Do your detective work when buying a classic
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A SIGN THAT WORK HAS BEEN DONE TO A HIGH STANDARD IS WHEN A SELLER KEEPS PAPERWORK ORGANISED
A classic car can be many things — a fun toy, a hobby, or even a family project.
For whatever reason you decide to buy a classic car, it’s important to keep your knowledge and skill level front of mind as repairs can be costly, especially if you don’t have the capability to carry them out yourself.
Here are a few basic tips to bear in mind, which will hopefully prevent your dream project from turning in to an auto-nightmare.
Bodywork is so important. It’s the things you can see that cause the biggest headaches when they go wrong, so make sure you open all hinged panels and inspect carefully. Doing this can reveal hidden secrets from the past, such as repair work and corrosion. Unveiling them gives you a great opportunity to start asking questions about past work. You can then start to seek out evidence of any restoration, and investigate whether the previous owner has receipts or images as evidence.
Playing detective may seem onerous, but it’s a sign the work has been done to a high standard when the seller keeps their paperwork organised.
Also, to check under the vehicle, have it raised safely and get a skilled mechanic or panelbeater to take a look. They have often seen it all before and will be able to spot potential issues that your average Joe might miss. Poorly executed and rushed restorations often conceal flaws with body filler but a skilled panelbeater should be able to pick this up.
Even if you’re not mechanically minded, there are a few basic checks you can do.
Classic cars are sometimes hard to start when cold so, if it’s chilly, ask the owner if you can start it up yourself to check this. Even if it’s not cold, starting up the engine yourself will also give you a feel for how easy the process is.
Ask questions — for example, how much choke should be used before you risk flooding the engine? Do bear in mind that, because of design such as pushrods and adjustable tappets, classic engines are noisy.
Lastly, check for excessive smoke when idling and under moderate acceleration. Ultimately a mechanic should inspect the engine to ensure it’s in sound condition and a compression test will give you a guide to the health of the engine.
Interior items such as the dashboard can be near impossible to replace or restore and can add huge costs to a restoration job, so a vehicle with a complete and original interior is a great start. Often the value of a vehicle is increased by a well looked after, original interior, so pay attention to the finish.
If it looks too good to be true, sadly it often is. Don’t be afraid to ask if it’s been reupholstered. Additionally, over-the-top, retrofitted interiors can look flashy but be aware that this can decrease value.
Safety is a huge factor and a classic car offers less protection in an accident. For example, most classic cars won’t be equipped with a collapsible steering column. And there’s a high chance that nuts and bolts may be loose or components worn away.
Buying a classic car can be a risky business and these pointers should help you when making that big decision to buy. However, there are some truths about classic vehicles. They are expensive to maintain and they will always need a safe, dry area to be stored.
Typically, insurance costs can be lower because they are garaged and their use may be limited to sunny, weekend events. Seek out companies that provide options based on your use because, if you are involved in a “fender bender”, it can be heartbreaking when you realise you can’t find the parts to sort it out.
If you do choose to invest in a classic car, think carefully about the potential value. Ensure you have a plan to keep it in tip-top condition for generations to come, because there’s very little that’s more satisfying than cruising to the beach with your family, in a classic that you have proudly had a hand in bringing back to life.