HELP--looking for reliable 50-60s family "classic".

rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
Is to have only 2-5 words in the title, and save the details for the message itself.
As far as a car, My suggestion would be a 57 Chevrolet 210 sedan. It's a lower trim line of the Bel Air, so there's plenty of parts to keep it going. The only real styling differences is that the Bel Air had a gold grille and chrome on the tail fins, while the 210 had a chrome grille and painted tail fins. There were other differences, but those are the only ones a layman will notice, and the car is a lot cheaper than a "real" Bel Air.


  • crossedrealitycrossedreality Member Posts: 72
    Longest title I've ever seen...
  • larkbilllarkbill Member Posts: 1
    The obvious choice for reliability and parts availability is something from Ford or Chevy, but let me make a less obvious suggestion. Studebaker. Not only are parts very available, but you also have the added attraction of driving something totally different than everyone else. There is everything from supercharged muscle cars to family style daily drivers and the largest single marque car club in the country for support. Check out and travel the web ring. You'll find everything from the roughest project cars to show-ready #1's. Just be ready to tinker, but then, that's the case with all older cars. If you are not ready to get your hands dirty then stick to the current models.
  • kinleykinley Member Posts: 854
    a 65,66,67,or68 Ford Country Sedan or Squire. They came with up to a 390 c.i. V8, AT, PS, PB and parts are very available. The Squire had wall paper on the sides and back whereas the Sedan was painted. Our 67 Country Sedan with the 390 was a favorite for a long time.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610
    Chrysler is the way to go. Mopars usually had more interior room than comparable cars from Ford and GM. The upshot of this is that the cars themselves were often phyically larger, as well. For example, a '65 Dart, a compact, is about the same size inside as a '65 Chevelle, an intermediate. It's also an inch longer, so sometimes the difference between compact and intermediate can be a fine line.

    All Mopars except Imperial went to Unibody construction for 1960 (Imperial joined for '67), so rust damage can be more critical than body-on-frame cars. However, I've seen my fair share of full-frame cars with the rails rusted through. If you want bulletproof reliability though, it doesn't get much better than a Mopar slant six, smallblock or bigblock coupled to a Torqueflite transmission.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    How about a nice "classic" GM (Chevy, Buick, Olds) full size station wagon from the 1960s? They are practical and reliable and going up in value, and easily more attractive than wagons offered by Ford or the "orphan" makes (Studebaker or Rambler). Much better cars, too.

    Owning an older car has enough hassles, you don't need to be scrounging for parts for the orphan makes, and nothing beats GM cars of the 60s for parts availability and junk cars to use in restoration work. They will also hold their value better than the competitors from that era.

    Second choice would be a 60s Jeep Station Wagon (NOT Wagoneer!) or a 60s full size convertible or two door hardtop from GM. You can shop for sedans, since they are the cheapest body style to buy, but they are also not as attractive and will not retain value as well as the other types.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610
    If you have a Chevy, parts are a breeze, but it seems like anything else (Buick, Olds, a non-GTO Pontiac) is an orphan by comparison. Not as bad of an orpan as a DeSoto (I can't even find a molded radiator hose for mine!), Edsel, Studebaker, Kaiser, Nash, Hudson, etc, but still can be a hassle.

    GM had a tendency to change their parts every couple of years. For example, when I needed ball joints for my '67 Catalina, I found out that the only ones that were compatible were '67-68 Pontiacs. Not Chevy, Olds, or Buick. And not a '66 Pontiac, nor a '69.

    OTOH, if I need ball joints for my '68 Dart, the ball joints for any '67-76 drum-brake A-body will fit. I know on the disk brake setup, one of the ball joints (can't remember if it's upper or lower) is different.

    I agree with Shifty, though, on GM wagons. I may prefer Mopars, but I think GM (Pontiac especially) made some of the best looking wagons in the 60's!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    And I much prefer the 60s. American cars from the late 50s were generally pretty badly built all across the board. Very crude and clunky. 60s cars are more harmonious, more modern and better engineered I think.
  • ndancendance Member Posts: 323
    The parts situation is obviously way better + less mysterious interchange. For a larger car, if push came to shove, I'd look for an Impala convertible (73 or prior, to avoid smog here in CA). You get the whole small block chevy, turbo 400, 12 bolt enchilada...decent looks...and I think convertibles are really the way to go as far as fun and cost/benefits.

    I admit that ragtops cost more from the get-go, but I would prefer to invest money in paint, mechanical stuff, etc in a convertible than a wagon (as an example).
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    but Chevy and Ford ragtops are really expensive compared to other brands. Of course, there's an upside to that--they're more expensive because more people like them so they're better investments, have more parts available and are easier to sell.

    But if you're looking for bang for the buck, then a Buick, Olds or Mercury convertible from the '60s is the way to go. You're actually getting more car (or at least more stuff) than a Chevy or Ford and for less money. You get a Turbo 400 instead of a Powerglide, a 400 CID engine instead of a 283 or 327, better quality interiors and more options.

    I've had three four-speed Impalas over the years so I like Chevies but for a relatively low-cost collectible I think the Buick-Olds-Pontiac cars are the way to go.

