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What is the minimum cost of hobby cars , by era ?


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Ed { our forum leading light in pre war cars and reviving dormant White touring cars } mentioned on another thread that the hobby has a " minimum tip in cost " below which a person is just buying frustration and trouble. I agree with the concept , but am curious about

what sort of cost each decade going back in age  or general type of car would involve ? Give recent sales examples if you have them handy. 

 

Greg

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I think Ed ; and a number of others on here myself included have come to the conclusion that the best car you can afford is the cheapest and least frustrating. What sort of expense is to be expected ? An 09 "T" or a Stanley are never going to be an entry level / lowest cost hobby car.

Part 2,  How many of us are chasing a dream that will never have a happy ending due to inability to meet the realistic minimum  cost threshold ?

 

Greg

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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That's a really wide-open question. You can buy a Model T pretty cheap and get it operational for not a lot of money, but if you don't want a Model T and aren't willing to just accept "cheapness" as a guiding principle for your hobby car, it doesn't really answer anything. No offense to Model T owners, but I don't think I'd want one if I got it for free--they're just not my thing. 

 

On the other hand, I harbor no illusions that I will ever own a Duesenberg or a 1934 Packard Twelve or a V16 of any sort. I would love to own any of those but they will forever be out of my reach. I accept this, too.

 

Instead I keep my options open and buy cars that appeal to me when they present themselves at an appropriate price that I can afford. Sometimes I reach a bit because, hey, life is short and I want to enjoy myself while I still have the ability to do it. Not reckless, but willing to take a risk because, honestly, cars aren't very risky. You can always get SOME or even MOST of your money back. It's not like you're throwing it into a slot machine or a golf club membership.

 

Be an opportunity buyer and your range of cars opens up and you get a lot of choices that perhaps you may not have considered. I've learned in my job that there are cars that I've dreamed of for years that turn out to be turds, and there are others that I never in a million years would have guessed I would love, yet I do. Keeping an open mind is the key to getting a good car, regardless of your price level. Be open to possibility and recognize that quality matters more than what the car actually IS when you're on a budget. If you're shopping for a Model A but a really great 1930 Chevy presents itself for half the money, well, that's opportunity talking to you. 
 

How will you answer?

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I guess I don’t really understand the question. Never heard the phrase “tip in cost” before in all my life either.

 

But as for the cost of ownership for my late ‘teens non-Ford open touring car (4-cylinder 1918 Buick E-35 — as robust and reliable a car as one can find from the period):

The price of the fully restored and fastidiously maintained car out of a 50 year estate was a modest $12,000US. But within the first 12 months I had double that into it. In the second 12 months the engine was removed for a needed rebuild (still in process as this is written) and the price for that is $20,000US AND COUNTING.

 

(So all these blowhards proclaiming this “$1,000 per hole” for a rebuild thing — they’re either LYING or they don’t know what they are talking about. Or they are Ford folks who know nothing else but think they do.)

 

And I’m deleting this post in a few hours because there are a lot of folks who just don’t need to know about my numbers.....

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Agree with Matt 100%, the most important thing for me was to keep an open mind - I worked out some of the things I wanted in a prewar (power, feature, body types etc) and how much I could afford both to purchase, refurb and then maintain. There were a few different marques and vehicles that were available but the Cadillac fitted most of the criteria and the parts while scarce are still better than others. 

 

I also bought the car with the intention of doing as much work as possible myself (obviously there are certain tasks I can't do because the machinery is cost prohibitive to do) because to me that's where half the fun is. I enjoyed learning all about vintage engines (though probably not on the timetable that the car forced) and how they did stuff 'back in the day'. The cadillac v8 is different enough from a modern engine to be a unique experience but not so far removed that I could learn from my (very) basic understanding 

Edited by hidden_hunter (see edit history)
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The "Minimum Cost" is usually 30% more than we can afford for the ideal car of our dreams.  Like Matt I would love to have a Duesenberg and could probably afford a closed one if I sold everything including my advertising and art glass collection, ain't going to happen.

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Examples?

 

This is by far the most restoration-per-dollar I have in my showroom right now:

007.jpg

That's an $80,000 restoration on a $22,000 car. Beautifully done, drives great, no needs (except maybe tires). 

