Make Sure Your First Classic Car Steals Your Heart

Buying your first classic car should be your dream come true, but if your first car turns out to have a lot of problems, it could be a nightmare.  If the car really has issues,  it could make you swear off classic cars forever….and that would be a real shame.

Classic cars, by their very nature, are old automobiles and as with anything old, there are bound to be some issues.  If your first classic car turns out to need a lot more work than you thought it would, or if the cost of repairs exceeds what you had budgeted for, this can really dampen your initial enthusiasm.  In some cases, the problem isn’t how much work the car needs  or how much the repairs cost, but could just be a matter of not being able to find all of the necessary parts.  Whatever the issues might be, if you have big delays or other headaches fixing up your first classic car, this negative experience can be a huge let down and may keep you from enjoying the classic car hobby in the future.

Beginner’s Don’t Want To Wait For Their First Car

I think the problem some new classic car buffs have is that they rush the buying process.  They are just too anxious to get a car, and may not do their due diligence beforehand.  It’s important to take time to make a good decision, but there are times when a newbie decides to buy the first car they look at, especially if the price is right.

It’s been my experience that even in those cases when a beginner didn’t do proper market research or an inspection on a car before deciding to buy it, there is a way for them to stay motivated when things go wrong.  I suggest every beginner classic car buyer have a special emotional connection with their first car.  In this way, they are much more likely to keep motivated to fix any problems and stay interested in the hobby even if things take a turn for the worse.  The reality is, there is definitely the potential for unexpected issues with your first purchase, but if your new “baby” is special to you, you won’t give up on it.

What Makes A Classic Car Special To Someone?

What makes a car special to you ?  Well, if you think back, can you remember a car from your high school or college days that holds fond memories for you?  Did your parents have a car that triggers a good childhood memory ?  Have you always liked a certain style of car and thought “I’d like to have a car like that someday?”.  For me, I always had a “crush” on ’67 and ’68 Pontiac Firebirds just because I just like the way they look.  Whatever connection you feel for a car….it’s important that there be that connection when you start looking for your first classic car to make your own.  This is because, just like your first love, you will be much more forgiving and resilient when things don’t go smoothly.  A bond with a car will keep you motivated and on track.

’68 Pontiac Firebird


Your First Classic Car Should Not Be A Long-Term Project Car

Ask anyone in the classic car hobby if they’ve ever had a “project car” and I think you’ll find out that most casual hobbiest have a least one, and largely this is because they’ve lost their motivation to keep working on it.  We currently have several project cars, and we like the cars well enough, but they are not cars we have a particular emotional connection with…..they are investment cars.  I should mention that when it comes to purchasing your first classic car, you really should not be thinking “investment vehicle”.  There is a chance you could get lucky and find a car that is so below market value that not buying it would make no sense, but the odds are that this is not going to happen.

I Almost Made A Big Mistake Buying My First Classic Car

You would be much better off if you have a plan when it comes to buying your first car.  Unfortunately, I had no such plan when I first started getting into classic cars.    One day as I was driving around, I saw a ’48 Pontiac Silver Streak parked with a “for sale” sign on it.  Before laying eyes on that car, I had never given Pontiac Silver Streaks a thought – truth is, I didn’t know they existed.  I had no idea what the market value was for that make/model, or anything else about that car.  The only thing I knew was that it sure looked nice and the price seemed fair.  I called my husband and told him about the car and how “nice” it was.  Then I called the owner who came down and let me take the car for a ride.  It drove beautifully and I really thought it was a fine old car….just perfect for me to get started in the classic car hobby.!  My husband arrived and he could tell that I really liked the car.  He looked the car over and soon discovered that the car had a major problem….it had huge rust holes in the floorboard !  The holes were so big, that when you lifted the carpet up, you could actually see the pavement underneath!.  If I had purchased that car as my first foray into the classic car hobby, I’m pretty sure it would have dampened any future enthusiasm I had for classic cars.   The repairs were too extensive for a novice buyer to deal with, and we would have had to wait a long time to be able to afford getting the car fixed by a professional.

It really is so important to take your time to find the perfect first classic car to love.  It can be a challenge to be sure, but it can also be fun…. like a treasure hunt !   You are going to have a special relationship with your first classic car, so don’t rush head long into picking a car until you know what you’re really looking for, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t find your dream car right away.  Sometimes you have to have faith that the right car will come along.

One of our most successful “hunts” involved a ’55 Chevy Bel Air.  That particular kind of car was one of the dream cars we always wanted to own.  We started researching prices and narrowed down the price range we would be comfortable with.  Then we went on a “hunt” to try to find the car.   We searched high and low for several weeks, and couldn’t find a car in our price range anywhere close to where we lived.   We saw an ‘ad’ for a ’55 Bel Air that was being sold at a good price, but it was 500 miles away.   In the pictures, the car looked really nice.  We spoke to the owner and he insisted the car was in very good condition.  My husband decided to go look at the car, so he and a friend made the long ride to see the car.  When they got to their destination, the car was no where in as good as shape as the owner had expressed, and definitely not worth the asking price.  Even if the owner had dropped the price considerably, the car just needed too much work for us to tackle.

A few weeks later, we were spending a weekend with friends in Reno,  which is about 100 miles away from where we live.  I happened to be looking in a local paper and saw an ad for a car for sale and it was of a beautiful ’55 Chevy Bel Air.  The car  looked really nice in the picture, and the price was much lower than what we had budgeted for.  We thought the car was probably a real fixer-upper for that price, but we got in touch with the owner and met him at his house to see the car.  We literally couldn’t believe our eyes.  The car was in excellent shape, inside and out, and ran great.  In fact, we bought her that day and drove her home.  We still have her 20 years later.  Even if that car had turned out to need some work, we would have gladly bought her because of the special connection we had with that specific type of car.

If your first car is a super special car, you will keep motivated to work on it, even if problems come up.  Staying motivated and seeing progress will give you a positive “first” experience that will serve you well down the road (no pun intended).