Looking for a classic car... What should I get?
January 1, 2000
By Scott Lewis
A couple of months ago I wrote about a few possibilities for my next new car. Last month I cleaned up my Z28 and starting thinking, "why get a new car?" So, if I dont get a new car what should I look for in a classic old car.
I will be looking for classic muscle cars, mainly. I want a car that I could "hot rod" for more performance, so total originality is not a requirement. However, I would prefer a car that has fewer modifications from stock, since it is very hard to know how well someone else modifies a car. Finally, I want a car that I can drive to work at least frequently, if not daily.
For this column I will set two imaginary budgets and search the Internet for cars in those budgets. The first budget will be $10,000. This is a reasonable amount for a personal loan without using the car itself for collateral. Worse case I would put my Camaro up for collateral. Ideally I would just save the money.
The second budget will be $20,000. This is less than the average price of a new car, and I would expect to use the car itself as collateral. On a four-year loan the payments should be less than the payments for a new car. This would be the argument I will use on my wife. It also means finding a car that is really worth that much. (For the sake of this article we will assume this wont be a problem, but in reality it could be difficult to swing a loan on a mint 65 Mustang GT.)
When I started this I thought I would find a half dozen or so cars. What I found is that the Internet lets you find hundreds of cars. I found too many to list here. But I wanted to give you an idea of what you and I could find if we went looking. This huge list only strengthens the importance of getting a handle on what to look for and to stay focused. Unfortunately, my focus is all over the place, as you will soon see.
My intention was to reprint the ads here in their entirety. That would make this column extremely long. To help I made thumbnails of all the pictures. You can click on any of the thumbnails to see the image as it appeared in the original ad. Also, I only kept the full ads for a handful of cars in each budget. The rest were edited drastically. My own comments on each car are in blue.
Here are the best cars for under $12,000. I know, I said $10,000. However, it may be possible to negotiate the price, and I might miss that perfect car (1969 Camaro Convertible with a 350 and 4-speed priced at $10,995) if I did not at least search for cars a little over budget.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro Conv. Not a matching # car. Complete & restored. Not a show car, but a very nice driver. 350, 4 speed muncie, ps. a/c, cortez silver, cowl hood, standard black interior. rally wheels, new top & boot. Console & gauges. $10,000.
Note: This ad did not have a picture, but since it is the car I really want I am listing it first.
This is the perfect car for me: 69 Camaro Convertible, not original, nice small block V-8 and 4-speed. Since the car is not original the price is only good if the car is really excellent. Definitely worth further investigation. This would make a great project car. Good enough to drive now, and since it is not original it wont matter when I stuff that supercharged 502 big block in it.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible. 56,000mi. Auto 350, white with orange stripes, black power top, power steering, power brakes, aluminum wheels. Runs great, looks great, mostly original! Make an offer! $9,000 South Elgin, IL.
This car looks clean, and if it really is mostly original it could make a great ride. Check closely for rust, it is from the north. Darn it doesnt have a 4-speed... it was almost a perfect.
1966 Ford Mustang, 62000 Miles, this baby has been well taken care of and stored in the winter. Original miles, 289 c.i. engine, 4 speed top loader transmission, 3.90 posi-traction rear end, pony interior, styled steel wheels, runs great. $6,000/OBO.
A very nice, well kept car. I usually dont go for Mustang coupes, but this one looks so clean, and the price is excellent. If the drive train is original it is a bargain.
This looks like a really well kept car. I love the split bumper 70-73 Camaros. Notice the correct low back buckets and "small" spoiler of the 70 model. Too bad its an automatic. I could do without the vinyl roof as well. This looks like a good, unmolested car.
This car isnt as popular as the others here, but if it really is a factory 340/4-spd car, then you cant beat the price. Worth investigating. Looks clean. If it is as good as it seems this would make a great run-around car. These cars are light, so expect to replace rear tires frequently.