    Just my two cents.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610
    I'd have to second Speedshift's choice ;-)
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Pontiacs are great too but they have much more of a following than the Buick, Olds, Mercury or the full-size Mopars. So you're going to pay more for a Pontiac although I think it's money well spent. These were really nicely styled cars, both inside and out, with plenty of performance.

    But they're huge. Probably a GM intermediate would be a more practical choice, not a musclecar convertible but something with a small V8. LeMans, Skylark or Cutlass, preferably with the Turbo 350.

    Early Fairlanes and Comets don't seem to have caught on with collectors and the 289 is a great, durable engine. A few years ago I saw a mint red-on-red '63 Comet convertible, 260 four speed, buckets and console, for sale for I think $4500 that I thought would make a great fun car for not much money. Back in the day I would have laughed at the car--heck, when I was in high school that was a $500 car--but now it looks like lots of cheap fun.

    And the great thing about early Comets is that they're easy to work on because they're crude--no moving parts.
  • ndancendance Member Posts: 323
    Specifically I'd say a good deal for the money is a 1968-1972 Cutlass convertible. Cars with 455's would go for a premium but the 350 cars don't run too badly.

    I've always been a big fan of GM A-bodies. They really handle and stop pretty well (even by modern standards), hold a lot of stuff/people, and really 'feel' pretty decent when driven.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Personally I think the '68-72 GM intermediates are maybe the highpoint of Detroit iron, before or since. Not that they're world beaters, but they're good cars in many ways.

    Great styling, quality interiors, nice instrument layouts, competant drivetrains, not too big or too small, hundreds of thousands sold and many still around, ready availability of parts and buyers, interesting options, good ride and handling.

    The Cutlass convertible is a great choice. It was a big seller and there should be plenty still around. Even a Vista Cruiser would be interesting. That's the wagon with windows in the raised roof over the rear. Maybe the sharpest wagon around except for the Nomad/Safari. You could pack plenty of people into one, especially with the rear seat option.

    For a family car I'd go with the 350. The 455 was available on non-442s toward the end and has a lot more torque but I'd be concerned about mpg.

    I will say that these convertibles probably aren't for people who demand that their cars feel as solid as a bank vault. I had '65 Tempest and '67 Le Mans convertibles and they felt a little limp even by '60s standards. Maybe the later ones are better.

    The GM intermediate hardtops and especially the sedans feel tight and more refined than the competition. Maybe they were designed better or maybe they just had more sound deadening material--they are heavy.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610
    I've always liked the style of them, but didn't like the split wheelbase. The coupes and convertibles were on a short 112" wheelbase, and I actually find them to be kind of tight inside. Now, if you're not 6'3" like me, you won't have a problem. Still, they're a better choice than the '73-77 intermediates, which were on the same wheelbase, but for the most part underpowered and even heavier.

    I think my favorites, just going by style, are the '64-67 intermediates. I especially liked the Pontiac and Olds...just something about their styling made them look a lot bigger than they really were.

    I wonder if the reason the GM mid-sizers back then felt more solid an refined than the competition had to do with their full-perimeter frames. Chrysler and Ford were using unitized bodies at that time for their intermediates, although I think Ford switched back to full-frame around 1972. From about 1966 to '71, though, the Falcon and Fairlane/Comet/Montego/Torino shared the same platform.
  • ndancendance Member Posts: 323
    I'm going to guess its the difference between a Chevelle and a Monte Carlo (which is what, 3 inches or so?, maybe more).

    For what it's worth, A body convertibles have different frames than non-convertibles. I imagine there's scads of frame reinforcing gizmos in the aftermarket which would significantly stiffen one of those cars.

    They (A-bodies) are all sort of flexi-flyers. On an LS6 Chevelle, for instance, I swear you can see the car twist when really hammered (the car that is). Supposedly, the car twists enough to cause the stock Muncie linkage to bind, although I've never had that happen.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610
    refers to platforms where they'd put the coupes and convertibles on a shorter wheelbase than the sedans to give them a sportier, more nimble look. GM started the trend in 1968 with the A-bodies, having a 116" wb for the sedans and 112" for the coupes and 'verts. Chrysler followed suit for 1971 with its intermediates, and Ford in '72, I think, with the Montego/Torino.

    Cars like the Monte Carlo and A-body Grand Prix were on the longer 116" wb (I think the Grand Prix was actually 118-119 for its first few years as an intermediate), but I believe the additional length was all ahead of the firewall. It gave you a nice, long hood, but no more interior room than a Malibu or Tempest coupe.

    Are you sure the A-body convertibles actually have a different frame? I've never paid much attention to the A-bodies in particular, but most 'verts, from what I've seen, have an X-member that connects the outer frame rails and cradles the driveshaft, and sometimes a bulkhead that runs under the back seat, connecting the sides of the car. I'd always thought it was the same frame though, just with some reinforcements added.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I seem to remember that the convertible frame was boxed, with no X member.
  • ndancendance Member Posts: 323
    It never occurred to me that 4 door Chevelles are a longer wheelbase (I just think of them as parts cars anyway). El Caminos are also boxed and are the longer (116") variety, I think.

