Bill Seward joined the world of antique car owners three years ago. He and his wife travel around Texas showing off his 1939 Buick Limited, Model 90 Sedan, and Seward has won a few awards for his efforts. But Seward keeps his car in mint condition for another reason – history.
“I believe in history. I want to be connected to the past while looking to the future and my Buick lets me do that,” Seward said. “I go into my garage, smell the gasoline and oil, and remember my Dad’s garage – it’s the way a garage is supposed to smell. I drive the car, listening to its sounds, and I’m connected to the men who engineered the car, who built it, when America was the mightiest industrial power that had ever been.”
Seward’s advice for someone getting started in the same hobby is simple. Do research, become familiar with the many types of cars out there, find a local club, and make sure there are sufficient financial resources. Classic cars are expensive and not to be looked upon as investments that will provide a solid financial return.
Here are Seward’s points to remember:
• Get a copy of Hemmings Motor News or other classic car magazine. Study it to define what kinds of cars appeal to you.
• Make a list of what you want your first classic car to be. What do you want it to look like? How often and in what way are you going to use or show it? Are you going to repair or restore it yourself? How do you want to feel when you drive it? Then try to focus on those brands (called “marques” in the hobby) and models that most closely match your wants.
• Try to find a club in your area whose members may be aligned with your preferences. Go to a meeting before you make a commitment to acquire a car; meet the people. These will be the people with whom you most closely associate in the pursuit of your hobby – be sure that you will get along with them.
• Get a copy of a standard catalog of cars in the era you are interested in. Research the cars and find out what is available. Go on the Internet, to eBay, and other sites. Find out what cars like the ones you want sell for.
• Be sure you have the resources to buy and maintain the car you want before you go for it. There is nothing sadder than to see someone sink all their money into a car only to find out that it needs so much more work done than they can afford.
• Before you buy any car, find out what it needs to make it the kind of car you want. Anything it does not have, and needs in order to be the car of your dreams, either you or a trained professional will have to provide after you buy it. If possible, have a professional appraiser go over the car before buying, or do so yourself.
Seward said another point to consider is level of knowledge of car repair. Owning a classic car can means hands on or it can mean hand it over to a knowledgeable mechanic.
“If you can afford to have all the work done by professionals that you can depend on, that’s one thing,” he said. “If you can do all the work yourself, that’s something else. Whatever you cannot do yourself, you will pay around $100 per hour to have someone do for you. Have a clear idea of what needs to be done on every car you are considering buying before you buy it. I have rewired my Buick myself, using a harness I bought from a fabricator, and I have replaced some minor parts myself. I also try to keep the fluids filled up, but I would never undertake major mechanical work (like a valve job), because I don’t have the equipment or the skill to do it. Know what you can and cannot do beforehand.”
Seward also advises against buying a classic car as an investment.
“Classic cars are not, for the most part, investments. Assume that you will not get back the money you put into the car,” he said. “What you will get back, for the money you spend, is an almost indescribable feeling of elation, at driving down the road in a machine that is 60, 70, 80 years old, and still works, a machine that connects you back in time to when things seemed, if not simpler, at least more certain than they do today.”
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