Classic Car Watch
Goodguys Lone Star Nationals Car Corral

NOTE: This column displays cars I have found on the Internet. I am not selling them. Please follow the links if you are interest in a car. Be mindful of the date this article was published. For an explanation why I do this read the original column here.

April 2, 2014
By Scott Lewis

Cars for sale at car shows, can you get a deal?

There are two schools of thought here:

1) The price at a car show is higher because the people at a car show are pumped up by all the nice cars they see. They are willing to pay more to be part of it. Also, it is harder to do serious research at the event. Oh sure, we all have cell phones to do some basic research, but if it gets to checking numbers and such, that will be harder to do on a phone (so bring an Internet connected tablet or laptop).  

2) The person that went through the trouble of dragging his car ### miles to a car show to try and sell it is highly motivated to do so. You ideally could wait until the last day of the show and give him a low ball offer... that he will have to seriously consider or drag that car ### miles back home.

A smart shopper should be able to navigate between these two extremes and get a respectable deal. Just bring cash because the old staying is most true in this environment... money talks, bullshit walks.

The format below is a little different than usual. Obviously the source for all these cars is the Goodguys Corral from March, 2014. None of these cars are for sale by the time you read this. I masked the phone numbers in the photos as well.

There were many more cars for sale, but these piqued my interest, and were reasonably priced (except one... see the yellow Camaro below). I left off more expensive vehicles, because I would do significantly more research on a car over $20k before buying it.

1968 Pontiac GTO - $16,500

Description/Comments: I love this car. It has patina... and lots of it. If I went to a car show hoping to buy a car... this is my 1st choice.

From the info available we have a numbers matching GTO with 96k original miles. It looks like crap. But for me that is the point. The interior looks decent. Not good, by any stretch, but "livable." It was a vinyl roof car, but the vinyl has been removed. Perfect! That we where rust breads. This looked like a very sound car. I would inspected it closely if I were there to buy a car. If it ran well, I would buy this car.

Why? No, not to restore it... to drive the wheels off it. Here is a car that with about $10-15k towards a restoration this car would be worth $25-30k. So you may or may not be able to make a profit on it. But I am pretty sure you could get this car in nice shape and not loose money on it.

Or... you could bolt on a Hotchkiss suspension and some Bear brakes, and drive it like you stole it. I would also add a throttle body fuel injection system, and an HEI ignition. Because of the looks... you never have to worry about it on the road. Get it to handle and stop like a new car... and have fun with it.

I would try to get them to take $15 (cash) for the car, and then budget $5k for bolt on upgrades. Then have a car for $20k that will be more fun than anything new for that price. Just remember to  put a little o that $5k into the interior. I would make sure it was comfortable and presentable in there.

1966 Ford Mustang - $7,700

Description/Comments: We saw this car drive in... and had to go back because they were taking too much time to get that sign out. It was worth it. One thing I noticed as we saw them get out of the car... they had an adapter plug that powered two USB devices plugged into the cigarette lighter socket (that is what they were originally called). Yes, they were running their phones off of it. So they really use the car like this I suspect.

We looked around this car and could not really see anything wrong with it. Sure, it was just a plain Mustang with a lowly 6 cylinder engine. But it had been upgraded to a modern 5 speed transmission. I love the idea of that. All that was missing was air conditioning. I have previously seen a Mustang with a 6 that had a Vintage Air system, so I know it is easy to add A/C to this car. And that is exactly what I would do. But this car, and immediate order a Vintage Air system. Then enjoy driving it.

This was my #2 choice from the show. However, price might push this to 1st place... you know... depending on how much was in my bank account at the time.

1968 Chevrolet Camaro - $27,000

Description/Comments: If you look close you will see he already lowered the price (looks like he originally wanted $28k). Regardless... this is exactly why you DO NOT want to buy a car at a car show.

