Jump to content

Advice for car buying & upkeep


Photodan
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hello, I'm not a member at this time but am very interested in getting a classic vehicle this year. I've not bought a car like this in many years, from when the only option was to hit the newspaper classified ads. Now there appear to be classic car dealers, some quite large, along with private sellers, all scattered across the country. Auctions, too. Is there a way to talk with someone about buying a classic these days: what to expect with and where to go for maintenance & repairs; are the dealers reputable and is it customary to buy sight unseen, going by photos only? I am in the DC area. Your collective wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also tell us if you want an open body style, a sedan, a station wagon ?? Is the $ you have available to purchase the vehicle $100 or a million?  Are you capable of doing any of the work on a car yourself? Mechanical? upholstery, electrical, paint, body work???  If you seek advice you have to give us more information.

It is like going to buy a house - location, condition, of components  or going to a museum to see a painting - what style, era, etc.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome Photodan, seems like you already are a member. What the other guys said.  There is almost an infinite choice when it comes to buying an antique car.  For starters, I would say buy the absolute best you can afford.  What is your end game? Do you want something to cruise around the weekends, go to local shows, attend concours events? Or are you looking for a project to mess around with?

 

Post up what era you may be most interested in, teens/brass cars(think model Ts), 20's or 30's, 40's-50's, 60's and up -muscle cars.

There are lots of places to get an old car. Start off with Hemmings Motor News website. They have just about any kind of car you would want. DO NOT BUY a car sight unseen, regardless of how nice it appears in an ad. Likewise, auctions can be sketchy if you dont do your homework. There are some nice cars available but I have also seen guys get something that looks pretty but needs a total mechanical rebuild.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dan, since you are around the District of Columbia,

you are in an area--the East-- that has plenty of old

cars available.  That's a helpful start!  You'll have to

travel less distance, probably, to find the car you want.

However, it's not hard to fly to check out just the right car

1000 or 3000 miles away.

 

You will likely pay more from a dealer, because they are

in business to resell for a profit.  However, there are some

well-regarded dealers that frequent this site, such as

Tom Laferriere and Matt Harwood.  The best dealers will

have taken care of minor problems before they offer the car.

Matt shares his valuable insights frequently.

 

I like buying from private sellers, especially a sincere and

knowledgeable club member who has had the car for

many years and knows it thoroughly.  Some private prices

are optimistic too, and patience is required.  If a car is

priced much too high, print out the information and

call a few months later, even 6 months or a year later,

and the price will be more flexible.  We've all seen prices

by dealers and private sellers that are double what

might be considered realistic.

 

Some people here disparage price guides, but I like "Old Cars

Report Price Guide (issued 6 times a year) or its annual book,

which is more thorough.  They are a helpful start:

https://myreport.oldcarsweekly.com/pcd/Order?iKey=K**B41

https://www.amazon.com/2020-Collector-Car-Price-Guide/dp/1440249032

 

Be patient, be selective, and have fun with your search!

 

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks to everyone for the responses so far. I'm not (yet, at least) a paying member, I was just told I need to create a login to be able to make a post.

I don't have an exact vehicle in mind, but am looking for a large American car, i.e. Chrysler/Imperial, full size Dodge, Plymouth, Bonneville/GP, Electra, 98, Park Lane, that ilk. Model years, generally early to mid-60s to 1973, would depend on the particular car. Body style not that important, but prefer hardtop. Convertible or wagon not ruled out. It need not be a showstopper, concourse vehicle. I would putter around on nice days or to a show.

 

My first car was a 1968 Chrysler Newport 2dr purchased in 1979 for $600. Cars like that were dime a dozen at the time.

 

From what I've seen by trolling Hemmings & Auto Trader, I would now expect to shell out upwards of $30k. I understand dealers charge more (I used to work at a couple of them), thus I would expect the car to be more turn-key and for them to provide more services such as arranging shipping as necessary.

 

I'm wondering if, say, obtaining parts is more difficult for one manufacturer compared to others? If I find a car that I'm really interested in, but say it's 1000 miles away, is there a network or way to find a mechanic to check it out? Is it necessary or recommended to find an insurance co that specializes in classics?

 

In the past I have attempted to be hands-on, but that usually leads to more expensive repairs! Thus I would leave maintenance & repairs to the pros. I'd need to find one in my area. 

 

I appreciate all the help!

Dan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You like the same kinds of cars I tend to favor--

the larger, more luxurious models.  These days, due to

popularity, a Buick is likely cheaper than a Chevrolet!

Dan, here are some more thoughts that address

the specific points you raised:

 

---Insurance is easily obtained, and inexpensive, since

collectors take care of their cars and drive far fewer miles.

