to come down. And adding onto the existing garage raised zoning issues with the city. Our discussions always ended up in the same place - it was just not feasible to have both a guest house and a garage for me to work on my car.
The impending return of Eddie and his collector friend stirred up turmoil in my viscera. The price he had offered was certainly tempting. Yet, if I held onto the car it would continue to appreciate over time. Working on the car had been good therapy for me but I had to admit that most of the restoration was now completed. What about Peggy's desire to have a guest house where her gift of hospitality could be more fully expressed? Plus, there was the reality of her aging parents who would likely need family support when they were no longer able to live independently.
The argument was still teeter-tottering in my head the next day when a beautifully restored 1955 GMC flatbed truck rolled up in front of our house. Out stepped Eddie and the collector. He had the money, the collector said, and was ready to do the deal. My moment of decision had arrived. If I said "yes" would I forever regret parting with the dream I had finally realized? Yet, what was the higher value at stake here - to hold onto my toy and the house I had built for it or to afford Peggy the joy of transforming the space into a warm place of hospitality where her best gifts could be expressed? Was there really any doubt?
I spread out the papers on my workbench - title, registration, bill of sale, detailed files on the car's history - and endorsed the ownership over into the collector's name. He handed me a certified check. In less than 20 minutes my little jewel was loaded and pulling away aboard the GMC flatbed.
Peggy and I stood in our front yard watching as my beloved Vette disappeared down the street. In Peggy's hand was a check, the construction money for her long dreamed of guest house. For a long time we stood there in silence until the truck and its precious cargo disappeared from sight. Then she slipped her arm around my waist and pulled me close. We looked at each other and smiled. And walked arm in arm back into the house.
PS - A note to friends: If you need a place to spend a restful night or two in Atlanta, let us know. Peggy's charming little carriage house is now completed and the welcome mat is out.