    I guess to a restorer it probably gets hairier yet (oddballs like Z16 for instance).
  • ndancendance Member Posts: 323
    Checking out a '1970 Chevelle, Monte Carlo, and El Camino Assembly Manual'. This shows three possible frames (3960739 for all models except 13857 and 13867, 3960625 for model 13857, 3967787 for model 13867 ) with two possible 'support arms' (a kind of cross member) (3949149 normally vs 3949150 for convertible and pickup). The convertible/pickup part seems to be bolted in about 6 inches further back for some reason.
  • dixiestreetroddixiestreetrod Member Posts: 1
    If your careful with your choice this can be a fun way to invest money. Most vehicles on the market are depreciating as they sit, but the 50-60 Classics are increasing in value. If your careful about what you purchase do your research and don't sink to much money into restoration. Your vehicle can be a daily driver as well as an investment in your families future. See more at
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    If you're looking to make money, old cars are not the way to go. Find you a good mutual fund and put your money there. Working with old cars can be a great hobby, a lot of fun, and loads of stress releif, but, like the guys that build model ships, planes, trains, ect, don't expect to get any money back doing it. If you're good (and lucky) you'll break even. Most guys will loose a little money, and a few (like me with my '78 Mercury) will loose quite a bit of money. But I'm not in it for the money, I'm in it for the fun. That post sounds more like an advertisment for the website than it does a regular post to me.
  • jsylvesterjsylvester Member Posts: 572
    I think collector cars as a whole will probably drop in value as we enter a recession. Less demand and more supply as those laid off sell theirs (I've run across a couple already in that situation), and fewer buy due to their personal financial situation. For most, it is a luxury or hobby item.

    Maintenance and repairs are cheap, but more frequent. So is insurance. But the biggie is depreciation.

    As a 2nd car, you come out further ahead with a collector or older car than having a late model for a 2nd car due to depreciation, (say a 99 Mustang GT Convertible will probably depreciate $1000-$1,500 a year vs. one from the 60's, that hopefully will not), so breaking even financially is all I am hoping for when or if I ever sell.
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    even the most economical car from the 60s is going to use twice as much gas (at least) as almost anything built now. This isn't necessarily a deterrent, but if that 'second car' is going to be used on a regular basis, it's definitely something to consider. Also, if you live in a hot climate, driving around in a big, heavy metal car with a vinyl interior and no a/c is no fun.

    That said, resale value is attractive (where else can you drive a car for five years, put as many miles as you want on it and come out even or better?). If I were buying a 60s sedan as a second car, I'd probably stick to something kinda basic with plentiful parts supply. Maybe a 67 Impala with a small block, upgraded to HEI and a turbohydramatic (powerglide two-speed=lousy on highway).

    Hey andre1969, if you're there: I was in rural Indiana this weekend, drove by a farm (on Route 28, about 20 miles west of Frankfort) with three old mopars: a 68-69 Barracuda CONVERTIBLE, a 68-69 Dart GT coupe and an Aspen coupe (the fastback variety with triangular rear window). The cuda was of course the most intersting.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    I won't even open my monthly statements anymore...

    Hopefully things will turn around.

    But, I agree, old cars aren't a good investment as a rule. They go up and down and buyers can be few and far apart.

    Potential buyers who lack mechanical skills need to be careful when buying since most shops can't or won't work on old cars.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Some cars are good "investments" only in relation to other old a 60s convertible is a better investment than a 60s sedan, but neither is as good as equity investments---with very rare big-buck exceptions, in days long gone by.
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    Fast cars are a better investment than fast women.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Both can make you feel like you were hotwired, taken on a wild ride, and then abandoned in a parking lot with your wheels missing.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I'd like to see that happen to Nigel some time. Nigel would like to see that happen to Nigel some time.

    Make Big Money Owning Old Cars! My father had the right attitude. He drove for pennies per mile by fixing only the things that made the car move--nothing else. None of us here have that kind of hardened self-discipline (or Depression-era cheapness).
  • crossedrealitycrossedreality Member Posts: 72
    My pappy always said reverse was optional. Are you too good to put it in neutral and push, boy?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Easy talk for a VW owner, tough talk for a Buick guy!
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    I have done that in nothing less than a 1978 Mercury Grand Marquis sedan! Let me tell you from experience reverse is not optional!
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610 the owner's manual of my '57 DeSoto, it says that if the battery's dead, you can push start it, and it'll start once it gets to about 11 mph. I guess if the car's pointing downhill that might work, or if you have another car to push it with, but I couldn't imagine a lone person stuck in a parking lot getting something like that up to speed!
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    Maybe Hans & Franz...with the help of Ahhhnold.
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    my brother and I had to push my 71 Electra up the driveway (only three car lengths, but on an incline) SEVERAL times (guess spending fifty bucks on a battery seemed like a fortune at the time). That was not only 'no fun' but potentially dangerous (5,000 pound car runs over skinny 16-year-old, story at ten).
  • crossedrealitycrossedreality Member Posts: 72
    With an unlimited supply of flat surface, I think a normal human could push a car at 11mph...they just wouldn't get there anytime soon.
This discussion has been closed.