 

Now you may argue that you don't particularly want a 1933 Chevy and had your heart set on a 1934 Ford that costs 3x as much. Well, that's you taking yourself out of the game before you even get in because you have caviar dreams on a pauper's budget.

 

007.jpg

This powerful, roadworthy Full Classic Buick sold for about $30,000. Nicely restored, high-speed gears, drove very well. Outstanding tour car that was well sorted and great to drive. Not perfect, but no expensive needs, very handsome, and fairly correct save for the alternator and carburetor. Not a show car, but an excellent old car with a lot of presence that was powerful and reliable. 

 

But if you really wanted a Packard, you'd skip it completely. Equivalent Packards are $50,000. You'd miss the boat if you ignored it and looked at what wasn't in your wallet instead of what could be in your garage. 

 

Be open to opportunity instead, and there's great stuff all over the place, in every price range, in every age category.

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I agree with most of what Matt says above. You can today buy a nice V-16 Cadillac sedan from 1930 for under 80k all in, which is less money than a new one ton Desiel pick up truck. Not a starter car in terms of money, but definitely not out of reach for people with a budget that equals a nice new car or truck. My John Deere 35 hp lawn tractor runs over 20k today........insane, but true. Today people have five times more choice and much better value for their dollars spent compared to twenty and ten years ago. I have a Ford T, and a Pierce Arrow 12. I enjoy both of them equally. Apples and oranges from all aspects of the hobby. I regularly drive the legendary automobiles we see at Pebble, Amelia, Colorado Grand, Goodwood, ect........they are all fun and interesting, but they are no more enjoyable than a good “middle “ of the pack car from the same era. There are many different sleeper brands......that’s why I chose Pierce Arrow. They are absolutely fantastic carS, fantastic drivers, and the club is fabulous. And you can buy a Pierce that drives for the same money as a decent Model A. Actually, there are lots of car bargains available........but they don’t jump out in front of you. It takes actual work to find and buy cars. I see “deals” all the time..........but I don’t need more cars.......I need more time off to drive them. Most here have seen my thread on my new White of 1917. I had no intention or desire to buy a car that week, that month, or this year. I recognized it as an usual car and pulled the trigger with little information. Nothing ventured nothing gained. 50 years of experience gives you an eye and a feel for a car, and the deal. Engaging in buyer discipline is the most difficult part of the hobby. Keeping away from the car is that is what a good friend of mine calls “a lizard” is what is important. The right car, in the right condition is what is truly important. Price, make, and model are secondary. I normally never buy seven passenger touring cars, but in the case of the 1917 White the body style was removed from the equation. Condition, rarity, availability, and uniqueness are what made me peruse the car......not the fact it was a 7passenger, or a “undesirable nickel era” car. I bought a fantastic car.............because it was fantastic. Everything else didn’t matter.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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1,000 per hole on an engine rebuild is asinine...........on almost any pre war car you can name. A decent job on a Packard 12 will run 60k, and that’s not show quality. Figure 125k on a Model J if the motor is beat.......which most of them are. Not only is money going shorter distances than it  use to, but good shops are getting scarce. It’s shocking to us who do service and restoration work ever day what things cost. When new, early cars parts were expensive and labor was cheap, today it’s the opposite.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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I've heard the term before, believe it is the (usually sunk) cost to get started and includes things like needed tools. (over the years I've probably spent more on tools and spares than cars but then do nearly everything myself). Do know without the tools I could never afford the hobby.

 

Second it is best to begin with something fairly easy to work on and is popular. Post WWII a lot is available, pre it gets harder/more expensive.

 

Big thing/cost is whether you can learn to do it yourself or have to pay someone else to learn the same thing.

 

Reminds me of the old Vegas joke: it is easy to get there in a $40k Cadillac and come back in a $500,000 bus.

