1959 Pink Cadillac
1959 Pink Cadillac
November/December 2016

How You Can Own a Classic Car

Parking a vintage set of wheels in your garage is more affordable than you think

BYAlan Rider
Most everyone — even folks who don’t consider themselves car enthusiasts in the usual sense — has a set of wheels they daydream about. It may be your grandfather’s 1959 Cadillac with the ginormous tail fins or the sporty little ’71 MG your older brother fixed up the summer before he went off to college.
 
Though daydreams will vary, one fact remains surprisingly constant: You can drive the classic car of your dreams for a lot less than you imagine.
 
“As long as you’re not talking about something rare or a car that’s undergone a complete professional restoration, you’d be surprised how affordable some of these classics can be,” says veteran automotive author and photographer Dan Lyons. “This is especially true when it comes to models like the Ford Mustang that were produced in large numbers.”
 
With that good news in mind, here’s our primer on how to buy a classic car.
 
The Hunt
Start your search by perusing the print or online classified ads in special-interest publications like Hemmings Motor News or Sports Car Market. You can find additional listings via collector car websites like AutoTrader Classics. Also, you can join a model-specific car club (see a list at Classic Car Database) as members may know of cars for sale before they’re advertised to the general public.
 
Large public auctions, held several times each year at venues around the country, also are good sources for quality vintage vehicles. Scottsdale, Arizona, for example, is home to the renowned Barrett-Jackson collector car auction, which will run Jan. 14 – 22 in 2017. Because these events are made for browsing a wide variety of classic cars, they’re ideal for open-minded folks just looking to drive something with a high cool factor.
 
Next Steps
Once you locate a car that piques your interest, it’s time to determine if it’s priced fairly. Classic car pricing guides are available online from the publications previously mentioned, as well as the National Automotive Dealers Association. Consider consulting a professional appraiser or knowledgeable car club member before making a major purchase.
 
Whether you buy a car at auction or from a private seller, you may be faced with the problem of how to get it home. While the most enjoyable option may be to drive it there yourself, dedicated car transporters familiar with the unique needs of classic car owners can deliver your new baby to your driveway.

Good Advice
Lyons advises prospective car buyers to steer clear of the project car. “Be realistic about the car’s condition and your mechanical abilities,” he says. “Unless you really enjoy working on cars, buy one that’s already in pretty sound condition. Otherwise, you’ll end up spending those sunny weekend afternoons working on the car when you’d rather be out driving it.”
 
Lyons says he often is asked one question by those tinkering with the idea of making a purchase: Is a classic car a good investment? While some cars do increase in value, he’s quick to say the question misses the point of why most people are interested in a particular car in the first place. “Find something you like, then go drive it and enjoy it,” he explains. “After 25-plus years of being around car people, I’ve found that the ones having the most fun are the ones who do the most driving.”
 
That’s what you were daydreaming about in the first place, right?
ALAN RIDER has been writing about the intersection of automobiles and adventure travel for more than two decades.
1964 Classic Porsche 911
1964 Classic Porsche 911
1970 Datsun 240Z / ┬ęGrant Davis
1970 Datsun 240Z / ┬ęGrant Davis
Five to Drive
Here are our picks for classic cars that combine a high fun-to-drive factor with a relatively low — usually less than $20,000 — price of entry.
 
MG MGB (1962 – 1980)
Affordable sports car
 
Chevrolet Corvette (1978 – 1982)
Bargain-priced muscle
 
Datsun 240Z (1970 – 1974)
Sexy lines
 
Lincoln Continental (1966 – 1969)
Classy cruiser
 
Ford Thunderbird (1961 – 1966)
Fun, fun, fun
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