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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Woodward Dream Cruise 2014

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It’s the biggest annual event in Michigan. It’s the fourth largest one-day event in America. It’s the biggest car festival/cruise in the world. It’s the Woodward Dream Cruise with over 1.3 million spectators and over 40,000 classic cars, antique cars and hot rods. This year was the 20th anniversary of the event and not many people outside of Michigan know about it (other than classic car buffs, hot rod enthusiasts, drag racers, auto restorers and car people).

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I had to be in Detroit the Friday before and it was crowded with cars and spectators already – a week in advance! I returned on Wednesday, picked up my friend Steve from California at the airport and headed to the hotel taking a longer route on Woodward. Woodward was packed. Four lanes going north and four lanes going south and it was bumper-to-bumper classic car traffic at around 4 MPH. Engines rumbled, an occasional tire squealed loudly and sometimes it was hard to hear with all that Detroit muscle revving up.

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With my new automobile advertising wrap about my novel, Dream Machines, I was getting plenty of attention. My goal with this trip is to get enough publicity to sell over 2000 books through Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com so I can attract a literary agent, who will sell my book to a big publisher. If that happens, then movie producers will be interested and that is my true main goal: to make my novel, Dream Machines, into a movie. If made (hoping some big rich Detroit leaders read this) a side benefit would be improving the negative perceptions and opinions about Detroit into positive ones. At least, that’s my plan. Know of any people like that with $5 million they would like to invest in a movie? I didn’t think so.

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Wednesday night was the only chance we would have of stopping at Duggan’s Pub on Woodward for a Big Chief burger, the burger they once served at the Totem Pole. Speaking of the Totem Pole, I stopped by the lot on Woodward where the Totem Pole was. It had turned into a Burger King for years and then they closed. They leveled the building and there is nothing but a vacant, empty lot left of what was the greatest drive-in restaurant in the world (my own opinion).

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Thursday had Steve and I cruising Woodward as much as possible (to show off my moving billboard). I had a very bad problem though. On Tuesday, my good friend and best man at my wedding, Dan Hurley died of a heart attack. Dan went to many Dream Cruises with me and his absence was a sore spot. That night we went out to dinner with his son, Neil and his wife Monica. We went to Birmingham, where the sidewalks were filled with people trying to get seats at the many fine restaurants in the area. The streets were also starting to be filled up with classic cars.

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Friday put me in a better mood. We cruised a very busy Woodward, but my friend Steve wanted to hear about actor/comedian, Robin William’s home area, because it was in the news so much about his death a few days earlier. Better than explaining, I showed him. We toured the neighborhoods and small lakes of Bloomfield Hills and the exclusive Cranbrook Institute of something or other. Robin lived in an extremely affluent part of Detroit’s suburbs along with his neighbors Mitt Romney and Lee Iacocca. In the ‘50s and ‘60s the area attracted big executives from Ford, GM and Chrysler. They let their teens play with the new demo cars they drove home from the factory. Many of those kids and their parents, drag raced on Woodward in their new GTO’s, Mustangs, Dodge Hemi’s, Corvettes and all the other muscle cars. Robin and Mitt had to have cruised all the drive-ins too. That’s a cool thought. I believe there are still a lot of auto execs living there.

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Friday night was an absolute zoo. Cars were crammed onto Woodward going about 2 MPH bumper-to-bumper for miles. It took hours to go a mile. The tree lawns, parking places and just about everywhere the crowd sat on lawn chairs or walked between the mini cruise-ins that were jammed with cool cars. TV crews were flitting around getting interviews and radio station guys were out in the street talking to people in their cars asking for a rev up (for sound).

Motorcycle police at WDC 2014

The police were out in a larger force than I’ve ever seen. At the shopping center at 13 mile and Woodward, where Chrysler has set up a ‘Mopar’ exhibit, there was a line of police motorcycles like I have never seen, other than in a movie like, ‘Blues Brothers.’ There had to be at least 30-40 motorcycles from police stations all over the Detroit area. There were cop cars everywhere as well as plenty of cops on bicycles and horses. At the Mopar exhibit, there was a lot of local hype and publicity about Dodge’s new 700+ HP Charger, ‘Hellcat,’ but it wasn’t at the exhibit…yet. They said it would be there on Saturday, but unfortunately, we had a different schedule for cruise day.

