Short of comparing the car world to another transportation-focused hobby, one of the best analogies for the automotive universe is the ocean. Owning and driving a vintage vehicle is akin to playing on the beach, and debating rod ratios and piston ring thicknesses is like exploring the Mariana Trench. The two seem worlds apart, and the process of getting from one to the other requires vast amounts of time and effort—not to mention money. If you're currently standing on the beach, longing to wade out into deeper waters, we are here to help.
Read the complete list over at Hagerty.com:https://www.hagerty.com/media/hagerty-community/7-tips-for-new-enthusiasts/
First thing read the date codes on the tires. Some collector cars sit for years or are driven very few miles. Tires sometimes look brand new but are really old enough to vote. The rubber breaks down over time and can fail suddenly. To be conservative I don't drive on tires over 7 years old. When buying a car factor in if you are going to need new tires right out of the gate.
This is good advice even when buying "new" tires. Due to the quantity being built and delivered almost around the clock it isn't uncommon to find "new, off the shelf" tires that are actually several years old. Be insistent about it because a tire that has been sitting in a warehouse somewhere for 3 or 4 years isn't going to give you the usage you paid for.
Along with taking a look at the tires, I would suggest to take a close look at the oil and do or have and oil change and lubes done immediately, regardless of what window stickers, paper work, or the previous owner may have told you. It is "cheap" engine insurance. It ensures you are using the appropriate oil and filter for your usage, age, and mileage, as well as, guarantees you have proper lubricity for the components of your engine.
I'm a bit passionate about this because my father purchased a 1967 Pontiac Firebird 326 HO 4-speed convertible with 31,000 in Indiana and he decided to casually drive it back to Georgia because the car was in pristine condition with documentation. It looked great and it drove equally well. All of the fluids looked clean and smelled clean. It had a window sticker showing the oil change had 200 miles on it, but there was no date of service nor a date of next service due. He made it down to the Knoxville, TN area when he had major problems necessitating a tow the rest of the way to Atlanta, GA. I spent more than 20 years in auto repair as an ASE Master Automotive Technician and I have to say that I have never seen oil separated like I did in this car. The failure of the oil caused the engine to burn up the crankshaft and camshaft bearings, the piston rings, and caused #7 piston to shatter marring the cylinder wall. The block was salable by installing a steel sleeve in #7. There was no other significant damage to the block or heads. That was 26 years ago this month. Upon searching through the records my father received with the car, the oil had been changed 8 years prior to his purchase. Today, I own this car and know every inch of it, inside and out, body and mechanical. This was not my first collector car and it is not the only one I own now, but this Firebird is my favorite. I have a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and yes, money in it too. It's also nice this car has appreciated greatly over the past 26 years, but, even if it had not, it would still have been worth every penny I ever spent on it! For me, it's in my blood. It was my professional career choice and I still find it therapeutic to work on one of my cars...preferably only occasionally.
ALWAYS as a new enthusiast buy the best car you can afford and not a project car - as the article states - Project cars have ruined more newbie car enthusiasts than anything else. A newbie has NO CLUE of the money and effort required for a project car.
I agree wholeheartedly! Remember too that all services on your vehicle, whether an engine rebuild or a new coat of paint usually charge by the hour. Paint and bodywork will always cost more than mechanical work. Estimates are a great start, especially for mechanical items, but nobody really knows what a cosmetic restoration will entail until the paint and putty are removed from the car.
Be knowledgeable of the vehicle you are interested in. Know where rust and other corrosion damage or destroy the structural integrity of the car...and what it will cost to fix it. There are plenty of blogs, web pages and forums for the car you desire. A little time invested in reading and asking questions can and will save you dollars in the restoration...if nothing more than passing on a car that will cost more to restore than you should or can afford to spend. It will also inform you of parts that are hard or impossible (unobtanium) to find, even with eBay. There is probably a reason the listing says 99% complete.
Make sure your significant other is part of your investment. Nothing ruins a great dream more than a partner who hates what you are doing.
