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Question of the Week: What advice would you give a first-time classic owner?

We were all first-time classic owners at one point. You’ve probably met a new owner before, whether chatting with a fellow club member or discovering a kindred soul while topping off your fun-to-drive car at a local gas station. The enthusiasm and excitement spills over as they talk about their new purchase, and then they look at you and ask if you have any advice. What is your response?

They have already bought their car, but there is still much to learn. New owners look to experienced enthusiasts, those who have been there before, for advice on how to handle any number of problems that will appear over the course of owning a classic. The best local sources for parts, service, or gatherings might be only the tip of the iceberg.

Share your tips below, from proper storage to best times to drive. We want to start a comprehensive list of tips for new owners to reference after they have purchased their new ride—leave a quick comment and we just might use it as part of the Answer of the Week article next week.

Join a local club.

Look out for car shows that don’t charge entry fees (they do exist.)

Look to see what internet resources are available to you…

Email lists
Website forums
Etc

Based on other people near you in the club or even outside of it, use their recommendations for mechanics…

If you have more time than money, pick up the service manuals and develop and hone your mechanic skills. Still, dont bite off more than you can chew and reach out to other club members or friends who are mechanics to help you out.

Figure out how to source parts for cheap… Quality would be NOS, reputable distributors and repops next…

Sometimes, the local hardware store is your best friend. The same starter bolt that costs 15 bucks plus shipping for genuine nos German can be had grade 8 automotive grade stainless and perhaps shiny for less than a dollar.

Enjoy, and try to get your significant other involved as well…

Also, it may take a lot more money than you thought, but you can always tell your better half that you could spend it on far worse things.

Kyle

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Join a club dedicated to you marque. Most clubs have members who can help with any questions you have regarding your car. I recommend doing this before your purchase.

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I am 71 and built my first car before graduating from high school in the 60’s.
Since you already have the car I would say be prepared for some surprises. Unless the car came available due to estate sale or owner has lots of cars you will find some surprises.
A shiny paint job does not always mean great paint job. I never wash a classic car with running water, pressure washer or car wash. The excessive water just goes into all the cracks and places that not protected and feeds the rust. I just use buckets of clean water and micro fiber towels and wipe the car down. I have one car that was in the Mustang Owner’s Museum that has not been washed or buffed in 38 years and paint looks new and no rust popping out.
Join lots of forums for you vehicle and not all info there will be 100% some think they are experts and can get you into trouble also.
David

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Be realistic about maintenance and repair costs…if it’s old you can expect to spend some money keeping it on the road.

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Don’t buy the car with the idea of making money on it. Buy it to enjoy it… whether enjoying it means tucking it into a garage to simply sit and look at over a cup of coffee, scotch or beer… or driving it as she was meant to be… I would echo the statements above RE joining a club and not underestimating costs…
Think of a car as that “dream vacation”… You save for years… take the vacation, (hopefully) enjoy every minute of that vacation and then you come home… with NO ideas of making money from that vacation or having that vacation pay for itself somehow… It is seen as money well spent… The classic car experience is the same… enjoy every minute of ownership and when it comes time to sell, don’t expect to be paid back for those minutes and money spent.

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If you are new to the game and plan to do the work yourself set aside some money for the purchase of tools and “garage equipment”. Most of us can’t afford the “turn-key” version that someone else has restored so all you have to do is insert the key and drive it. IMO it is much more enjoyable to do the work yourself (if you have the space) and bask in the glory of what you have accomplished. It also gives you something to talk about at the next cars and coffee.

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Well, what I would say is, All cars have 4 tires & 4 fenders. The ALL cost about the same to restore but, Some are desirable, some not so much. Don’t spend a fortune on fixing up an old car that’s not worth much more than it was when you started. Just saying.

Buy tools, dial back timing light, learn timing and Holleys. Ignore most so-called expert info.

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Buy what you love and buy the best you can afford. The worst thing you can do is settle for a car you sort of like.

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Drive it, as much ad you can. Don’t listen to all the cracks and bizarre noises, the car’s alright. Service it, like you would offer flowers to your Mum. And drive it again!

