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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Tales of buying my first classic ... Part 1: Learning the hard way | Hagerty Media

My dad will often tell stories about the great cars he owned. I too want to entertain my kids with tales of some cool collectible car, however my current stable that includes a Honda Odyssey and Honda Fit aren't exactly going to captivate any youngsters.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/buying-and-selling/buying-first-classic-advice-part-1/
34 REPLIES 34
audiobycarmine
Instructor

Boy, did you EVER make a mistake.
You spent $400 BEFORE buying it; $2500 to actually BUY it; and you're aware that another $6000 is needed for restoration. That's $8900! For WHAT?

Start learning about vintage Mustangs... Your Nirvana lies in that general direction.

Seriously, the best of luck to you and your Family — at least you'll be spending time together, (and your son will probably learn some other "new words"...)
MattFink
Detailer

Appreciate the feedback and you may end up being correct. What year Mustang should we be looking at, you know, in case this Mini thing doesn't work out? So far it has been a blast!
audiobycarmine
Instructor

Matthew — thanks for your gracious reply.
I'm no Mustang expert (I had one only,) but I meant that you might look for something more domestic, with parts availability; as a starting point in car collecting.
If I were looking for a classic Mustang, I'd try for 1965 - 1970. Yeah, some of the more expensive ones are in there, but there are still a lot around, and even if you wind up with something of a project car, (which is what you've got right now,) you'll still be able to accomplish much.
Good luck and best wishes... - Carmine
MattFink
Detailer

Thanks! My dad had a Mustang in those model years, maybe we will look for that next. For now, I got to figure out this Mini! So far I think we may have got really lucky!
SWK
Pit Crew

Don't be discouraged by the other gentleman's post above. He apparently isn't familiar with Minis. Mustangs are great cars, but they are far from the only collectible classic out there. $8900 for an Innocenti—even with the issues you describe—is a pretty incredible deal. They are highly collectible, fairly rare, and on par with a vintage Cooper S in desirability. Look at recent Mini transactions on Bringatrailer to get a sense of its worth.

On top of that, a classic Mini is an amazingly fun car to drive. Once you get behind the wheel you'll not regret your decision. You don't state where you live in the country and I can't quite make out the license plate in your photos, but there are active Mini clubs all over the country. Join the forums over at Mini Mania, hit up some of the active Facebook groups (try Cafe Racer Coopers as a start), and join a local club if one exists. Many members are very giving of their time and are willing to help you get your car on the road AND teach you how to maintain it at the same time. Minis are very simple cars to work on, so they are great to learn. Parts are pretty easy to come by as they share so many parts over the entire lifetime of the car. I'm still learning every day from others in my local club.

And if it turns out you don't love the Mini, there's no way you won't make back every penny you put into it when you flip it.
MattFink
Detailer

Whew, thanks for the reassurance about our purchase! I actually just attended our first Central Ohio Mini Owners club meeting. And you are correct, Mini owners are so smart and so willing to help.
hyperv6
Gearhead

Buying a new car is a challenge for all but buying a classic is not for the novice.
Thousands of dollars every year are lost and wasted on buying the wrong car. Many come home and find they have a car beyond their skill to just keep running let along restore so they get covered with boxes in the garage as a trophy of shame.

The key to buying a classic is to first learn all you can on a car. Read books and join forums. If a local has the kind of car you like ask them to educate you on the car.

Even then if you go to look at the car take someone with you to inspect the car with knowledge or at least get it to a service shop to get it looked at and on a rack. I almost bought a car once that looked great till I got it on the rack and it had rust in the frame the size of my fist. Keep in mind the eyes of your friend will see things that you may be blinded to. Buying is an emotional thing and you can over look flaws.

Research the availability of parts. Cars like a Camaro and Mustang in the early years can be built from reproduction parts. Many other cars the parts can be rare and expensive.

One other thing to consider is to buy a car that is complete and restored properly. Too often anymore it is cheaper to buy a higher priced finished car vs a project if you have to pay someone to do much of the car in restoration. In some cases even if you do it yourself it may be cheaper to buy a completed car in some cases.

Finally take your time. Buying any car is not a race so take time to make sure it is right. Most sellers if they know you are interested will let you confirm with Pontiac historical that it is a real GTO or the Shelby registry will confirm it is a real Shelby. If they are in a hurry they may have something to hide. There are many more cars out there so if something is not right move on.