Join a club. Even before you buy. There are extremely knowledgeable people who can steer you away from a poor investment, and lend a hand when you pull a transmission.
Lastly, decide whether you are willing and able to do some of the work yourself. Changing a water pump may be just beyond your ability right now, but scraping undercoating before a respray, although tedious, dirty and totally not fun, is usually well within even the least mechanical enthusiast's meager skills, and when shop rates are running $150 an hour or higher can save you thousands by doing it yourself.
I have a different view, so far. I happened to choose a classic car with an amazing support on the internet, and while certainly frustrating at times, it is super rewarding when you get a task completed. Trying to tackle one project at a time can be challenging when there are so many WYAIT - while you are in there that can/should be added. I'm at a place I can afford to expand my tools a bit and, with some patience, have taken a rough but driveable 928 to be a safe and seemingly reliable one. Now to make it a little more comfortable and then more pretty. Any way, if you have the time and money, working on a project car can be very rewarding and educational.
This article is describing me! 55 years old and just now getting into antique cars. I’m doing both the check writing: 1989 BMW e30 paint and engine, and doing it
myself: 1974 Triumph Spitfire refresh of interior and engine. Having fun and slowly learning the ropes. Being from the northeast my first criteria is no rust. I’m not a welder.
Hello, that is a VERY wise comment about tires on a new purchase that may have been sitting too long. Two, points, even newer tires develop "flat spots" from sitting. They can perhaps "iron out" so to speak if the tires warm up enough from simple driving. If it is more serious, they may never recover. My second comment is from years ago when someone I knew bought a car that was sitting on original tires for 35 years. Instead of buying new tires, since they were "weather checked," cracked, yet still able to hold air, he would not take advice since he was eager to get the car home. "Home" was in Ohio, and the car was in Massachusetts. I suggested that it should be shipped safely, still, he refused. Driving straight through to Ohio, doing better than 65 MPH, and only 25 miles from home, a front tire blew out, he went off the road, hitting a substantially strong tree and demolished the front of the car. He was safe, and this was before seat belts of course. That is not the end of the story. While he was on his commute, I did some research, discovering that the car he bought was a "one of a kind," special bodied unit. I was eager to inform him when he returned home, only to discover that he destroyed it.
Yes, all good points. Better to buy a car that someone else has spent the time and money on. Glad to see the Corvair featured. Still a very affordable classic to get started.
The trouble these days is finding an old school mechanic that wants to work on old cars.
Great advice. If you are a newbie, unless you have someone knowledgeable helping you, do NOT tear the car down to the frame as a starting point. I'm putting a new nose piece on my 74 Grand Am and repairing some rust holes on my front fenders and cleaning up the paint on my front clip. When I began, I thought 2 weeks. It's going to be closer to 4 and I could make it 8 weeks easily, if I wanted to. Make it drivable, then do little things until you are sure of what you have got yourself into. But if you make it drivable, at least you can have some fun with it.
I am a Phase3 newbie who bought my first classic car -- a 1926 Lincoln Model L. Great condition but a leak in the radiator. Any suggestions on how to remove the radiator? Thanks.
When you go to look at that beauty you’ve been eyeing on FB or CL, take someone who knows about cars. This someone should be a trusted individual who will tell you the truth about what he/she sees. Or send the advertisement to your mechanic brother-in-law and ask him his opinion. Having a second opinion will help you immensely and probably save you money and frustration.
There are some excellent comments and suggestions listed above. I began working on cars in the early 1970's. Back then cars were simple. But more importantly, a home mechanic could buy a basic tool kit and service manual for under $50. You needed a 3/8 and 1/4 drive socket set, a flex bar torque wrench, screw drivers, feeler gauge, pliers, timing light, duel meter and a tool box. With a little more than that, you could perform much of the service on your car. Now, a young person will need far more in the way of tools to maintain many of today's cars. That is probably a major obstacle for young people today.
