by James Kraus
It is often said that money cannot buy happiness. I assert that it indeed can buy happiness, if only one utilizes it properly. The best thing to do with it to save it and invest it wisely rather than spend it. This buys one of the greatest keys to happiness; freedom from financial worries.
Where most people go wrong is thinking that squandering funds on magnificent objects can buy happiness. I have discovered in life that the inverse is actually closer to the truth, in that I have usually derived maximum pleasure (certainly the highest pleasure/cost ratio) in the most humble (albeit well-designed and constructed) objects such as my chefs knives, my French copper cookware, my favourite chairs and some of my most inexpensive cars.
I started to ponder this after finishing reading Back Fire by Alan Clark.
Although his collection included some extremely valuable vintage Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Jaguars, he repeatedly makes clear that his personal favourites included much more prosaic and humble machinery, including a Citroën 2CV and a 1956 VW.
One of my most pleasurable cars, also in the humble vein, was a Fiat 128. Voted 1970 European Car of the Year; it was a favourite of esteemed British automotive journalist LJK Setright. He described it as modest in size and brilliant in detail; an apt description that actually could be applied to a number of earlier small Fiats. He went on to say that while the Mini had made front-drive fun, the 128 made it good.
Bought as an inexpensive errand-running vehicle, the 128 transcended its role and proved itself a highly entertaining mode of transport with a willing, free-revving engine and a responsive, balanced chassis. Even the exhaust note was laudatory; urging the driver onwards with that glorious and typically Italian sporting rasp without being annoyingly loud or obnoxious.
Another plus (lost on far too many ‘enthusiasts’) was the pleasure derived from the ability to extract maximum performance from the vehicle without attracting undue attention from fellow motorists or law enforcement officers.
I have found a similar corollary with wines. I used to buy cases of grand bottles from appropriately great vintages, but now I do so only rarely, mostly drinking and enjoying more modest wines. I found that too many of my grand bottles languished in the cellar, awaiting an appropriately grand occasion for which to open them.