I grew up in Detroit. I have the disease.
My first bout with it involved a 1977 Chevy Camaro that I purchased for a mere $100, an investment that was soon dwarfed by the cost of the Bondo required to patch the rust holes in the fenders, not to mention the spray paint that, for the first time in years, made the car one solid color — primer red. There were additional expenses — the carburetor that had to be rebuilt, and the valve cover gasket I had to replace. Then there was the exhaust manifold and muffler, and the alternator, and the radiator, and the hole in the floor on the passenger side, and the horn, and the plugs, and the battery ... My brother and I split entire summers between the restaurant where we waited tables, and the cars under which we slaved and slept.
Determined as I was to distance myself from the car-killer curse suffered by my father, my first car still became my first money pit. However, unlike my father, who took new cars and drove them until the wheels fell off (OK, the wheels actually fell off only one of the cars he owned), I was investing in an education. Every dollar I put into that beat-up old Camaro was more than matched in blood and sweat. And in return I received invaluable knowledge, as well as the ability to recognize any crooked auto repairman seconds after he suggests an unnecessary repair. But with this knowledge also came an affliction that is difficult to describe. And so, each year, I pay a visit to the Auto Show alone.
Despite the anticipation going in, most times I leave feeling drained and depressed. (The Big Three lost my attention about the time Ford transformed the Mustang into a hatchback.) This year was mostly more of the same in that regard, except for the Chevrolet Camaro concept car, a version of which is set to hit assembly lines in 2009, and showrooms in the 2010 model year — provided there's still a GM assembly line up and running next year. Not that I'll be in the market for one, but I might pretend long enough to take a test drive.