I would like to add a few more recommendations. 1. Purchase a car that is easy to work on. Not every desirable car in good condition should be a candidate for the new home mechanic. An NA or NB Miata is both simple, dependable and fun to drive. A Miata is an excellent car to learn mechanics. An E21 BMW is also an easy car to maintain. They were the first 3 series cars. German cars built after 1990 become far more complicated and difficult to repair. Both the BMW 320i and the Miata tend to be inexpensive to purchase.
2. When I first started rebuilding cars, I couldn't afford highly desirable cars. I sometimes encountered car snobs who were smug about being better mechanics and owning better cars. You would often find these people in speed shops. Some car clubs and automobile web sites suffer from the same "I know more than you" snobbery. Avoid them, whenever possible. Find supportive groups of car friends. It helps to repair cars with other guys. You can work on each other's stuff and learn from each other. Volunteer to help other people work on their cars. You will learn from those experiences.
3. Get the service manual for your car. I often buy two different manuals for my cars, just in case I don't understand one, I can check the second. Also, You Tube offers videos on car repairs that can be very insightful. Do your reading and research before starting a job for the first time.
Do not transfer today's ultra reliability onto a car that's 'old' (whatever that defn is). It's nothing to run up 200K mi on a car today with 0 issues. Cars from the 50s-80s were not that way. Remember, we used to get rid of a car when it had 75K mi on it because it was shot when it hit 100K. Carbs constantly needed adjusting, ball joints need greased, etc. Don't expect these cars to have today's reliability.
I have tips
1. Be patient. The right car will come along. I'll spend years looking for the right car. I don't know how many 1958 Packard Hawks I looked at until I found a gem in Texas at a bargain price.
2. I view a car like this. A vehicle is made up of 3 areas. Body, mechanical and interior. Two of three have to be real good. Two out of three bad will take you to the cleaners and three out three will break your wallet
3. When buying an old car color is very important. You don't want black. Pastels and bright colors or two toning make the car more attractive for resale.
4. Check how the doors close. If the doors close nice and easy the chassis isn't sagged. I looked at plenty of cars where the doors were almost hitting the quarter or the other door.
5. Check the upper control arms for the number of shims there are. If it has none the chassis is sagged. If too many the car isn't sitting correctly.
6. Body style is very important. You want a convertible if offered. Then a two door hardtop. A two door with posts is acceptable. Four door cars are not the way to go unless its a rare model. Like a 1958 Cadillac 60 Special or 1957 Cadillac Seville. The price of a starter is the same for a 1963 Impala Super Sport 327 as it is for a 1963 Biscayne 6 cylinder. You'll make money on the Super Sport starter if you had to sell it.
7. Always buy the top model if you can. An Impala instead of a Biscayne.
8. Buy a car with as many options as possible. The more loaded the better. Power everything is the way to go. The bigger engine. Air conditioning. I once got an extra $2000 for a 1964 Thunderbird convertible because it had an optional factory AM/FM radio.
9. Don't buy a car because your father had one. Chances are dad wasn't driving SS396 Chevelle. I had a customer who did a ground up on a 1941 Packard 120 4 door. I tried to talk him out of it but he said his dad had that exact car. The owner had into the car 3 times what it was worth. If I want to feel sentimental I'll look at a family album. It doesn't cost me anything.
10. Try to find a cheap parts car. They come in very handy. Old cars is no longer a hobby. It is an industry and the guys with parts charge accordingly. My friend's 1963 Avanti needed a voltage regulator. There were none to had. We finally found one in Canada for $285 . I was able to put a Lark regulator for $40 in by switching a few wires and running some new ones. PARTS ARE DRYING UP. See what is available for the car you pick BEFORE you buy it.
11.Research what you are looking for. I collect a lot of Thunderbirds and here is a perfect example. In 1962 Ford offered the Thunderbird convertible with a dealer installed Roadster option. Documentation is very fuzzy. The VIN didn't change. You see 1962 Sport Roadsters all over the place for sale. In 1963 Ford gave the same model a specific body style code for the option. Maybe I see 2 of these cars sold all year. What this means to me the 1962 Roadsters are mostly clones and can't be verified one way or another. Be careful. Generally speaking Ford products and Studebakers have 3 data plates with all the information on the car. Most old cars the vin is meaningless.
