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Is a classic car right for me?



  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,570
    Quite a few 60s era Chevy Sixes are purchased and then rebuilt as 60s "gassers" or drag cars. Of course, the 2-door Biscaynes would be preferred as they are lighter than the 4-doors, and the 2-door post sedans preferred over 2D hardtops (body strength) but a stripped down 4-door with no badges and a big honker of an engine still makes a nice 'sleeper'.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,600
    Yes, but usually not Impala four doors.

    If I was a dealer in those days, I would be scared to death that someone would order one of these oddball cars and then back out of the deal leaving an impossible car to sell.

    Probably why most manufacturers no longer build cars to order.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,600
    The weak spot on Pontiac V-8's in those days were the timing gears. This especially applied to the 389's. The plastic gear teeth would wear out around the 70,000 mark.

    A person who owned one was wise to just have the job done along with a new water pump around 70,000 miles.

    Kinda like a timing belt job on a modern car?

    Otherwise, they were pretty good engines!
  • astphardastphard Posts: 24
    I don't really know where to put this, but in one of the archived discussions (about FWD vehicles) several people talked about how much more difficult it would be to maintain FWD vehicles (vs RWD, I suppose). Why is that?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,570
    Well in the realm of "classics" (which is what this forum is about) that's probably true, since older FWD cars are few and far between, and pretty quirky. If you want to talk about *modern* cars, let me know and I'll direct you to the right place.

    One general rule is that doing clutch or transmission work is more time consuming on a FWD vehicle.

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  • astphardastphard Posts: 24
    edited June 2011
    Despite some difficulties, I still haven't given up the idea of having a collectible as a daily driver. Here's what I'm currently thinking about:

    -BMW 2002 (or ti or tii)
    -BMW 3.0 CS (or CSi or CSL)
    -Mercedes 280CE
    -Mercedes 350SLC
    -Mercedes 450SLC
    -Mercedes 300CD (turbodiesel)
    -VW Karmann Ghia (but only if it can be modified to get up to decent speeds without wrecking the vehicle)

    I know I probably won't be able to get everything on my wishlist, but I wanted:

    -a backseat big enough for at least small children
    -a trunk that could fit 2 carry-on suitcases
    -some creature comforts like a/c and cruise (though I'd be willing to add these on)
    -ideally 20+ mpg, or at least as close as I can get to that
    -something fun

    I know that BMW & MB repair costs can be quite expensive. But if a clean model was purchased, would $1-2k a year in maintenance costs be sufficient, or would it need more?

    Also, is it even possible to modify a Karmann Ghia enough where it's not torture to drive on an interstate?

    Any comments about these cars, or which you would rank as better/worse (generally, or for me specifically), would be greatly appreciated.


    P.S. Shifty, the FWD/RWD question was because I read about it in the Classics archives. Though come to think of it, I think all of these are FWD so does that mean these will have greater repair difficulties?
  • texasestexases Posts: 7,762
    If you can find a clean, non-rusted one, I like the 2002. The 3.0 would be long-term work and problems. Of the MBs get the newest, cleanest one that fits your needs, it would probably be the best daily driver choice. But I've always liked the 2002.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 41,889
    edited June 2011
    All of those are RWD.

    You said you are in Florida, right? I would also worry about rust with the humid climate there. At the least you'd want a car that has undergone a body restoration with proper sealing.

    You won't get 20 mpg out of a US market SLC - those old MB V8s can be real pigs. But I think you could easily keep one on the road for 2K/year if you buy a properly maintained one and know a good specialist. The smaller coupes you mention will be more economical to run, and are able of passing 20mpg on the highway.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,570
    -BMW 2002 (or ti or tii) --- GREAT cars but a Tii is not practical and is very $$$ to repair. Nicest 2002s are pre-1975, manual transmission. Fun, pretty comfy, good on modern roads, lots of parts available. Check for rust of course.

    -BMW 3.0 CS (or CSi or CSL) -- beautiful RUSTBUCKETS, expensive to fix, fussy, demonic, unreliable.

    -Mercedes 280CE --- okay but kinda boring--not Mercedes best years and will never increase very much in value. Unloved model. Pretty hard to find one anyway.

    -Mercedes 350SLC -- lotta car for the money but a gas hog. Watch out for AC/Heat system problems. Worth a shot. The 350s are prettier than later ones.

    -Mercedes 450SLC -- ditto as above, even worse gas hog, though.

    -Mercedes 300CD (turbodiesel) -- solid, economical, reliable, noisy, hard to find one that isn't a completely worn out beater. Also boring but can serve you well, and yes, you can get 20 mpg.

    -VW Karmann Ghia -- more of a toy than a real car, but attractive, easy to fix eXCEPT for bodywork. Some parts are unobtanium, so the only way to buy a Ghia is in excellent condition.

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    "...would $1-2k a year in maintenance costs be sufficient, or would."

    Much would depend on how many miles per year you would drive it. For 10,000-15,000 miles per year, I'd plan on a minimum of $2,000 per year for maintenance and repairs, average, over five years, but probably something more than that. The Karmann Ghia might cost less than $2,000, average.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,570
    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.

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  • texasestexases Posts: 7,762
    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!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,570
    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.

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    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?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,570
    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.

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  • 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.)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,570
    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.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,600
    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: 7,726
    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: 19,600
    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: 41,889
    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: 23,040
    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: 41,889
    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: 19,600
    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: 7,726
    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: 41,889
    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: 19,600
    Oh, Barrier would have a blast with your Mercedes!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,570
    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.

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 41,889
    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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