You'll likely pay $75 to $200 per year per car.  You definitely

should go with a company that specializes in collector cars,

such as Hagerty, Grundy, etc.

 

---In the year range you favor, finding a local mechanic

to work on your car should not be a problem.  Maybe not

every mechanic, but ask fellow antique car owners

in your area.

 

---You can find nice cars much less expensively than the

$30,000 you quote.  $10,000 to $20,000 will get you a

very nice example of many, many models.  Check the price

guides, not people's asking prices.  You probably know that

convertibles are the most expensive by far;  a 2-door hardtop

may be half the price of a convertible;  a 4-door sedan may

be a third the price of a convertible.

 

---In that year range, you shouldn't have to worry about

finding mechanical parts.  Body parts may be harder, but

they won't be wearing out;  and even they can be found.

 

---You'll find that some cars are quite common in the collectible

market, since many have been lovingly restored.  For example,

1965 Chevrolet Impala SS 2-door hardtops and 1960's Oldsmobile

Cutlasses and 442's, and Buick Rivieras, and 1969-70 Buick

Electra convertibles are available in quantity.  However, you'll

have to be patient to find a nice 1964-68 Electra 2-door hardtop

or 1972 Dodge Monaco, for instance--yet those scarcer cars

are less popular and less expensive!  Original production

numbers no longer define rarity.

 

 

 

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are still some amazing deals under $10k, I'd suggest a Caddy Coupe deVille though they blimped a bit after '70. Another interesting car is a '71-'72 Buick Centurian - really clean lines and not often seen.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are still some good buys out there in that type of car if you buy from a private owner. Especially the 4 door sedans. I would recommend a big Dodge or Chrysler product. They tended to use the same engine and transmission and other parts, for many years in various models which makes parts easy to find today. For example they used the big B and RB V8 from 1958 to 1978 in various Plymouth, Dodge, Chrysler and Imperial models along with the Torqueflite automatic transmission. So parts are more common and available. I would avoid Lincolns, they seemed to go out of their way to make their cars as complicated and hard to work on as possible especially in the sixties,  with minimal parts interchange year to year and model to model.

GM made some major changes in the engines and transmissions in all lines for 1965, so I would look for an Olds, Pontiac, Cadillac  or Buick made after that year for best parts availability.

Perhaps the Ford fans have more ideas on the best Mercury and Ford models, they made some nice ones especially after 1964.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would also point out that for those cars parts like engine tune up, brakes, suspension, tires etc are available from your local parts store or online Rockauto etc while body panels, chrome, tail lights, upholstery etc not available or only available used. This means you would be better off to buy one with a pristine body and interior and a blown engine or trans, than one that ran perfect but had body and interior damage. I'm not suggesting you buy any car that needs a lot of work, this is something to keep in mind when looking at cars.

(paint and vinyl tops are easy to replace but can be expensive)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Suggest you check out Craigslist, Auto Trader, etc in your local area for a good deal. Buy the best car you can find and afford, do not go for the lowest price, try to find a good original car even if it costs a little more. If you check the ads once a week 9 chances out of 10 you will find a good car within a month or 2. I like to browse the ads but have to limit myself, I could buy a car every few weeks with no trouble. They are out there if you look around.

If I was looking for a car I would be checking the ads on Thursday getting set to look at cars on the weekend, if I saw a screaming deal would not wait, would try to see it and tie it up on Friday. Keep $1000 cash on hand so you can make a down payment and seal the deal.  Usually a couple of hundred is enough to guarantee your intentions. But unless you put down a deposit and get a receipt there is nothing to stop the seller selling to someone else.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You may want to join AACA and take a look at the want ads in the back of each issue, there are usually some very nice 1960s/1970s full-size American cars that are for sale.  Everything from AACA National Award winners to everyday drivers.

 

Contacting a local AACA chapter as well the local chapter of the club for the marque that you are interested in can also be very helpful in locating a car.  Consider joining the chapter, even for just a year during your search.  You may learn that what you thought you wanted, you really don't, after talking with some owners and perhaps some close-up looks.  Club memberships are money well spent, especially if it keeps you from buying a car you really don't like.  Also, attending club events and asking members that own the particular model of interest about service and parts issues will likely get you more firsthand information than you want to know.  Owners usually love to talk about their ownership experience, too.  You can also ask about reputable service shops in your area.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In terms of repairs, your best bet is probably to find an older gentleman still working at a local shop who likes to work on earlier cars and was trained on them.   When you have a specific car, you should join a club for similar cars; the other members will have ideas for where to go for repairs.     I've heard good things about this  Northern Virginia shop, but have not been there: http://www.blackwolfauto.com/.   And if local options fall through, you could try the Classic Car Center in Fredericksburg, VA, which you can get to and from DC on VRE if you need to.  They're a big shop, and they can work on pretty much anything.   http://classiccarcenter.net/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Everyone has a different taste in cars, so there will most likely be a lot of info to digest. Example, I am more familiar with late model Pontiac. I am a member of POCI (Pontiac Oakland Club Int.) and there is a good support system for that brand. Pontiac motors are more or less the same from about 1960 or so on, with the right guy they are pretty easy to keep maintained and on the road. Although in the long run will cost a bit more than keeping a Chevy on the road. I would think for 10k you can get a really nice sedan of your choice and brand. No dog in the fight but there is a consignment dealer about 3 hrs or so north of DC, Classic Auto Mall that has tons of cars. Some of their prices seem high but I know of people that have bought there for less than advertised. Again, buy the best you can afford, I agree that interior and trim should be near perfect as there is probably not a lot of repro soft parts for big sedans. 

