Is Having a Classic Car Really That Much Fun?
This is a story about going back in time. You know, the memories of being in the “family truckster” on one of those long road trips, sweating in the back on one of those 90-degree hot summer days. Or going for a ride in one of the “older neighborhood boys” cars down to the 7-11 to get a slushy. It was always a distinct experience, and one that now serves to fuel one’s passion for recreating those memories, one dollar, one car at a time.
For me, it was Mark Cuchera’s 1966 Buick Riviera. He was one of three older kids who lived across the street from me. He would let me come with him on trips in his 455 cubic inch beast of a car. This thing would smoke the tires for blocks, screeching and almost careening off the road in the turns. That was so much fun! The sounds of that motor, the smell of the smoking tires, the deep shine of that burgundy paint in the high noon sunshine—it was all awesome, and fuel for me to later have my own hot-rod classic cars!
The sounds of that motor, the smell of the smoking tires, the deep shine of that burgundy paint in the high noon sunshine
Now, you’re probably reflecting back on your own experiences with old memories like this. And that’s great. However, if you’ve tried to re-live them, you’ve probably figured out that having an older car takes lots of money, patience, and time.
There are a couple ways to recreate these memories and feelings depending on your tastes. One is to “buy” your car already finished, and just maintain, insure, and drive it. The other is to “pay to have it built” from some starting point, then finish it, then maintain, insure, and drive it. And the third is to “build” it yourself, totally from start to finish.
From my experience, the first way is the cheaper, quicker, and the less involved way to do it. You just have to be able to financially afford what you want from the get go. So, it just has a steeper “entry fee” associated with it. After the initial purchase, the rest is just about financially identical.
The second way is more of a “purist” way of doing this endeavor. It has a smaller “entry fee” because you are going to be buying some dilapidated, barn find of a car that’s been forgotten and ready for the scrapper. (Unless it’s a Bugatti, or a 300 SL.) But, the costs then start to add up after that if you pay someone to build it the way you want. And restorations take time. Lots of time. Sometimes people spend years, if not decades, trying to have cars restored and finished. In the end, you’ll find that you might have paid more than market value to “build” your dream car. If you never plan on selling it and its completion has fulfilled a dream, then it’s only money, so it’ll hopefully be worth it for you. But if you are like most people and plan on selling at some point, you’ll probably not want to do this.
The last way involves building it yourself. Now, this opens up a whole other box of issues and needs. For one thing, you need the time, space, and patience to teach yourself the skills necessary to restore the car. This isn’t fast or cheap. You must purchase and learn how to use tools. You must have enough space to properly disassemble, clean, restore, and re-assemble your car—at least a 2-car covered garage. If you live in a colder climate, this needs to be totally enclosed and heated too. No one likes to work in the freezing temperatures! And lastly, you must have enough money on hand to buy all the necessary parts to re-build your classic. In the end, your labor will be free. The good thing with this method is that when you’re out and about with the car, and someone admiring it asks something about it, you’ll be able to spout out all the details with pride and scars to prove it. And this is a pretty cool feeling. All the blood, sweat, tears, and dollars culminate into this one moment.
All in all, it’s a double-edged sword that can manifest itself in a couple of different ways. If you want to just “plug-n-play,” buy yourself the car that will serve to re-awaken those long lost memories. Or, if you want a “journey” that culminates in the “birthing” of a creation, you might want to go out and get yourself that project car and start turning wrenches. In the end, it’s all about recreating the past and re-living small fragments of your youth—which we all loved so dearly!
In the end, it’s all about recreating the past and re-living small fragments of your youth—which we all loved so dearly!