No matter what your level of auto expertise, or what type of vehicle turns your crank, a collector car can be a great hobby, and one that can often retain or even increase its value while you’re having fun with it.
Still, there can be many expensive pitfalls if you just rush in. The car of your dreams could turn out to be a nightmare if you don’t do your homework first.
Assess why you want the car, how much you can spend, where you’re going to store it, and whether you want a “project car” to restore or one that’s ready to go, says Wayne Copeland, a collector car appraiser who also sells them through his Wayne’s Auto Sales in Lindsay, Ont.
“The cost of repair and buying parts has gotten expensive,” he says. “If you’re looking for a car, but don’t have someone to work on it, or you can’t do it yourself, you’re better off to buy something where you can just put the key in the ignition and drive it.”
Visiting car shows or “cruise nights” — informal evening car meets, usually in mall or restaurant parking lots — can give you an idea of what’s available. Choose a vehicle that appeals to you, but be realistic about how you’re going to use it. Cars from the 1930s won’t have power steering or very effective brakes, and will be better suited for slower Sunday drives, while 1950s and newer cars, or those hot-rodded with updated engines and drivelines, will be better able to keep up with modern traffic.
The toughest part is knowing what you’re getting. No car is better than it looks, and even so-called “mint” cars can have hidden problems.
“Look for what you can’t see – the underside, the frame, the internal working of the engine, transmission and rear end,” Copeland says. “Get under it with a flashlight. Take it to a garage and get a compression test of the engine, or get an appraiser to do a pre-purchase report. See if the owner can produce documentation for work that’s been done. If the owner says no, you can’t do all that, even though you’re willing to pay for it, that’s something to think about — why doesn’t he want that done? Is there something wrong with the car?”
Paint and upholstery aren’t cheap, but they’re relatively simple fixes; a rusted frame isn’t. Don’t lose your heart to a car that isn’t worth repairing.
Vintage car clubs online
• It often helps to join a car club, where you can get information and help from other members. Here’s a partial list of clubs and resources:
• Vintage Car Club of Canada: www.vccc.com
• Antique & Classic Car Club of Canada: www.acccc.ca
• Antique Automobile Club of America (Canadian chapters): www.aaca.org
• Canadian Rodder: www.canadianrodder.com