so i’ve been stalking teh intarwebs lately for cars. specifically: car. a 1973 Ford Mach 1 Mustang fastback, preferably with a 351-Windsor, preferably a manual transmission, preferably driveable, preferences in that order. i want to replace the mustang that burned, but if i got one in a better condition than the old one (and/or with a manual, which i prefer driving; dad’s was an automatic), that wouldn’t be too bad.

last week i had a decent lead on one down around st. louis, a project car that was startable but not drivable (at least, not until it got a thorough checking-over and possibly a new fuel tank), in good shape, for like three grand, but the ebay auction got pulled with like 12 hours to go, as the seller sold it locally. i was bummed, but, you know, them’s the breaks — besides, it had a 302 anyways. pfffft, weeaaaaaaak.

today i idly browsed back over to ebay and imagine my shock when i found one that was almost a replica of dad’s — 351-Cleveland instead of Windsor (2-barrel carb vs. 4, stock, but this one had been retrofitted with a 4-barrel), and with a rear spoiler, and inexplicably blue vinyl upholstery on the seats in an otherwise black interior, but otherwise, dad’s car, down to the exterior color and the decal Mach 1 details. 89,291 miles on the odometer (but since it couldn’t roll over to six-figures, the seller said “let’s call it 189,291″). not just running, not just in good shape — showable. not a collector’s car because of the modifications (the blue and silver scheme was also not original; it was originally green), but nonetheless, in great shape — even the underbody was basically rust-free. oh, it was beautiful. and the high bid was $8,000, with an hour and 45 minutes left on the clock.

enter: me.

i have a small stash of cash on hand, what i’ve been putting aside since paying off my credit cards. it’s mostly my tax refund, which went straight into savings. and my mastercard is more than happy to offer me 0% promo checks all the damn time — as a matter of fact, i just shredded the latest batch yesterday (i have opted out repeatedly; they don’t seem to have noticed). and i thought… i could totally buy that car.

so i examined the listing. i went over all the photos (did i mention how fantastic the underbody was??? they had photos of it up on the lift, and dude, my passat probably doesn’t look that rust-free.). i looked for gotchas. i thought up questions to ask the seller. i made sure the title was clear. i checked the driving distance between chicago and south carolina, where the car was, and priced amtrak tickets. i called d. and m. for advice. i reloaded the page obsessively. i decided what my maximum bid was — $10k. i thought that for The (replacement) Car, i was okay with taking on the credit card debt again.

i imagined the triumphant unveiling — i had it all planned out — i would drive to peoria, and stash it in the parking lot of the bar around the corner from my dad’s place, then go up there and get him to come out for “a beer,” and surprise him. i was completely and totally prepared to be The Best Daughter EVER. i pulled up quicken just to look, and ponder how a “1973 Ford Mach 1 Mustang” asset would look, listed up there next to “2001.5 Volkswagen Passat.”

and then, with 7 minutes left to go on the auction, and without having bid anything yet so as not to tip my hand, i realized that i really didn’t want to have credit card debt again. maybe if it had been a couple of grand, and i could have gotten it paid off in relatively short order… but even at a 0% APR, the thought of seven grand of credit card debt again… all those accounts that i have that are zeros now, i mean… i worked so hard, and seven thousand dollars is a lot of money. even for a car. even for a car i have wanted to drive since i was old enough to know what a car was. so it turns out that even though i was willing to pay ten grand, seven grand was too high a price.

in the end, it wasn’t a decision i had to make. bidding picked up the pace in the last few minutes, and — although i was just *waiting* for it to sell, in the end, for less than i was originally prepared to pay — it leapfrogged my would-be max bid, from $9200 to $12500 in one bid. the final selling price was $13,655, which is still a damn good price — for the condition in which it was described, $15-$17k wouldn’t necessarily be out of line.

i guess it was a valuable life lesson. i know now that when it comes down to it, although i might think i am cool with using my credit for the car, i am actually not. i don’t want to amass a big chunk of debt again. it’s a surprisingly bitter pill to swallow, for some reason. i’m a little sad i’m not sitting here gleefully contemplating my trip to south carolina right now, but … someday my savings will be able to afford me that car. and if it’s not exactly the right shade of blue with silver decals when i get it, why, then, i’ll just paint that sucker myself.