Dodge's 'Silver Bullet' ripped up Woodward in the '60s with over 600 HP.

Plymouth’s ’67 Belvedere GTX   ‘Silver Bullet’ ripped up Woodward in the ’60s with over 600 HP.

Down the street from the Mopar exhibit, and across the street from Duggan’s Pub, was GMs Corvette exhibit and next to that was a park area that was transformed into a classic car carnival. It was packed with food concessions/trucks, classic cars, hot rods, t-shirt tents, the truck from my friend Dana’s magazine ‘www.cruiz’news.com,’ several bleacher seats faced Woodward and the enormous crowd either sat and watched, or milled around enjoying the intoxicating atmosphere of motor city metal.

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It was quite an experience, but the show ended at 9:40pm when the huge presence of police blocked off Woodward and everybody had to go home. I mean, tried to go home. The small neighborhood road that the police forced people to take became jammed and it took us forever to make our way back to the hotel.

Black '57 Chevy MSU

The Saturday morning of the Dream Cruise had a chill in the air. The temps had dipped into the 40s the night before, but there was a crowd on Woodward at 8am. We headed to Ferndale. At the corner of 9 Mile Road and Woodward, 9 Mile was blocked in either direction for blocks and blocks for Ford’s ‘Mustang Alley.’ Ford and many after-market suppliers like Saleen, Rousch, Shelby and many others showed their newest Mustang designs. A large parking lot was filled with only Mustang Cobras. Then there were blocks and blocks of Mustangs of all years and models owned by private owners. In all, we figured there had to be at least 1,000 mustangs. It was unbelievable and overwhelming for this ardent Mustang fan. My Mustang was stolen, but that’s in a previous blog.

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Ford's Mustang Alley  9 Mile at Woodward

Ford’s Mustang Alley
9 Mile at Woodward

We then headed to Birmingham to see GM’s offering to the Cruise. It took us a long time to go 6 miles, but lots of people saw my mobile billboard along the way. Tee shirts under a tent dotted the sides of Woodward for miles as well as a bunch of ‘radio towers’ so people would know a radio station was broadcasting from there. Crowds surrounded various cool cars parked everywhere and anyway they could. I could tell by the crowded boulevard that this was the biggest Dream Cruise ever. Along the way, there was a row of around ten DeLoreans like the one in the movie, ‘Back to the Future,’ all with their doors open and pointing skyward. What a blast!

Radio tower WDC 2014

In downtown Birmingham, Old Woodward Avenue was closed off and wow, they had quite a show of classic cars. Since this was Birmingham, with it’s affluence, there were a lot of classic foreign cars that cruised Woodward in the ‘60s, like MGs, Triumphs, Austin Healeys, Jaguars, Rolls Royces and even an old Bentley. There was a long row of Cobras, Thunderbirds and Corvettes. On the other side of the sidewalk, in parking lots full of parked cars, there were a number of exhibits for after-market companies that do a lot of business with GM.

Ken Lingenfelter and I at the Dream Cruise

Ken Lingenfelter and I at the Dream Cruise, I’m in the Hawaiian shirt.

An old friend of mine, Ken Lingenfelter, owns one of those companies, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering. They make GM cars like Corvettes and Camaros go faster and make race cars go faster too. They build race car engines and components like superchargers. Ken showed me a new product of his; trucks he named, ‘Reapers.’ He gives trucks a go-over, performance and custom looks wise, and calls them ‘Reapers.’ They are already in some GM showrooms in Texas. Ken also showed me his personal ‘everyday car,’ a gorgeous ’67 Corvette with over 600 HP. I want to go the grocery store with him.

Ken Lingenfelter's daily ride

At the end of the street where it meets Woodward, forms a triangle where Chevrolet, this years Dream Cruise sponsor, has a large exhibit of their coolest new cars and classic Chevys. There was also a TV station, WXYZ (ABC), which is a sponsor, doing live broadcasts as well as the oldies radio station, WOMC, with their funny radio hosts, Bobby and Stacy doing a live show. Add in all kinds of food trucks, huge crowds, live music stages and you’ve got a pretty wild scene with hundreds of thousands of classic car buffs oo-ing and ah-ing  every cool car that drives by.

