Wheels: Tips for first-time classic car restorer or hot rod owner
Classic car restoration projects can be very rewarding, giving restorers a chance to bring life to an old car that might once have appeared beyond repair. Though trial and error is an integral part of the vehicle restoration process, there are steps first time restorers can take to avoid some of the many pitfalls that can pop up when trying to get that ’57 Chevy or ’41 Buick back up and running and ready to hit the road.
a Do your research and take your time. You must first do your research so you can choose a vehicle wisely and ensure you get exactly what you’re looking for. If you’re not quite sure of what you want or what it will cost, several publications, such as Hemmings Motor News, can act as resources that can help you make a decision. If possible, ask others who have restored the same model what you can expect to pay. Car clubs are an excellent source of information, and the people in them, as a rule, love to talk about their cars and restoration experiences. Restoring classic cars is not a hobby for those with tight pursestrings or little patience, so knowing a ballpark list of expenses beforehand is a good idea. You can expect your project to always cost more than you thought.
a Know from whom you’re buying. Weekend classified sections in newspapers have antique autos for sale, which both increase your chances of finding a car and getting ripped off. Similar to most other big-ticket expenses or jobs that will require you to invest lots of time and money, talk to people in the trade or individuals who have walked down this road before. Take a friend who won’t fall in love with the car to give you an objective view. Oftentimes, sellers will tell you only the great things about a car and regale you with tales of how much money their car can save you on restoration expenses. It’s important not to be too trusting, especially if you weren’t referred to a seller.
a Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s your money, and as the buyer, you have the right to ask however many questions you want. Make sure you ask if the car runs, stops and steers-all things that are helpful when loading it on a trailer.
One very important question to ask is how long the seller has owned the car. Beware of any seller who is selling a car after only owning it for a brief period of time. This likely means the seller has decided the car is more trouble than it’s worth, or finding parts for it was too difficult. Asking why the seller is selling the car is good, and at times, very entertaining. All of the above does not apply if, when you pull up in the driveway, a wife comes out with an unhappy look on her face. That in it self will explain why it’s being sold.
a Be prepared to spend just to get it home. If the car runs, this shouldn’t be a problem, as most states will issue you temporary tags if the car is not registered. The fee for such tags is typically not very large. Where you can expect to pay a steeper price is if the car doesn’t run at all. If you purchase the car particularly far away from home and don’t have a car trailer and lots of time, you will want to consider the trucking costs. Most companies have standard fees of $1.00 per mile uncovered, $2.00 per mile covered. Naturally, these fees can add up depending on where you purchase your car. But this shouldn’t dictate where you look, as the trucking fee is a one-time expense and you shouldn’t limit your search only to those areas close to home.
If you buy armed with good information and not your heart and take a friend for another opinion, you usually will be okay. Old cars, whether a classic or a hot rod, if well maintained, can provide much pleasure and usually are a good investment. They are certainly more fun to play with than a money market certificate.
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