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Is a classic car right for me?

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,547
    edited May 2011
    Exactly so.

    Often "reliability" in a classic car is a matter NOT a matter of it running well all the time, but rather "how easy is it to fix when it breaks and how quickly can one do that?"

    So, in THAT sense a VW is always more reliable than a Mercedes, even if the VW breaks more often. I mean, you cannot take an engine out of a 560SL in an hour and order a new one for $695. You can't even get a Mercedes mechanic to open the hood probably for $695.

    Also the VW doesn't have any complex systems...you want heat? Pull a knob that pulls on a cable that attaches to a tin box by means of a paper clip. Can't beat that. Oil change? A plastic bucket and an adjustable wrench and you're good to go. You don't even have to buy an oil filter because there is none.

    And last of all, VW parts are everywhere. You can order so many aftermarket parts for VW (except some Ghia body panels and trim bits) and they are CHEAP.

    ON THE DOWN SIDE---primitive is as primitive does. You want simplicity? Don't expect AC, a smooth ride, quiet interior, stunning acceleration, weather protection, etc.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,628
    " You want heat"?

    You didn't mention having to wait 20 minutes for the ever so slightly warm air to start coming through the vents and you better hope you didn't have an exhaust leak.

    I once had a 1969 Beetle that had dealer installed A/C.

    Oh, they shouldn't have done that...If I was going down the freewy at 65MPG and the compressor cycled on it would slow the car down by 10 MPH!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,547
    The later VW Ghias have heater vents under the back seat and since the heat didn't have to travel all the way to the front of the car, it worked pretty well--of course, you still couldn't defrost but the defroster vents were good for sticking your fingers in them to avoid frostbite.

    Then there's the "pick a gear, any gear---don't tell me which one--now put it back in the H pattern and I'll try to guess" gearshift to deal with. It's like rowing an oar in a barrel.

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  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,148
    The first thing I notice about my 1989 Cadillac Brougham is how thin the rim on the steering wheel is compared to my newer cars.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,568
    That's something I remember about our old Ciera - very thin steering wheel. Knowing 1980s GM, your Brougham has the same wheel.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,628
    The power steering on those 60's GM cars had so much assist you could literally steer them with the tip of one finger on the rim of the steering wheel.

    It never seemed like a problem at the time and I kinda liked that feel.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,568
    My 66 Galaxie was like that, so much assist that it was zero effort, pretty much zero feel too.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,547
    It was a lot like steering a ship...you, the captain, sent a command down to the engine room via your pinky...this was received by the engineer's mate, read aloud, and handed over to the helmsman, who dutifully cranked a large gearset to slowly turn the rudder...eventually, the vessel would turn in the direction you indicated. :P

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,568
    And they'd usually lean and stop like a big ship, too :shades:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,547
    I drove a '57 T-Bird last week that had an aftermarket steering box, modern shocks and a front disc brake conversion, and it wasn't too too bad---it still handled like a hippo on ice skates but it seemed predictable---I got some "feedback" at least.

    MODERATOR

  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,568
    A resto mod kind of setup might be the best way for someone to get the look with better driving manners. Or just deal with the way things were. Nobody takes a stock 57 Bird to an autocross :shades:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,547
    I have driven some 60s cars that were set up as "pro tourers" and the handling and braking were outstanding. It can be done but it ain't cheap. In addition to the usual upgrades of radial tires and power disc brakes, you really need to swap out the suspension for coil-overs and disc brake conversion, possibly lower the car a bit, add sway bars, and of course electronic ignition, a rebuilt crate engine if you can get one, HD radiator, maybe even a Tremec 5-speed or modern TH350 with overdrive--that sort of thing--the list goes on and on---gauge pak, modern sound system, cooling fans, headers, positraction, dual exhaust, dyna-mat insulation, tinted glass, power locks, gel battery, maybe high torque starter motor, new wiring harness, power steering if you don't have it, vintage AC, air-tex, fuel pressure regulator, high volume fuel pump.

    You can spend a bundle to make a 1965 drive like a 2005!

    MODERATOR

  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,568
    Way too much for me. I'm happy with how my fintail drives, although IMO it does drive about 20 years newer than it actually is.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,547
    yes, those cars are quite decent in handling and braking.

    MODERATOR

  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,568
    And even then, it feels like it leans a bit, the steering isn't exactly sports-car like, the automatic doesn't help anything.

    On the thread topic, the car was my everyday car through college and wasn't too troublesome, but it did need constant maintenance and it had a few bumps along the way (transmission cooling line broke, generator died, brake line leaked and then brake seized, etc).
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,547
    No, it's not a sports car but it's not SCARY like an American car in terms of braking and cornering.

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,188
    As little steering resistance as '60s GM cars had, Chryslers with power steering had even less.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,902
    As little steering resistance as '60s GM cars had, Chryslers with power steering had even less.