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When we headed back out onto Woodward we heard my radio interview. The day before, I had done a radio interview with WWJ 950 am all news, and we heard it run several times in the day and once at night. We didn’t really get all that far on Woodward, because again it was wall-to-wall classic car traffic going at a snail’s pace. At 9 pm, we saw the lights on all the police cars go on like it did Friday night just before they closed Woodward down. I hurried (you really couldn’t hurry) as fast as I could to get off Woodward. I turned the corner at 13 Mile Road and just then the cops shut down Woodward. I thought, ‘9 pm?’ I guess they wanted to end the happiness earlier that usual. Back at the hotel, I heard people moaning about the long ride back in the traffic. I felt lucky, where can I buy a lottery ticket?

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The Big Chief Burger

The Big Chief Burger

On Sunday, we finally got our chance to eat a Big Chief at Duggan’s Pub. We sat at the bar and I saw a very hard working guy, Larry Payne, owner of Duggan’s. Larry said he heard my interview that morning on WWJ, so maybe I sounded better than I thought. I said goodbye to Steve when I dropped him off at the airport. This was his second Dream Cruise year and he said it was, ‘great.’ I headed back to Cleveland, with a big smile, great memories and it helped me get over the tragedy of my friend, who loved the Dream Cruise, passing on. I’m sure that now he’s in a real, ‘Dream Machine.’

More pictures –

'59 Edsel Wagon

White '56 T-Bird

A really big unknown car with Canada plates

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Restoration projects and metal benders.

I have been thinking about this for a good while. What makes a person restore an older car? What drives him/her? How does a normal everyday person decide to rebuild a car they saw in their childhood?

This week I ran into a quasi-relative at a first-year-old’s birthday party for my…Nephew-in-law’s son. Cliff is the child’s father’s uncle, which would make him a great uncle? I’m sure he is. Or is it…well, it doesn’t matter, I’ve played golf with Cliff for over 20 years so he’s considered, a friend, a friend that I never knew that well. I didn’t know, until now, that he is an artist…with metal.

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Cliff also told me something else that he never mentioned to me, that he rebuilt a classic ’56 Chevy B210 into a very nice lookin’ Dream Machine that has some nice power as well. The car used to have a straight 6, but now has a Chevy 350 V8 that has about 300 HP. He also mentioned that he made many parts from scratch; he’s an expert welder and bends metal to his liking.

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This I had to see. So, my kids and I rode out to Cliff’s place in the country. Way out in the country. My 17 year-old daughter, Courtney, and her twin, my son, Chase, was with me and when they saw the car as we drove into the driveway that features a four-car garage, they gasped and their eyes grew large.

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The Chevy is a gorgeous shade of orange, like an Orange Crush. Beautiful. Cliff told us that he carefully, and meticulously painted the car in his garage. I took a peak inside at the interior expecting to see floor shifter and yes, there it was, but it looked different. It was an automatic transmission. Cliff said he didn’t like shifting a lot whenever he’s in a parade or at a cruise-in.

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Cliff’s wife, Joy, invited us inside for a drink and we got surprised again. Cliff is such a good metal bender, that he makes model ships…out of stainless steal. Not small ships, large art sculptures with a lot of detail. I’ll post some pictures. Out back of his house was another surprise; a 30’ deep pond with fish and a diving board. Not a bad lifestyle.

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Cliff wanted us to see his neighbor’s project car, so we hopped in his Chevy and took a short ride with a low rumble. His friend Rocky, lives just a few houses down, but his large barn-like garage told me a lot. The garage door was open and inside was a hot rod made from a ’30 Ford. It was on a lift, but the closer you got, the better it looked. Court and Chase were mesmerized by this…work of art.