1968 Ford Mustang GT, 14000 Miles, $12,900 Firm 1968 Ford Mustang GT Convertible in great condition. Mtl green ext./pony int. 4 speed manual. Only 14K miles on a rebuilt 302 V-8 engine. Power steering, disc brakes. dual exhaust. GT chrome wheels. Classic-style digital radio/cassette, alarm with internal proximity sensor, new dash and side speakers, and new front tires. Very clean car. Perfect for weekends or as a daily driver. Recent licensed appraisal at $18500.
This one is over budget for this section, but it seems like a really nice car. It has the 4-speed, plus its a convertible and a GT. Like the ad says, "Perfect for weekends or a daily driver." If it is as good as it seems it would be worth haggling over the price to get it into the budget. This is a real classic. Argue that the alarm system lowers the value of the car, which it does. To get him away from "firm."
1967 Chevrolet Chevelle 2 Dr Malibu Blue w/ Blue int. 8 Cylinder 15,500mi. 3 SPD. See www.********.com/ for complete information! $13,000 Austin, TX (This is from the web site: Beautiful Light Blue 2 Door 1967 Chevelle Malibu sports coupe, well worth the asking price. Great condition 15,500 miles on a new GM 350 and custom built turbo 400 transmission w/ Ratchet shifter. New headliner and carpet, all new chrome/aluminum trim and emblems, nice interior, after market front disk brakes, Vintage Air in-dash A/C and heater system, Custom Autosounds "1967 Chevelle Vintage" Cassette AM/FM Stereo, Pioneer 6-Disc CD changer, Brand New BF Goodrich Performance Tires & custom chrome rims, New Inspection and Registration Stickers, Flowmaster Dual Exhaust System, Hooker Super Competition Headers, Weiand Stealth Intake Manifold, tinted windows, Viper alarm system w/ remote door locks and starter kill. This car has been babied & hardly driven at all!! Has a very nice paint job, and sounds and runs great! Can definitely light up the tires!! Also comes w/ extra steering wheel, extra dash, factory service manual, and more!! This car is loaded, and I'm asking much less $$ than I've put into it (not to mention the time!)!! Don't pass it up!!)
This is the kind of car I want to build. A non-original, classic hot rod that I could drive every day. If this car is in as good a condition as he says, it is worth looking at. Remember that you never know how much attention to detail another person takes when they build their car. Also, he may have made modifications that you wouldnt. It is always harder, and more expensive, to return things to stock. However, Austin is only and hour drive from San Antonio. Too bad it has an automatic. And obviously the price is over our 10K budget, so we would have to decide what to do about that.
Here are some ads that didnt have pictures, but looked promising.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro Olympic Gold with Black Stripes 302 with 4 speed PS-PB Forest Green custom interior new Goodyear tires Original car color: Olympic Gold Z28 Car 30000 miles, $12000.
This one sounds too good to be true. An original, low milage, Z/28 for 12 grand. There has got to be something wrong with it. Worth a phone call to check it out though.
1970 Chevrolet Camaro LT1-350/360+, 4sp M22, 3.73 rear end, new paint, motor (balanced), interior. Very clean, very original. color: Hugger Orange, White stripes 102500 miles, $11500.
I would call to see if this is an RS split bumper Camaro. It says new motor and very original. Contradictions, but worth calling.
1973 Chevrolet Camaro Rally Sport, spilt bumper, red with black stripes, newly rebuilt 350/4-speed, two sets of wheels, southern car, no rust. 80000 miles, $8500.
Not a Z/28, but the price is lower. Might be worth looking at for a daily driver split bumper Camaro.
1971 Chevrolet Chevelle SS-454, 4 speed, medium metallic green with white stripes and black interior. Just painted, rear bumper re-chromed. Erson Gear Drive, Edelbrock Performer Intake, Holley 750, Comp Cams, Headers. Photos upon request. Located in Northeast Ohio. 30125 miles, $9500.
I assume the miles are on a rebuilt drive train. If it is a factory big block car, even without matching numbers, it would be cool. Big block and 4-speed. A hard combination to beat. If only it were a convertible. I would call for the photos.
1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 RS Green w/ Green int. 8 Cyl. 47mi. Auto. Mirror gloss citrus green paint over rust free orig. body. Original LT1 360 HP., 400 turbo, 410 12 bolt posi. All numbers matching. This car is ready to show or drive. $15,000.
