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Classic Car Info Wanted

I love old cars - Fords from the early 50’s, Buick’s from the 30’s - and I’ve always wanted to own a classic car. Problem is, I don’t know the first thing about classic car restoration, buying, problems, etc. I am looking to begin learning about classic cars so that when the time comes for me to think about buying, I can make an educated decision. Does anyone out here know of an great classic car resources for someone who wants to learn about them?

Thank you!

Any bookstore that sell automotive books will ahve some. You public library is worth checking as well.

There are sites that specialize in certain models, such as 50s Buicks. Much of this info is free. If you buy some of the many classic car magazines you will learn how much work it really is to restore an old car. The expenses will add up fast too.

I bought a few books and decided this was not for me. Too much work, unless you are rich and let someone else do it.

My only advice is don’t underestimate the cost of restoring and/or owing such a car.

In addition to what Docnick mentioned there is a likely a club or two in your local area of old car buffs & restorers. Look around for one - keep your eyes open for car shows as well since this would be one way to start talking to networks of people who do this. Books are good - but there’s just lots of stuff you can’t get into books.

Join a club
Read books and magazines
Check out enthusiasts web sites:

go to car shows
talk to other collectors
your first car should not be a restoration project
do lots of research before you buy
go to car museums and talk to curators
realize the purchase price will be just a down payment


There are tons of books and many monthly magazines devoted to classic cars. Pick an era you like, and you already gave a couple of examples.

When you are ready to buy one, you should simply look for a completely restored car that is within your budget. Maintaining a restored car isn’t that much different than a regular car.

If you plan to drive it a lot of miles per year you need to learn how to tune up a car without electronic ignition. That means setting points (a feeler guage and dwell meter), replacing plugs, distributor cap, rotor, and condensor about every 10 to 15K miles.

Otherwise maintaining a classic is fluid changes yearly or every 3K miles, washing, waxing, polishing, and lots of time cleaning it between joy rides. It helps to have an enclosed garage and locate a good mechanic. Often the main problem is finding parts but many parts suppliers specialize in classic car parts.

Car clubs are full of members who will be happy to share their experiences with their old cars.

Do all of the things others have suggested.

You’ll also discover as you peruse magazines like Street Rod that there are companys out there that manufacture entirely new replica systems (chassis, entire bodies or parts, drivetrains, wiring harnesses with fusebox, etc. etc. etc.), giving you the option of building a vintage car with all new parts. You can even buy entire kits.

Thanks very much. Everyone’s been very helpful.

I have been an avid fan of auto shows for about a decade now, but my location in the mid-Atlantic doesn’t offer a lot of options. I have noticed small gatherings over the years of what I’d guess are local auto clubs. I will research some in my area.

I should clarify that for my first car I’d be interested in something with all the work done on it that I only have to maintain, though I realize this can considerably drive up the price. While I love all-original restorations, I fully support something that looks old on the outside but runs modern parts. Eventually I would like to know enough to get a cheap deal on something that needs fixing up and work on it myself, but that day is long off and until then I am itching to cruise around the streets in something vintage.

A restored automobile is the best way to go. The seller rarely gets back what he has put into the car. An unrestored car is a money pit and if you decide to sell the car, you will lose much of what you have put into the car.
Old cars that are kept completely original are worth more than an old car updated with modern parts. I go past a lot every day that has a 1962 Studebaker Hawk Gran Turismo. The car has been there at least a year and a half. I told a Studebaker collector who plays in the same band that I do about the car. He checked it out and wasn’t interested. Why? It didn’t have the original Studebaker 289 V-8 engine. A Chevrolet 305 V-8 had been installed, so he wasn’t interested even though the car is in perfect condition.

Body style is important. A convertible is worth more than any of the other models with the exception of certain station wagons. A coupe is more valuable than a sedan. A wood bodied station wagon (most of which were made before 1951) is valuable as is a 1955-57 Chevrolet Nomad station wagon or a 1955-57 Pontiac version of this wagon.

Back in 1977 I bought a 1948 Dodge sedan with the intent of restoring the car. I had the motor running very well, but the body needed considerable attention. When I found out how much body work would cost and was then offered more than I paid for car by $100, I took my money and ran. I currently have a 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon 4-4-2 that I purchased new. In 1978 the 4-4-2 was no longer a muscle car package, but just a trim package. My car has the 260 V-8 and an automatic transmission. This doesn’t make it a muscle car. Though this model is rare, it isn’t of interest to collectors and I have had no luck trying to sell the car. On the other hand, my brother has a 1969 Buick Gran Sport that he purchased in 1970. His car is considered a muscle car and he has had all kinds of offers on the car.

Our town has 3 “classic car” shows per year, and a really good one, for instance, is the “Nifty Fifties Ford Club”. It specializes in Fords, but has other vehicles too. The owners are very eager to talk about all the time and money they’ve put into making that Crown Victoria (the original) hardtop with the moonroof look like it just rolled off the assembly line.

Check your newspapers and if your town has a car museum, the curators are a wealth of knowledge.

Most classic car owners tend to over value their vehicles(myself included), so if you make a reasonable offer(if they have a sticker of $15k, offer $10k), they might jump.
If you’re looking to restore, make sure parts are available for it at reasonable prices. Brakes for a Chevy Bel-Air are likely to be cheaper than a Mercedes of that same year, for example

“I should clarify that for my first car I’d be interested in something with all the work done on it that I only have to maintain, though I realize this can considerably drive up the price.”

I disagree. The commentators at the televised auctions always advise the viewer to buy the car after it has been restored. The restorer enjoys it for a couple of years, the sells it for less, sometimes considerably less, than he paid to restore it. Sure, if you buy a popular car after restoration you’ll pay more, but you aren’t going to buy a Shelby 500 are you?

Subscribe to Hemmings Motor News, the classic car bible…

The trouble with Classic Car Owners, they are all IN LOVE with their cars…So when they must sell them, they want YOU to pay for that love…These cars frequently turn up at estate auctions where prices are more reasonable…

That’s why classic car auctions are often the way to go. Barrett-Jackson prices seem inflated when compared with the Mecum auctions. But Mecum usually sells drivers, not trailer queens.

for the price of an all original, numbers matching GT500, one could buy 2 or 3 brand new ones

Barrett Jackson is not an auction, it’s TV entertainment…

Rumor has it that people buy cars there, too. And if being on TV is entertainment, then Mecum and RM auctions are entertainment, too. And they can be entertaining.