On an ordinary Wendesday, in an ordinary Craigslist posting, an Austin, Texas resident put a 1999 Volkswagen Passat up for sale. She asked for $4,000, noting that the car was a bit tired and expensive to maintain but that the entire $4,000 would go to the SIMS Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to promoting the mental health and sobriety of Austin-area musicians. The woman wrote that the car had belonged to her brother, who had been a musician himself before his death, and said rather cryptically, "This car means the world to me, and has a very interesting story to tell. Music buffs might get a kick out of knowing who used to own their ‘new’ car."
By Thursday afternoon, the woman was inundated with inquiries from those very music buffs. She had e-mails from only a few Austinites, and 70 more from people in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Nashville. People were booking flights and planning road trips to Austin from the coasts to buy the little sedan. Word had gotten out: This was Elliott Smith's car.
The late musician's sister, Ashley (who asked not to have her last name published), 32, had been driving the car for the past five years. Enduring overpriced repair fees and her parents' persistent counsel to invest in something cheaper, she reasoned that the nostalgic value of the car was compensation enough. She
didn't want a new car. She wanted to keep driving Elliott's car.