Sounds like a good mildly restored Z/28. Too bad it has an automatic. Should be fast. At this price I would be careful to how original it is.
1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS 454 Green w/ Green int. 58,000mi. Auto. Only 3,800 made. A/C, P/S, P/B, P/W, Tilt, Rally Wheels, Black Vinyl Top, Excellent Condition. $11,995.
I am a sucker for these boats. A high school buddy of mines parents had one. It was cool. Like a luxury muscle car. The price seems high though.
1966 Chevrolet Corvair Convertible. Blue and silver w/ black int. 6 Cyl., 95,000mi. 4 speed. 140-4sp, posi, new top, great shape with extras. $5,000.
This is an interesting one. I prefer the styling of the late 60s Corvairs, but I would look into this for fun. I could make a statement with a car like this. Dont they make kits to put a small block V-8 in the back of these?
Now its time to bust the budget. I decided to search for cars under $25,000 just in case I miss something really special. The best of the lot are here. Once again, my comments are in blue.
1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396 Convertible. Black w/ white int. 4 speed. Correct Engine, Arrow Straight Body, Console, Power Front Disc Brakes, Factory Gauges, White Power Top, Bucket Seats, Rally Wheels, 12 Bolt Posi, $24,900.
This car is why you dont look over your budget. It is gorgeous. It looks like it just rolled off the showroom floor. A factory big block, 4-speed, convertible. How can you beat it? And the picture really does look good. You need to see this one. If it lives up to its hype, it would be worth going over budget for this one.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 93mi. Blue with white stripes with a white interior. Fresh rebuilt DZ302, 4-spd, all numbers matching car. Original cross ram car. With cross ram available at additional charge. Car was restored 5 years ago. Chambered exhaust. Beautiful '69. $19,900.
I know I wanted a convertible, but a true 69 Z/28 never came in a drop top. This car looks excellent. If your in the market for a radical muscle car (the 302s were high winding engines) this is a beauty. I would think hard about this one if I had the money. I was really looking for a classic that could be driven to work. This one probably wouldnt make a good daily driver. I would be afraid of what could happen to it. It sure is sharp.
I am not a big fan of the 71-73 Mustangs. However, the 71 Boss 351 is the best one of the bunch. The ad doesnt say it, but the picture shows it. If this is a real Boss 351 (arguably a much better engine than the Boss 302) this would be a great car. Definitely worth closer investigation. The picture makes it look great. Like the 69 Z/28 above, this one would probably be best for weekend only driving. Daily use would depreciate its value. (Note: the picture for this one did copy well when building this page. The original was amazing.)
I love Vettes. This one has an automatic, but how can you beat a mint original 454 big block Vette. I would think hard about this one.
I prefer the cleaner look of the non-RS models. The hide-a-way headlights dont impress me on this car. But this is a nice example. It looks ready for cruising. The price seems a bit high, but it would depend on how original it is. Damn those automatics.
1971 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible.350 V-8, 270HP, 4-speed, red with red vinyl interior, white soft top with rare red hardtop, p/s, 4 wheel power disc brakes, duals, am/fm radio, console. $15,900.
This looks like a nice classic Vette that would make a perfect daily driver. It could use some aftermarket wheels to set it off. The price seems a little high for a fairly plain Vette. But it has the 4-speed (Hurray!) and should turn heads pretty well. The extra money from the 20K budget could easily buy new wheels and tires, and maybe have enough for a little engine and suspension upgrading.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Blue w/ White int. 4 SPD. SS396, 350 HP, 4 spd, PS, PDB, cold A/C, gauges, cowl hood, rally wheels w/new tires, new Fathom blue paint w/white vinyl, white buckets, super nice rest. of rust free S.D. car, detailed for show $19,900.
I love big block Chevelles. This has a 4-speed, but the price seems too high for me. I would have to verify its value. Seems like it should have a 454 for 20 grand. Why couldnt it be a convertible? Because of the price, I would assume this car to be a collectors item, and would have a hard time punishing it with daily driving.
