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Is a classic car right for me?

astphardastphard Posts: 24
I've always loved the styling of the older classic cars but have shied away because of potential reliability/cost issues. But now I'm thinking that I might make my next car a classic, and keep my current reliable Toyota Corolla in case my new car is in the shop. As you can probably tell, I want my classic to be a daily driver. I'm debating between 2-3 different options I might take.

1) A cute 2+2 roadster like an Alfa Romeo 1750, an Austin-Healey 100-6 or MK, a Sunbeam Alpine, or a VW Karmann Ghia (love the styling, hate the slowness).

2) A convertible (or possibly a coupe/sedan after reading the thread on convertible ownership) from the late 40s or early to mid-50s that has a real backseat, but that's not too long in overall length (I don't want an 18' boat). Probably looking at an American make like Ford, Dodge, Plymouth, etc.

3) Or, stick with a modern car.

I like my creature comforts like a/c, cruise control, and a cd player. I want a trunk that can at least fit 2 carry-on sized suitcases, and a backseat that can at least fit a dog if not more. If I have a convertible then I want the top to go up quickly (and preferably automatically). With the price of gas at $4/gallon I want to get at least 20-25mpg. And I live in the hot and humid deep south, so rust may be an issue. I'm not a purist, however, and not everything needs to be original. And though I realize that older cars are going to be in the shop more often then modern ones, I don't want to be handing over all of my money to the mechanic all of the time. And I only want to pay about $20-25k.

So, the question a classic car a good option for me?


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,595
    Given your criteria in #s 1 and 2, and your budget, i don't think there's a car that will meet all those requirements. For $25K + convertible with electric top + reliability + AC + reasonable size, you are going to have to try a compact 60s convertible (Buick Special, Dodge Dart, etc).

    Of the foreign cars you mentioned, the Alfa would be the most reliable, and if you bought an 80s model, you can have AC. You don't need an electric top with one of those---it's a one hand operation. And you don't have to spend more than $10K.

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  • joncynjoncyn Posts: 1
    I am new to this discussion group and not sure if this is the right place to ask this question, but here goes. I stumbled across an Olds F85 (63) 2 door hard top with serveral, what I thought any, odd options. this car had power windows ac, and fuel injection on a small V8 engine 283 I think, small block any way, Olds might have had a 330 cubic I think. This car was in excellent unrestored condition. Any one have any idea of its worth? I would like to make this guy an offer but not sure what to offer? Any help would be helpful.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,040
    I don't think the Olds 330 came out until 1964, but I could be mistaken. And the 283 was a Chevy engine. If it's in original condition, a 1963 F-85 should have an aluminum 215 V-8, which was supplied by Buick. It put out 155 in stock form, 185 hp with a turbocharger, and there was a 215 hp version in a limited production hardtop model called the JetFire.

    As for air conditioning, it really was considered a luxury item back in the 40's and 50's, and even early 60's. It was mainly Lincolns, Cadillacs, and Imperials that had it. It was a very pricey option in those days. I think a/c on a GM car in 1956 was a $565 option. A Chevy started as low at $1800 for a stripper 2-door sedan that year, while a Cadillac started at around $4200 for a base hardtop coupe. So needless to say, not too many people were going to buy a new Chevy and then order an option that added 1/4 to 1/3 to the base price!

    Also in those days, the prevailing attitude tended to be that if you bought a convertible, you didn't need air conditioning. As a result, I'd imagine a/c was rarer in the convertibles than it was in the closed cars. My mother bought a 1966 Catalina convertible, brand-new, her senior year in high school. I remember asking her if it had a/c, and she just looked at me like I'd lost my mind. "Why would it have air conditioning?! It was a CONVERTIBLE!!"

    I think by the late 60's, air conditioning was really becoming popular. By that time, the prices of the cars had risen, but the cost of the a/c had actually dropped, to around $300-350. I've had two Dart hardtops, a '68 and a '69, both with a/c. The '68 probably MSRP'ed around $3300, while the '69 was around $3600, so by this time, the a/c was only about 10% of the total price of a compact. Much more reasonable.

    You could probably get a big 60's convertible with a/c, a power top, nicely equipped, for a reasonable price, as long as you didn't go for some high performance model like a Catalina 2+2, Impala SS409, etc. I bought a '67 Catalina convertible for $3775, but that was way back in 1994, so I dunno what it would be worth today. But you said you didn't want to lug around 18 feet of car. I think my Catalina comes in at 17 feet, 11 inches. ;)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,595
    Yes Andre is right, the engine, if stock would be a 215 V-8 with a carburetor-----no 283, no fuel injection, no turbo, etc. There was I believe a 4 barrel option on some models.

    So if it has a Chevy engine with aftermarket fuel injection, then it would have to be priced as a street rod, not a stock '63 F-85.

    Street rods are priced mostly on how well the work is done, and how much HP has been added, and how tasteful/tasteless the modifications are.

    You'd have to give us lots more details, as well as some photos, to get any idea of value.

    If in fact, it is a completely stock '63 F-85, we could give you a pretty accurate value I think.

