Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

7 tips for new enthusiasts

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

New Driver

It would have been a better recieved message if he had said "...or realize that..." and complete the advice.  If someone had told me, as a young man and father, that the dilapidated old '66 T-Bird convertible sitting behind an old motel on Rt. 40 was going to take me 15 and that the hydraulic top would be a nightmare to restore, I might have just walked away and I would have missed one of the greatest experiences of my 70 years of life. You can never judge the degree of one man's commitment by expressing your own frustrations.




Very good tips. And the first thing is to join the Owner's Club for support and info. And if you are new to the Hobby, welcome, and don't buy a project until you are familiar with the cars. Buy the best one you can afford. Be patient. Watch e bay and so on, even Hemmings, which will have bargains as well. And once again, welcome. We look forward to seeing you and your car!


Intermediate Driver

My 2 cents: Have the car inspected by a mechanic that is familiar with the make. Buy a book! There are good buyers guides for some vehicles. Be patient: there will always be more cars than you have money. Check out the Hargarty price tool. 
Sleep on it. Fools rush in. It costs more to fix than you think.


"Sleep on it" is the most common advice I give out these days! No one *needs* a vintage car, so if whatever you were eyeing isn't available anymore by the time you you come to the conclusion that it is a reasonable and just purchase, then it wasn't meant to be. That said, I have made impulse purchases--and they have about a 50/50 hit rate. 50% of the time they hit my wallet, the other 50% of the time they hit the previous owners wallet.

I would add that while it is good to get opinions from others, remember everybody has one. If you are "investing" in something that you know little about, or have limited skills in accessing the vehicle, have a professional appraisal by a certified appraiser, remember everybody "thinks" they are a "professional".  I have learned that a "cheap" buy, can result in a lot of parts and labor. While I can spin some wrenches, when it gets real deep, the true professionals cost money, and deserve it, especially odd ball cars, or very limited production vehicles.  The most important thing is remember this is supposed to be "fun". Get out and drive it, it will never be perfect no matter what you do. Don't allow it to become a "beast of burden". Too many guys have bought it, regret it, look at it in garage, then sell cheap because they are afraid to drive it. I have always said, "I would rather drive my Mustang and have fun, then look at a Ferrari sitting covered in the garage". 


Lot of common sense in the comments.


I find myself saying "buy the best example you can afford and drive right away" fairly regularly the past few years. I'm guilty of not always following that advice though.


Abandoning common sense is fine, if that leads you to happy. It is fine to spend 3x the value restoring a family heirloom vehicle (or "one just like _____ had") if you can afford to do so. Just don't be upset when it isn't worth much should you go to sell it later.

New Driver

I'd add that any time you make a car into "just what I want", whether it's a mild custom or a raft of restomod upgrades, your money isn't coming back, ever!  I've done this with an '88 Mustang, a '68 Lehmann-Peterson, and a '59 Skyliner.

For a first collector car, I always recommend that a newbie go with a car that has good parts availability and is a car that the person likes.  The '65 Mustang is the classic example here, but there are others that are less obvious.  For example, I've had an easier time locating parts for my '37 Derby Bentley than for my '99 Arnage, which is about as counterintuitive as you can get!

New Driver

To your list of tips for the novice classic car enthusiast, I would add this:

The only person your car needs to impress is YOU.  So, get it road worthy, safe and reliable, then drive it and enjoy it before you start trying to do a full restoration.  In fact, while you are restoring one, you should do yourself a huge favor and have another classic that you can drive and enjoy while you're restoring the first one.

Pit Crew

As an agent for Hagerty, I see a LOT of stalled projects as I deal with my clients. 

My current project vehicle was purchased from one of my clients. He had a very cool custom station wagon in the garage, with an awesome paint job on it with piles of parts and boxes stacked on it. He had been working on it for 25 years, and it was still not done. 

In the mean time, he had purchased the project I was buying from him, along with several other projects. The wagon never got any attention.

I promised myself that I would not go down that road. I focused on getting my new project running with all the appropriate safety items addressed. Three years later, my project is running, driving, and most importantly usable. His station wagon is still covered with boxes.

Make them run and enjoy them. The pretty stuff can come later!