NEVER, I repeat NEVER buy a car off EBAY unless you have had a professional personally inspect it. Then, still be skeptical. Two things commonly happen. First the seller can be a total liar and crook. Second, the seller can be a total idiot that thinks that old car sitting in the barn is in great shape and worth a fortune. You lose both ways. Watch for pictures taken from 40' away. Sellers not being upfront or saying things like that coffee colored brake fluid is supposed to be that way. Finally, after doing your due diligence figure out the cost of the car plus the cost of all the parts you will have to replace plus all your labor and determine if you wouldn't be better off buying a new car.
Old car restoration can be a costly and time consuming hobby. Don't believe those shows on the tube where guys buy an old car, polish it and sell it for twice the money.
I bought a car on eBay and thought I was skeptical enough. But I still bought a car that looked like it had good tires. It did... but they were four different manufacturer's radial tires. There were other problems too that I anticipated. All-in-all I am still happy I bought it because the price was low enough, but I did have to put in a lot of work on it.
I bought alot of cars off of ebay and every one was good. You must speak to the person. When someone says the car is "mint" I'm not interested. That word is passed around like water. A few years I bought a 1951 Studebaker convertible off ebay. I spoke to the owner. He said the car was nice and was his father. He told me there were a few stitches missing on one of the seats and a small 1/2" scratch but then he said a few years ago his father put a rebuilt motor in. I asked who did the motor. He didn't know but would look through the papers. The owner called back and said Cathcart in Connecticut. The car was in New Jersey by the way. Cathcart was the number expert on Champion sixes so I knew the moter was great. I knew Bill Cathcart so I called him up to inquire about the car. Bill knew the car and said it was beautiful. You have to speak to the owner and feel them out and get as much information as possible. If a car is restored who did it? Call that guy.
I've bought three cars online, two of them from eBay. The first one, my 92 Jaguar XJS V12 convertible, was close by, and I got to drive it and check it out before making my bid. It has needed only maintenance things since 2012. I've, but nothing crazy. I've done most of those myself. It is my 'keeper for life'. Another, was a '92 XJ6. I talked to the truly honest man on the phone before bidding. Totally a wonderful car, probably better than he described. The last is my '80 Triumph TR7. Sold as a running project. The seller was very sentimental about the car and wanted it to go to a good home and not a flipper that was just going to clean it up and sell it. He chose me, after we talked a couple of times for more than an hour. I have all of the history and paperwork, including the window sticker. I have done several things, mostly just deep maintenance. It is a rust free 40 year old, that still starts the first time every time. We have stayed in touch via Facebook. So, if you get cooperation from the seller, you CAN successfully buy cars online. So far, I have not been burned and still shop online for cars. Mostly window shopping now, because I'm out of room to park them.
To further expand on finding other like minded folks. Take along a seasoned car wrencher when shopping for your first project vehicle. Someone who has "been there, done that" will help you spot potential problem areas and let you know exactly what you are getting yourself into.
Very good tips.
Being realistic about your abilities and knowledge is a good one for all collectors and I would add, if you can't fix it yourself don't expect a repair shop to fix it on the cheap because it's an old car. As an owner of a small repair shop customers sometimes bring in their collector cars they're unable to repair themselves. I'm one of the least expensive shops around but working on these can be expensive. Just researching and locating parts can take a lot of time and I expect compensation. There is no way to give a totally accurate estimate for the cost of repairs due to unseen defects because unless it is #2 or better it is almost a given there will be more wrong than first meets the eye. If you have a professional restoration shop restore your car it isn't cheap. Don't expect a general repair shop to be cheap either.
Buying the best you can afford is important too. I'm not a big collector but as I retire I plan to get more involved. For years I've seen old dilapidated cars that deserve restoring but need a lot of work that I know I can do. But realizing the time and money involved, unless you just have to have that particular vehicle or have the love of doing the project yourself, it makes more sense to pay a little more and get something finished or nearly finished, at least drivable. Especially if you are limited in what you can do yourself.