 

The kind of cars you seem to be looking for were most likely originally owned by some elderly person that babied them. I think if you are patient enough you should be able to find something with relatively low mileage and great original condition.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Judging by what comes thru our shop '60s and early '70s Cadillacs are extremely popular, especially in the DC area it seems. The Potomac Region of the Cadillac Lasalle Club is very active and the members are a great group.  Our best advice is to find a car that is completely or nearly rust free.  If faced with two cars, one that runs perfectly, has a beautiful interior but has serious rust issues and another with a frozen engine, no brakes and a bad trans take the latter every time.  Trust me on this.  We do a lot of rust repair as well as mechanical work and rust repair is waaaay more expensive than mechanicals.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mr  Matt Harwood is an Ohio dealer who is on this forum quite often and has some very interesting cars listed on his website.  Here is a link to it so you can see what a well sorted out car will cost, something ready to drive right away. Good luck with the hunt.

https://www.harwoodmotors.com/vehicles/inventory_results.php?HMResults_page=2

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Just a tip on buying an older car with a perfect interior,

 Sit in the car, especially the rear seat and check out the flexibility of the fabric.

 I once bought a 1960 Falcon with a perfect interior. When I sat in the rear seat the fabric just crumbled into pieces.

 The foam in the seat  may also crumble after a few uses.

Edited by Roger Walling (see edit history)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Buy the best car you can afford. Do not think that you will save money by fixing it up yourself.

 

Go look at the car in person. Inspection companies never do a good job.

 

Research the car you are going to look at.

 

Ask lots of questions. If you don't understand something ask.

 

I may have something you would enjoy: www.petersmotorcars.com 

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

BEFORE YOU BUY!  Consider storage. You must have protected storage space out of the sun and weather. You will also need space to work on it.  It will deteriorate and rot in the sun and weather, your perfect interior and paint will soon need attention. If you want to preserve it, keep it indoors.

I bought a classic with good paint and original interior. I did not have indoor storage space cleared for it. The Texas sun popped  the paint off to the metal on top surfaces that 1st hot summer. Each summer was worse on the paint. It was an older repaint that was in decent driver condition. The stitching popped loose on the seat backs. The sun is a killer.

Here is a pic:post-91539-14314193216_thumb.jpg

Edited by TexasJohn55 (see edit history)
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Storage is good advice.  I have found that rented

private garages are much more economical

than the mini-storage spaces.  Small towns and

country areas have less expensive storage, too,

than built-up urban areas.

 

Here in Pennsylvania, a private garage can be

found for $50 a month (up to $75);  people in cities

may pay quadruple that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, thanks all for the fantastic advice! Especially regarding upholstery v. mechanical repair, very useful to keep in mind. 

I have seen individual ads from the dealers mentioned above on the aggregate sites. I guess I should check out their own sites to see everything they have to offer.

I moved last summer after looking at countless houses over 8-9 months, so I can appreciate your connecting the idea that what you see in photos may not necessarily represent what you see in person also applies in the context of cars.

Don't worry, I do not intend to spend that much, it's just that the figure I mentioned seemed to be the upper bracket advertised price of cars in the category I'm searching.

And I might as well join aaca now. I was going to wait until I had something but I realize now, no time like the present.

I do like some of the "fuselage body" Chrysler products but there seem to be so few out there compared to 1968 and earlier. Thought I heard somewhere that they rusted out quickly. For me, 1966 was a wonderful year for big American cabin cruisers. I am kinda finicky with Cadillacs, what appeals one moment doesn't the next. I do appreciate the presence of the local club at the annual new car show at the Convention Ctr.

Other US oldies I've had in the past are 1967 Caddy Sedan de Ville, 1959 Electra flat roof, 1967 Bonneville 4ht, 1965 Cutlass (inherited). Last classic I had was 1966 Lincoln suicide doors in early 90s.  

Again, I appreciate everyone's input and hard-earned experience. I hope to be riding large soon!

