Should I Own My Dad’s Cherished Car, a Porsche 911? The Vintage Car Conundrum

Me And The 1982 Porsche 911 Sc. Photo: Rich Lacey
Me and the 1982 Porsche 911 SC. Photo: Rich Lacey

Oh, the tyranny of the heirloom.

I can sympathize with those who suffer the destiny of inheriting someone else’s cherished treasures, from seemingly priceless china to a vintage car. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way several years ago when, as I was getting some items from my family appraised, the appraiser asked questions about some of them. Who did they belong to? Where did they come from? I had few answers to his queries, other than “I think it was my great grandmother’s,” or some equivalent with a different relative I had never known and items I had never used in any non-holiday capacity. The appraiser raised his eyebrows and said, “Ah, the tyranny of the heirloom.”

“The what?” I asked. He explained, “Some person way back in our family decides that something is valuable, and that no one should get rid of it. So the object gets handed down, over and over, no one knowing exactly what to do with it. But everyone abiding to never get rid of it. And so it goes, on and on. People holding on to stuff without knowing why.”

I loved the appraiser’s comment. I loved the articulation about the weight of someone else’s treasured items becoming a conundrum or (worst case scenario) a burden—the foisting of a difficult decision onto someone else’s shoulders.

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1982 Porsche 911 Sc At Red Rocks. Photo: Sara Lacey

1982 Porsche 911 SC at Red Rocks. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Question is, do you Love It?

So you can imagine my thought process when it came to light that my dad was considering getting rid of his beloved 1982 Porsche 911 SC. It was the car that consistently took up a space in the garage when it wasn’t going out for a summertime weekend drive, only to be immediately washed and pampered before being returned to it’s stall. I went along on those drives for many years, starting when I could fit in the back in the teeny-tiny seats with the fold-down backs, and continued after I moved into the front passenger seat. My memories kept me tethered to the Porsche.

Obviously, I wanted to keep the car. It is a tangible piece of my childhood that I can hold on to. And of course, my dad loves the car almost beyond measure. He is the original owner of the car. It would be so deeply difficult for him to sell it, because as I’m sure you’ve surmised, he’s not getting rid of the car because he doesn’t want it, there’s just no room for it anymore. The question was, as much as I loved the Porsche, were my husband and I ready to take it on? Was this going to be a “tyranny of the heirloom” situation? Is loving it enough?

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New Momo Steering Wheel. Photo: Rich Lacey

New Momo steering wheel. Photo: Rich Lacey

Does a Vintage Porsche 911 have a lot of Baggage?

First off, I can’t believe a car from 1982 is considered “vintage.” 1982 was only a few years ago, wasn’t it? But here we are, much older than we were then, and so are our parents. The current state of affairs at my mom and dad’s house is starting to become one of slow purging of physical objects. This is difficult not only because it’s just hard to clean out a house and get rid of things they don’t want or need anymore; it’s difficult because now I have to decide whether or not I want or need them. And boy, is it hard.

My dad was more of a collector of the Porsche; he didn’t drive it much. And I worried that he would be upset with me if I drove it a lot. And what if—I can scarcely bring myself to consider it—it got a dent or a scratch on my watch? My dad and I had a chat, in which I told him that my husband and I were probably going to drive it more than he did. And that it may see a little more wear and tear as a result. So if he wanted to sell the car to someone who was going to keep it garaged, I understood that. He confessed that his one regret was that he didn’t drive it more. He assured me that he was fine with me using the car as I wished. I felt relief with this permission, and we decided to move ahead with becoming its new owner.

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Honoring My Dad By Parking Far Away. Photo: Rich Lacey

Honoring my dad by parking far away. Photo: Rich Lacey

A Few Administrative Hurdles to Vintage Car Ownership

Before I could hop in the car and drive the Porsche 911 off into the sunset, the transfer of ownership transaction had to take place. I also had to be sure the car was insured. I learned that special cars like my dad’s really need a unique insurance policy. Because the Porsche was in such good condition with such low miles, it’s not insured like a day-to-day car.

In our case, we use Hagerty, who insures the car for the collectible value, not just the nuts and bolts value of a Porsche of the same year that has many more miles and more wear and tear. We had to get the car evaluated for its quality, it received a rating based on its condition. Hagerty has a few other requirements for this insurance. These requirements include that the car is an extra vehicle, not for primary use; it must be in good or better condition; it must be worth more than $3,000 dollars; the car must only be used for pleasure driving, not daily use; and the car must be housed in a protected environment (garage, carport or driveway). It seems like a lot of requirements, but the Porsche met them all, and it put me at ease knowing that if anything happened, the car would be repaired or replaced according to its collector value.

We also learned that in Colorado we can get a “Collector Car” license plate. The designation means we don’t have to get an emissions test every year, but every five years instead. The caveat is that we need to drive the car fewer than 4,500 miles per year. This is doable, as the car won’t be a daily driver. I want to drive the car more than my dad did, but I’m not driving it cross-country on the regular.

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A New Shift Knob, Steering Wheel And Stereo Make The Car Feel More Like Mine. Photo: Sara Lacey

A new shift knob, steering wheel and stereo make the vintage car feel more like mine. Photo: Sara Lacey

Living with my Collectible Car is Actually Pretty Easy. So Far

Owning the Porsche is a little more interesting than owning a new car, but I was surprised that it hasn’t really taken much work and attention on a regular basis to keep it happy and functional. On most days, the car starts up easily, and drives like a dream once it’s warmed up. It smells of gasoline and exhaust and I love it. The more you drive it, the better it gets. But there is no power steering, no antilock brakes, I sometimes think the air conditioning operates via placebo effect.

My dad happened to keep his car in great shape, so most anything we need to do is in line with maintenance and regular upkeep. He had almost every single receipt, and the vast majority of the maintenance and repairs were done at the same shop. I will continue to go to the same shop.

Porsche By Some Cool Doors. Photo: Sara Lacey

Porsche by some cool doors. Photo: Sara Lacey

The main issue we have now is deciding if and how I want to make any updates to the Porsche. As of now, anything I have done isn’t anything that can’t be undone. For example, the interior was freshened up with a new shift knob and a new steering wheel. We got new floormats and carpet for the frunk. We have kept all the original parts, maybe all for nothing but it feels good to have all that on hand, just in case. But all decisions are carefully thought through, nothing done without considering the impact on the integrity of the car. It’s been fun to make our own mark on this heirloom, making new memories and creating a new connection with the Porsche.

So in a nutshell, at this stage of the ownership game, I have to be mindful of the miles. And I have to replace the tires. Not because of wear but because of age. And so far, that is it. Not bad. Knock wood.


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How it’s Going

Sure, living with an object so cherished by someone else can have its pitfalls. So far, ownership of the Porsche has gone really well. My dad comes over and visits the car and is so happy he can do so. The best feeling for him is knowing that I love the car as much as he did. The best feeling for me is knowing I can own it the way I want to. No tyranny, no regrets.

The Open Road Hits Different In A Vintage Car. Photo: Rich Lacey

The open road hits different in a vintage car. Photo: Rich Lacey

Sara has written about cars since 2005. She used to beat them up with her kids and write about... More about Sara Lacey