New Classic Car Owner FAQ
New Owner FAQ - by webmaster Mike in Chicago -
Owning a Classic car is an epic story of trial and tribulation.
Very few ownership stories end with profits being made monetarily, but rich
rewards come from the experiences working and driving these great cars.
While I was purchasing my first classic car, there were no websites available or
anyone in my circle of friends that knew much about buying these 25 plus year
old cars. Because of this I found unexpected problems that could have been
easily caught if I knew what basic problems to look for.
This New Classic Car Owner FAQ is here to help mainly Falcon owners, but can be
extended in scope to help everyone looking to buy a classic car (with "classic"
being defined as a 25 plus year old car). A lot of people get wrapped up
in the idea of having a classic car, or see one that they NEED to own, and make
the mistake of throwing caution to the wind.
This FAQ should also help answer many of the repeated questions I receive
via email. As much as I enjoy helping fellow car enthusiasts,
encapsulating some common answers to common questions should help us all, and
surprisingly much of this information isn't located in one spot on the internet
where it can be easily found.
However, the main point of this FAQ is to help calm the desires, and delicately crash
those of us who have fallen head over heels in love with a classic car to Mother Earth
(it's for your own good, trust me)....
First things first - let us start at the beginning, you are in
the market for a classic car or are about to acquire one. Either a classic
car has fallen into your lap, or you were SOMEWHERE and up drove this "I don't
know what it was but it was a/the (choice of adjectives) car". It was love
at first sight, and now you have figured out what it is and you want one... bad.
If you have inherited your Falcon or acquiring it was what I'd like to call 'an
act of God', please continue onto section 3. If not, READ BELOW!!!
Lesson 1: If you find the car you want, do NOT be afraid to WALK AWAY.
There will ALWAYS be another car! Your mission, your goal, is to get the
car of your dreams in the best condition you can afford. I know it's hard,
and you might have to search further than you planned, but you will THANK me
later. Remember, time is on the buyer's side.
Lesson 2: Education is key! Use the internet and Classic Car
magazines to get a feel for how much the car you want costs. Look for
trends; what are popular options that drive the prices up? What options
are available for your car? What year do you want? What are the
differences between the models of your car? Maybe you'll find the previous
year of the car you saw is more your style....
III. Car Examining Checklist
When you find the car you want, you need to check a number of important
factors before laying down the cash for it. Remember, these cars are over
30 years old! Even with 'ground up restorations' and 'everything replaced'
ads, there are always things that won't be the same as when the car was new.
Word of advice, mechanical problems are 80% easier to fix than body problems.
If you have previous experience doing automotive bodywork, of course this
changes the percentage, but for most of us starting out bodywork and painting
takes space, expensive equipment, extensive amounts of time, and patience.
Bodywork also requires aftermarket, NOS (New Obsolete Stock), and replacement
parts from other original cars in order to fix your car. Picking up the
magazines from the numerous parts suppliers available to our hobby pale in
comparison to endless swap meet hunting, eBay searches, and phone calls to
unknown junkyards asking if they have your car with the rare part you need.
Another word of advice, in your heart of hearts, you REALLY want this
car, don't you - the sooner you get it the better? Be honest with yourself
here. If you feel this way, and yes it's fine to, bring along an impartial
friend. A friend with automotive or classic car background is ideal.
Use him/her as an anchor to reality. Make sure to buy him/her their
favorite beverage if you do or don't get the car. Either way your
friend will save you money in the long run by helping you buy the right car.
Here are a few pointers when looking at a classic car:
1.) Start by taking a look around the car, ask the owner about the car's history
while you look. Look at the paint - is it shiny? Wavy? All the same
color? Do you see bubbles? Rust? Cracks? Peeling?
2.) Ask if the owner has any receipts of work completed.
3.) How does the glass look? Any cracks?
4.) Look at the chrome and stainless. Are there pits, scrapes, or dull
spots? Especially pay attention to large Chrome and stainless pieces
without logos. These parts are usually the ones that aren't reproduced by
companies yet, especially if the car being viewed is not a "household name" car.
5.) Look at the body lines of the car - are the straight? Do they get
bigger or smaller as you trace along them? In convertibles, MAKE SURE the
body line where the door meets the rear quarter panel is continually the same
thickness. If the doors stick, or this body line is not totally of equal
measure throughout, DO NOT BUY THE CAR! This body line is showing you the
car is literally BENDING IN HALF!
6.) Check the tires
for wear. Uneven tire wear - balding on the sides or in the middle - could
indicate the need for a front-end alignment or a more costly repair to a
7.) Look under the car - what do the floorboards look like? Is there rust?
Are there holes? If the car is a unibody car, pay special attention to the
sub frame rails. The sub frame, especially around the spring perches, can
be a costly repair.
8.) Check the front floorboards by the pedals - is the floor wet? How about the
passenger side? This can be caused by a leaky cowl, or a leaky heater
9.) Check the trunk - don't be afraid to lift the floor mat - there can be VERY
nasty things being hidden under there.
