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Buying a Classic Used Car

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 16 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Classic Car Reliability Restoration

A classic car can be a lot of work. Tracking down spare parts can be almost impossible, the lack of reliability can be extremely frustrating and seemingly endless mounds of money are needed to keep it running. Any amateur mechanic thinking of buying and restoring a classic car as a money-making exercise would be well advised to think again and leave such projects to the professionals.

But it would be wrong to dismiss classic cars as a pastime for fanatics of questionable sanity, because there is nothing quite the same as taking a classic car onto the open road. It’s like driving back in time and the thrill it brings allows all the hard work, expense and frustration to be forgotten – at least for as long as it’s running smoothly.

Definitions of what makes a car a classic vary. Typically, a classic car will be pre-1973, but there are exceptions. Among the most desirable are the Aston Martin DB5, made famous by Sean Connery playing James Bond in Goldfinger, and the Jaguar E Type, arguably the most famous British sports car of all time. Other, less glamorous but nonetheless cult classics include the Ford Capri, original Mini, MG and original Volkswagen Beetle.

Restoration Project

Before going to view any classic cars, think about the make and model you want, the budget you have and the condition you can expect the car to be in at that price. Those willing to take on a restoration project will have more choices open to them, especially if they can weld, but don’t take on too much or the project is likely to remain unfinished indefinitely.

Of course, it is tempting to buy a dilapidated Jaguar that will be worth 20 times as much when restored to its former glory, but if you have to call on paid professionals to get the engine, bodywork, interior and running gear in order, any profit will evaporate rapidly.

Likewise, it’s pointless investing in a Ford or Austin that needs thousands spent on it, as even when restored the car won’t be worth that much. Remember that when dealing with classic cars it can take a lot of time and money to hunt down original parts, so when dealing with cheaper models it makes sense to spend a bit more and get a presentable one.

Suitable Storage

Think about where the car will be stored, as no old car likes to be left outside, even under a cover. If the car needs work done, and all classic cars do sooner or later, it is far better to have access to a garage rather than try to battle the elements in the open air.

If buying a classic car from a trader, there does tend to be a limited comeback if the car turns out to be a dud. Buy from a private seller and, more often than not, it’s a case of buyer beware unless the car has been totally misrepresented. When viewing a classic car, apply all the same rules used to check any used car, plus a few more besides. For instance, if there any sagging it will probably mean tired suspension at best or a corroded chassis at worst. Unless the panel gaps line up nicely, the car may have had a bump or two and the repair work has not been the best.

In general, a classic car with mechanical issues tends to be a better bet than one with a rotten body, so check the bodywork all over, paying particular attention to the headlamps, arches, sills, doors, around the front and rear screens and the boot floor, which are popular areas for corrosion. Mechanical parts for popular models are usually easier to find than body parts.

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