Buying classic cars and hot rods

My friend Steve, from Santa Clarita, California, has met me two years in a row at the Woodward Dream Cruise, in Detroit, Michigan. This year he mentioned that he would love to get a classic car. While we drove endless hours on Woodward, during the cruise, we saw a lot of cars we’d like to have. We had fun pointing out various cars we had owned over the years, but never kept. But, it wasn’t till the last day that Steve announced that he’d like to get a ’58 Chevy convertible. Nice choice.

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The most popular Chevy classics seem to be ’55, ’56, and ’57 model years, the ’57 being the most iconoclastic of the ‘50s Chevys. The ’58 Chevy design had an abrupt end to straight up fin in favor of a rounded fin-like design. It was a heavier car than the ‘57, which did not do as well when designing for speed, but it was a classy car.

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All this got me thinking about where you could go to buy a ’58 Chevrolet? Where would you even start? Well, it turns out that there are many listing sources for classic car and hot rod buffs looking for a car. But how can you tell if the price is right? There are many things that go into the pricing; the body condition, the engine and powertrain, the miles, even the type of restoration can affect price (like ‘off-frame’ vs not ‘off frame’).

For the condition of the entire car for appraisal purposes, essentially think in terms of a scale from 1-10, 10 being the highest and most expensive. 1-2 would be cars that are for parts only. 3-5 cars are restorable cars. 6-8 are cars that are not perfect, but perfect for driving around a lot. 9-10 cars are show cars that are in competition a lot, but cars that you don’t drive a lot.

I’ll lay odds that Steve wants a classic car in the 5-6 range so he can fix them up to an 8. Well, there are all kinds of classic cars that are available from all kinds of sources like; magazines, websites, Google, car lots, individuals, auctions and even signs in the windows of cars.

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There are many magazines around with classic cars for sale, most free, but some you have to buy that are in the supermarkets –convenient stores – book store magazine racks – part stores – truck stops, etc. It’s also where you can find other cool mags on classic cars and hot rods. Hemmings is an insurance company for classic cars, but they also have a magazine sales directory for classic cars (www.hemmings.com). The free magazines are usually in the front of supermarkets, restaurants, and various places where there are other free magazines displayed. Don’t forget local classic car magazines that cater to local people going to cruise-ins, like Cruz’news (http://cruisnews.com/) in the Detroit area, or Cruisin’ times (www.cruisintimes.com) in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Try Google to find a mag like these near you.

To find classic cars and hot rods at a car lot, you need to find these on the Internet. Many of these lots are in states far from where you live, unless you’re lucky enough to have one near you. Some only deal in perfect show quality cars and you will pay big $$$ for these. But, if you want to buy a perfect car, these are not bad.

One of the largest classic car lots is Gateway Classic Cars, with stores in St. Louis, Louisville, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Tampa, and Orlando. You can cruise through their listings at; http://gatewayclassiccars.com/.

On the Internet, there is a wealth of sources for classic cars, like http://www.classiccars.com. Google is the obvious first choice because you can just type in the name of the car and year and, bam, on your screen are multiple lists for that car and many are on sale through sites like; eBay, Craig’s list, Hemmings and many others just happen to have the car you’re looking for. I Googled ’58 Chevy and sure enough there were bunches of cars, especially on eBay where I found 8 ranging in price from $9999 to $93000. Be very careful of scams. In a previous article about buying my son a car, I outline how some of these scams work, especially on Craig’s List.

Here’s a video someone made at a classic car show of a red ’58 Chevy Impala convertible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9tlB0FIBLw

Auctions for classic cars have become very popular, especially those TV classic car auctions like; Barrett-Jackson (www.barrett-jackson.com), and Mecum auctions (www.mecum.com/auctions.cfn). There are other auctions not on the internet like the Shane Albright auctions in Northern Alabama and mid-Tennessee. They have a lot of classic cars in various condition that are going for auction on Sept. 27, 2014. They even have a bunch of ‘58 Chevys listed. They do have a website to see the listing of cars at www.shanealbright.com.

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You can always go to a cruise-in and find cars for sale. I have found that just about every city, town and community has some kind of cruise-in going on at an old drive-in restaurant, a diner, a drag strip, a local fair, a sports bar, an auto performance based business, or even just a parking lot that everyone gathers at on certain days. Look for a ‘for sale’ sign in the car window and if you end up not buying it, no biggie; you’ve had a nice conversation about the, ‘Dream Machine,’ with the owner.

This sales list of classic car and hot rod sources is by no means complete. If you Google classic cars and hot rods, you will come across an enormous availability of these cars, in all sorts of locations. I wish you luck in your search for your perfect, ‘Dream Machine.’

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