Owning antique cars if you can't do your own repairs

I know many/most people who own classic cars like to work on the cars themselves and know something about restoring, fixing, and maintaining them. I love antique cars, and I’ve owned a couple in the past, but I bought them already in good condition. Once they started having any real issues I gave up and sold them. If I were to purchase an antique car again, how would I go about finding someone to help me maintain it without going broke or having the car damaged? Is there such a thing as a mechanic who specializes in classic cars? I have my eyes on a beautiful '51 Nash Ambassador, but I’m worried about keeping it in shape.

If I had limited knowledge of how to maintain a car this old, I’d trust most mechanic’s to fix most anything on it. Of course I’d know the qualifications already of my mechanic.

The one thing I’d find a younger mechanic may not be familiar with is the carburetor. That, I may seek out someone who specializes in rebuilding and adjusting them. A fellow I went to school with has been the local carburetor expert in our town for many years.


Thanks Yosemite.

Do you think it’s ok to keep an antique car for daily driving? We’re talking small town driving, not commuting long miles or heavy traffic

I wouldn’t keep it for a daily driver if I couldn’t do the maintenance. Too many times I’d be stranded. To find a mechanic I’d go to old car shows and ask around.

Thanks Texases. I know where the local antique car shows are held regularly. I can ask there.

About 15 years ago, we bought a 1963 Rambler Classic 770 in mint condition. We lived in Vermont then and the car was from South Carolina. The original owner’s manual was in it with the woman’s name and telephone number. I called the number and apparently the woman had passed away but the woman answering the call gave me the tidbit of information she had regarding its history (it was a one owner car). Anyway, the only issue was the carburetor. Our regular mechanic for our newer cars dug back in his list of old-time mechanics and had someone come in that set the carburetor so it ran perfectly and did for the rest of our ownership. I often used it as a daily, summer commuter.

Pick up a copy of Hemmings Motor news and look for a local club for your make and model. There should be at least one car club in your state. Ask around for mechanics and restorers. Car museums are another source.

If you own one of these classics, expect frequent repairs. I’m lucky to have nearby a specialty shop that just loves fixing old cars.

On a recent visit there were 2 Mercedes SL coupes and a vintage Chrysler from the 50s. The owner has a mix of old and young mechanics.

Their shop rate is $94 per hour and they can fix or improvise just about anything.

A '51 Nash is a very simple, basic car to work on. Parts may be a problem but they can be located if you can wait a bit for them. This issue with using it as a daily driver is you need to have a backup car because the Nash will sit for a week or two waiting for parts one to 2 times a year.

Also a '51 car will need much more frequent servicing than modern cars. Oil changes every 3K miles, a full chassis lubrication every oil change, plugs, points, rotor, cap every 10K miles. If you rack up miles driving it daily your service bills will be more frequent.

You will need to find a shop that is familiar with old cars. A jiffy oil change place won’t even have a clue about lubing the chassis. New cars just don’t need greasing like the vintage stuff. Mechanical fuel pumps and carbs are easy to work on, but most new mechanics don’t even get basic skills training on carbs anymore. Marine mechanics see a lot more carbs than auto mechanics now.

Finally your old Nash was not designed for the fuel at your local filling station. You will need to add an additive every time you buy gas to deal with the ethanol in today’s fuel. These additives are readily available in auto supply stores and marine supply stores. If you don’t treat your fuel the fuel lines that are rubber could “melt”, rubber seals and gaskets in the fuel lines and carb will be destroyed and the car will need expensive repairs to keep it running well.

Now for some ‘cold water’ - have you driven a 1950-era car lately? Power will be low, brakes will be less than you’re used to, and handling will be the same. Just know that the experience may not live up to the great looks.

Thanks for the great advice guys! UncleTurbo, I’ll keep that in mind about using a fuel additive.

Texases, I haven’t lately, but in the early '90s I did a lot of driving in my dad’s old Dodge pickup, which was maybe a 1967 model. There was no power steering and the thing weighed a ton (or maybe more in the literal sense), but I loved driving it even as a scrawny teenager, and I got a good feel for it. I think I can get back in the swing of moving a monster down the road.

OK, just know there will be quite a difference between a '51 and a '67. Test drive before you buy, is all.

Gotcha. Will do.

Gee, I always thought one of the nice things about picking up a new hobby is you get a chance to learn some new tricks.

My higher-ed experiences have been somewhat spotty (probably too ADD for the whole concept of a 4-year lead time), BUT I have always enjoyed learning new things. Having a hobby is nice, in that it is (in a gentle way) ENFORCED learning…so one can’t blow it off. And THEN, you get to apply your new-found skills in a manner that directly improves your well-being: always nice learning stuff relative to your life!

Your reasons are your reasons, @NomadInHerBus , and none of my business…but if it were me, I’d delight in the fact that my hobby afforded me a chance at some new learning. I’d turn those maintenance lemons into a lemonade chock full o’ knowledge!

Meanjoe, I’m going to be honest and confess I’ve never even changed a tire or attempted to change my own oil. And I don’t really have anyone knowledgeable about cars standing by to show me the ropes. I’m not opposed to learning new things or being self reliant. It’s just that so far in my life this skill set has never come into play. My husband is pretty good with basic car maintenance (if we overlook that one time when he fixed a headlight with duct tape) but he doesn’t have any interest in an antique car that has to be fiddled with constantly.

I’d budget $100/month for maintenance.

Insightful, so you mean there’s constantly going to be some little something that needs fixing?

Not only constant maintenance but a lot of time searching for parts. I would suggest looking for a really well done driver Mustang at least parts are more readily available. Expect to spend 12 to 20 thousand.

I love the old Mustangs, but I’ve got 6 kids. I need something with wide bench seats for toting the whole gang around. I’m just wanting something more fun than a minivan.

I can’t recommend a '51 anything to tote six kids. Wildly unsafe.