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Are all of these prices still in line with their original cost? Packard will run you more than the Buick. It did back when they were new. Old Ford's bring higher prices due to popularity. What was the cost of a Duesenberg engine from the factory, in today's money? Big difference between a 1933 Chevrolet and a 1933 Packard. Now and in 1933. Upper end stuff has always been expensive. New cars cost between 15K and 3 million dollar super cars today. Nothing has changed. I think a $16,000 dollar number would allow a person to play around with driver quality cars from the 20's-70's. In different makes and models. And be able to drive nice cars. Real deal stuff, high quality and upper end cars are out of reach for most people. 

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"What is the minimum cost of hobby cars , by era?"

At least in terms of the entry-level, simply checking the 'Cars For Sale' section, especially the 'Not Mine' section gives a fair idea of what's available in an old car that one might purchase and enjoy without major investment other than simple upkeep and maintenance.   As it has forever been, the rare, desirable and highly-sought cars are out-of-reach for most old car enthusiastic mortals.   

 

But, as I remind my compatriots: "You don't have to own a Rembrandt to appreciate it".   Simply survey the pantheon and sweep of automotive history, zero in on the era, makes and models that appeal and are within your budget, check out multiple examples, keep an open minded to those that might not be first choice but perfectly fine, select the best one you find for the money, buy it and start enjoying the experience.  

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Agree with most post, only exception is to Ed comparing the cost of an F250 to a V16 Cadillac. I would imagine most of the new trucks seen running around come with a 6-8 year payment plan (just a guess as I buy used and inexpensive 🤔), I for one would not get into a car payment for an antique car.  I may be alone here, but if I cant afford cash for a hobby I wont do it. Therefor my car shopping budget is limited.

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Quote,

" has a " minimum tip in cost " below which a person is just buying frustration and trouble."

 

 I do not believe this statement.

 When I buy a car, I buy it to enjoy the "frustration and trouble"as a challenge to keep my mind working and my body flexible!

 At 80, I have just taken on a project that is probably beyond most people here, but it has made me feel better and relieved me of boredom.

 

Never say  "I CAN'T DO IT" It will only lead you to an early grave!

 

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1 hour ago, TAKerry said:

Agree with most post, only exception is to Ed comparing the cost of an F250 to a V16 Cadillac. I would imagine most of the new trucks seen running around come with a 6-8 year payment plan (just a guess as I buy used and inexpensive 🤔), I for one would not get into a car payment for an antique car.  I may be alone here, but if I cant afford cash for a hobby I wont do it. Therefor my car shopping budget is limited.

 

 

I never go in debt for my cars........ever. That's why it took me 35 years to get a decent car..........slowly trading up. With the hobby shifting as it has been for a while now, the 95 percent and under cars are becoming more affordable than they ever have.......if you buy them done. Personally, financing a new car or truck for 6-8 years even at low interest rates is from my perspective............not a good idea. I usually drive low milage fifteen year old cars for every day use.........in my mind it justifies the money I dump in old cars that won't be recovered.

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30 minutes ago, Roger Walling said:

Quote,

" has a " minimum tip in cost " below which a person is just buying frustration and trouble."

 

 I do not believe this statement.

 When I buy a car, I buy it to enjoy the "frustration and trouble"as a challenge to keep my mind working and my body flexible!

 At 80, I have just taken on a project that is probably beyond most people here, but it has made me feel better and relieved me of boredom.

 

Never say  "I CAN'T DO IT" It will only lead you to an early grave!

 

Many times in the past, I did start with huge project prewar open cars, and I don't really regret it, as I too did enjoy the challenge.  More importantly, that is what created my own skills and abilities beyond my dreams.  However, It seems that I finally hit the limits of what I can handle mentally when I got to be past my mid 60s.   It now turns into what seems like a never ending hill to climb.  A minor project is better suited for my own mindset now, but I doubt I will ever buy another vehicle in the future....unless I see a very underpriced big series 32 Nash in survivor condition.  LOL

 

On buying a new $75/$85 K truck and dealing with the massive payments/taxes/insurance/depreciation, that truck had better be earning it's keep almost every time it's used...unless a person just has tons of guaranteed monthly income.  And in that case of great steady income, why the heck not take a loan on a prewar and reap the benefit from the softer pricing these days, on a car of your dreams? 