Your comment "buy the best you can afford" is the best advice you can give any new to the hobby Unless you have skills as a mechanic or body repairman you will find yourself spending FAR MORE on a restoration than you would on a fully or partially restored vehicle. Furthermore you will be frustrated at not being able to enjoy  only spend.


Haha! I bought that ‘67 Veloce. And still spending lots of time and money on it. Only drove it once from the vendor to my home, and discovered there was far more wrong with it than he had me believe. Get someone who knows the car inspect it before you buy it, and get estimates how much it will cost to sort it out. Most of the problems I found are mechanical and electrical so I can do it myself. But the parts bill is rising rapidly.... 

New Driver

Be creative when procuring projects.  A running Granada can turn a non-op Mustang into a running project.  Take my word for it!


Be patient. It took me a couple of years to find and buy my truck. I always wanted and old pickup. I had my eye out for a drivable project. I looked at many CL and local classified trucks. A lot of sellers think just because its old its worth big money. TV auctions (Barrett Jackson, Mecum) dont help. Or the cable tv shows with unlimited budgets. If it is your first classic, try to find somethingaffordable, safe and drivable. Upgrade it as you go. Dont be too fussy. You may not find the exact car you want. Be flexible. You may find that this hobby is not for you. Or you may find yourself looking for the dream car you always wanted.


When I first got into the old car hobby one of my friends that has been building his rides for over 60 years gave me some good advise. He don;'t buy a old car gust because it is a good deal, buy something you really like because somewhere during the build you will get frustrated and take a brake, it is much easier to get back into the project if you really like the car. the other thing he said is Build what you like but keep in mind that someday you might want to sell it so try to build something that someone else might like too. 


Good tips, but please would someone explain where to find the tire date and explain the code. I can't find a date on my tires. Bearing in mind that many of us drive our cars for fun, at modest speeds, what is a reasonable number of years for a tire to remain safe?


Check out this well done video that runs down not only the date coding, but many of the other numbers you'll find on most tires-
Intermediate Driver

Fresh out of college, and lusting for a Healey 3000, I wisely asked my father in law for advice. He had a fella that wrenched on all his fleet of cars, and had "been around the block" many times, and was invited in on the conversation we were to have. His advice was short and simple.  If I wanted to buy a sport car, I would be in one of two groups - either I would be wealthy, and be able to afford someone else to take care of my car, or I would not be wealthy, and have to take care of it myself. Being in the latter category, and being mechanically oriented and somewhat versed in cars, thanks to my father's tutelage, I took the plunge into the world of British cars. First step was purchasing a workshop manual, and a parts manual. Then it was loads of time poring over the details of the machine that I had just purchased. I have been through the struggles of ownership, and at one point it sat on blocks for 40 years. I was fortunately able to have it restored, and I still have it today, and it was joined about thirty years ago with a sibling who also was restored. Both are loved and enjoyed. The monies spent on restoration will never be recouped, but one has to remember that a special car has been rescued, and that the enjoyment factor is priceless. It is also nice to take it out to car shows and let people enjoy it and hopefully be inspired or put off by the information board showing the long road to where it's at right now. I was fortunate that my first one was only 3 years old, so it was "perfect" when I started. The second one was not.

Intermediate Driver

Great article full of timely tips.

Advanced Driver

All great points! It always pains me when someone on a couple of the forums I frequent tells a beginner they need to get a pro to fix something like brakes. Really? Brakes are extremely important, but also not that hard to work on as long as you're careful. I always give advice and encourage them to take the plunge, as some others do. I learned the hard way -- by doing it -- when there was no internet or help a phone call or forum message away!!  The first advice I give is to get a service manual -- the factory one if possible, with a Haynes or Chilton's specifically for your make and model (not the old thick "all makes" books!)... preferably both. The factory manuals goes into a lot more detail, but also assume you're a shop mechanic with a reasonable knowledge of cars in general. The Haynes and Chilton's don't go into as much detail, but do give more complete instructions for doing things. An old auto shop text book around the year of your vehicle is also a very good source for a real beginner -- it assumes you don't know a thing!


I see your point in vintage brake systems being fairly simple, but you called out the number one reason I will tell a newbie to have the first brake job done by a pro- "Brakes are extremely important"


Most newbies don't have tools or enough knowledge to know when what looks a little rough is actually too rough to safely use. Yes, they can save a few dollars, but it might come down to luck that they don't crash and hurt themselves or others. I would not give any advice that requires the person to be lucky to have a good time with their new (old) car.


