While there is plenty to love about sleek, ultra-modern cars (did someone say 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500?), there is something uniquely special about climbing behind the wheel of a classic car that has been meticulously brought back to life by professional classic car restorers.
However, given that restored classic cars aren’t cheap — a sweet 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air 8-cylinder convertible (265cid/162hp 2bbl) restored to its factory-original glory can set you back over 6-figures —it’s imperative to make a smart purchase. Otherwise, instead of being the center of attention at the mall, the grocery store, your kid’s school — basically, everywhere you drive and park — you’ll be wishing you had a time machine to undo the damage.
The bad news is that time machines aren’t yet available (something about a flux capacitor shortage). But the good news is that you’re reading this now, which means you can arm yourself with four tips to ensure that your restored classic car purchase and experience is rewarding vs. regrettable. Here is what you need to know:
- Don’t buy it as an investment.
While most restored classic car dealers and brokers are legitimate, like in any other marketplace, you’re going to find a few con artists here and there. And one of their favorite tactics is to convince buyers that an (over-priced) restored classic car is an investment that is going to increase in value, like their home, retirement savings, and so on.
Simply put: don’t fall for this. Yes, it’s possible that a restored classic car will increase in value; especially if it is extremely well-maintained and doesn’t spend a lot of time outdoors or being driven. But you shouldn’t count on generating ROI. A restored classic car is an expensive and magnificent toy. Not a stock, bond, piece of property, or parcel of land.
- Rust is the enemy.
It might be impossible to find a restored classic car in your price range that is 100 percent rust-free. However, if you see rust on the truck or floors, then it’s probably time to back away. Otherwise, you could end up spending tens of thousands of dollars, and to make things even worse, you may still not be able to restore the car to its original factory finish.
- Check with your insurance company before buying.
Your insurance company is going to want a piece of the action as well, because insuring restored classic cars is much higher than insuring new cars. To avoid sticker shock, check with your insurance company to get a clear idea of what’s in store premium-wise. You may need to shop around to get the best price.
- Find a specialist mechanic.
Plan on taking your restored classic car to your local mechanic who can fit you in between work on Toyota Camry or Ford Escort? Think again! You’ll need to find a specialist mechanic who not only has the skills to work on your beloved car, but has access to the parts you’ll need. After all, they don’t sell oil pumps for a 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra at AutoZone.
The Bottom Line
Once you buy a restored classic car that fits your budget and makes you happy, you’ll experience a level of vehicle-induced euphoria that can’t be described. But to reach that state, you need to keep these four tips in mind. Otherwise, you may be in for a world of despair and disappointment.