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13 hours ago, edinmass said:

Condition, rarity, availability, and uniqueness are what made me peruse the car......not the fact it was a 7passenger, or a “undesirable nickel era” car. I bought a fantastic car.............because it was fantastic.

Why would you think nickel era cars are undesirable?

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Not sure your sample will ever be big enough to extrapolate the data you're looking for..far too many variables. Try asking "what is the price of fun."  Makes about as much sense to me.

Terry.

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Only one reason to get a loan on an old/collector car: to protect it in divorce/bankruptcy.

Only one reason to get a loan on a new car: if the benefits outweigh the costs. Is only one car I financed this century: the '12 Jeep Grand Cherokeetow car, and that was to take advantaged of some discounts (bought when it had everything I wanted (including towing package and a DOHC-6), Chrysler was in trouble (again), and I could get a Chrysler backed lifetime warrenty that is still in effect). Also the world wanted minivans and not an outsize station wagon so many incentives in place. Finally I liked the solid sound when the door closed (anyone else care about that ?). Didn't hurt that the OTD cost was less than a large more than a year old one with 20k miles.

ps paid it off within a year.

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Fact is I can have " fun " by the bucketful with my MGA or TVR. But they are old " beater sports cars , not vintage cars.   Major fun for the $ , but nothing to do with the Vintage car hobby.

I have been a vintage car " wannabe " for going on 50 years. Hundreds of shows , swap meets and other events over the decades.

The sports cars were always paid for by the" start with a rough one and make it a driver " technique. I am after all a licensed mechanic, former High School shop teacher, and for a few years worked in

a restoration shop. So the nut's and bolt's are second nature. In addition 30 years on the " big iron" as a Marine Engineer.

 But transitioning from a 60 year old car { MGA } that I have owned for 45 years and  that is very well supported by various parts suppliers to a nearly 100 year old car that has little if any support is proving

to be more { a lot more }  than my budget can handle. The start with a rough one and improve it strategy has so far been a dismal failure for me with regards to 1920 and older cars .

 Cars that have a potential as a " over time improver " are just too rare / too expensive. I just sold both my project Model A's , and am really questioning if there is any future in my 1912 Staver Chicago basket case.

The way things are going on that one I will be 90 before it is even in one piece again , let alone a driver. Unless you have extremely deep pockets never buy a rare , partially complete , 100 + year old project.

But all of you already knew that. I am just a slow learner. I suppose my best plan is to keep selling things and free up as much cash as is  possible.  The goal of a drivable vintage car has endured for 50 years now, 

perhaps I might get there yet.

 

Greg

 

 

Edited by 1912Staver (see edit history)
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15 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

It's not like you're throwing it into a slot machine or a golf club membership.

 

My wife bought six or seven thousand tulip bulbs this year. Yikes!

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2 hours ago, Mark Shaw said:

Why would you think nickel era cars are undesirable?

 

 

Not my opinion......but it's certainly the majority opinion...........just look at prices for validation. I think they are the best value offered in the hobby.......and I own one......

 

It's kind of ironic that my nickel car has almost no bright work on it..........but I'm fine with it. Too many people get hung up on one type or one year of car..........I just need it to be mechanicaly interesting for me to enjoy it.

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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I've done the payment thing on a few old cars.  More recently I just use my very local bank, like on my Auburn.  She has a very strict policy and very short terms but usually pretty low interest.  Now sometimes she says no,  but it's rare because I know my limits before I go into her office.  😉

 

I wouldn't hesitate borrowing for the right car,  especially if you were looking short term and once you sold something you would pay it back.  We often find the perfect car when we are selling one of our own.  Remember if it's something you have been looking for quite some time,  the chance to find one when you are cashed up, that is as good,  if it's a really good example is probably going to be slim.  