Something always to remember; We've all seen the classifieds that go something like, "Over $50,000 invested, will take $15,000." That's because no matter how much you have invested the car is only worth what the market will bear. So be the beneficiary of somebody else's investment and buy the complete or nearly complete collector car.
Great comments regarding costs. I endured 100+ weekly invoices during a thorough resto-mod on my 1966 (which I custom ordered). I refer to the car as my “semi-mental journey.” No logic, just emotions and cash! Cannot even rationalize it, but at 54 years I still love driving it, and it really turns heads.
One more comment, If I may.....If you are a new home mechanic, you will make mistakes. You will break things. You will screw stuff up in tearing things apart and in putting things back together. Just about everything can eventually be fixed, anyway. The mistakes are learning experiences. Don't be afraid to screw up. Even experienced home mechanics find that car repair can be two steps forward and one step back. Most old men who have spent their lives restoring cars have many stories of mistakes and setbacks. It's part of the hobby; not something to be afraid of.
While I'm on the subject, allow me to rant some more about lessons that new home mechanics might expect to learn. Some days you will get into a project that simply wouldn't go well. The Karma is bad. Things aren't going right. The seasoned mechanic knows when to stand up, pick up his tools, wipe them off and put them back in their proper place. It's then time to clean up the work space, turn out the lights and close the garage door. Sometimes struggling on simply doesn't result in progress. Tomorrow the job will go better. This is what the experienced home mechanic has learned.
In college at Santa Barbara years ago I wanted to build a sailboat. I sought guidance at the local marina. An aging salt gave me some of the best advice of my life. "Son, if you want to build a sailboat, build one. If you want to sail, buy one."
I'm all in on buying a daily driver, making it safe, and enjoying it. For 35 years I've been arresting the decay of a '61 Porsche. I've never lost interest.
I've restored a '67 GT500, a '69 Indy Pace Car and am restoring a '68 Cougar XR7. Don't go there unless you are a masochist! Buy a finished product or one nearly finished. Get a convertible of 2-door coupe. Patience will also save you money. I see crazy bidding on BaT and know someone has gotten emotional vs. patiently waiting for the correct car.
As far as the 26 Lincoln is concerned.Be very,very careful.Repairing is a leak is lot easyer than tyring to find a replacement.
I always try to finance a new build with the amount of money I got for the one I just sold.Once all of you long time builders stop laughing,I'll explane to the newbes your laughing.It never works out that way. It's always going cost more than you plan for.That floor pan that you thought looked so good,at least until you pulled the bottom of the back seat out.That's when you found the inner fender wells rotted at the bottom.
I've been finding suprises for the last almost 60 years.I would have it any other way.Take your time.If you get fustrated or tired,leave it.It will still be there tomorrow.
I bought my collector by
accident. I went to look for a newer Buick Regal in the Tampa/St.Pete newspaper. There was a BMW listed next to it. It happened to be a convertible,
318ic. $4500! Was this a misprint?
I had to go just look. My budget was $4k. That was 2010. The love of my life died that year. In the '70's he was stationed in Frankfort. My moms family all live in Bavaria. This car reminds me of the wonderful days we travel thru Europe when we were young.
I retireed back to a home in Parma Ohio. Now I bought a '08 dts to drive in the winter. Only problem is I love that car too & don't was salt to rust it out, I guess it may become a collector too? 😂
The best advice I can give is align affordability with what appeals to you. Classic cars are like art. You don`t need to know much about it to know what you like. And you don`t need a Picaso to be fulfilled.
Can’t agree more on the tires. Recently bought my wife a 2002 Tbird with about 21,000 miles on it. Had the original Michelin’s on it dated 2001! I was a killjoy because I only let her drive it once around the block before the Michelin’s showed up. She noticed the difference just from that short drive at 25 mph!
If you're committed to a specific make or model, join the club BEFORE you buy the car. That will put you in a functioning network, and will help you make a better purchase decision.