I have dodged many bullets in my buying and selling and can say I have been lucky to have never bought the wrong car to this point. I had many good teachers and the interest to know my topic before I ever went to buy. With the web anymore there is no excuse not to do your home work.

What you teach your son or daughter in this process will benefit him in many areas like even buying a house. This is a skill too few learn and often pay the price.

I get many calls on buying Fiero's. I know the key places to look for a good car. With plastic bodies they all look good but the rust in some can be devastating in the north. Often in the first 30 seconds I can tell. Just pull down the trunk carpet on the drivers side and if it is solid it may be a very good car. If it has a rust hole you may be in for grief. Many cars are like this and education is what teaches you what to look for.

Note the degree of difficulty goes up when buying imports. Often they are rust prone, Expensive to  buy parts for and difficult to find at times. There are some things that are much more difficult to work on too as some take special knowledge and skills. 

 

First time out sometimes it is best to start simple and work your way up. Make a profit and use that for the next step up. 

 

MattFink
Detailer

Wow! Thank you for such a thorough response. (wish I could have read it before we started this process...) I hope we making the right decision. The Mini seemed like a "simple" car with lots of parts available. I guess we will see!
hyperv6
Gearhead

The Mini is not as bad as some cars that can be money pits. But you will see some added cost being a more rare import. These are not something most salvage yards have sitting around in the numbers they have a Camaro or Mustang. 

Just  be concerned about rust and the electrical system. Both are common issues on British cars. 

With what you paid and what they are worth completed you have some room to invest in the car here. Just really make sure what you have before dumping much money in it. 

I had a friend that did a paint job and interior before an engine swap. He found a rusted out sub frame at that point and was too far in to to stop. He was lucky it was able to be welded and correctly repaired but he was a wreck after finding the rust $10,000 in before finding the damage. 

I see the Ohio plate so I assume the cars in not from Ohio at some point. Few Minis here lived long. I too am in Ohio. If so that may be a big help. 

Find a Mini forum and local owners as they will be a great help. I am into Fieros and just helped a local guy get his back on the road. I have worked on them since 1985 so I picked up a little along the way. Other Mini owners have done the same. When done you can pass this along to someone else. That is how the hobby works. 

In our Fiero club we competed at shows but we also helped each other on our cars. It got us to get our cars to a high level and at national meets we all would come home with awards. 

 

MattFink
Detailer

Your point about buying a completed more expensive car is better in some cases in the long run is fantastic and really has me thinking. Our Mini was actually in Italy most of its life before being imported to Ohio.
ChrisC
Pit Crew

On the other hand what you have there is a classic Mini Cooper worth around £20k in the UK once restored. $2500 to buy it is an absolute steal. Paintwork not original (overspray on rear light rubber?) but it looks sound/little rust. $6000 to restore seems expensive. Find yourself fellow Mini enthusiasts in the US or UK. You will find it frustrating with everything being tiny/cramped but parts availability is excellent and it will be a hoot to drive.
MattFink
Detailer

Your response gives me hope! You are actually see dust on the rear light rubber, but either way it appears to be repainted just for the fact of how great the paint looks. We just found a Classic Mini group here in Central Ohio that have been great.
MattFink
Detailer

Your response gives me hope! You are actually see dust on the rear light rubber, but either way it appears to be repainted just for the fact of how great the paint looks. We just found a Classic Mini group here in Central Ohio that have been great.
CitationMan
Instructor

Matt,

Congratulations on taking the “road less traveled” as that’s the fun one. The best part is your son gets to work with you and his grandfather and you cannot put a price tag on that. Please keep us updated on your ride.

MattFink
Detailer

Part 2 coming soon! We have enjoyed our time together. Want to get it to some car shows now. I've always wanted something to take to a car show and can't wait to do it.
BobD
Pit Crew

Thanks for sharing your experience, and looking forward to part two!

There’s some great advice here, but remember that every situation is different and you must do what fits your personal goals and priorities.

Personally, I seem to have an incredible knack for buying interesting cars, then selling them just a few years before they begin to sharply rise in value.
My friends kid me about this a lot, as the pattern has repeated itself several times over the years. BUT, I like several different makes/models of vintage cars and cannot have them all at once, so I have to buy and sell every few years so I can enjoy them one by one.