Dan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, Photodan said:

purchased in 1979 for $600. Cars like that were dime a dozen at the time.

 

If you paid $600 when they were a dime a dozen you found the right place.

Somehow it has a way of working out that way.

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

To respond to several replies that came up as I was writing the last message.

My new home has an enclosed 2 car, 2 door garage, something that I have wanted all my adult life! The last house was the old family house of almost 50 years, the 'garage' that was there was full of junk and dilapidated and the county eventually made me deal with it (tore it down). I had an old M-B which then had to sit on the pad and got the afternoon sun, doing it no favor. 

However...in moving process I intended to donate excess furniture to charity but this pandemic thing came up and they were not accepting or picking up things. So, I had to bring them with me and now they take up half the garage until I can find someone to take them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I know nothing about this site--"Cincinnati Classics"--

but they appear to be a dealer specializing in the type

of luxury cars you and I like.  I just found them on a 

Google search, and their prices appear to be more

realistic than many dealers'.  Their cars appear to be

excellent:

 

http://cincinnaticlassics.com/

 

Searching for a good antique car can be almost as much

fun as owning one!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a note but most classic car insurance policies require a closed, locked, garage. One reason I keep adding garage doors. When I had this house built I made sure the original garage was long enough for a 1967 Cadillac Fleetwood 60 Special Brougham (19 feet long). One with picnic tables in the back.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To address the latest replies:

I am in Montgomery County, MD. Ft. Washington is over in PG County to the east, I don't know the driving distance. Maybe 20-25 miles?

Thanks for the Cincinnati dealer info. I hadn't heard of them but will check them out. Yes, looking at all those cars is great, even just knowing there are still so many out there.

One reason I was waiting to get a second car was to get a house with an enclosed garage, which I now have. Someone measured the  length at 20' 4" so a Fleetwood should fit. If it comes to that! I've seen those bad boys; I love seeing all those switches in the driver's door panel! I'm in an HOA so I couldn't modify the garage if I wanted.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My home has a HOA, there are ways...

 

67 Fleetwood drivers door: Two front vent windows, two main front windows, two main rear windows, two rear vent windows (and the pot metal gears on the vent windows would often strip). OTOH cruise control was rotary and driver's left had two main knobs for headlamps and wipers, the wipers had a button in the middle. PDL was a single switch.

 

OTOH my Sedan-Coupe has over 70 buttons, knobs, and switches in front of the driver & tow car has so many on the steering wheel, six are on the back.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sounds like those wing window gears in same category as Hirschmann antennas in old M-Bs. Every model has a story to tell! I remember how my 59 Electra needed no key to start and how the 66 Lincoln needed the Chesapeake Bay to do a U turn (and forget about cornering).

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, padgett said:

Many GM cars of the 50's and 60s had the ignition switch with the wings. As long as not in "lock" key could be removed & it could start and run by twisting the wings.

 

Buick was similar to what you describe.

I thought Buick was the only one, though;  Cadillac

didn't have that feature.

 

You're right, Padgett, Buicks could be started without

a key.  But with Buick, you start the car by pushing

the gas pedal--not by turning the key or anything

around the key.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't believe this had an ignition lock, just off, acc, and on. Oh yes, I remember pushing the throttle all the way down to activate a switch that got the starter turning. If that failed, I was taught a trick to remove air cleaner, and use a screwdriver to bridge two contacts on the side of the carb which got the starter going. 

Hey, this was 40 years ago! I never worried about anyone stealing it but when I had a night shift at the restaurant where I worked, my day shift colleagues would party in it while I was working.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One source often overlooked would be local car shows.

 

If things open up this spring, visit the local shows, look at the cars, and talk to the owners. Often, someone will know of a car for sale. Plus the locals will know which local dealers to frequent, and which to avoid.

 

If you find one you really like, a professional appraisal is not a bad idea.

 

Jon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

By all means, join your local antique car club and meet others with similar interests.   it always been common for cars to change ownership within membership groups and the advice and friendship you'll find is well worth the dues.   We all know somebody with a nice car for sale,

but we're here and you are not.    Local contacts will also help you find people to do the

repairs you have to farm out.   As evidenced by all the replies above, we're a friendly helpful group who have all benefitted from our local car club contacts.  You can too.

Edited by Paul Dobbin
reposition text (see edit history)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Photodan ,

If your insurance will pay for a psychiatrist make an appointnent ASAP before is to late.

 I understand there is now 12 step programs and 30 day rehabs for this now recocognized (often severley mental and finacial) disabling disease! 

 

BEWARE!

As good as they /we are ,there is nothing but enablers / co-dependents here and you may never fully recover or have a sober thought again! 😨

  

Otherwise, good luck to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...