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Classic car as first car


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I do understand the commitment it takes to owning a classic car, and I'm totally willing to make it. I know they're big, gas guzzling money pits, which is ok with me. By next summer, I should have $5000-$7000 to spend on a car. I've helped restore a few classics before (1966 Ford Galaxie and a 1967 Camaro SS), so I already know the basics. I was wondering, what are some good things to keep in mind? Anything I should really know? Thanks!

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Not necessarily gas guzzling money pits. You mention 1966 and 1967 cars. A 1966 Mustang with 289 V8 will get over 20 MPG and so will a 1966 Barracuda 273 V8. Both are available with six cylinder engines that are even more economical. This is comparable to a V6 minivan today.

You can buy some nice, low mile cars from that era (maybe not a Mustang) for $15,000, $10,000 or less. Comparable to the cheapest economy cars but bigger and nicer.

What is more, if you take care of the car it should be worth practically as much in 5 years, as when you bought it. No new car can do that.

The drawbacks are many but here are two. An old car passed its Best Before date years ago and will require more upkeep and repairs. The upkeep does not have to be expensive but you need to keep on top of it for the car to last, and be reliable.

And, it will not have all the conveniences of todays cars like air bags, multiple outlets for your so called wireless devices and a tragic lack of cupholder technology. Some of them don't even have air conditioning or power windows.

For the budget you have in mind you should be able to find some decent buys. Keep back $2000 or so for repairs and emergencies. And don't ask too much of the car. If you don't have too long a drive to work and you can make alternate arrangements in case of emergency you should be ok. If you are planning on using such a car for a 50 mile daily commute DON'T. It just won't make it.

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Many moons ago I was in the same situation. It's amazing how many people told what was best.

My advice:- Troll through the photos on the web and pick out the body shape and the cars that you like.

Next work out what talents you have to work with. Generally I look for a straight rust free body because any mechanical issues I can deal with myself. But if you are handy with a welder maybe the opposite is better.

Next is the money pit. Have a good look at what you decide to buy and work out in your mind what you can look past. Does that tear in the seat have to be fixed or can I live it?

I helped a local lad buy a car about three years ago. He can't afford to fix it because he is out of a job. Essentially he now drives what many would call a rat rod. He loves it.

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My son's first car (he was 16) was a 1963 Buick Special, 315 aluminum V8. The car was 40 years old at the time. No issues, no worries, sturdier than a Civic and had a Fubaba exhaust.

I wouldn't be afraid of a classic daily driver.

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Thanks for all the help! One car in particular I was looking at was a 1966 Thunderbird 390 (in which case, gas guzzler really applies). The guy wants $4500, and it needs a new gas tank and windshield. Anything to watch out for with these cars?

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Where do you live? Not in an area where the roads are salted in the winter, I hope. If you do, I'd not recommend winter driving of a classic.

Does the 1966 Thunderbird run and drive? Will it withstand a vigorous road test? If not, back away.

Why does it need a new gas tank? Is it rusted out from the inside? This could be just the "tip of the ice berg" of other problems.

Good luck,

Grog

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I don't know why you are looking at a car like a Tbird if you don't have a lot of money. O wait, yes I do.

I wouldn't pay $4500 for one that needs a gas tank and a windshield. If I were you I wouldn't be looking at Tbirds, or cars with 390 V8s. The 390 was a great workhorse motor in full size station wagons and pickup trucks but a real bad gas hog.

I would be looking for a simple, economical car that does NOT have a lot of power operated or electrical accessories. My favorites are slant six Dodge and Plymouth cars like Dart, Valiant, Barracuda, Belvedere and Coronet. Or similar cars with 318 V8.

These are basic simple, fairly economical cars you can still get parts for at your local parts store. If you don't happen to be a Mopar fan, Ford has their Falcon, Fairlane, Mercury Comet, etc. Likewise Chev Malibu, Nova, and other GM favorites. I really like the Olds F85 and Cutlass series with the 330 or 350 V8, excellent, rugged, long living cars much better than the equivalent Chev and better mileage than any Chev 350.

