Tips for buying a classic car.
1. Want To Buy a classic car?
Are you mad???
C'mon, you know the work that lies ahead of you, the frustration of getting spare parts for a Classic car can be a nightmare. If you get any sleep due to the amount of time you are going to be working on the rust bucket!
Nah, to be serious for a mo, buying back that old classic Mini, Hillman Imp, Ford Capri, Consul or even Bentley (lucky bugger) that you took your first proper girlfriend for a ride in, just has to be the best feeling ever!
If you are the type to see a rusty old heap and decide to restore it, you are probably single, have more money than sense and a fleet of rust buckets in the drive!
Deciding to buy a classic car most often requires a bit of thought and some planning. If you have a specific car in mind that makes it a bit easier than if you just want to restore something for a hobby or to make some money. To restore a classic car, you need most probably need some space and a good amount of tools, not to mention money. Make a project plan and do your best to stick to it. You may see a tempting classic car restoration project listed in the paper/magazine or on the Internet may only be one or two thousand to buy and could be worth ten times as much once it is restored. Practically though, do you need to farm out the restoration of the chassis, engine, interior or the exterior? If so your ten times buy price may just come down to zero very very little profit indeed.
The plan then, do you have enough storage space? Do you have enough working
area (remember once stripped down, the bits can take up an awful lot of space). No old car likes to be kept out in the open, not even with a plastic sheet to protect it from the rain, frost and snow and even the worst masochist won't like working out in the open when it is blowing a gale! Lying on a cold concrete garage floor is bad enough but working out in all elements usually puts a restoration project on hold permanently! 2.Where to look to buy a Classic car.
Look in the newspaper, classic car magazine, the Internet or even just take a stroll down your street. There is no shortage of old cars to buy. But what if you are looking for that something special? Well, let's face it, these days the easiest place to look is on the Internet. Even Jon Bradburn has got himself onto the Internet these days selling his historic AC's and doing pretty well thank you.
You could always try out one of the auctions that are around on the Internet. Just search Google on Classic Car Auctions and away you go! eBay is a good place to start and even if you see your dream car on the first visit, spend some time looking at what cars have actually sold on eBay and how much for. Check out the feedback rating of any dealers who are selling regularly. Also, you might want to read this guide on bidding, buying and spotting scams on eBay.
One thing to bear in mind is that even if a car is advertised for a given sum, there's no guarantee that the owner has actually received any enquiries, or that the car will sell for that or any other amount. Try phoning the owner to see if the car has gone or is still for sale. Just scanning the magazine classifieds or on the Internet on a regular basis should give you a good idea of where to pitch your offer for the car. 3. Preparation / Check it over.
Two things, if you buy from a trader you will have a limited comeback although many warranties on secondhand cars can be a bit suspect, just be careful. If you buy from a private seller "caveat emptor" or "Let the buyer beware". If the car turns out to be totally worn out, you will have little comeback, if any.
Ask questions! No matter how well a car is described in the advert, you must ask as many questions as you can to satisfy yourself that this is the car you want to go and see and maybe, just maybe,you will buy a classic car.
Things like "Why are you selling the car?", "Does it come with any spare parts?", "How long have you had it?", "Is there any rot?", "Does it have any history?" MOT's, receipts etc. can be helpful for the rebuild. If you know any specifics about the car you are enquiring about then ask any of the questions you feel you need answers for. It could save you a long drive and time away if you have the necessary information before you leave.
A couple of things you can do before you go, Ask Mid is a usefull website to check if YOUR OWN car is on the Motor Insurance Database. I checked on a car I used to own, (You have to tick a box confirming that you are the owner of the car) many moons ago and this is the message I got back:
"FAG335D is NOT on the Motor Insurance Database today.
Another one is the Autocheck website which states:
By allowing someone to drive this vehicle, the driver is at risk of being STOPPED by the police and having their vehicle impounded, and possibly DISPOSED OF, if proof of insurance cannot be provided."
"1 car in 3 has a hidden history"
A single check on the car you are maybe going to view will cost £19.99 at the current date and 5 checks will cost £24.99. It could be very worthwhile just having a check to see if the car has outstanding finance, is an insurance write-off, is recorded as stolen or has been clocked.
If you have decide to go and see the car then arrange a viewing and if for any reason you can't make it, let the seller know, it's only courteous not to waste their time just as you don't want them wasting your time.
Things to take: a jack, perhaps some axle stands for safety, a torch, gloves and at the very least, a list of points you want to look at.
When you get there take a quick look around. Has the car been kept outside or has it been garaged. This can give you a good indication of the condition you can expect of the body and or chassis. Are there other rotting hulks just lying around, maybe the seller just buys any old junk they can find and try selling it on, not much chance of the car you have come to see having had a service any time recently.
