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What is a good first car?


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I know someone who loves antique cars, like large cars of the 30's, and who admires Isotta Fraschini and Stutz DV-32s


I was wondering if anyone has any recommendation for a good first antique car for him.


He likes:

-Large cars, and anything from the 1900-1940 era!


Thank you so much!

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From my experience ( I am talking a fairly long multi times use, not a ride around the block once - hours behind the wheel) Chrysler  and Franklin drive ride very easy and very well, go all day at 50-55 mph up or down hills) . I only know Buicks of the 1936-41 era and own a 1940 Roadmaster, great ride, drive and if it has the 320 cu in engine lots of power to spare. I have owned and currently own a pre war Packard - great driving my 1930 and for decades I drove my 1941. Would your friend want a floor or column shift? Cadillac V8 of the late 1930s early 1940s I have had experience with also , excellent driving cars. I will not pass comment ever on anything I have not spent some considerable time behind the wheel of.

Edited by Walt G
typo (see edit history)
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The important question: what's his budget?  Here are two fast, comfortable, easy to handle collector cars. They're big enough for full-sized adults to ride in back in comfort (top up, anyway). Service parts are readily available for both. Both are rare and unusual enough to get noticed at shows. Both are in ready-to-use condition. Red Packard is a Full Classic and therefore eligible for more events than the Buick but the blue Buick is a better car to drive and is a more manageable size.






Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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OK, I'll take a stab......


You have mentioned he likes Isotta Franschini, and Stutz........he has high end taste.

Large?   not sure how you'd define that but..........over 130 inch wheelbase....?

Highway speeds attainable....

Earlier than the mid/late thirties example Matt suggested.....

Budget of 40K.....


How about the Chrysler Imperial Closed cars around 1932ish, or the larger Buicks (90 series) from that same year range .  The look that you seem to imply he wants (earlier car), Enough displacement in those 8 cylinder engines to move it at highway speed, large profile (134 inch Wheelbase for the Buick, and 135 or 146 for the Chrysler Imperial) and if you shop for closed models, you can find something in your budget of 40K.



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Don't overlook the 1931-'33 Buick Series 80, same 345 ci eight, not as long wheelbase but still impressive.  Might also be more manageable to handle and a relatively peppy performer. 


A 1932 Chrysler Imperial CH sedan would fill the bill as well, though tough to find at $40K.

Edited by 58L-Y8 (see edit history)
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5 hours ago, 1913Mercer said:

I would want something for him to drive on the freeway


5 hours ago, 1913Mercer said:

He loves those [late 1930's Packard, 1940 Buick], but he thinks that maybe something earlier would suit his wants/needs better!


He'll have a lot of fun, but knowing how he realistically

will use the car will help us give the best recommendations.


Be careful, because his wishes conflict:  Earlier years,

but capable of freeway driving.  Meeting both of those

criteria eliminates most cars.  In 1928, for example, a 

survey showed that most people never drove over 45 m.p.h.

Which of those 2 criteria is most flexible?


Does he live in a busy, traffic-filled area?  Or does he have

access to plenty of back roads and small highways?

For example, my large 1916 car is happy at 25-35 m.p.h.

because the speed limit in the open countryside was 24 m.p.h.

at that time.  

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1 hour ago, alsancle said:

I don’t think you are finding a decent CG or CL sedan for 40k.


I think Buick it is.  You can get a nice series 90 sedan for 40k

I think you’re right AJ, I think I’ve seen some Imperial’s in that year(s) sell at that price range, but they were examples that needed some love or weren’t proven drivers in the recent years. They are great looking cars that I didn’t pay much attention to until just a few years ago.

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Has this guy ever actually DRIVEN a car from the thirties?  Many of us who've owned them for years are absolutely comfortable behind the wheel.  But someone who has only idealized them from afar, having taken the wheel for the first time, may suddenly discover that they are a different kind of animal from what he's used to.  The car's handling, steering, braking, visibility and a cruising speed of barely 60 mph in 75 mph traffic, may open his eyes.


Find a sympathetic and trusting owner of a thirties car and arrange for your candidate to borrow it and get out onto the road for some firsthand driving experience.


I'd say he should focus on something from as late in the 1930's as he can put up with.  A car with overdrive (4th gear, essentially), a reasonably powerful engine, and of a marque that is not too obscure (when it comes to finding parts).  Good hydraulic brakes, I.F.S., and electric (not vacuum) wipers are a plus.  And he'd better be ready to learn how to tinker and maintain.  My first car (back in 1964) was a '39 DeSoto and I lucked out; it served me faithfully as an everyday driver and I learned a lot while owning it.  There are many good cars out there, but they improved vastly through the 1930's.  Night and day between 1930 and 1940.  Recommend that he buy a good solid late-thirties family car firs.  Let him deal with the Isotta Fraschini later.

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22 hours ago, 1913Mercer said:

I was wondering if anyone has any recommendation for a good first antique car for him.


A realistic view is the best for any newcomer.

Does he live in an area where there are many pre-war

cars, and therefore mechanics very familiar with them?

Here, even in the heart of antique-car territory, there

are fewer than there were.  In many places, such

expertise doesn't exist.  And even experienced

do-it-yourself mechanics benefit from friendly helpers

now and then.


He should know that those cars take much more maintenance,

and repairs can be very expensive.  So he should set aside

several thousand dollars to spare.


If that's not the case, he could get a 1960's Cadillac.

It would be fine for the highways, which was a criterion

you mentioned.  Many modern mechanics could work on

them.  He might therefore get more enjoyment out of his

first antique car.


Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
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I have to comment on the "freeway driveable" criterion.  (And I have used a prewar car as an everyday driver).  The flow of traffic on freeways here is generally 75-80 mph.  There is a big difference between an occasional 55-60 mph leg of a trip on a highway and expecting to be a rolling pylon everyday.  It's neither safe nor OK to be routinely driving 20 mph under the flow.

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Talk to Brian Rhodes at Bruce Elder Classic & Antique Autos in Staunton, Va. They have a very nice '39 Packard Eight Coupe there for $39k/neg. The owner recently spent WAY more than that on a complete engine, transmission and rear end rebuild.





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