Another price problem. This car looks super clean. But the price seems high for a 383. For almost 19 grand I would expect a 440 4-bbl, or 6-pack. It does have a 4-speed. The wheels are not original, but if the rest of the car is, it might be worth it. I would rather get the price down though. It sure would look sweet in my driveway. Personally I think this is a better looking car than the Chevelle above it. But that is a case by case opinion. I usually prefer Chevys.
68 Shelby GT350 Fastback Blue w/ Black int. 8 Cyl. Auto. SN 0364. Great opportunity to get into a fast appreciating collectible at a bargain price. Very nice Acapulco Blue paint with black interior. Auto trans and power brakes. $21,950.
I found this at the last minute and had to include it. A true Shelby in mint condition, and only slightly over the 20K budget. The other pictures were just as good as this one. If I had 20K+ lying around I would call about this beauty.
The rest of these just caught my eye. They have any number of reasons to like or dislike them. I just wanted to give you an idea of the kind of stuff I looked at. You will notice a lot of Mustangs here. That is not because I am a Mustang nut. Dont get me wrong, I love Mustangs as much as the next guy does. I tend to lean toward Chevys, but there are a lot of Mustangs out there. If you want one, just search the Internet for your price range.
All the following have had their "ad" shortened, drastically in some cases, to keep this article reasonable.
Needs restoration & interior? Could be bad. Might be worth it if the restoration could be finished for the rest of the 20K in the budget. After all, it is a factory 454 4-speed!
Nice picture. Might may a good cruiser/daily driver. No 4-speed. Darn!
What kind of body work? Cant tell from picture. Could be worth it depending on the amount of work. Love Plum Crazy!
1965 Mustang, 95000 Miles, ground-up restoration. Car is very straight, never in an accident. Everything was replaced or reconditioned, including [there were two very full paragraphs in the original ad here]. 289, 4v, GT exhaust tips, have original factory A/C ready for restoration. $14,000/OBO.
Seems like a well done hot rod. Why is the A/C ready? It should be in the car. Reminds me of the Mustang Robert Urick drove in Spencer. Cool. Could make a great daily driver hot rod.
If it is a 351 Cleveland (not Windsor) it would be a fast enough Mustang. Fun daily driver. Since it is a less popular year might leave room to negotiate on the price.
Non-stock tranny. Car looks stock otherwise. Nice ride, Need more info.
Paint does look excellent. No 4-speed. Non-original engine. A fun driver if the price were lower.
Which big block... 396 or 454? What 5-speed? Be sure it will be reliable. Bad picture, but could be good car. Worth a look.
I nice cruiser. Great beach car. Ditch the skirts. A little too pricey, but nice.
Definitely a hot rod. Love the body style. A little pricey for me.
Just to show you can get a classic 55-57 Chevy for a reasonable price.
A classic Vette. Wheels are not original, but might be only way to drive a 63 Vette for around 20 grand. What tranny?
There was a lot edited out. This is a real nice original Camaro. A true collector. If you like the year. I prefer a 69.
A lot for a hot rod. If built well (how do you tell?) it would be a good driver. Damn automatic.
Reggie knows his cars. Very nice if you are looking for an original classic. I would not drive it daily.
A clean, ready to run hot rod. Not bad, but you have to be concerned about build quality. Worth a look.
If its a factory 4-speed Monte... it is rare. I love these gentlemen hot rods. I little pricey, but if it was restored properly could be worth it.
"Built 427" sounds like non-stock to me. Looks sharp, but I would keep looking for a 4-speed.
Seems high priced for a Nova. Might be worth it. Looks super clean. For that much money I just assume not settle for less than a true Z/28.
Damn automatics. This is a nice Vette. Too bad it doesnt have a 4-speed. Would make a great daily driver.
Factory restored big block. Nice. If your looking for a larger cruiser this is a good start.
The picture doesnt look that great. Too expensive for me. I could be wrong on this one.
Another big car with a big block. A cruiser. A little too expensive for my tastes.
At the upper end of the budget some serious 55-57 classics can be found. Ditch the skirts before you go cruising. Hard to justify as a daily driver.
Another classic shoe-box Chevy. Again, not a daily driver.