I just came off a ten restoration on a 59 Ford.   If I had to do it again I would have saved longer and bought a driver that did not need as much work.  I could have spent half those years driving something.

If your determined to by a fixer upper buy a car with the best rust free body you can find.  Mechanical work is rarely cheap compared to good body and paint work.  You can tackle most mechanical work yourself but body and paint is a art and you will pay a lot for a skilled person. 


Choose a reliable, mechanically sound driver with cosmetic issues rather than vice versa. You can drive it immediately without having to address the cosmetic issues. Plus, as you get comfortable driving your new classic you're bound to have a few minor scrapes and such. This way you won't stress out. If you find you love the car then address the cosmetics.


some + & - to bein a "car guy" to day.

Ya can't hang out in a garage these days unless you already havea relationship / U can hang out on line. By sweepin, doin the trash and generally makin myself useful (a kid that could keep out of the way but jump in when needed) I was able to learn. So research, research, research is important (what vehicle, Y?, what are the specific (on the one) anomalies you will be dealing with, how to do work-a-rounds).  I see folks lurk on-line a yr or 2 and that's smart.  My chest alone is 3K$ so unless lots of spare cash be careful about tools. Today they are much more expensive and varied.

The "get 1 that's running' is a good idea. You may need it to run to the pro's place rather than a tow for help to learn.  Safety 1st - figure ot how to make it so is nxt (or 1st on purchase of a runner).  Be sure to get one that has your interest/U like this model.  There will be plenty of frustrations. U don't wanna lump in the garage w/lill interest or excitement.

How much of the wrk will U do v farm out?  Do you have a engine machine shop. do you have enough knowledge to guide one (dynamic v static compression ration, can U degree a cam, etc).

Make a plan at the beginning, including a budget. It is constructed during this research I mentioned.  Know what you will do, others do, what the sequence of operations is, develop a phased plan, stick w/the out come you decided on all the way thru to the end. If U do not, U did not have a good plan.  I've seen too many hack jobs that went 1 way, then the other, switched in mid stream, then back another. Waste of time'n money, horrible end product.

Only the experienced can be flippers.  Houses and cars do not become bank accounts otherwise. Last. geta bike too ! aahahahaa. When I get frustrated, parts are on hold, cramped hand, what have U, I jump ot the bike (drive or wrench) so as to blow out that stuff.  Sometimes doin some routine maintenance, or just a drive, the clear mind pops out a solution.  If U just wanna drive, have some money. If U wanna lifestyle - enjoy puzzle solving, have a strong will, can think systemically, and realize it is very technical, not for neanderthal knuckle draggers...HTH

Intermediate Driver

I pretty much followed all of these tips. I chuckled when I read about lusting after a GTO and buying a LeMans. That's exactly what I did! It was the only way to afford the car I was in love with. 

Intermediate Driver

I once met a young couple sitting in lawn chairs behind their perfect 67 289 black on black Mustang fastback. I went to compliment them on their trophy car. I was surprised to get a disappointed whine first from the wife then also from the husband.

"We thought we wanted this perfect Mustang, but found out it was too perfect, so we can't drive it, and all we do is sit in these d***ed lawn chairs every Sunday and listen to how perfect our car is."


Since then, whenever I meet an enthusiast with a nice toy, one of my first questions is always "How do you use your car?" The answers are often muddled.


When I saw this article, I wondered if anyone would offer the tip that I always give to anyone contemplating a purchase. As has already been described in the article and the subsequent comments, there are a lot of variables to be considered when purchasing a hobby vehicle, skills, costs, time, original, resto-mod, performance, safety, etc. The way I see it is that someone new to the auto enthusiast world is likely to jump into the hobby by focusing on just a few of these variables, and end up in a place where he/she didn't intend to go.


I like to advise people to first of all figure out what you will want to spend your time doing with your vehicle after you have completed all the work and expenses. There are a wide variety of options and you can't do them all well with just one hobby vehicle, so figure out what you want to spend your future Sundays doing before you decide on what to buy.



New Driver

So true, especially your first paragraph. That's why my favorite cars are "good enough to show, but not too good to drive."