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Is a classic car right for me?

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  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,647
    Exactly---less complex the car, less the maintenance and repair costs.

    Also keep in mind that with some old cars, there are few people who want to work on them. Just because you have a BMW repair shop down the road, that doesn't mean they want anything to do with a 3.0 CS. And most authorized dealers won't touch old cars.
  • texasestexases Posts: 5,424
    Too bad the Ghia doesn't meet most of his criteria (back seat, trunk room, etc). Given a knowledgable owner and/or mechanic it certainly would be the cheapest to keep on the road. Just don't hit anything with it!
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,647
    Oh, on a Ghia coupe if you get smacked hard in the nose, or in the rear fender area, the car would be totaled by the insurance company immediately. With Ghia bodywork, you are talking about welding, not bolting stuff on and off.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,118
    Yeah, the Karmann Ghia doesn't even match the criteria given, and is in another class from the other models listed.
  • astphardastphard Posts: 24
    Thanks for the advice. I put about 8k miles a year on my car, so that would probably keep maintenance costs on the lower side. And the cars that were narrowed down on this list were chosen more for daily driver status than cool status (trying to find a happy medium, I guess). But trying to look more toward some classics, what do we think of these?

    AMC Rambler American ('58-'60)
    Hudson Jet ('53-'54)
    Nash Rambler ('53-'55)
    Studebaker Lark ('59-'61)

    Also, in terms of finding people who want to work on non recent-model cars. Is it that mechanics want cars that are as similar to modern cars as possible, or that they want the simplest cars possible (hence, probably older cars)? Or some other reasoning that I'm missing?
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,647
    I'd probably go with the Lark. The Nashes are primitive (flathead engines), the Hudson Jet parts are tough, so the Lark wins by default.
  • astphardastphard Posts: 24
    edited July 2011
    So if the Lark wins by default in the 50s cars that might stand a chance, how would it compare to some of the later cars that have been discussed (2002, W123 MBs, and heck, let's throw in E30 BMWs or Saab 900s)? Would a Lark be a recommended DD, or was it simply better than more mediocre choices?

    Also, when dealing with the repair end of things, do mechanics want cars that are as similar to modern cars as possible, or that they want the simplest cars possible (hence, older cars)? Or some other reasoning that I'm missing? (Reposted from my last post.)
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,647
    Well a BMW 2002 might be a nice alternative.....I think old Benzes, Saabs and BMWs are just too maintenance intensive and will drain your wallet.

    2002s have a great aftermarket and aren't too complicated to repair--also fun to drive, are compact in size, and can get out of their own way. Probably the best "investment", too.

    As for mechanics, simple is good and you can't get much simpler than a Lark--it's pretty old tech and a good car for a DIY owner.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,350
    Most shops won't work on old cars. They fear the availibility of parts and they don't want a valuable parking space or shop bay tied up.

    Also, the guys who used to work on cars like Larks are, for the most part either dead or retired by now.

    Our busy Honda dealership was down to **ONE** technician who knew how to rebuild a carburator!
  • berriberri Posts: 4,000
    I don't know about your dealership, but it seems to me that many are merging into large organizations. As a consequence, they seem to be dumping the older mechanics, for cheaper young help. Problem is they don't often know all that much and screw up, like forgetting to put the oil cap back on. I used to pretty much service at the dealer. Now, as soon as its out of warranty I bolt for an independent with a good rep and usually save money as well. No service mgr on commision pushing all kinds of unnecessary nonsense either.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,350
    It has nothing to do with paying the help. Most mechanics/technicians work on commission.

    It's not often you see older guys working on cars. The work is hard on the body and often unrewarding. To see a mechanic over 50 is very unusual.

    I know a guy who is about to retire from a busy domestic store. At age 66, he is still a heavy line mechanic. In all of my years in and around shops I think I can count the guys over 60 on one hand.

    The older guys try their best to talk the young guys into finding a different profession. In addition to having to buy upwards of 40,000 in tools, it is harder and harder to make a decent living.