And in case you wanted a hot rod driver of a shoe-box Chevy. A little pricey for a non-original car.
I keep liking this car. A serious cruiser. Sporty with big block power. I could pretend I am Nash Bridges. (I know... his is a Hemi Cuda, but this is close enough). Seems a little expensive though. No 4-speed!
A radical hot rod show car. If you go that way it is ready to run.
This one had a lot of stuff listed on its web site. "All original, including paint, 383 2-bbl, etc. Appraised for $16,900." I think that is high. For 16K, I would expect at least a high performance 383 or 440 engine. Sorry. Love the gas cap!
If it is a numbers matching car it is probably worth it. I am a sucker for big block 4-spd cars. Looks sharp.
Looks real good. If it is an accurate restoration I would think hard about this one. For the price I would prefer a big block.
I love the "California Specials" with their sequential taillights. A little pricey for me, but it might be a collectors item.
A basic fastback Mustang. Worth a trip to Houston (where it is located) for a daily driver. Price leaves room for hot rodding in our 10K budget. No 4-speed.
Nice, clean, rust free California car. Not original, but a good daily driver hot rod. No 4-speed!
GTAs are rare. This might be worth it as a collector. I would not drive it daily.
Another GTA collectors item. Not a daily driver.
Another collectors item. Too mint to drive every day.
Damn, this looks like a clone of the one above, except $2700 cheaper and a manual trans. I would call about this one.
Why ruin a real Shelby when you can drive a clone. Unfortunately, this is too much money for a non-original mustang. How about $12K, and drive the wheels off it?
Could be a nice car. Price is not too bad for a true original. Another automatic?!?
Worth looking into for a factory original, unmolested car. Where are all the 4-speeds?
Looks good. Hard to tell from photo. Worth a call.
Looks like a clean hot rod. I like this one. The wheels are cheap and no 4-speed. Use that to negotiate.
I cant help but like the 68-69 Barracudas. This car is not original, and it seems like a bit much to spend for a hot rod without a 4-speed.
Ad said, "ground up restoration," but mentioned things that are typically not stock.. I would double-check the value. Otherwise I like it. A classic Mustang with a big block and 4-speed. In the 20K budget with room to spare. Definitely a call needs to be made here. I could image being Steve McQueen in Bullet with this one. (Note: I would have put this one in the "final" list above but the ad was very confusing. If I had the money today, I would call.)
Hard to tell from this phote. Looks decent. I prefer the 71, but it is a big block with a 4-speed. I would call about this one.
This is a real find for AMC fans. A seriously restored AMX for a decent price. No 4-speed though. Looks excellent.
Reliability would be the big concern here. It listed a lot of hot rod parts. Hard to know how well some one build cars.
What tranny? Looks clean. Pricey unless it is original. The wheels dont reflect that.
This could be a real find for an unrestored original car. A nice classic. Worth investigating. I bet is has an automatic.
Not original, but a nice car. I said it before, "I am a sucker for 454 Montes." I would call.
No engine or trans info. Looks clean. I dont know the value. Appraised by whom?
Big block, 4-speed, convertible. Need I say more?
Not original. Automatic. Pricey.
What engine? Exhaust indicates V-8. Clean, but plain. Ad said new engine, so it is not original.
Looks sharp. Probably not original. Worth a call.
Too bad its a coupe. Clean, nice, 4-speed, original drivetrain. A real bargain. Lots of money left in the budget for speed parts.
FMX (auto) trannies suck. Otherwise a nice hot rod. Worth looking into. Price could be better.
Factory big block, very clean. Other photos looked great. A good daily driver, even without a 4-speed.
I love GTOs. They started the muscle car era. Seems like a reasonable price for a professional restoration. Why arent the wheels stock? No 4-speed.
All original? Rebuilt? Oh well. Remember, the GTO was based on the Tempest/Le Mans. This could be made into a cheap GTO clone. The gold interior screams "Wuss!" What engine/tranny?
That does it. I listed A LOT of cars I came across. You should see the ones that I left off. When I get my house built, with its three car garage, I will revisit this topic with the intention to buy. Look for that in about 2 - 3 years.