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So You want to Buy a Collector Car! Part 3

We have begun another new feature on Legendary Collector Cars. We invite guest authors to submit their articles for publication in our Blog. Today’s contribution is from Bill Culp of Decatur, Alabama. If you would like to make a submission for consideration please send it to:

Part 3

Value can be determined by Internet searches, E-Bay type auctions, Hemmings and Auto Trader, other experienced auto enthusiasts and car club members with knowledge of your dream car.  If you don’t already know, you will soon find out that a hardtop is twice as expensive as a sedan and a convertible is twice as expensive as a hardtop.  It is also an example of supply and demand; most collectors prefer the convertible or coupe to the four door sedan for going out and having fun with their collector car. Most sedans were usually family cars and a larger supply was manufactured, they generally can be found in wonderful shape while a sporty model has been ragged out by the adventuresome adults and the raucous teen-agers.  This may tempt you to purchase the cheaper four door sedan that is in better condition than the sporty two door you lust for. Remember, this is a big purchase and you must be satisfied with it for the long term; your will likely be spending tremendous amounts of additional money on either one.  Be certain that you are okay with any compromise. I have witnessed may buyers make the compromise to only “bail” out of that car when they find “the one” they really wanted.

Know the value of what you are looking for. Allow me to tell you a story of a friend who had a very nice Packard sedan that he wanted to sell.  At the time he wanted $25,000; a high price that no one would pay.  This was no problem to him as he proceeded to take the car to a major auction where a friend of his bid the exorbitant $25,000.  He of course refused that amount, as his friend was a shill.  At the next auction, it was announced that he had “turned down” $25,000 at a previous auction and a number of people in the audience “knew” this to be true because they had been there.  With this “knowledge” the bidding exceeded his goal of $25,000 and he sold the car. Note: Today’s economy makes this a much more risky practice and now often plays in the buyers favor more than the seller’s.

Always be careful when purchasing a vehicle from strangers but remember best friends and family members are no insurance against dishonesty.  That is why I emphatically recommend that you see the car in question more than once and not at night.  Conversely, you will be surprised at what can be seen of paint and bodywork under the fluorescent lighting at a car wash.  Look it over very carefully and document what you see with a camera for later quiet viewing.  Take along a refrigerator magnet to check on bodywork.  Write down any serial numbers that you feel are important if you want a numbers matching car.  Even if you don’t, you can at least know if this car has an engine/transmission combination that could have been in the car.

A further recommendation is that you take along with you a person who has some knowledge of this type car.  This person should be one who will speak up loudly of any problems or negatives having to do with this car.  This person should tear the car to pieces.  You should be a little angry at their negativity expressed concerning your newfound love.  This is the best way that you can come close to getting the car that you want at a fair price.

The E-Bay auctions present quite a problem.  Somehow the car of your dreams is always in California or Maine, on the opposite side of the Country from you, and you are looking at the expenses of flying out to see the car and/or getting an independent appraiser to view it for you. If you do win the auction there is the cost of shipping it to your home.  These costs can easily run a couple of thousand dollars or more.  The pictures provided by the seller are usually barely adequate. The cleverly miss getting the bad spots of the car in the photos. If you are in love with the car you will be tempted to make excuses for the seller and the car; you have decided to gamble. Please! The more the car costs the more imperative it is to actually see the car so as to evaluate it.  An experienced independent appraiser is an alternative, they advertise on the internet and in many different publications. However, just because someone says they are an expert and they are 500 miles from you doesn’t make them one, check their credentials or get references. Do not use an appraiser recommended by the seller! If you are a member of a national club that has members in the same area as the car you are interested in that is another possibility.  Don’t forget to remunerate friend or club member in some way if you expect that person to perform this duty for you.

To Be Continued

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I grew up and lived in Iowa for a good portion of my life before moving to Southern California. After 20+ years we now live outside Nashville Tennessee. I have been into cars since I was old enough to remember. I don't have a brand loyalty although I do prefer American Muscle especially the 1969/1970 NASCAR Aero Cars. (Check out our other web site at site) As long as it has four wheels and an engine I get excited. Few men are lucky enough to be able to share their passion for cars with the woman they love. Fortunately, my wife, Katriana, is also a gear head and many of our activities revolve around the cars. We have a small collection that includes at least one car from each of the Big Three. It includes a Best of Show winner, a survivor, a driver with lots of patina and several others. Katrina prefers all original cars while I like to modify them so we have a few of each. When we aren't playing with cars we are out working with or showing our miniature donkeys. You can see more about that part of our lives at

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