It doesn't pay to be too dogmatic or stuck on any one car. A few weeks ago while perusing the used car ads on Kijiji I saw an excellent buy in a low mileage, one family from new, red 73 Pontiac Tempest hardtop. It was a good looking car that needed minimal work and they only wanted $1200. Just last week a friend bought a nice Mercury Cougar for his wife for $750. It was a one owner low mile car with rusty rocker panels. He can fix it himself for about $200 (he's a bodyman).

The lesson is to keep your eyes open and look for a car in good condition that is not beat to hell, and needs minimal repairs or none at all. It is unlikely you will find a real desirable car like a 66 Mustang in your price range but there are plenty of other cars out there.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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Gas tank is no problem for a 66 Thunderbird; repros are available. Glass should be no issue either. However, a highly optioned Thunderbird is a complex car- especially electrically. If you can find one without a lot of bells and whistles, it won't be any worse than any other near-50-year-old car and T-birds have exceptional club support. They also have a cool factor few cars can duplicate.

Personal preference here but I'd stay away from a convertible due to the complex electrics, and the Town Hardtop because it has one of the worst blind spots ever designed into any car.

Atlas, curious how old you are. I'm guessing late teens since you say this will be your first car. Makes no real difference because I've known plenty of young guys who were up to the task of owning and maintaining an old car, just wondering how much real-world car experience you have.

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Actually, I'm 15 1/2, but I was luckily able to snag a job. I've been working on cars with my grandpa since I was 11. He thinks I'm ready to take on the responsibility, and likes the idea of me wanting to do this. Oh, and capngrog, unfortunately I live in northern Ohio, but I'll figure something out. Thanks for all the help!

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Atlas Man,

I certainly can understand your enthusiasm about getting a "classic" car.

However, that Thunderbird can be an electrical nightmnare. My mother had one when it was a "regular' car to drive. It developed electrical gremlins and I just could not fix it (I'm pretty experienced). Finally I told her, in exasperarion, to take it to a Ford dealer. Which she did. They had the car for 2 weeks and they called and told her to come and get it -- they couldnt find the problem. And that was when it was reasonably current.

The heater core failed and I believe you have to remove the dash to replace it - I didnt fix it.

I think you should start off with a simpler design car to insure at least a reasonable degree of success as a driver. A complicated car like the T Bird could become a nightmare.

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Thanks for the warning! It's not that I have my heart set on the T bird, it'll probably be gone once I have the money anyways. My reasoning is this: find a car on craigslist that I really like, and it acts as my motivation to earn the money.

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Keep your eyes open for a slant six Valiant, Dart or Barracuda. They made some nice looking hardtops and the Duster coupe not to mention the Barracuda hardtop and fastback models. The 318 V8 is a great, long living engine and almost as economical as the six. Either will go at least 25% farther on a gallon of gas than a Chev 350.

They are rugged and long lived, get excellent mileage and are simple and cheap to fix. The main problem is finding one that hasn't been beat to death, for a reasonable price.

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Ohio is a hotbed of old car activity so you'd have a pretty good support group in addition to your grandpa, and if grandpa thinks you're capable of handling it, that speaks well of you. I know some grandparents think their grandkids are the best in everything, but there are others like me who were always a s__t-for-brains 12 year old to their parents and grands. Happy to say I proved 'em wrong...

If you decide to go Olds, there are a couple of active Oldsmobile Club of America chapters that cover Northern Ohio. Other marque clubs should have similar support.

There are also nine AACA chapters/regions in Ohio to cover your old car jonesing. On the homepage, click on "Regions and Chapters" to find them. Also check out the "Scholarships" subtab for info on AACA scholarships.

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Dont worry about the model and formula,,Buy what you like,,If it dont work out

you will still like it,,,For all this is a learning experience,,

In 1951 I bought a 1929 Packard,as a daily driver,,$75- Drove it 27,000 miles

Every one asked me why i didnt buy a Ford,that I could get parts for,,

I improvised a lot,,Where ever I went,,,It got me home,,NO TOW,,,Cheers,,Ben

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Take in a few car shows, cruise-ins and the like. Take your grandfather with you. You will see what is out there and talk to the people in the hobby. They can tell you face to face what to look for, what to avoid, and will encourage you in your endeavor.