    There are a lot of good independants out there but they face the same mechanic shortage as the dealers do. As far as saving money, that is debatable. Labor rates may be 10.00/hr. less but the independants often spend a lot of time that you pay for searching for a problem that the dealer has seen many times before.

    And, the managers ARE often on commision too, not that that is a bad thing.

    Try to get an independant to find an elusive rattle or water leak and see where they end up sending you.

    Of course, when cars are no longer in warranty, it's funny how some people stop caring about the small pesky stuff that can be near impossible to track down.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,910
    Highline cars might be the only ones where an older model can be repaired at a dealer - but the costs are insane. Luckily these cars tend to have good independent support. My indy mechanic doesn't bat an eye at my nearly 50 year old fintail (it's there now, in fact), his oldest worker is only middle aged, but the car is no problem there. Taking it to Barrier would probably be like taking on a mortgage.

    For old normal cars,better know a good old time mechanic - the ranks of which are thinning out.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,590
    I wonder how far back a dealership, on average, will service its cars? I remember in the early 1990's, seeing a local Chrysler-Plymouth dealership that had a '46-48 DeSoto Suburban up on a lift in one of the service bays!

    With Honda, I imagine that the carbureted models are old enough and rare enough that, when the carb needs a rebuild, it's easier to just send the carb out to a shop that specializes in rebuilding them? When was the last carbureted Honda, anyway? For some reason, I'm thinking there might have been some bargain-basement version of the Civic that still had one as recently as '89 or '90?
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,910
    I bet some malaise era computer controlled carbs and all of the plumbing that comes with can be terrible to work on and might get refused.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,350
    I think 1989 was the final year for carbs.

    It really depends on the dealership to decide howe old of a car to take in for work.

    Once a shop gets burned they will shy away and for good reason!
  • berriberri Posts: 4,000
    As far as saving money, that is debatable

    That may be a regional thing. The dealer's here gouge with hourly rates in excess of $100 and I'm routinely getting stuff done for around a third less than the dealer quotes. The dealers also try to pressure on nonsense like engine flushes and the like way beyond anything in the owners manual. I'll bet the dealers warranty work is reimbursed way below what they rip off the consumer. Personally, I don't think an oil change, air filter and tire rotation should cost what a doctor's visit costs. I appreciate mechanics skill and overhead, but look at a physicians training and ovehead - they don't come near equal.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,910
    It's the same for my cars, especially the modern. Oil changes and such things aren't much cheaper at the indy, but major work can be a massive savings, the hourly rate difference can really add up along with less drawn out and questionable diagnostic work, and I suspect the indy can source parts cheaper too. If the car isn't under warranty and isn't some kind of insane specialty object, I'd have a hard time taking it to the dealer. I also like to patronize a local small business.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,350
    Oh, Barrier would have a blast with your Mercedes!
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,647
    Well some younger mechanics might have to come up to speed on things like carburetors, but they are generally much better trained and educated than "old timers" and I don't see why they couldn't learn how to rebuild a carburetor in a day's learning---or, in the case of a Lark, there are apparently plenty of NOS stuff around. These old cars are mechanical, not electronic, so you can see, and figure out, everything you are looking at. A 1950s car is not that much more complicated than a Roman chariot. :P (some exceptions, of course).

    it's not the technical end of an old car that discourages shops from working on them, it's the parts supply. Shop space is $$$, and nobody wants it loaded up with dead old cars waiting on parts.

    I remember a friend and I were handed the busted up differential from a 1919 Chevrolet, and we had that figured out in a short afternoon.

    A 1959 Studebaker and a 2009 Chevrolet run by the same exact principles. One's just way smarter than the other.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,910
    I bet the work it is getting now (radiator purged/reconditioned, parking brake fix, general service) would be heading for a couple grand there. At the indy, I will be surprised if it is much more than $600. Every time I drive by the dealer and see an older car in the service lot, I have to wonder.
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