I’ve attended a few car shows this summer and would sure love to own one of those old beauties. My wife appreciates the cars too, but she’s concerned about the time I’d have to devote to such a hobby. Any advice on getting into the vintage car market? – Bill in Nanaimo, B.C
Contrary to what you might think, owning a collector car and preserving a marriage are not mutually exclusive endeavours. With some planning, budgeting and carefully identifying the experience you’re after (i.e. a fixer-upper or fully-restored gem?) you and your sweetheart could soon be on the road to collector bliss.
“People often romanticize about being able to buy a car and work on it in their garage to make it just right, but then it ends up sitting there for 10 years – and maybe even causes a divorce – because time is a currency that’s often poorly spent. Vehicles that are considered project cars usually never come within a specified budget to get them just right. Always take what you think it will cost to restore a car and double it,” says Jeff Hill, president of Okotoks Collector Car Auction, the longest-running in Canada.
Enthusiasts will tell you there’s a lifetime of enjoyment in tinkering. If your heart is set on a restoration project, tell your wife to look on the bright side: for the next decade or two, she won’t have to venture farther than the garage to find you. Maybe she’ll even want to pitch in.
Start by researching the model(s) you’re interested in. Joining a club (or two) focused on the vehicle you’re after is a wise move. The knowledge and experience of the members will help you determine the availability and location of parts, and any model-specific anomalies. This could also be the place to find your dream drive; many cars change hands within collector clubs without ever being publicly listed for sale.
“The best buys in my opinion are the cars which people have already put the work into and made exceptional, and they’re selling them to move on to another project. Car people can put hundreds and even thousands of man-hours in for free, whereas if you paid a shop to do that it would cost a fortune,” says Hill.
You may also be able to sell your wife on the idea that a collector vehicle can be an investment. “If you pursue good cars, and purchase one after doing some research, you can often own a car for free – meaning just the cost of basic maintenance, which is the cost of use. They hold their value so well that they don’t become a financial liability, and in many cases go up in value. So they can be a much more ideal investment than paper stocks, and offer a great personal investment as well. You can’t drive a stock portfolio and take your wife out for ice cream in that,” says Hill.
Remember, a collector car doesn’t necessarily mean an expensive, rare model such as the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO originally built for Stirling Moss, which sold last month for a record $35-million. Enlist your wife and search for something that resonates with you both; perhaps a model you remember from childhood and that was driven by your parents or grandparents.
Don’t forget, a collector car should be appraised and insured for its value. If something happens, there will be no dispute about what the replacement cost might be. Adding safety features such as seat belts and head rests is imperative if they’re not already installed.
The bottom line is that a restoration will always cost you far more time and money than anticipated. If you want a collector vehicle to drive and enjoy, buy the best restored model you can afford. Then, after a few ice-cream excursions and sunset drives, you might be able to convince your wife about another winter project car.