You will be able to compare cars "in the flesh" and have a better idea of what to expect. Car people always like to talk cars, and you will most likely see a few for sale signs to whet your appetite.

Good hunting, Rick

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I have this for $10,900, which I know is a little outside your budget, but you'll never lose money on it:

post-31138-143142657916_thumb.jpg

(http://forums.aaca.org/f119/1970-mustang-convertible-377153.html)

1970 Mustang convertible, economical 250 cubic inch inline-six and automatic transmission. Runs and drives very well, body is quite clean, not rusty, and never in an accident. Paint is not great and interior is tired, but you could drive it every day for not a lot of money and parts are insanely cheap and easy to get. Lots of style and fun for not a lot of money and quite economical to keep on the road. It will always be worth about what you paid for it, which isn't easy to do with any car, and Mustangs are very liquid if you need to sell it fast.

Oh, and I'm in northeast Ohio, too, so no long-distance shipping involved. Turn-key and ready to go!

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^ I agree........although earlier hard tops are cheaper and parts are readily available.

Plus Mustangs come with a built in :cool: factor almost like no other.......in fact for the price they are probably the coolest cars out there and most recognizable.

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When I was your age I was buying my second old car. I never had any specific car or truck in mind. I just looked for something I thought was interesting, a good deal and I liked.

Remember every car is and will be a learning experience.

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^ the kind of car you should be looking for, although maybe not a Mustang if it is too expensive. Similar cars without the Mustang emblem are cheaper.

The cheaper statement doesn't include a Shelby.

Buicks are nice cars also. You can buy a nice Electra or LeSabre relatively cheap.

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28 Chrysler, that's exactly what I'm doing. With my budget, not much choice. I'm curious, what kind of car? Right now, I'm actually interested in a 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 fastback. Got the 302, and it's only $5000. Any thoughts?

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28 Chrysler, that's exactly what I'm doing. With my budget, not much choice. I'm curious, what kind of car? Right now, I'm actually interested in a 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 fastback. Got the 302, and it's only $5000. Any thoughts?

They are a cool looking car, plenty of room, and fairly economical with the 302. Not as desirable as a Mustang, and cheaper. For $5000 you should get a real good, low mileage example that needs little or nothing. The kind of car I have been talking about.

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The Fords from that time period are nice to work on.

Look for rust problems in the quarter panels and the rear frame.

My first old car was a 27 year old 1941 Dodge coupe the next one was a 1930 Model A sedan delivery. (no one wanted old Ford trucks at that time)

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all make(s) and model(s) have their hiccups ... In My Opinion ( and also in what advice, i am giving ) once you have made up your mind at what you want to go with ... do a web search, and a little bit further into them ( like repairs, cost of items, handling etc .... ) next would be at how are you willing to travel to find to that car ( like the next state over ...? ) rust is always an issue ( some or just afraid of it or they do not know at where to begin ) some may have problems w/ the driveline ( transmission, engine, ear end ) its up to you at what you can handle or manage on your own so many factors and so many options =0)

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Fairlane would be a neat car and mechanically easy to find parts. From a friend's experience with a 69 Fairlane Cobra, some of the trim stuff for those years is scarce and expensive. Again, get the best car you can to start with and you'll have a big time with it. Should you get an "urge" a 302 is as good an engine to play with as Ford had.

What color is this Fairlane, young friend? They look real nice in Gulfstream Aqua or Meadowlark Yellow. Seems I remember a lot of Torinos were Candy Apple Red with a white C-stripe.

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If that's the case I'm stupid too! 'Course a lot of mine is too lazy to learn how to post pics.

Sounds like you're partial to Fords. Even though I'm primarily identified with Oldsmobiles, I like 60s Fords a lot. FTM not many 60s cars I don't like.

I've seen way worse. Missing a few pieces of trim and looks like it's been rednecked a little with that steering wheel and shifter but if they were installed well, no biggie. Car has a nice dash pad in the pics- those often warp and crack.