10.) Bring along a small
refrigerator magnet and place it gently (as not to scratch the paint) along
various body panels (lower door, front fender, etc.). If there is any plastic
body filler the magnet will not stay in place, indicating the vehicle has been
involved in an accident
11.) Check the radiator fluid. If
it is foamy or has oil droplets in it, there is a good chance the car has a
defective head gasket (coolant and oil are mixing together) / or worse, a
cracked block or head
12.) Before driving, LOOK for soot, water, and oil in the tailpipe, Oil and
antifreeze on the engine, spots of fluid under the car, and with the engine
running, loose parts or moving parts not
moving correctly (read loose belts and pulleys)
Now take it for a spin! While driving:
1.) LISTEN for squeaks, groans, and rug-rug noises.
2.) FEEL for loose steering, bad/worn suspension, strange road behavior.
3.) Make sure to steer hard into some corners. Brake hard and accelerate
quickly to get a feel of the car under emergency conditions.
4.) When you accelerate hard, using your rear view mirror, look for blue or
white smoke, or look for blue smoke when coasting down a hill, then hit the
accelerator and see if a plume of smoke appears.
IV. Car Delivery
For cars that are located far from your home, or cars that
cannot reach your home under their own power, there are several companies that
transport classic and unrestored cars. Several transport companies contact
information can be found on-line, in car magazines, or through local classic car
clubs. Make sure to shop around for the best deals you can, and balance
the cheapest price with convenience and transporter's reputation (if available).
A few points:
1.) Covered transportation is supplied by several companies, but it will cost
more than uncovered.
2.) Vehicles that cannot be moved under their own power can be transported, but
are more expensive to transport.
3.) Be prepared for a wait of up to several weeks to get your car transported.
Transporters have to plan a circuit to pick up as many cars as possible.
Your car has to fit in the route. Just be patient and check with the
transporters on arrival times.
For cars that can be transported, either by others or by yourself, here
are a few things to pack for the trip:
1.) 2 Quarts Oil
2.) Gallon of gasoline
3.) Rotor, cap, points
4.) Fuel pump
5.) 1 gallon water
6.) Toolkit with screwdrivers, pliers, vice grips, socket set
7.) 12v Tire pump
8.) Battery (if you can)
V. Must Have Literature
1.) A SHOP MANUAL FOR YOUR CAR!!!!! This is a collection of the original
instructions on working on your car that dealer mechanics used. This manual
will allow you to disassemble and reassemble your car. It also holds
diagrams and part numbers to compare with what is on your car.
2.) Check local book stores and online book stores like
Amazon.com. From performance to inspirational pictures of your car,
check out these sources for literature.
3.) Falcon! The New Sized Ford! By Ray Miller. For Falcon owners, great
book covering American Falcons 1960- 1970. Gives detailed information on
production numbers, optional equipment, performance stats, etc. You can get this
book from places like the Falcon Club of
4.) How to Build a Small Block Ford.
For Ford owners,
explains how to remove engine and how to inspect for repair as well as wear and
recondition. Covers all years and models of 221, 260, 289, 289HP, 302, and 351
engines. 158 pages, 567 illustrations.
VI. Buying Parts
Best bet is if you're classic car is a "household name" (Corvette, Camaro, Mustang, Thunderbird) parts are readily available. However, for
those of us who are proud owners of less conspicuous cars (Edsel, Tucker, Lark)
parts availability can be found in several places:
1.) Try Magazines such as Hemmings Motor News,
and Collector Car Trader
Online. These publications are stuffed with ads from
private and public businesses selling parts for all kinds of cars.
2.) Swap Meets are another great source for parts and contacts. Visits can
be hit and miss, and buyer beware! However, do your homework and amazing
deals can be found!
3.) With the .com boom, many 'brick and mortar' businesses now have web sites to
sell directly to car enthusiasts. Use Internet search engines like
Google to search for parts suppliers.
VII. Online Literature
On the subject of the internet, use the search engines like
Google to find great information on your
car. A lot of car enthusiasts and companies have set up websites passing
on valuable information to help you in your restoration.
VIII. Online Support
Many sites also have contact information to reach the authors.
Email is a great tool - USE IT!
The next great source of information is Newsgroups. Newsgroups are
email addresses that many people can send mail to, and the accumulated mail is
released to all members, allowing a virtual discussion between all members.
THE Ford Falcon Newsgroup is TFFN, and
I suggest all Falcon owners join.
There are several newsgroups for several different types of cars.
Search online to find ones to help you.
IX. Local Support
For most types of cars there is a car club or hobbyists that can help you if you
purchase, maintenance, and restoration of your car. Networking is key for classic car folks.
When you buy the car, ask the owner if they have any magazines, catalogs, or
leads to local clubs of people who have dealt with the car.
With the advent of the internet, people thousands of miles away are just
a click away. Don't underestimate the power of the internet - most of us
are out here to help!