Purchase Classics Ready to Drive or Fixer Upper


I wanted to get a general consensus…when I buy a classic/muscle car, I do so with the intent of rebuilding the motor, doing the body work, paint, interior, suspension, etc. I do so since I like to know what I have, what components, gear ratios, and other specifications.

I have a friend who likes to buy vehicles ready to drive without doing much work. Usually I find it’s cheaper in the long run to buy a car already done over.

What’s the consensus of this group.


I personally usually buy needing minor mechanical work. I don’t do bodywork (at least in my own cars) so I look for clean sheet metal with a slightly rough mechanical condition.


I don’t do my own bodywork either…or engine work anymore…I have most work done by engine builders, interior guys and body shops…I just like to know how it was done and what components are used. If someone asks me what type of cam, duration or piston type I have, I usually like to tell them rather than say I don’t know…I didn’t build the motor.


I do not have the facilities to do body work properly although if I won the lottery I would build a beautiful garage and attempt it. I will do any mechanical work though with the current garage that I have to work in. I am more on the side of preserve than rebuild (the body). I buy the best body and paint that I can afford then attack the rest on my own. I have to pay someone else for their time and know how (if they are doing it on their own). Unless that person does body work for a living, I am thinking many times there is a loss on the resale to the next buyer. The time spent doing body work for a beginner must be a lot.


I’m like most the others as I don’t have the skill/knowledge/tools for body work, nor do I want to mess with that. I like to refurbish & upgrade and get ‘em back on the street as reliable modes of transportation, which I then keep. They are all 15 footers.


I seem to always lose money on my cars, but it’s a hobby for me. I can’t do bodywork or paint either and I’m not going to start now at my age. I just do minor mechanical work to make them roadworthy. I have learned though over the years to buy the best car you can afford to because it’s usually cheaper in the long run. Try not to buy cars that need a paint job because that’s a big loser if you’re going to sell the car in the near future. I don’t always follow my advice though. I bought a car a few months ago that needs a paint job, but it’s a pretty rare vehicle with low miles. The body’s solid though with just some surface rust, and it’s mostly original paint. I’m probably going to leave it and let the next owner make that decision. I did the mechanical work that was needed including new tires, so I think it’s pretty roadworthy.


Thanks for your story…regarding paint and body work, you usually hear how expensive they are. I can tell you there are places that are very reasonable and do a great job. A friend of mine owns a body shop in the L.A. area…he, himself is not money hungry and he owns his property outright…so he doesn’t have a huge lease or mortgage to pay. He only has his staff and utilities to cover. In addition he enjoys doing body and paint on classic cars, so he’s very reasonable. I’ve heard of shops that charge $20k - $100k for body work and paint and that’s just ridiculous to me. My range is usually $5k - $8k at the most and that’s complete body and paint, rust removal, blocking, sanding with good paint, etc.


I have a1976 corvette i bought in 2016. I have had work done over the last 16 months and at this time i have more in the car than i will ever get out of it. I still have interior to do and body and paint. I have seen these cars already finished for no where near what i will have in mine. Ill sell this one at a loss in a few years and next time i will buy turn key.


rpmorgan3…that’s so true…but the satisfying part is that you know what the car has in it, how it was done, who did it, etc. I have a '65 Comet Cyclone that I put together and now am selling…I’ll be losing around $10K when all said and done.


I owned and drove a 1969 Chevrolet Cheyenne 4WD for many years. It was in sad condition when I parked it but I had intentions of fixing it. 15-20 years & 6 kids later it wasn’t a legitimate restoration. It would have taken me MANY years to fix it in my spare time. With 6 kids…I have no spare time. LOL I sold it, and all the parts I had collected to fix it, to my cousin and her husband. I took the money and purchased a 1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am with 13,000 miles. My family is excited to drive it everytime we have the opportunity. I appreciate the time we spend together when driving, cleaning, and showing the car. I don’t regret buying a car ready to drive but I consider those that restore cars as Superheros!


In theory buying a turn key car should be less expensive than a project but only if the work done to the car was done correctly! We recently had a 56 Chevy in our shop that our customer purchased as a “done car”. He brought it in for a few additions such as a/c, stereo upgrade and four wheel disc brakes, however when we got into the car we found that much of the previous work performed was either done incorrectly or used poor quality parts. The car was simply unsafe, so 40k later we delivered the car he thought he was buying to start with. We are now working on a 68 GT350 with similar issues, again the car was supposedly fully restored. So if you are going to buy a “turn key car” make sure that it is truly turn key, otherwise you could end up in the same situation as our customers!