In short, there is no one “correct“ answer, you have to do what makes sense for you and I think you’re Innocente sounds awesome. 😎
XJ6
Intermediate Driver

If your goal is to make memories with your father and son you have already succeeded! All three of you are going to remember this car for the rest of your life. Your quote of $6k was certainly to put it in top condition. The car is very basic and simple to work on, parts and on-line help are readily available. Other than tires a DIY father-son can get it going for $600. Look for a source of used parts. In the vintage Jaguar community there is a guy that buys cheap non-running cars, dismantles them and sells the parts. If you need brakes shoes or tires by all means get new, but if you need a trim piece or something to rebuild look for used parts. If you are reasonably handy you can become a DIY person. When we were children we didn't know how to do this stuff - we taught ourselves with some help from a father or friend. The joy of vintage car ownership is bring it back to safe and semi-dependable condition and go for rides to get ice cream with your family.
MattFink
Detailer

That's the dream! Taking it to get ice cream with the family. Your comment makes me want to go out there and get my hands dirty right now.
00Kevin
New Driver

I wish I could find that for $2,500! Just the size of the car alone makes it extra fun to get your son involved. Enjoy!
MattFink
Detailer

It gets so much attention wherever we go. I'm glad we got something unique for our first car. I think my son loves the attention it gets.
Olddavid
Pit Crew

I spent the first 20 years of my life with a Hudson fanatic Father. We had a family store, too. When an outsider made an offer, I said that I never wanted to wash another car as long as I live. Cut to college graduation, first job offer? GMAC. So with that background, I recently bought a low mileage rust gouged Jaguar XK8. As my Dad always said "no brains, no headaches, son". I'm stupidly optimistic, anyway. Remember that Alec Issigonis is lionized for that design. We're both going to be challenging our karma.
MattFink
Detailer

Good luck with the Jag! Your dad's quote is funny.
Footer73
New Driver

Well, let me first say that you are well heed to take the advice given here by all who say to be knowledgeable about the car you wish to purchase. Learn all you can before searching and always do your homework. However, the first question you should ask, IMHO, is what do you want to do with the car?
Like many who have responded to you about wasting your money, part availability, you should have bought a Mustang, etc., answering the first question will never lead you down the wrong path, if you put together a plan.

I have bought a few old cars, and the answer to my first question is, I want a driver quality car. I don't care about a fully restored car, or one that will win a car show. Thus, with this understanding, I am comfortable with a lack of perfection/issues that don't impact my drivability. If you want a driver, and have a fun experience, and you can accept some of the smaller issues (wrong parts installed, etc.) then you decide which is which. That doesn't mean you should not do your due diligence and never compromise on safety.
I purchased a 1973 Innocenti Model 1300 11 years ago with the knowledge that it has a little rust. But the rust is not critical and doesn't prevent me from driving the car. I am not going to repair it, because that will lead me down a rabbit hole I do want to go. But the car runs/drives great and the reaction from people is priceless. And that takes me to my last point, and that is, don't ever expect to get your money out of your car once you decide to sell. Car are commodities to be bought and sold just like everything else. Only a few are the "collector" models that appreciate instead of depreciate, at least right now. You don't have to spend a fortune to own if you understand what the needs of the car are, and can live with fixing only that which needs fixing.
With this say, you have found a diamond in the rough for a great price. You may find yourself spending more than what you thought, or expected, but the fun factor will be high on the scale. If you need advice or information about Innocenti's, there are forums to research and may local people in the US that are very familiar with this model. John Parnell's Mini book has a very good section on the Innocenti Mini's, which some say (myself included) that Innocenti built the Mini that the British should have built. The mechanicals are all British. The electrical and interiors (glass) are Italian. Some body panels are Italian, so some parts are difficult to source but they are out there. But if you answer your first question honestly, then you can decide how to go about taking care of any issues without going down that rabbit hole. I look forward to Part II!
MattFink
Detailer

Thank you so much for this response/advice. I realized we are doing so of this process out of order. We are answering your question after we already purchased our first car. Opps! But we are learning. And having fun. I will absolutely go get that book!
1956meteor
Intermediate Driver

I am turning 65 on Monday [ June 28 ] and have owned over a hundred cars/trucks/motorcycles in my time. After selling my 89 C4 convert last month, I decided to just be happy with my 94 short box F150 and spend more quality with my wife . I work as a flat bed tow truck operator and got a CAA [ AAA Canadian version ] call to pull a 68 Barracuda convert out of a barn . The owner, now 91 years old was moving to a retirement home now that covid seems under control and had gifted the cuda to his granddaughter. Also in the barn was a 1981 Cordoba with a 225 6 and only 80,000 km, [ 50,000 miles ] on the odometer. The lady said gramps had bought it new and never winter drove it. He always had a pick up truck to work the farm with. I asked what she planned to do with it , long story short, I bought it . I went back for it yesterday with some gas, air pig and a fully charged battery. I got it running and drove it out of the barn and onto my tilt n load. I have it at a buddy's shop to see what it will take to safety. I have 600$ invested so far. This one may be a keeper. 🙂
MattFink
Detailer