Take a walk around the car and look for the tell tale signs of sagging which could indicate suspension problems or perhaps chassis problems. Do the doors and panels line up correctly, another indication of chassis problems or perhaps the car has had a bump at some time. Is it even one car or was it once two? Was it an insurance write off? Any repairs? Have they been completed or is it a half assed job? Do the tyres match? What condition are they in? Check for rot in the body or as in fibre glass cars/panels, look for stress cracks. Check the areas which are most prone to rot ie. arches, sills, doors, boot and bonnet. There are many different types of panels that can be used to effect repairs on a car and because of this, there are many different qualities around as well.
Mini Cooper S
The Mini. Ah the mini. What a classic. But, something to check that really is important. On early Mini cars the number plate was hinged so it swung down to remain visible when the boot lid was open. This design was later discontinued as it was discovered that exhaust gasses could leak into the cockpit while the boot was open. So make sure that you are fully aware of the potential dangers here and with any other car. Also, Classic Mini Parts are becoming increasingly difficult to get.
Rust. Rust. Rust.
Check inside the car. Windows, front and rear screen, are any of them leaking? Lift the carpets where you can, check for water and any rot, maybe even holes in the floor? Remember that the old Ford Capri, Ford Cortina and other Ford cars were well known as rust buckets so be aware of any potential rust problems, especially inside the boot, the wheel arches, the wells and of course the sills and bottom of the doors. If you are happy so far with the body etc. try the engine (you did check all around the engine compartment didn't you?). Will the engine start from cold? If the engine is already warm perhaps the seller is trying to hide something, maybe cold starting problems, maybe he had to get a jump start or a tow just to get it going? Listen for any knocks, look for smoke. If you see blue smoke on startup that quickly clears it could mean the valves are tired and leaking oil into the combustion chambers. If the smoke does not clear that could indicate a very tired engine, something that wil have to be added to the budget, not only for investigation but for the repairs. Clouds of steam on startup could indicate a blown head gasket or even a cracked cylinder head. Remove the radiator cap and look for "goo". It is cross contamination and a good giveaway of cylinder head problems. Black smoke, probably just an over rich mixture but could just as easily be a worn carbuettor, more costs.
Knocking. Well, it could be for a number of reasons, light tapping on the top of the engine could be a worn camshaft or a small end on its way out. Knocking from underneath could be a big end bearing breathing its last. An expensive repair. A rumbling noise could be a main crank shaft bearing on its way out, yet another expensive repair. Check the various hydrolic fluids and water levels. Look for any stains around the compartment and on the engine. Does the radiator smell of anti-freeze? Is there any oil lying around? Not a good sign. Keep the engine running for a while, some problems won't show up until the engine is warm. If the car is driveable, take it for a spin. How does it "feel" on the road, does it "pull" to the right or left? Is the clutch "spongey" or firm? Does braking throw the car into oncoming traffic? (eek!) Wiggle the steering wheel, any clunks? When you accelerate does the car lurch in any particular direction?
OK so far so good. Now, the car may be 20 or 30 years old so it is not going to have all original parts. Brake shoes, clutch, spark plugs, points etc. etc. if they are the original parts, they are not going to be working very well by now! But seriously, if you are looking at an older car, does it have any of the original panels? Is the interior original? These points can add value to the car but the seller may try to pass off parts which were made last year in China as "original parts".
Sold? Well, not just yet. Check the paper work. Does it have all of the required paperwork with it? Check the logbook, a very good place to start and don't be fobbed of with "We have just moved house and can't find it at the moment, I will post it on to you..". It would also be useful to have any old MOT certificates and any receipts are good as well. 4. Valuing classic cars.
How much to pay? Well, the actuall value of a classic car will vary considerably. It depends on condition, make, model, year and of course, what is it worth to you? Just how much would you pay to have that special car sitting on your drive at home?
Be realistic! Just because you can isn't a good enough reason to buy a chassis of a Rover P4 if you have no idea where to get the rest of the car and no idea of what to do with the parts if you can get them. Unless of course, you have more money than sense and just farm out the entire restoration project. But then, did you really restore it yourself? Anyway, enough ranting and back to the point, the value. Providing you followed the advice above on checking the car over, you should have a good idea of whether you are paying for a car you can drive away or one that will take months before it even has wheels. Both kind of cars will have different buy prices.
If you have looked around the magazines and browsed the Internet to get a good idea of what your aimed for car is selling for, then you should have a price in mind that you will pay for the car depending on its condition.
At the end of the day, it is up to you and your budget. If you feel happy with what you have paid for your car then that is all that matters. IF you are looking for a Mini, you could do worse than the Mark III Mini Cooper S of which there were only ever 1,570 Mark III Cooper S's sold.
Of course, you could always convert your new car to run on water!
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