    I briefly owned a '67 Chrysler Newport hardtop coupe with a 383-2bbl. I don't really remember too much about it, except that I thought my '67 Catalina convertible handled better. Seemed to have a bit better feedback from the road, and a bit more nimble. Maybe "wider was better"? :P
  • sqeeeksqeeek Posts: 1
    My grandpa owned 10+ bugs over his lifetime, worked at a service station. Rebuilt / replacement bug engines with 100hp+ are pretty cheap these days, as are travel hair driers (defrosters) and hydraulic brake conversion kits. Throw on some alloy wheels and you've got a pretty sweet ride, IMHO.

    Also, my 1970 Oldsmobile 98 is still running as a daily driver and has served 4 generations of my family so far. (granted, we've rebuilt the thing a few times) and it's reliability beats the pants off my dad's 1996 Ford E-150, so I don't see that much of a problem.

    If you don't know what you're doing, get something newer and japanese. But if you're gonna be taking care of it yourself, bugs are great, and old GM cars will last forever.
  • halsworthyhalsworthy Posts: 12
    That is true. I would buy a VW Golf though, for reliability
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,628
    You would buy a VW Golf for reliability?

    You are kidding, arent you?
  • tjgofftjgoff Posts: 2
    Hello. I am an amateur car enthusiast. When I was 16 I restored, or made decisions about restoring a 1965 chevelle. I did not do a wonderful job, but the point is, I love old cars and would like to try again.
    Can someone help me with the value of a car??? I am looking at a 1967 firebird. The person selling knows little about it. It has a 326 with a 2 speed automatic. He doesn't know the mileage. He said it needs brake work. New tires. The guys said it has been painted, so he is not sure of the rust situation. The guy wants $5,500. It seems to be worth less to me, but I know very little, that is why I wanted to ask the professionals (you guys)!! Please help. What do you experts think??
  • texasestexases Posts: 5,534
    Without knowing the body condition there's no way to know. If there's lots of rust/bondo, I wouldn't touch it. Does it run? Is this a car you love? Make sure that you get something you like, you're going to put LOTS of time into it.

    Check out ebaymotors and hemmings.com for more options. No need to rush into it.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,628
    Without seeing the car or at least seeing a bunch of detailed photos, none of us can do anything except guess at it's value.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,547
    $5,500 would be a car in "fair" condition, defined as:

    "Presentable. Runs and drives and will pass safety inspection. Generally in need, or approaching the need of a cosmetic restoration. Chrome pits here and there, small rips or tears, paint chips, a window crack, small hole in carpet, etc. NOT dented or rusted and not in need of major mechanical work"

    So if the car, when you see it, seems less than the above description, deduct accordingly.

    MODERATOR

  • tjgofftjgoff Posts: 2
    Thanks for the good info. I might look at it, but definitely think $5,500 is too much. He says it does run well, but would need brakes immediately.

    I guess what I should have asked is, is a Firebird with a 326 worth anything, is it desirable? Don't people usually want the 400's and such? But I appreciate the comments.
  • texasestexases Posts: 5,534
    Sure, a 326 Firebird is a good hobby car, certainly worth more than a plain-jane sedan is similar condition. And bigger engines make them worth more (sometimes WAY more), that's true too. But you'll pay more to buy one. If you're wanting to make money on your restoration, don't, that's just about impossible for someone like you (or me). So what this means is to figure out what you're wanting with this car. If you are buying it in order to work on it, then lots of options out there. If you're buying it to own, drive, and do the needed repairs, that's different. It doesn't cost less to restore a base Firebird, but you'll recover less of your costs when you go to sell. Better to buy one in good running condition in that case - let the prior owner pay for the major restoration work.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,628
    Nothing "wrong" with the 326. It was more or less the standard engine unless you count that oddball six they offered.

    If it "needs brakes immediately" I would guess it needs EVERYTHING brake related. Drums, master cyl etc.

    A 400 would be more desirable but the 326 doesn't really hurt it like the six would.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,547
    Yeah, good advice. The small V8 is definitely better to have than a 6 cylinder car, but the small V8 will never realize the same prices as the larger engines--as a rough guideline, whatever prices you see for a Firebird 400, you can deduct maybe 30% if it has a 326. On some cars, the price difference between the smallest engine and the largest is....MASSIVE....

    Classic cars, especially during the 50s--70s, when there were so many engine options, are funny this way: If the car only had one size V8, that becomes top dog in value, but if there are numerous engines of increasing power and size, then the pecking order goes according to the engine size.

    In 60s cars especially, Horsepower = $$$, and HP + 4-speed = more $$$.

    Even the option of a 4 barrel carburetor vs. a two barrel on the *same* engine can affect value, and some "tri-power" carb options can affect value as much as a larger engine can.

    1960s BODY STYLE Pecking order (with a few exceptions)

    Convertibles
    2D HT
    2D Post
    Wagons
    4-doors

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,628
    edited June 2011
    I recently saw a real oddball of a car.

    It was a 1964 Chevy Impala four door sedan.

    It was a six cylinder with a three speed on the column. No power steering or brakes. Just a stripper.

    Compare the value to that with an SS convertable with a 409 4 speed!

    Back in those days, you could order anything. A friend's dad ordered a 1965 Chevy Biscayne Station Wagon with a 327/300 horse engine with a three speeed and overdrive.

    I think it had an AM radio but nothing else.

    Blackwall tires, tiny hubcaps. Talk about a sleeper!
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