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Car Corner
The Final New/Used Car Option

September 1, 2005
By Scott Lewis

Over the last few months I have covered the cars I am thinking about for my next new or used car. The used car purchase really fell into two categories. 1) To get a car out of my reach as new, such and a Corvette, or 2) to get a used car low enough in price I could afford to get a classic project car close to the same time. I doubt I could get a really nice classic car at the same time as I bought a slightly used car.

This month I want to take a look at a third possibility. What if I just bought a classic old car. I have been talking about this for some time. What would it really take to buy one and make sure I could keep it.

Why Not A Classic

There are a number of reasons not to get a classic car for daily transportation. First, they could become unreliable. If you have to spend too much time working on them and not enough time driving them, it may not be a daily driver. Also, you need to budget for those repairs and you need to have reliable backup transportation.

You also have to be careful of depreciating a classic car with wear and tear. You should still keep a classic garaged in bad weather, making the need for reliable alternative transportation a must if you want to preserve the value of a classic.

Finally, if money gets tight, such as when college tuition comes due, a classic car becomes an attractive way to raise a lot of cash in a short amount of time. To prevent this last situation you almost have to not have a reliable backup car.

The Backup Car

It will be impossible for me to have a classic car without a backup car, because I really want to have the pleasure of working on the classic without the pressure of getting it back together to drive to work on Monday mornings.

So here is this month's plan. Let's "restore" my 93 Camaro to like new condition so I will enjoy driving it for another 10 years. Then we will use the money that would have gone to a new or slightly used car and buy a classic.

What will it take to restore my 93 Camaro? Let's take a look at that. Here are a list of items I know will need to be taken care of to restore my 93 Camaro:

  • Left rear taillight lens cracked. (recently fixed, thanks Chris!)
  • Left rear side-marker light broken.
  • Left fog light broken.
  • Right fog light bulb burnt out.
  • Right side view mirror broken.
  • Carpet worn and stained.
  • Seats worn and stained.
  • Door trim worn.
  • Right power window/door lock panel almost broken.
  • In-dash CD player does not work. (And recently the speakers are making some strange noises.)
  • Weatherstripping worn and leaking.
  • Transmission slipping.
  • Steering loose.
  • Shocks worn.
  • Two wheels bent.
  • Hood has 7,000 rock chips.
  • Miscellaneous dings and chips in the paint.
  • Struts for the rear hatch are getting soft.

Let's start with the interior. I would definitely replace the carpet. While I have the carpet out I would add a LOT of sound deadening material. I would try to find a spray on material that I could use up under the dash and inside the wheel wells. A lot of road noise comes from these areas. Dynamat will be used extensively on the floors and maybe even in the hatch area. I would consider either a mat like material or a spray on material IN the doors.

Next up is the seats. I would either recover the front seats in leather or replace the front seats with something better... in leather. I would re-upholster the rear seat to match the front. I would also replace the door trim to match the seats. The spot where my elbow rests on the window sill is flattened out. I would replace the foam padding there, and even try to increase it a little for longevity and extra comfort.

With the interior cleaned up I would address the stereo. I would love to replace the factory unit with something better. But what? The factory unit is a custom size unit and any aftermarket stereo will look tacky or completely out of place. I would like to find some way to "redo" the dash for a nice stereo. I am NOT into the bling, bling factor, so I need something that would look like it belongs there. This will be tough. If I do replace the factory stereo I would look into something with Bluetooth technology to work with a Cell phone for serious hands free operation.

I might consider replacing the lid to the console or replace the console entirely. The latch to the console lid is broken. I didn't list it above because it really doesn't matter. However there is a slight indention where my right elbow rests on the console, so I might just replace the lid. However, I might want something better. Maybe a custom console/dash. If I went this route I would be trying to modify the dash console area to work in a nice stereo and get it all to blend with the rest of the interior. This may be impossible at a reasonable price. I may just have to put in a new trunk mount CD changer and live with it. If I do replace the current CD changer (it is starting to flake out) I want one that will play MP3 files on the CDs. This way I could at least load a 1000 songs or so into the car.

The weatherstripping will be replaced as part of the interior restoration/upgrade because it directly goes toward interior comfort. The weatherstipping looks fine, but it does not seal out water well enough. I can't take the car through a car wash anymore due to the amount of water that comes in. Also, the rubber trim around the emergency brake looks like crap and doesn't stay in place letting you see what is under the console.