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Time and patience. Don’t rush it do it right and ask alot of questions. Real car guys love to chat and share.

If it runs, have all fluids flushed and replaced, do a complete tune up and put new brakes all around. Perhaps new tires and a new battery, especially if it has been sitting for a minute.

Buy one you will enjoy driving. Plan to drive it and enjoy the experience. Get accustomed to a few odd rattles and squeaks.
First decide on what you will accept as the condition of the vehicle( almost junk, needs a lot of work, or fully restored).
Second, get price estimates and comparisons from all sources(as to the actual value of the one you are looking at).
Third, have a good mechanic or repair network already on hand (don’t expect to know all the answers to it’s problems).
Fourth, participate in all the car gatherings you can. These will educate you and widen your “who can help” list.

As a collector of high dollar classics for 30+ years I offer a bit of advice you are not likely to hear: The car that will go up in value the most is the car that already has.
Another that you should hear from those who have bought a car to have restored: Buy a car that is already in the condition in which you will keep and enjoy it.
If you enjoy working on cars forget making money just buy something you love to work on and that needs something within your capabilities.
Patrick

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I have been in the car world for about 50 years. Retired in June after 42 years in a thriving general repair shop (which is still going strong).

You DO become jaded after many years of seeing your customers roll up with an old rust pile that they claim to love, but here is what I have done in the past.

A. I would tell them that I am probably not going to work on it.
B I would do a cursory “on the lift” safety inspection (usually N/C).
C I would give them some real world advise depending on the vehicle and condition.
D I would have the talk about “actual value” vs some pie-in-the sky “restored value”.
E I would have the talk about FUN vs $$$ in a rear world way.
F And sometimes I would straight out tell them to dump it if that was the best option.

Many first time “classic” buyers are clueless, so be nice… and be patient, but try to leave them with a real sense of what they are dealing with. I have seen a few Gems, but unfortunately, most first time purchases are impulsive, uninformed and of little value.

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Another tip: learn the side roads to get from here to there when driving your classic. High-speed highways are fine with your daily driver when you just have to get there, but not as much fun in a classic with the squeaks and whistles that go with it. The side roads take longer, of course, but are way more fun and part of the experience. Also - learn to love all your classic’s idiosyncrasies - the hard starting, the weird rattle - because if you expect this old car to be as perfect as a new car you will make yourself crazy and never enjoy it.

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Best advice I received? Set aside $100 (or xx) each month to spend on the car. Repairs and changing parts will creep up on you and if you plan on spending xx each month it won’t be a shock when a new set of wheels comes along.

Your “new” old car will need repairs. (They all do.) Decide what must be done to keep the car safe and road worthy and fix JUST THAT. It is too easy to fall into the trap of over reach . . . . while doing this, we could do that, etc. Things can cascade and escalate. Soon the car is continuously down for repairs, the cost becomes overwhelming, and the joy of owning it is diminished. Drive the car. Enjoy the car and accept some imperfections. They were not “perfect” even when showroom new. A good strategy is to choose one thing each driving season to improve on the car, unless, of course, essential safety demands more repairs. Unless you have old car “experience” and you know and understand the immense challenge of an extensive restoration, keep things simple and manageable. Make your first priority enjoyment.

It would also be a good idea to join a club or an owners group associated with your make and model. Club activities (drives, shows, dinners, etc.) enhance the old car experience. People who share an interest in your make and model are an incredible resource when trouble arises with your car. It’s likely that they have “been there - done that” and they can help you to avoid mistakes they may have made on their cars. They are also a good source for parts or they can direct you to the best suppliers that will have what you need.

Finally, stay connected with the Hagerty Forums and / or other forums specific to your car. These provide a place to vent frustrations or a place to advise and nurture others in need of mentoring. Teaching is a strategy for learning and sharing in itself is rewarding.

There is always some element of luck involved with old cars. Anticipate some bad luck, but with good management and by utilizing resources available to you, you should enjoy much success with your hobby car.

Good luck!

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