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Michael Stahl is a borderline hoarder

By Michael Stahl, 30 Mar 2019 Opinion

Michael Stahl is a borderline hoarder

”My wife is convinced I’m a hoarder. I admit that I collect a lot of car stuff, the value of which may not be apparent to most”

You know that feeling when you think you’ve out-braked yourself into a corner and your eyes freeze and there’s a gassy taste in your mouth for that life-flash second before muscle memory or adrenaline or whatever it is takes over and gets your eyes and the wheel and the car miraculously turning where you need to go?

I know that you know that feeling, because you’re reading this. Not that Wheels readers are over-ambitious drivers, but rather, that we’re car people. We want more from our motoring, from our choice of car to the way we spec it, what we do to it, how we drive it. The old Thrillseekers TV series put it best: We’re a special breed of cat. We don’t wait to meet danger. We chase it, challenge it – and lick it.

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I’ve just had that very same feeling, sitting on my fat quoit in front of the telly. My wife was watching some program about a Japanese woman named Marie Kondo.

In case you haven’t heard (and I obviously hadn’t), Marie has written a book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising, which is selling its brains out all over the world.

Suddenly, starkly, I knew what was coming. A fridge magnet had foretold for months of an imminent council clean-up. My beloved merely turned her head. At me, frozen in terror.

My wife is convinced I’m a borderline hoarder. I admit that I collect a lot of car stuff, the value of which may not be immediately apparent to most.

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I know I needn’t explain the hundreds of awesome motoring and motorsport books, the 550-odd slot cars, the static models, the magazines – oh Lord, the magazines… Nor the more personal career mementoes, like the flag from the roof of the Porsche 911 I drove across the Simpson Desert in 1999, the jack from the Holden JB Camira we shredded in 2006, the Olivetti Praxis 35 (with box and papers) that was the Audi Quattro of typewriters when I got it in 1983.

Marie Kondo’s thing is to decide whether a particular item “sparks joy”. Well, those things do. About once a decade, when I look at them. If something doesn’t spark joy, Marie advises, you thank it for being in your life and let it go.

What I’ve spent the weekend struggling with is the boxes and boxes of media kits and brochures, the motor-racing programs and printed results. As I looked at them, there was certainly a spark of recollection, even a new awareness of the initial reason that I kept, say, this 1983 Dick Johnson Racing media kit, or the 1988 Paris-Algiers-Dakar book of supp regs, or a dozen years’ worth of Australian F1 Grand Prix media kits and programs.

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But a spark of joy?

I’ve realised that things like these always had almost the gravitas of sacred tomes. It’s really important to remember that I hadn’t foreseen the advent of the internet: a journo’s reference material and sources were his or her stock-in-trade. I couldn’t predict why, in future, I might have need of this 1989 Arrows F1 media kit (with earplugs and stickers) – but I knew that if I ever did, I wasn’t going to find one at the local library.

I found seven or eight really big, glossy calendars. A few from Lamborghini, a couple from Bentley, a few more from Porsche. They go back to 2008. Each time I’m gifted one I think, “Ooh! This is beautiful! It’s way too good to get all fingerprinty on the wall. I must put this away and save it.” On the weekend, for the first time, I acknowledged a flaw in the strategy of using a calendar in any year other than the one on the front. But I’m still in touch with my inner 15 year old’s belief that I’ll one day slice out my favourite pictures and Blu Tack them to my bedroom wall.

I’ve just packed up most of the stuff and put it back where it was, to figure it out later.