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So You want to Buy a Collector Car! Part 4

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 4

Even with a favorable appraisal performed by you, a friend or a hired appraiser, expect the worst instead of the best.  If you error on the side of poor condition, then you have money for the repairs/restoration.  If you error on the side of over rating the car, you will be spending considerably more than your budget anticipated.

I once looked at, and purchased a 1968 Oldsmobile 442 W-30 convertible.  In looking at the engine, I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to determine if it was a 400 let alone an actual W-30.  The owner couldn’t show me that the engine was original.  It was painted the colors of a 425 from a standard Oldsmobile instead of the bronze of the 442.  We agreed upon a price that took in consideration that the engine was not original.  We were both happy. However, in this situation it turned out that I did have a 400 it was just painted the wrong color.  I should have had the serial number information with me when I went to look at the car.  Maybe I did better because of that lapse of judgment.

Speaking of engines, it was once the belief that the body of a car was the more important than the mechanical items.  That may not be so today.  Mechanical items such as engines, transmissions and rear ends are very difficult to find now.  A posi rear end can be $1000.  Adding to that is the weight of such components and the shipping costs. This is especially true if you insist on numbers matching or at least period correct dates on these components.

Not everyone is interested in an original car.  Most of us are interested in the engine and transmission of our dreams; those 427 Big Block Chevies are not found just everywhere; nor is a good period correct four speed easily found in a junkyard. Get the most complete car that you can find.  It is far less expensive than purchasing rare missing parts. I have seen small emblems for cars that you would think are a minor expense cost several hundreds of dollars because they are not being reproduced.

The focus on the mechanicals should in no way detract from the need to find a car with a good body.   Rust is disastrous.  It is very expensive to repair rust and especially so if you have a uni-bodied car such as a pony car or most intermediates from the late 60s and up or most any other car from the eighties and up.  Many of these cars simply cannot be “repaired” to new condition. They may be doomed to always be weak unless significant portions of the car are completely replaced with new or like new parts.  It is true that an expert might do the job, but the cost would be out of sight and beyond getting a good car in the first place.  Relegate the severely rusty ones to parts car status.

The bad rust that I am speaking of involves the frame rails of both uni-bodies (rocker panel area) and the frames of body-on-frame cars.  Many cars actually have ruined frames.  Check under the car for this problem; particularly at the kick-up of the frame over the rear wheels, behind the front wheels and the frame supporting the front suspension.  Another area is the cowl.  It holds up the doors and roof of the car.  Convertibles are particularly prone to rust here as those old tops leak sooner or later.  The other places that might be fixed are the floors and the trunks.  Surprisingly, GM cars of the seventies and eighties have problems with the windshield posts.  No matter what you think, have a body expert try to evaluate the car.  If you inspect your dream car and this appears to be a problem, see that expert before you buy. If it has problems, buy the car very cheap or turn it down.

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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