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I got my first old car, 1952 Hudson sedan. With a $2,500 dollar bank loan. Great way for someone stepping into the hobby/industry/trade to get started. Find the make/ model you like, shop around and buy one right. One that needs things that are with in your skill sets. And is in good condition in areas that you do not have the ability or funds to deals with. Bought right, you can drive the car home, and sell out of it at anytime. Nothing wrong with driving an old car every day. Just waiting on a master cylinder, and I will drive this horse with no name across the desert.😄

IMG_20200916_185911796_HDR.jpg

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17 hours ago, Ben P. said:

But as for the cost of ownership for my late ‘teens non-Ford open touring car (4-cylinder 1918 Buick E-35 — as robust and reliable a car as one can find from the period):

The price of the fully restored and fastidiously maintained car out of a 50 year estate was a modest $12,000US. But within the first 12 months I had double that into it. In the second 12 months the engine was removed for a needed rebuild (still in process as this is written) and the price for that is $20,000US AND COUNTING.

 

Ben, these data are very helpful, and probably

what original poster Greg had hoped for.

Putting numbers with a statement can give

an accurate picture to someone not experienced

with that era of car.  Too often we just see the

asking price, or sales price.  Thank you. 

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4 hours ago, Mark Shaw said:

Why would you think nickel era cars are undesirable?

 

I don't mind at all when some cars are less popular

than others.  I enjoy having some things that aren't

seen everyday, whether or not hordes of people appreciate them.

 

My 1916 car could have been double its cost

if it was pre-1916 and eligible for the Horseless Carriage

Club.  And my 1970's cars haven't yet reached the 

mainstream of popularity, and thus remain affordable

enough to enjoy a few of them!

 

 

Locomobile in Lower Allen Park 1 - Copy (2).JPG

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Well, I was going to delete/hide that post because I didn’t want certain family coming across it... But yeah those are the real #’s for someone like me who decided that this just wasn’t the car to ‘learn’ on so I let professionals learn on it instead. Their work comes with warranty.

 

I did neglect to say that I consider all this work well worth it. It tickles me to death that someone bothered to restore this low value utilitarian 4-cyl Buick in the 1st place. Popular when new, but outsurvived by the larger Buick 6-cyls by something like 20-1. 
 

With today’s labor rates and loss of general familiarity with late teens cars I doubt anyone would restore one of these today.

 

Honestly, this is the car I always wanted since age 3 or 4 and it just tickles me to death. The cost almost made the teeth fall out my head, but if the last engine rebuild lasted 50 years....🙂

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Ben, I promise that once you're driving it and not worrying about breakage, you'll forget all about the cost. Peace of mind is worth every penny of what you're paying. Don't sweat it, we've all been there and it always turns out OK. Enjoying the car is what matters and this is your gateway to that fun. There's no way to play without having to pay in this hobby.

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13 minutes ago, Matt Harwood said:

There's no way to play without having to pay in this hobby.

^^ This.

And same goes for just about any hobby.

They all cost something, some more, some less, and only thing that should matter is whether one gets sufficient amount of enjoyment/leisure/pleasure to justify costs involved.

If costs or financial related aspects are major concern or deterrent to enjoy ones hobby, it's pretty obviously wrong hobby for that person. 

 

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8 minutes ago, TTR said:

^^ This.

And same goes for just about any hobby.

They all cost something, some more, some less, and only thing that should matter is whether one gets sufficient amount of enjoyment/leisure/pleasure to justify costs involved.

If costs or financial related aspects are major concern or deterrent to enjoy ones hobby, it's pretty obviously wrong hobby for that person. 

 

True.  Case in point, we were out and about yesterday and drove by a field popular with the RC airplane folks.  A huge WW II fighter was ar the far end of the field with obvious damage.  Guy walking to retrieve it made me think, its gonna cost him but he would still rather be doing that then watching tv... 

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That car certainly makes a statement.

Have said for a long time that cars cost about the same: can pay now and enjoy now or over time and not. Twice I have bought a not-so great car but because it was nearly identical for one I have, could be a project or a parts car, and was pocket change.

 

One reason not to have a loan on a car: you have the title if decide to sell. In Florida having a clear Florida title is a Big Thing.

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If you are just starting out and can't afford a starter car, there isn't anything wrong in buying parts and literature. You can build a rolling Model T Chassis $200.00 at a time, and the right sales literature and books, can be bought and sold without taking up a huge amount of space. You get to meet some nice people along the way and a tip on a car is bound to come up at some time. Having that "Car Money" stashed away is the big first step in buying any era car. 

 

Bob 

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