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How to Find Classic Cars

Updated on June 19, 2013

Is there a Bocephus sticker on that 442?

Want a Olds 442, don't talk to Corvette people, talk to Oldsmobile people.
Want a Olds 442, don't talk to Corvette people, talk to Oldsmobile people. | Source

Have you got the fever for the flavor of an old car?


Have you got the hankerin’ for a Classic Car? Where are you going to find one? You can pursue the resources known in the past—you can pick up the newspaper or a Thrifty Nickel and see what’s for sale. Unless you live in some sort of magical land of old cars or aren’t very picky, you probably aren’t going to live near the car you’re looking for.

Pickups are what they sell in dry, rural areas.

Is this the truck you're looking for?  It's got the same wheels as my 1990 F150 and the paint is peeling.  BUT, you've got the skills to make it right, right?
Is this the truck you're looking for? It's got the same wheels as my 1990 F150 and the paint is peeling. BUT, you've got the skills to make it right, right? | Source

Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona are the Mecca of Classics, right?


The desert southwest has long been seen as a mystical land where you can wander out and buy old cars. The upside is, yes, the cars born and raised in the desert don’t rust much, but when you look at the populations in the places that don’t have much water available—no surprise—not many people tend to live there.

Yes, you can still wander through small towns in west Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona and find antique cars. There just never were millions of super-collectible cars sitting around in the desert waiting for you to wander by.

But if you want to find cars, you have to look where people are. There were more cars sold in Dallas, TX in 1950 than in Big Spring, TX. Shoot, there were more cars sold in Dallas than most of west Texas had population. So, the big numbers of cars were sold in the big cities where it isn’t dry and dusty.

Look at it--or have someone you trust look at it

Is this the 1-owner, garaged, low-miles car you just paid $50k for on Craig's List?
Is this the 1-owner, garaged, low-miles car you just paid $50k for on Craig's List? | Source

Where do you find Classic Cars, then?


Is there a way to go crawling through garages from Detroit to Seattle looking for cars without getting shot, arrested or both? Probably not. What you can do is to take advantage of the tools of our information era.

First, if you know exactly what you’re looking for, you can join forums devoted to your particular breed of car. While almost anyone who drives a classic has to be a mechanic to some degree or another (yep, it’s sad, but true), there are different levels of interest and different degrees of hobby enthusiasm.

You’ll find that a large number of Classic Car people find that the restoration is challenge enough. Once they’re done, they’re ready for the next car. It’s often a trade-up process. It’s like the idea of trading a rubber band for a paper clip and by the time the trading’s done, you’ve got a Lamborghini.

Of course, there’s a lot of sweat equity involved in the restorations. So if you’re thinking about getting into it for the money, you better have your head examined. Unless you know a lot about car repair, auto mechanics, and selling antiques.

Go look at it. Really, you have to.

This Mustang has a hole where the radio used to be and aftermarket, under-dash A/C.  Is that what you expected to see?
This Mustang has a hole where the radio used to be and aftermarket, under-dash A/C. Is that what you expected to see? | Source

Classic Cars are at your fingertips


Next, it’s a lot easier to search everywhere for what you are looking for. eBay and Craig’s list are only two of the places you can look. Of course, you should always beware buying a car far away. And, as my Dad can tell you, never buy a ’56 T-Bird in the dark in Missouri when it’s snowing. You may find that you can raise the floor mats and see the road going by when the sun is up.

Of course, there are tons of collector's magazines and my old favorite, Hemming's Motor News has a print and online presence. Follow every lead to make sure you find exactly what you're looking for.

Is this your car(d)?

I sold a rusted-out 64 Impala SS locally a few years ago.  We then saw it on eBay with an unrecognizable description.  Don't be amazed when your old heap ends up being a low-miles, 1-owner car.  Ask the seller to prove their claims!
I sold a rusted-out 64 Impala SS locally a few years ago. We then saw it on eBay with an unrecognizable description. Don't be amazed when your old heap ends up being a low-miles, 1-owner car. Ask the seller to prove their claims! | Source

Know What You're Doing.


Finally, know what you’re getting in to. If you buy a car from someone who is selling lots of classic cars, they’re doing prep work to make everything look great: they’re cleaned from end-to-end, the engines are steam cleaned, they’re waxed within an inch of their life, the oil’s changed, they’ve got new tires, and the list goes on and on. You need to be able to look underneath and say, hey, everything that rubber is rotten. Every body panel is rusted. Every piece of chrome has been replaced by a replica from China. It’s hard to know everything, which is where making the right friends will come in handy.

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