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  • deskmandeskman Posts: 485
    a mid 60s mercedes 280 se cabrio would be very very cool :shades:
  • fintailfintail Posts: 41,917
    Bad thing is a good 6cyl 280SE cabrio will cost him 40-50K, and a low grille will average 50% more. But you can't get anything as timeless for the money, for sure.
  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,425
    A vintage (65-66) Mustang Convertible with the C engine would provide your needs.
    The C engine has the 2.8 rear end ratio for economy whereas the A engine has the 3.0 differential for performance. Many are still on the market with Air, Automatic, & Power Steering. They continue to increase in value, but not at a sky rocketing rate.

    Your Bowser will fit easily in the back seat and the trunk is very generous.
    Part availablity is very ample for this motor car.

    Install a Pertronix ignition and it'll go forever. :) :)
  • texasestexases Posts: 7,770
    "A vintage (65-66) Mustang Convertible "

    That'll work, but I have to mention it's a tin can when it comes to accidents. Using these as a daily driver does bring with it risks, some common to all cars of this vintage (minimal safety equipement), some common to many convertibles, the Mustangs in particular (very limited body strength, you have to be careful not to bend the body during restoration), and some particular to Mustangs (drop-in gas tank, fuel can enter trunk in an accident). I grew up with a '65 Mustang, none the worse for wear, just make sure you're aware you're not dealing with a modern vehicle.
  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,425
    Agree with your opinion which is applicable to ANY vehicle of that vintage. Your experience with the '65 is valid. I've been driving my '66 for over 41 years and realize what it is and is not. ;)
  • astphardastphard Posts: 24
    Thanks for the suggestions so far. The Mercedes looked very nice, all but its price tag! As far as the 60s American convertible suggestions (Dart, Mustang, & Special)...just not my style. Considering my wants and budget, I might be better off considering a coupe or a sedan. Though I may run into the a/c issue, the Jaguar saloons of the 50s and 60s have a lot of appeal (MK I & II as well as the S-type).

    Also, is there a better reference resource than the Standard Catalog's for classic cars? (The American from 1946-1975 or the Imported from 1946-2002) I was thinking about going through those to see what models would even be able to meet my requirements in terms of seating, length, etc, but didn't know if there were better guides out there.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,040
    Also, is there a better reference resource than the Standard Catalog's for classic cars? (The American from 1946-1975 or the Imported from 1946-2002) I was thinking about going through those to see what models would even be able to meet my requirements in terms of seating, length, etc, but didn't know if there were better guides out there.

    I can't those American Standard catalogs list overall length and width of the cars, or just the wheelbase and base weight? As for interior dimensions, the only reference I can think of right offhand is the annual auto issue of Consumer Reports, which has been coming out every April probably since the dawn of time. A big enough library might carry those. For instance, when I went to college at the University of Maryland, their library had them going back to the early 50's.

    I'd say for the most part, any domestic "standard" sized car from the 50's or 60's should be big enough to hold 6 people. Some cars, like Studebakers, tended to be a bit smaller. Once compacts and intermediates came out, they might have still had 6 seatbelts, but that doesn't mean they were a comfy fit. 2-door coupes, both hardtop and fixed pillar, tended to have smaller back seats than 2- and 4-door sedans, and sometimes convertibles lost enough shoulder room that it cut the back seat down to a comfy 2-seater.

    Older cars, from the earlier 50's, tended to sit up higher, more pickup truck like, and would often put a bus-sized steering wheel right in your lap. But then cars like the '57 Mopar lineup, and '57 Buick/Olds/Cadillac, really gave you a lower seating position that was further back from the firewall.

    Anyway, good luck with your search! Keep us posted!
  • The OP here. I think that a convertible probably isn't in the cards for me as I'm not keen on flapping ragtops (which need rather frequent replacement at that) or hardtops that have too many mechanical issues. But I am thinking about a coupe, as I like the overall look of the 2-doors. Here would be the requirements again:

    1) Some kind of a backseat to fit a large dog (or some small kids)

    2) A trunk large enough to fit at least 2 carry-on suitcases

    3) Creature comforts like a/c and cruise control (again, no issues adding these on later)

    4) Decent gas mileage (at least 20-25mpg)

    5) Not always in the shop for repairs

    6) Cost less than $20-25k

    7) Not as big as a boat

    Now that I've eliminated the convertible part, I didn't know if there are other options in the classic car field that would pop up that are not the coupe versions of the convertibles already mentioned (Dart, Mustang, Buick Special, 280E (gorgeous but out of budget)). So any classic contenders, or should I stay with more modern vehicles?

    Also, I've started looking at some more modern cars. I'm not sure if this is the appropriate forum (if not, please tell me where this would go) but some other contenders are:

    Audi TT 2000-2006 (but focusing on 2004-2006 as reliability reports seem to be better for those years)

    Jaguar XK8 or XKR 1997-2001

    Porsche 911 1995-1998 (focusing on '97 and '98 because of better reliability than the earlier two years)

    Toyota Celica GT/GTS 2000-2005

    Acura RSX 2002-2006 (focusing on 2004-2006 for imroved reliability)

    Anyway, thanks in advance for your advice!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,595
    Yeah, this topic is definitely for "classics" so you probably want to cut and paste your question and put it here:

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  • Thanks for the forum recommendation. I'll check there about the modern cars. But are there any classic cars that would suit my needs, or should I give it up for a lost cause?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,595
    Well most of your criteria could be met by various mid-size coupes from the 60s--80s except the gas mileage. That's simply not realistic.

