So, You Want a Classic Car… You Might Want to Think Twice

Like it happens to a lot of petrolheads out there, the classic car bug will hit you sooner or later. It is only natural, so don’t be alarmed when that rusty Mustang on the marketplace becomes more and more attractive. And, honestly, you should buy it. Just pull the trigger and take your chance if money is not an issue. But there are some things to know before doing that.
1969 Ford Mustang 8 photos
Photo: Ford
1969 Camaro RS Coupe1972 Chevrolet Corvette1966 Chevrolet Corvette1981 BMW 635 CSiClassic Mini Cooper1967 Porsche 911 S Targa Restored1967 Porsche 911 S Targa Unrestored
First of all, you should take a look at what makes a classic car so attractive. I can’t give you an exact answer, unfortunately, or not an impartial one, at the very least, as old rust buckets are my specialty. It might be their timeless design, the raw driving sensation, the period they represent, the smell, the association with childhood, and the list goes on. For the sake of this article, let’s just say that you like classic cars for some reason.

1969 Camaro RS Coupe
Photo: Chevrolet
So, you find yourself mindlessly scrolling on social media, looking at photos and videos of classic cars, wishing that it could be you behind the wheel. It seems perfect, that one piece missing from your life. Well, I’m here to let you know that things aren't as ideal as they seem, and owning a classic car might be 90% pain, 10% pleasure - but it’s worth it anyway.

Now, I’ll assume that you aren’t a millionaire on their way to buy a Ferrari F40, as that would make this discussion pointless. I’ll just assume you are an average person, who put some money aside and wants to spend it on a classic car.

In that case, you should start by becoming best friends with rust. It will haunt you for the whole duration of your ownership. Even if it isn’t apparent at first, it will make its way to the surface sooner or later. Some cars are more prone to it than others. But don’t get your hopes up, whatever you have, you won’t escape the rust plague.

1967 Porsche 911 S Targa Unrestored
Photo: Porsche
Ok, so after familiarizing yourself with the rust, other problems will come rolling in. What, you thought you were getting off this easy? The remainder of your inevitable problems with your classic car will come in the driveability and comfort department.

To get a better understanding of this, let me paint a little picture for you. You got yourself your classic car. You are excited, rust isn't catastrophic, and everything seems nice. It is summer, the weather is perfect, and you fancy a drive. You go out, hop in your classic, turn the key in the ignition, and the only thing you hear is the starter motor squealing in pain. No problem, you try again, but still nothing. You keep trying again and again, and still nothing – welcome to classic car ownership.

For the sake of this article once again, let’s imagine that you got your old piece of... your old car running. As I said, it’s summer, and the sun is slowly baking you during your drive. No problem, you just turn on the air conditioning – what air conditioning? Yes, usually old cars don't have it. And even if they do, and by some miracle, it works, it feels more like someone blowing warm air on you as opposed to modern systems. So you will still be hot.

1981 BMW 635 CSi
Photo: BMW
Moving on from the heat or the cold in other cases, we arrive at the driveability concern. While classic cars, especially those made with sportiness in mind, are fun to a certain extent, they are pretty difficult to drive. Yes, they are raw and whatever, but take into account that you don’t have power steering, you have brakes that are weaker than your average bicycle, and no driving aids at all. Or a bare-bones version in the best-case scenario.

So, you are done with your drive, and you enjoyed it despite all the difficulties imposed. You get home all happy, but find out something broke and needs to be repaired. You start digging and find a part that needs changing. If you think that you are hopping on the internet and ordering said part, you are deeply mistaken.

You will need to do a lot of digging in scrapyards and in the darkest corners of every forum and Facebook group for that specific car. And even then, you might not find it for quite a while. So, be prepared to have your car out of commission for some time.

And there is another little hair in the soup: the price. I’m talking about the price of the car itself, as classics are reaching absurd price points and also maintenance costs. As I have just said, there are a lot of unexpected things that will need fixing, and they usually are worse and more difficult to repair than they seem to be at your first evaluation. And these repairs, especially when it comes to bodywork, can get really pricey really fast.

1966 Chevrolet Corvette
Photo: Chevrolet
I’m not trying to hold you back from buying your dream car, I’m just pointing out the fact that a lot of patience, research, and preparation goes into buying and owning an old car. Because yes, if you like them, they will provide you with endless smiles and happiness.

Everything you hear and see on social media about the pleasure of driving these vehicles is true, provided that you are into old cars. They really are raw and create a connection between driver and machine that you might not be able to have with a new car. It’s just that you have to tread lightly.

So, I encourage you to go ahead and pull the trigger on your dream classic car while you still can. They are worth it. Be careful, do your homework, arm yourself with patience, and your classic car ownership will be a dream. See you on the road!
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram
About the author: Călin Iosif
Călin Iosif profile photo

Călin’s origin story is being exposed to Top Gear when he was very young. Watching too much of Clarkson, Hammond and May argue on TV turned him into Petrolhead (an automotive journalist with a soft spot for old pieces of... cars, old cars).
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories