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Thread: Old cars aren't for everyone...

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Old cars aren't for everyone...

    Lots of people like the idea of owning a vintage/classic car - but the reality is often not what they expected. Kind of like buying a Great Dane puppy. Six months later, you discover you may just have bitten off more than you can chew.

    Here's why:

    * Old cars are maintenance intensive -

    Since the appearance of computer-controlled electronic fuel injection in the late 1980s, cars have become much more reliable than they used to be. They don't require major tune-ups every 6-12 months - and frequent minor adjustments more often than that. With older cars, little things are constantly going wrong - and needing attention. That's just the way these things are.

    And: If you can't do the work yourself, you'll need to find someone who can - and that is sometimes no easy thing. Many shops won't work on cars older than 25 years or so. And even if they're willing, their mechanics may have no clue how to properly service and maintain obsolete systems that they were never taught about in technical school. You may have to find an old timer who remembers how to adjust a carburetor - something many of the guys in their 20s and 30s will have no clue how to do correctly.

    * Parts for old cars are often hard to find (and expensive) -

    If you own a modern car, finding parts is usually as easy as heading over to your local NAPA store or dealership. But with older cars - especially those that have been out of production for decades - finding even basic things such as air and oil filters can be challenging - as well as expensive.

    You may have to search online, or attend swap meets that are hours away from where you live. And when you do find the part you need, it may cost a whole lot more than you expected.

    It's simple economics: When items are no longer mass-produced and supplies have dwindled to "new old stock" (or high dollar reproductions) the cost goes up. It's especially tricky if the old car in question is an "orphan" - the child of a long-gone manufacturer such as AMC. You may not be able to find an essential part - at any price. Or it may take you months of searching. This can really kill the joy of owning an old car. What fun is it if you can't drive it? Or the parts are so expensive you can't afford them?

    * Old cars are incredibly rust prone -

    Today's cars rarely rust out before they are more than 10 years old and well into the sunset of their useful lives. This is because of much better rust-proofing at the factory as well as better quality steel, high quality primers and paints and body designs that are less prone to leaks and water penetration. Cars built before the 1980s were the exact opposite. Many would suffer from major structural rot long before the drivetrain wore out. It was routine to see bubbled paint and openly cancerous fenders and quarter panels on cars only four or five years old. Unless the car was kept absolutely dry - and you never drove it in winter and subjected it to road salt - major rust problems were inevitable.

    Why mention this? Because rust is massively expensive to repair - and easy to hide from the inexperienced old car buyer. That shiny paint job may be hiding buckets of body filler - and a dangerously swiss-cheesed frame. Even if the car is pristine or has been restored, keeping the rust at bay is a real challenge with these older cars. They just weren't designed to endure the ages. They were in fact built to be disposable.

    So, be careful. And think twice.

    * Old cars are often difficult to drive -

    At least when compared to modern cars. We take so many things for granted today, from power steering to adequate brakes (usually, with ABS).

    In contrast, most cars built prior to the mid-'80s did not have good brakes - let alone ABS. It was very easy to wreck one of these cars by having to brake suddenly - and finding out the hard way that you didn't have enough room to stop. Or that the rear end just swapped places with the front - because the wheels locked up (which doesn't happen with ABS). People who did not grow up with these cars may be in for a rude surprise when they go and drive one for the first time. Older cars also require babying at start-up, sometimes stall out - and are much more likely to overheat. Are you ready for this?

    If you're not ready - and even more importantly, able to deal with these problems yourself - owning an old car may not be for you. It might be better to get your classic car fix by visiting an antique car museum or attending summer cruise nights at your local fast food joint.

    There, you can ogle the old cars without being responsible for them come tomorrow morning.
    Last edited by Eric; 01-21-2009 at 10:50 AM.

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