Would love to hear what comes of your car!
ChevyDave
Intermediate Driver

IMO, you done good Matt; you had the pre-inspection done and went in with (mostly) eyes wide open. Rare is the individual that can ever truly claim to know the exact condition of every component on a 50 year-old car. While a restoration may not be the most cost-effective way to get into the hobby (vs buying an already restored car), there is an advantage to knowing exactly what's been done and by whom.
Let's be generous and say you'll be $10k all-in on your first pass to get the Mini in roadworthy+ condition; what else can you buy for $10k that's a bonafide automotive legend (not to mention inspiration for one of history's all-time sexiest cars, the Lamborghini Miura!)?
The topper though is the memories you, your son, and your Dad will make with the Mini...and that's something you just can't plug into a value equation. Best of luck.
MattFink
Detailer

Thanks! "Bonafide automotive legend" was really encouraging to read.
Silvermane
Pit Crew

I got lucky buying one of my cars that I spent two years looking for. Finally found her halfway across the country in TX, listed on Ebay. Owned by a retired couple, the car was the wife's occasional driver to her post-retirement keep-busy weekend job and taking the grandkids to the lake when they visited. Other than that, the car was 10 years old and had only 47K on the clock.

Photos showed a perfect, like new car. All the reports I ran were clean and I was even able to talk to the owners on the phone and ask all the questions and get answers. Basically, everything felt right, so I decided I'm going to win the auction, no matter what. I wanted the car and would win her, period.

Went into a bidding war with the others and won the Ebay auction in the last 20 seconds by coming over the top with an outrageously high bid that I knew the other bidders wouldn't expect and couldn't match fast enough in the last few seconds.

In other words, I bought the car, sight unseen. FedEx'd the cashier's check overnight, they FedEx'd the keys & paperwork back to me...then I had a transportation company pick up the car and bring her across the country to me.

When she arrived days later, she was perfect, just as the previous owners promised. No hidden issues or surprises and the body & interior like new. They even had the regular maintenance records from the dealer in the glove.

That was 15 years ago...and she's been one of my weekly drivers that I've baby'd since then, since this model is rare & irreplaceable...even interior & trim parts are almost impossible to find used. Never a breakdown or problem with her in all that time, except for routine maintenance and tires.

I got lucky, when I consider all the horror stories from others about cars bought sight unseen.

MattFink
Detailer

Makes me curious what this car is?
MattFink
Detailer

Makes me curious what this car is?
Jnick
Detailer

Talk about beginners luck! You could not have fallen into a better deal. Sometimes checking trends, buying on the upside, getting known reliable vehicles just don’t work.
With the Innocenti you bought into something that has notorious problems, is seemingly slow on 1/4 mile and 0 to 60, and as with other British cars the appreciation curve isn’t terribly steep, in short if you just read the notes and we’re trying to buy the best return like a stock or a commodity you would have blown it.
Now here is where you were brilliant and you probably didn’t even know it.
They made a gazzillion Minis, Midgets, Sprites, etc. and they all share running gear.
I like you bought a Sprite which was pretty rough. I figured I would not put any real money into it until it proved itself as being fun and worthy. Sure there was some early frustration and I probably spent a lot more time on things than I needed, and I figure I have pushed the car over a mile single hand idly, and it took over a year to even get to the end of the street and back, but boy if you have patience parts just kept coming my way.All the gaskets, consumables, wiring, pistons, bearings, etc can all be had cheaply, engine overhauls are inexpensive and very beginner friendly, swap meets have tons of distributors,generators,carburetors, etc cheap as people get sick of stock stuff and go for aftermarket high dollar items.
I ended up with 3 transmissions, 3 engines, 2 rear ends, all cheap and ready to go, you could practically have a racing team car.
Now for the best part, until you drive one of these little demons you never even had a good definition of fun!!
Gary_Bechtold
Technician

Too bad the 300ZX wasn't in great condition or communication. That would also have been fun. Good luck on the Mini!
MattFink
Detailer

Thanks Gary. I still keeping looking for another 300ZX!