    A mustang coupe is pretty bullet-proof, 65-71, or a Chevelle small block.

    You don't ever want old foreign stuff---they really can't take day to day pounding and they can be fussy.

    A turbo Buick GN might be fun, from the 80s.

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  • What about some of the early to mid-50s Fords and Chevys? I'm thinking a Bel Air coupe from 52-56' or a Ford Custom or Crestline or something like that from '50-55ish? At 195-198" in overall length they're near the upper limit in terms of the size of a car I'd be willing to buy. I like the styling, and their backseats are usable. But I'm not sure how doable they'd be for modern driving conditions as a daily driver. And what would be their approximate fuel economy?
  • Also, why should the foreign stuff be avoided? I would guess that Toyotas, Nissans, Hondas, etc of the 80s (and earlier?) would certainly be more reliable than the domestics. Some of the more luxurious ones like Porsche and Jaguar I can understand, but the practical imports I'm surprised by your statement.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,595
    Well you said "classics". Nothing Japanese from the 70s/80s is even remotely "classic". They are just old used cars and the larger sedans would be nearly impossible to find parts for.

    Sure a 55-56 Chevy would do fine on modern roads in everyday use. I don't think Fords of that era were anywhere near the quality or reliability.

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  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,294
    About the only Japanese collector car I can think of from that time is the original Datsun 240Z.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,603
    Good fuel economy isn't going to happen with an old car.

    Those cars you mentioned are good for around 12-15 MPG if you are lucky.

    As far as modern driving, they would do just fine providing you respect the car's age. You don't drive 75 MPH and you don't taligate people.

    I would lean toward the Chevy over a Ford of that era.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 41,917
    If you want an old Japanese sedan, one word: Cressida.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,595
    and that's a marginal classic at best. If anything, their value seems to be dropping.

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  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,687
    The value of Z cars has been on the verge of skyrocketing as long as I can remember. As much as I like those cars, after a couple of decades of speculation I am starting to doubt it is going to happen.
  • garv214garv214 Posts: 162
    Well, having owned a 240Z, I can honestly say that it meets all of the criteria except the 2 kids (no back seat). The first year of the 2+2 was in 1974 (260Z) which is probably not the one you'd want to get...

    I'd agree with Shifty, the 20-25mpg is going to really limit your search. I was able to get that mileage once out of my 68 Cutlass, but I was driving at 55 mph with the old 75 series tires on it... 14-16 mpg was much more the norm after we put lower profile/wider tires on it.

    Not sure how the 6 cylinders of the 60s/70s did, but my guess is the gain in fuel economy came at the cost of fun-to-drive and safe merging power....
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,595
    edited January 2011
    Make no mistake, the 240Z is a great car to own---but after all these years, it's still rare for one to break $15K

    Oh a BMW 735i from the late 80s would be a nice car to own---those were good cars---if you can find one that hasn't been neglected too much.

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    "...a BMW 735i from the late 80s would be a nice car to own---those were good cars..."

    But wouldn't maintenance and repair costs offset any mileage advantage over an American land yacht by a wide margin?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,595
    Well you have to buy one that was well-cared for. The engine and trans are very sturdy and it's not a very complex car. Weak point might be the driveshaft, which is not rebuildable except by a machine shop.

    The 735i was a *really* good car.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,603
    edited May 2011

    A guy in my town has for sale, a 1994 BMW 533i.

    Anyone know much about these? I understand they are somewhat rare.

    I haven't seen it in person yet but the picture looks good. 250,000 miles but the guy says it runs like new with the exception of a noisy pilot bushing and a worn L.S. wheel bearing.

    Asking 1200.00.

    I do remember that BMW stands for Breaks More Wallets.

  • fintailfintail Posts: 41,917
    1984? No 533i in 1994, that engine was long gone by then.

    533i is indeed uncommon - if it is cosmetically nice and has no mechanical issues, might be worth it for a better than usual old heap.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,595
    Yes, must be a 1984, right?

    Well you could end up buried in this car if you need a full clutch kit and if the wheel bearing has wiped out the hub---you might also need a flywheel re-surface, and with that many miles, there could be other issues.

    I'd be more inclined to suggest that you purchased a really cherry one for $3000 and be done with it. They may be rare but they aren't valuable.

    Weaknesses include cracking cylinder heads and worn driveshafts. If you feel a vibration in the seat of your pants throughout the car as you lift off the clutch, that's a worn driveshaft---and they are not rebuildable if I remember correctly.

    So anyway, this is a car you need to check out more thoroughly, and definitely low-ball it.

    Also price out the parts you may need. Always "think the worst". :D

    Sounds like if it runs well a cracked head isn't a problem.

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