LOL..I'm Not a New Driver...I'm 58 years old!!! Just still wet behind the ears with all this social media...I'v been a Hagerty customers for 4 years now. My other insurance was a bit over the top for the amount of miles I was driving on our car a year. Hagerty cut my costs in half.
Lot's of good advise here. A few comments I would make are:
1. Focus on a limited scope of vehicles. As other have mentioned, each make, model and year have their pro's and con's. If you see a car, fall in love with it and buy it, without knowing a lot about it, you may fall out of love with it due to cost to maintain, availability of parts and repair specialists in your area if you need them.
2. Research. Related to number 1, is that you need to do detailed research on vehicles your are interested in buying, therefore, you need to keep scope of how many different types of cars within a reasonable limit. Internet, car clubs, books, buyers guides, etc. are great ways to collect information. Joining a club for a specific mark before getting a car is a great idea. Know what your skills are, and the skills your are interested in learning/growing, then find out what services are available in your area for he car your are interested in. Lot's of the old experts are retiring and closing shops, so support can be limited. Also research parts availability. I'm restoring an MGB currently. The good news is that your can practically build a new car from a catalog, including body shell, and the costs are reasonable. The bad news is a lot of the reproduction parts either don't fit well or are of poor quality. Anyway, research so you know what you are getting into.
3. Select the car that meets your needs. The advice to buy the best car you can is a good one. That running driving car that would be worth $15K if #2 condition, that you can buy for $8K in #3 or 4 condition could be a horrible deal. Just paint and interior could cost $15K, even if you do most of the work. However, if like me, you want to learn to do all the work, and don't mind being upside down in the car, and buy the car cheap enough, go for it. Before retiring I would buy cars, do the mechanical's, drive them a bit then flip them, not having the time or money to do a full restoring. I finally built a shop, put in a hoist and am doing a full restoration on an MGB GT with no rust. Still, by the time it's done I will probably have $20K in it, not counting the welder and other tools I have purchased, but I am doing it for fun and the experience. This is what I mean about a car that meets your needs. I could have bought done for $15K, but wanted a car to restore.
4. Be realistic. You most likely will not make any money on the car, and will likely lose money. As other have mentioned, shows like wheeler dealers are unrealistic. By the time you pay Ed or Ant a reasonable wage, pay the overhead for the shop, tools etc, that 2-3K$ the "profit" from the car is a joke. If you want a car to take a cruise in, take to shows, join a club, polish and maintain, buy that. If you want a car to restore and tinker, buy that. It's a hobby and hobbies cost money, so buy and do what brings you joy.
I recall being parked next to a gentleman at a local car gathering who had a great looking GM pickup, late 50’s model, and a father and son walked up to him and asked for his advice on a similar GM project truck THEY were working on.
“Sell it” was the man’s advice. Which the two took almost like a slap in the face. The man continued “How old are you son?” “16” the kid replied; “I got this old GM truck from my Granddad to restore and drive.” The man looked at him sideways, “Well, the problem is it’s going to take more money, and more time then you or your Dad can imagine, my truck took me 4 years of constant work and lots of money to get to this condition.
The man stood up and smiled “I’m not trying to be negative, you asked for my advice and I’m just telling you the reality of it. You’re going to graduate high school, want to go on to college – which takes money. So, you’ll have to choose… Oh and you’re going to discover girls, dating takes money too.”
I’ve seen so many projects cars and trucks started, then sit while young men go off to college, start a career, marry and start a family, and the project deteriorates under a cover. Eventually Mom and Dad want this car/truck off their property. But you don’t have time or space to finish it. All the monies and time you did put into it, are wasted.
Now I’m overhearing all this and knew it was not the answer either of these guys were looking for or expecting. But I had to hand it to the older voice of experience, (or his perspective anyway). And some of the pitfalls he was referencing are listed here. Maybe instead of restoring a project, buy a GM that up and in running condition. You’ll pay more upfront, but you’ll have something to drive and enjoy now.