A collector speaks.
Mocking the afflicted is pointless when practically everyone suffers in one form or another. Collecting after all is part of what it is to be human. Possibly derived from our early hunter-gatherer instincts or maybe we’re just aping magpies – drawn by the shiny, fascinated by the interrelation? Far from being self conscious, my collections are varied; for instance, twelve Citroën books, genres of CD’s, scale model cars.
When you scratch below the surface or try to intuit the meaning, most of it is pointless. But it’s my pointless and over the years they have given me great pleasure. To enhance or alter a mood, my cd collection can rise to the occasion. Should my eyes wish to pour over a 1/32 scale Corvette that raced at Le Mans in 2004 (which I enhanced by weathering around brake ducts, spilt fuel stains, etc) and glean a fond memory of seeing the actual car race, I can. Well, I could. Owing to hostile feelings towards being exhibited, the huge problem of any form of collection is not just the space required to store them, but what to do with it all?
I have friends with enormous book and cd collections, both of which resembles walking into a shop (remember those?) selling nothing but Transport or Classical. Part of the fun is the buzz one feels from finding something new, is it not? Or just being plain bloody-minded.
I distinctly remember entering my local Porsche dealership just days after it opened; I collared a salesman, my intimations being to buy a car. He beamed with a saint-like smile before changing to that of Beelzebub himself upon learning that it was a scale model 911 my heart desired. Hastily pointed in the direction of merchandise, dismissed and forgotten. The car remains boxed, too.
Far from being a sociological interpreter or about to produce a thesis on the semiotics of alphanumerical classification (still aiming for that B+ at the University of Life…), with our ever more affluent societies and that dreaded phrase disposable income, the vulgar head of money rises to the fore.
Magnus Walker, the Urban Outlaw, fellow Sheffield-ite (although never met, what with him living in Los Angeles and considerably wealthier than this humble scribe), has become quite the Stuttgart product addict. As with many of us, the catalyst often emanates from strong memory. For Walker, this was viewing a 911 on a trip with his dad to the Earls Court Motor show, aged ten. With time and accrued lucre, he could entertain his collection to a highly nuanced degree, seeking out specific years and specifications. The argument will forever rage from some less engendered to these worldly trappings that you ‘can only drive one at a time.’ And when does obsession take over from simple interest?
Surely even a jaded soul with the slimmest modicum of car enthusiasm must twinkle a little inside when the door opens to reveal a pristine collection of reverential motors, no? Mr Walker’s homage to Zuffenhausen’s creations could easily be described as eclectic, over-indulgent, colossal, or downright stupid, depending upon one’s frame of mind. Either way, one has to admire his dedication. See also John Duddington, the man who invented the Take a Ticket machine and his purchase of a former car park to store his life-size Matchbox © collection in.
How such passions irk our partners! But regardless of the depths we mine, depths which only true aficionados can revel in or speak of with authority, we shrug off the cost implications over a lifetime’s indulgence.
Then we turn the corner to reveal this – the forgotten collection. As splendid a living and breathing museum is, how do we get to this temple to the forlorn? Whilst Magnus has only to open a door and choose which car in which to have a night drive around town, the unknown accumulator of this collection leaves far more questions than answers.
One really does have to wonder at the scale of acquisition. Given the majority of the vehicles have seen forty-plus years since they were built, never mind used, perhaps the cars were bought for a song. Given away? For it appears the French countryside is littered with such rusting hulks, abandoned to the elements, if recent magazine reports are to be believed.
What possibly started out as a hobby, a pastime away from the day job farm or garage; a couple of cars in a shed soon expanded (as collections do) to ‘leave the Opel there, I’ll get round to it.‘ And of course, never getting around to sorting out the Commodore, in any sense of the term, since the lure of securing the next car will prove stronger.
And so the collection grows, to the point where storage fields are required, which turn into woodlands, which evolve into these enigmatic yet hopeless heaps of junk, pounced upon by fortunate photographers and ogled at with collective sighs of appreciation by enthusiasts like me.
And yet no-one knows the presumably deceased proprietor; surely someone in the nearby villages knew Reneé/ Danny/ Gustav/ Earl (delete as appropriate) and his love of collecting cars out on the farm? It’s the kind of conversation to crop up in any kind of local bar or shop. We are at a time where these kind of collections will ultimately disappear, since I seriously doubt anyone in the year 2120 will find a field full of Tesla’s, Leaf’s and Escalade’s. They may exist on a server somewhere, filed under Old Collections, soon forgotten.
Me? Still afflicted: just shelled out for Dieter Klein’s book Lost Wheels – the nostalgic Beauty of abandoned cars. It called to me… I answered – another gap filled on the bookshelf.