(The Classics Perspective is a column exclusive to AutoTrader Classics and written by our own Online Editor Brian Medford. We hope you enjoy it.)
I love to drive my cars. On this night I was in my '69 Olds Delta 88 convertible and on the way to pick up dinner for my family. The gentleman sitting next to me at the stop light nodded his head in approval and asked "how much do you want for the car?" I used to reply with a figure until someone actually began pulling bills out of their pocket. From then on I only replied that the car is far too sentimental to sell but thanks for the complement. The other day I replied to a young man's price request with "not for sale, but you can build one yourself". I then told him of finding the beaten up car and fixing it myself. I explained to him that I am nobody special and that with some simple hand tools and determination he too could have a cool car. The young man nodded while his young wife cringed but I could see the wheels start turning in his head.
One of the misconceptions that hangs over the classic car hobby is that it must be expensive. What is missing is perspective. If you want a concours correct award winning car you are going to spend money by the cubic yard. If you just want something unique to drive around and enjoy you can spend a much more reasonable amount. How much money depends on you. The more work you do yourself the more money you will save. My simple rule for buying a car is it must move under its' own power, turn, stop, and not be dangerously rusted. I had to add the rust rule after receiving a '67 Volvo P1800 which was so rotted that I punched holes in the floor with a vacuum nozzle while cleaning up the car. Pretty much anything else beyond that I can tinker with myself.
Here is a link that I like to visit often. This link will find cars or truck on AutoTraderClassics.com which have the word "runs" in the description and cost $2000 or less:
Now don't expect to find a cherry Camaro SS or a Corvette in running condition for that cheap, but there is plenty of good starting material out there for a decent price.
Most of my cars have come from people I know. Now before you say "he's just lucky" know that I do my homework. Everyone who knows me knows that I am a "car guy" and am constantly looking for cars. I recently chatted up a distant relative who owns a farm to find out what he had sitting in the fields. Turns out he has a '49 Ford that I am welcome to come get for free. I haven't seen the car yet but the price is right. Tell everyone you know you want an old car. You will be surprised how many people will become your eyes and ears in the field.
Once you get a classic car the real work begins. You are going to have to find parts, or make parts, or modify parts to fit. You are going to search swap meets and classified ads for deals on used parts. If there are any clubs for your particular car I encourage you to join. Car clubs are a great way to exchange information about your car while also helping you to keep it in top shape. And of course you are going to have to work on your car.
You don't need a master mechanic set of tools but a basic set of wrenches, sockets and screwdrivers will get you far. I pick up tools as I need them or if I come across a screaming deal. As you work you will learn what tools you need and what tools will make your life easier. You will also need a place to work on your car. Something as simple as a parking space will work. I have done a fair share of work while laying in an apartment parking lot. If you already have a garage then you are in great shape.
In the end the question "how much" has to be answered by you. I have only given you the basics of beginning your classic car experience. The most important thing to remember is that you can do it!
(Photo credit to Affordable 50s and their very affordable 1955 Savoy which the author may have to take a look at.)
(Brian is avid automotive enthusiast who grew up in his father's shop and has had grease under his fingernails from an early age. He has been involved in the classic automotive industry for well over a decade. He has owned several classic cars and is currently focused on the Oldsmobile brand.)
The Classics Perspective - Doing It Yourself
Once you are hooked it is hard to go back.
The Classics Perspective - A Very Old Soul
An American car...from Korea? Think of it from The Classics Perspective.
The Classics Perspective - Good Trade
I once traded a girlfriend for a car. True story!
The Classics Perspective - The Rodfather
Having a godfather is one thing, I had a "rodfather".
The Classics Perspective - Cars Make Us Do Stupid Things
A car guy's confession to not so temporary insanity.
The Classics Perspective - How Much?
The most common question I hear about my cars is "how much"?
The Classics Perspective - Of Cobwebs and Carburetors
We buy them, work on them, spend money on them, treat them better than we do ourselves, so why don't we drive our classic cars more often?