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Rocky told us that many parts on the highboy were hand made from stainless steel (I could see Cliff, had a hand in this). Rocky agreed to build the car for a guy named, Jerry Bullock, who is going to give it to his 70 year–old wife. Jerry gave Rocky plenty of money to work with so it would come out spectacular. It’s quite evident that Rocky is another artist. The paint job alone was gorgeous, which included a very detailed paint job on the engine as well. The 350 Chevy Corvette engine was ground down to smoothness so the paint could go one evenly and smoothly. Awesome. Even the bottom of the car was spectacular.

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In the back of the garage was a ’64 Pontiac GTO that needed a lot of work. Cliff mentioned that he needed a body panel so he just made it from scratch. In another room, Rocky converted it into a paint shop. Inside, under wraps, was an old Jaguar that they had just dropped an engine into, but it was a long-term project.

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Metal benders like Cliff and Rocky can turn a piece of metal into art, functional art. They built a real Dream Machine, pretty much from scratch.

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There’s an interesting article about restoring a car that is in much more detail than I can give. Check out this Dream Machine project at:  http://www.chevyhardcore.com/project-cars/project-swinger/project-swinger-the-project-build-wrap-up-for-our-71-nova-part-i/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=project-swinger-the-project-build-wrap-up-for-our-71-nova-part-i

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Roger’s Chevrolet Camaro show

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I wasn’t sure I was going to drive 2 ½ hours to go to a Camaro Show in Trenton, Michigan, but I did. It was beautiful weather and my 17 year-old son, Chase, needed driving time for his license, so I had him drive me. I didn’t have to grit my teeth…much. My hidden reason to go was that I used to live in Trenton for only one year, during my 9th grade of High School. It was a nice chance to show the school to my son.

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By the time we got to the Chevy dealership at noon, the place was packed with Camaro fans and Camaros. The cruise-in was dubbed, ‘The 6th annual Rodger’s Chevrolet Camaro Show,’ and it was sponsored by the, Detroit 5th gen Camaro Club. I was surprised this many people were here at a Chevy store because this was in the middle of Ford country, way downriver from Detroit. Ford’s massive Woodhaven assembly plant is a stone’s throw and it sure looked like a lot of Fords were driving by.

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The dealership had a lot of gorgeous new Camaros intermingled with the Camaro club’s classic Chevys on display and the crowd loved it. We were checking out a ’69 Camaro SS convertible when, VROOOM!!! A Camaro started up with a roar and everybody ran toward the sound of power.

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It was a Camaro with a big block V-8 Yenko engine and a large hood scoop sucking in air. The deep-angry-loud revving shook the ground and reverberated right through your body. This Camaro was drag-strip ready and the girl that got to start the car was in shock how loud it was inside the car, even while wearing ear protectors. When it shut down, a huge silence occurred, but only momentarily as the crowd gave up a rousing cheer.

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Something caught my eye; a Camaro with flip-up doors like some Ferrari’s have. Nobody was there to answer my questions if it was from an after-market company or just an individual with a talent for sculpting metal. Definitely, cool.

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A guy sitting next to his classic ’68 Old 442 convertible responded to a guy complaining his car wasn’t a Camaro, “Go play in someone else’s yard.” He awkwardly walked away, apparently looking for another yard. Goes to show, you just can’t please everybody and there’s always a grumpy person in every crowd.

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There were probably about 100 cars in the show and it was fun to see some of the old designs and paint jobs Camaros had over the years. It seemed most of the cars were SS models, but a few V6s were just as nice looking. In a way, it was like Mustang Alley at the Woodward Dream Cruise, woodwarddreamcruise.com, only with Camaros. Of course, Mustang alley featured close to a thousand Mustangs, but this was nice seeing these American, iconic classics.

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There were free hotdogs, drinks, trophies, raffles, door prizes, music, photo booth, as well as plenty of friendly and not pushy salespeople around, just in case you wanted to check out a new car. There were also several after-market companies hawking their ability to boost your Dream Machine’s speed.

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All-in-all, a good time and worth the drive. Pictures cannot compare to actually being there, seeing and touching. America has always had a love affair with cars and classic cars run even deeper to the heart. In Motor City, this is very true and has been like that since Henry Ford started the very first assembly plant here. It’s the stuff that Dream Machines are made of… (yeah, I stole it from Sam Spade).

Also- check out my Facebook page at:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dream-Machines/560475744012570

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