How to Avoid a Classic Car Catastrophe
Regardless of make or model, those taking the plunge into classic car ownership tend to make the same mistakes. Here’s how to avoid some.
There are any number of ways for the classic car bug to bite. It could simply be that you stumble upon and fall in love with the look of an older car or that it was the car that hung on the wall in picture form as a child. However, regardless of reason and regardless of make or model, those taking the plunge into classic car ownership tend to make the same mistakes.
“Unfortunately, there are often cases of people purchasing a ‘rust bucket’ car that they think they can fix up,” begins McKeel Hagerty, CEO of classic car valuations and insurance company Hagerty. “But it becomes too complicated or expensive, resulting in frustration and a heap of parts in the yard.”
Edd China on British TV show Wheeler Dealers makes fixing up a wreck look so simple but even he has started detailing exactly how may hours a restoration takes as well as how much it costs. Often the labor amounts to 50-150 man-hours – and he’s a master mechanic with a purpose-built workshop and no day job.
Little wonder that online auctions and classic cars sites are littered with partially completed project cars for sale.
“Projects are great,” says Hagerty. “But they can be discouraging when you just want to get out and drive!”
So, to avoid a parts-littered yard, what should first-time classic buyers do? “No matter what make or model of vehicle you are looking to buy, always buy the best example that you can afford, even if you have the skills and talent to work on a project,” explains Hagerty.
The better the example the less expensive it is going to be to keep on the road. But even here, people can fail to budget properly.
“When purchasing a vehicle, the buyer must definitely keep in mind the additional costs such as insurance, routine maintenance and things like spare parts and tires – especially if they have to come from a specialty manufacturer,” says Hagerty.
For example, Mercedes still keeps or can manufacture parts for pretty much any car it has ever made, probably even the 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster pictured top. But expect to pay a hefty premium. Likewise, the tires for the Jaguar XJ220, once the world’s fastest production vehicle, are bespoke and Bridgestone, the company that made them, isn’t making any more (well, Bridgestone recently announced a fix for this).
But like Ferrari and Porsche, Mercedes and Jaguar occupy the lofty heights of the classic car market and another common misconception, according to Hagerty, is that you need to be rich to own a classic. “There are many great ‘affordable classic’ options that are easy to get in to under the $10,000 or even $5,000 range.”
Likewise, make sure the car is one with a collectors’ or owners club and sign up to it. “Not only will a collector find the best knowledge and resources for a vehicle within a club, but it also adds to the overall experiential enjoyment that goes along with it. The camaraderie of the collector community is second to none so becoming involved in a car club only adds to that experience,” says Hagerty.