It has a couple things going for it- the Ohio historical plate and the guy sounds well-spoken, so neighborhood may not be bad as you think. Show up with about $4500 well-concealed cash, and if car runs out well and isn't completely heinous body and undercarriage-wise, offer $3800 and see if he'll take it. If he won't, then start bargaining till he says yes and hands you the clean title. My guess is you can buy that car for way less than $5g.

Whatever you ultimately end up with, a set of factory service manuals should be your first purchase.

Edited by rocketraider (see edit history)
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If u do end up with a 50s or 60s car, keep in mind the non-hardened valve seats will need a lead substitute added to the gas if you plan to put some real miles on it. I drove a slant 6 '65 Barracuda for much of the 90s and compression took a nosedive due to pounded valve seats. Most heads can be re-machined to accept hardened seats.

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My finding on valves:::

The new gas burns hotter,,heats the valve,,and it gets longer// expantion

closes up the valve clearence,,valve stays ,010-030 open!!

Intake valve not so bad,,,gas to cool it,,

This is a problem with solid lifters,,not sure of hydraulic lifters

Do we have a thread to cover this??,,,Gotta run,,,Cheers,,ben

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Buy what you want! Some of the same people that are advising you to buy a more practical car have probably spent much of there lives buying what they like regardless of practicality. The old car hobby is about passion for your car. I remember being told long ago, if you have and itch then you have to scratch it. You know what you want, if you wanted practical transportation you would buy something like a Toyota Corolla and be done with it. You seem to be ready for the challenge of making the car of your choice work for you. Use due diligence and check out car of your choice and try to make sure that most, if mot all of the car's systems work OK before buy, but don't become overwhelmed by non-working items that you can fix. Use the car's non-working or weak components as part of the negotiation process, either present owner has them fixed or the negotiated price goes down. We have all made mistakes in the car culture, that we share, but if you buy what you want today, you will never have to look back and say what if!

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I don't know what prices are like in Cleveland but I would not pay $5000 for that car. In fact I would be leery of it at any price.

Any car that has been modified or thru the hands of a hot rodder, 9 times out of 10, will have serious problems. Another thing, a poor person always wants top dollar even for a real 10th hand junker. It is possible that is a decent car and worth the money but the odds are about 1,000,000 to 1 against it.

Also I would not pay top dollar for a car that needs work. Brakes need bled, bullshit. 9 chances out of 10 they are shot and need complete replacement.

I would be looking for a good original low mile car from a good neighborhood. To a rich person a car that old is just something to get rid of. The best buys I have gotten in old cars, and the best cars, came from the better neighborhoods. The worse the neighborhood the worse the car, the crookeder the seller and the more they want.

If you go look at the car take along an older friend who is knowledgeable about cars. It is too easy to get stars in your eyes and miss some bad things. Even after years of experience but especially when you are just starting out.

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Here is the kind of car I would be looking for. Good shape, low miles (40,000) low price ($1500) original unmodified.

http://cleveland.craigslist.org/cto/4607826866.html

Looks like it is on a car lot which I don't like, would rather buy privately. And, you tell me what kind of neighborhood that is.

It is a big car and a 400 motor which may be too much car and too much of a gas hog. But you get the idea.

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This looks like a terrific buy IF you can get a title. I don't know how hard that is in Ohio but for $100 what have you got to lose?

79 Tbird

http://cleveland.craigslist.org/cto/4577077642.html

Worst case you can sell it, part it out or sell it for scrap iron and get more than your investment.

If you don't need to drive it right away, it may take time to get new papers. Do not put any money into it until you get them, just in case.

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62 Falcon $3500 could be a good deal

http://cleveland.craigslist.org/cto/4607356360.html

Body looks straight as a pin. The seat is not a big deal, if there is an upholstery kit available you can do it yourself.

Better quit now, scanning ads can be an addictive hobby. The point is, there are some decent old cars out there at good prices. Something is sure to come along that will catch your eye, and not need you to spend a fortune.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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