Next we will move to the mechanicals. I just gave the car a tune-up, but I don't think it is the last one it will get. At the current mileage I am putting on the car it will need a tune up about the time I going to be shopping for a new/used/classic car. So I will have to do another tune-up if I expect this car to be used regularly. It took me over 12 hours (spread across 4 days... not in a row) to do the tune up last time, so I would make sure I had a classic daily driver before tackling this job.

I was looking at the car when I was doing the tune-up and was wondering how hard it would be to put headers in. I would definitely take the opportunity to install headers and put a fresh exhaust under the car at this time. The goal would be a little better sound while improving performance (more later).

The steering is a little loose off center. I assume the tie rod ends need replacing. I don't know enough about rack and pinion steering to know if I would need to replace anything else to tighten up the steering. Let's assume that new tie rod ends is enough. I would also replace as many bushings as possible at this time. Basically I want the suspension to feel like new. I don't see any issue with the stock springs, but the shocks will have to be replaced. I might consider an adjustable shock and set it on the soft side to improve the comfort level.

I wonder if they make adjustable shocks for this car that can be adjusted with the shocks installed. I used to have a set of Koni shocks. They came with a lifetime warrantee and cost me $250 back in the early eighties. Ouch! But they worked great. I used them on three different cars. There was no way I would let them go until I had no choice. The point being they were adjustable but you had to compress the shock all the way to adjust them. This meant they had to be removed from the car. Basically I would guess at a good setting for the car and install them. Then I would decide how much softer or harder I wanted the ride and make that adjustment one more time. If I didn't get it perfect I would live with it. Overall they were the best shocks I ever owned. How good are Konis today? Can they be adjusted while remaining installed on the car? I will look into this.

Since I have two bent wheels I will replace them at this time. The last time I replaced the tires we discovered the condition of the rims, and put them on the rear of the car to minimize any effect. Hey, I might as well update the look as I restore the car. I am guessing that I will need new tires about a year or so before I go shopping for another car, so I might put off the wheels until the tires that are on the car at the time need replacing. I have the original wheels and I could always put them on if I wanted to go for the stock look again. Also, the car could do better power slides with the original wheels and tires. That's always fun. I should also be able to pickup 1-2 mile per gallon since I lost that going to the larger tires I have now.

My brother-in-law's brother is a transmission mechanic. He already told me that he can set me up with a fully rebuilt transmission for $1,000. Perfect. He can even deliver it to me as he comes to San Antonio from Houston regularly. All I have to do is R&R the tranny. I might consider swapping in a six speed manual transmission, but I think this would be a drastic thing to do, so no promises. Besides, I don't think the transmission will last another 50K miles, so I expect I will be replacing it before I have to decide all this.

With a new tranny in the car I would love to tinker with the engine for more power. I would like to just bolt on a supercharger and leave it at that. The engine seems plenty strong even though it has over 140,000 miles. Will this engine tolerate a supercharger when it is at the 200,000 mile mark. We may just have to find out.

The exterior of the car it the biggest problem. It needs a paint job. It looks decent now, but there are so many rock chips on the hood that I would just replace it, possibly with an SS hood with the scoop on it. There are enough door dings and such on the car that I will consider taking it to a body shop to have it all taken care of and have the car painted. The big question would be whether to paint it the original color or paint it a new color. It would depend on the cost between the two. I like the idea of painting it blue, but if people can tell that the color was changed I would hate that. Maybe a quick reshoot is best. I will definitely be looking at this when the time comes. Either way, I would like to remove all the trim and such myself. So I will work with a paint & body shop to give me a break on labor for doing as much preparation and post assembly as I can. I would also like to try and wet sand the car. This is where you sand the car to remove any orange peal in the paint. All paint jobs have orange peal. Wet sanding (also called color sanding) sands the paint with ultra fine sandpaper soaked in water to make the paint perfectly smooth. The shine is incredible if done right. If done wrong... well it might look like it needs another paint job.

Conclusion

There you have it. I would freshen up my Camaro so that it is as nice as possible, for the best return on my investment. In fact, if I did this I would probably split any new car budget into 1/3 for the 93 Camaro and 2/3 for the classic car. That means if I was willing to spend $30,000 for a new car then the alternative is $20,000 for a classic and $10,000 to restore my Z28.

What do you think?

Just for fun I am going to "raise the bar" in this month's classic car watch article to $20,000 and see what I can find.

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