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Notes From The Road

Buying a Hobby Car
By Jim McGowan/

Show or Drive
The quality (read "cost") of your restoration should be determined by how you plan on using the vehicle. Do you want a show car that is also an occasional Sunday driver, or do you want to regularly drive the vehicle for fun? If you want a fun driver, then you obviously don't need a show-quality paint job. Since this step is very costly, decide before you start the bodywork how you will use the car or truck. Will you be upset if one of the kids spills soda or ice cream on the seat? Will you cry if the body gets road rash or a few door dings? Will you leave the car in the movie-theater parking lot and not worry? If you answer no to these few questions, then you should build a driver, not a show car. The fourth commandment for a driver resto is to not sweat the small stuff and enjoy!
Commandment five: always plan on making money on your hard work if possible. There are always winners and losers in the restoration hobby. Selling a project due to burnout makes you a loser; you never get your investment back on a basket-case car. Rarity doesn't necessarily equate with desirability or value. Some rare cars are rare because nobody wanted them when they were new, hence only a few are around. Don't be fooled by the old "only 200 made" routine. It usually means that the car was ugly then and is still ugly now. If you have a favorite car, at least select a project that is popular with the masses. Cars like the GTO, Chevelle, Buick GS, Mustang or Corvette are always good investments. It doesn't make sense to go through an expensive restoration just to lose money after the fact. Choose your investment wisely.
Buy Finished
The final commandment of buying a collector vehicle is, if you have the financial ability, buy a finished car, turn the key and drive away! This is the simplest way of accomplishing your ownership goal, particularly if you have no mechanical abilities. This solution takes all the guesswork out of trying a restoration, and puts you in the car you love immediately. Again, do your homework on what's correct for the vehicle (engine and trans codes, etc.). Matching numbers makes the vehicle more valuable for the investor or collector, but if this isn't a point of contention with you, non-matching vehicles are usually considerably less expensive. Check all the information you can find on your vehicle before purchasing. Either way, you will feel good about your new love, will have avoided the pitfalls and will be cruisin' the 'hood in style.

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