If you look at the picture you might see the bumper is pretty close to the passenger side fender. That is just the tip of the iceberg. I was looking at this with my son. I pointed out that the gap between the doors and the front fenders did not match. Then saw that the hood gaps did not match. Then we saw that the headlight surround on the drivers side was missing a screw... because the screw holes did not come close to lining up. Then there was the bumper that was not aligned. Everything in the grill surround was misaligned. This car took a fairly serious hit in the front end. The entire front end was shifted over to the passenger side. But notice the nice paint job. Why wasn't the front end fixed before painting it. It surely was not hit after it was painted, we would see that now. Whoever painted this car did so WITHOUT fixing it. Why? Is it possible it can't be fixed... at least not without spending more than the car is worth to do so?

And yet this guy wanted $27,000 for this car. It would probably take thousands to get the front end straight, and that would dictate a new paint job, and who knows how many bits and pieces to make it all look right. I'll bet it doesn't drive properly either. You probably can't even get the front tire properly aligned.

The owner is crazy for asking this much. He is clearly trying to capitalize on people's elevated excitement at a car show. Run away from this car.

1972 Chevrolet Nova - $20,000

Description/Comments: My son and I literally walked form the yellow Camaro above to this yellow Nova. Wow! What a different. With all the crap we saw on that Camaro it was very fresh in our minds all the things to look at that were wrong with a car. This had none of that. The body on this car looked perfect (I would still want to crawl under it to be sure).

So... if you are at a car show and want something you could immediately take into the car show... this is clearly the much better car. I actually like it. I don't like the canary yellow, but that is a matter of personal taste.

All that said... I still have a hard time with $20k for a Nova. I would still look deeper into this car. It it were black... I would buy it (old story).

19XX Chevrolet Nova - $11,200

Description/Comments: There was very little to go on here. I don't even know the year (71 or 72 I would guess). If I were looking for a Nova, I would prefer this one. Almost $9k cheaper than the yellow one above, and low enough in price you don't have as much to lose on an impulse purchase. Plus the red paint is more pleasing (to me) and I actually like these wheels a lot better.

I could definitively see buying a driving this car... a lot. A serious contender for 3rd place from this show.

1966 Chevrolet El Camino - Less Than $14,000

Description/Comments: We walked around this truck (car?) a lot. One of the front fenders had a small blemish that has been painted (poorly) with touch up paint. It was not that bad. And this car (truck?) has some "dated" pin striping. Other than that it was in really nice shape. I liked it a lot.

So... how much less than $14k could we get it for. Our goal is to turn the tables and get the seller excited to go home without it. This vehicle does require a some serious consideration... if you like El Caminos.

1976 Chevrolet Corvette - $16,000

Description/Comments: There was nothing special about this Corvette. I like the mid-seventies Vettes as good "starter" Vettes. You know, like if you wanted to get a Corvette as an affordable price. With that said... I think $16k is a lot for such a plain version. 88k miles is very nice though.

1966 Ford Mustang - $14,000

Description/Comments: Very little info to go by here. I take it the 47k miles are original. If so, I would consider this car. Otherwise... I think I would shop around more. Mustang coupes are everywhere.

1971 Chevrolet Chevelle - $21,500

Description/Comments: I am not digging this car. It looks too plain. Is it a numbers matching big block... then I might go for over $20k at a car show. But i am getting a strange vibe here that it is an SS clone. I can't quite put my finger on it. The SS emblem in the grill... shouldn't that be centered over the center bar, not in the lower half of the grill. Where are the SS emblems form the fenders, or the rear bumper. This car requires more research, more than I would do at a car show.

1966 Chevrolet Camaro - $19,500

Description/Comments: I HATE huge hood scoops. Otherwise I like this car. But.. it is NOT an RS. It is NOT a real split bumper Camaro. So I think it is pricey for a plain Camaro with a giant hood scoop and some fancy wheels.

1975 Pontiac Trans Am - $20,000

Description/Comments: The 74-76 Trans Ams are the "in between" years. They are between the early cars (70-73) with the nice bull nose, and the well done rubber bumper, Smokey and the Bandit cars (77-81). Of the three orphans, 76 is the most desirable because even though it doesn't have the rectangular headlights of the 77-78, it does have a nice looking front bumper. 74 & 75 have terrible looking bumpers with that black strip in the middle. It looks like the designers didn't know how to make the car look nice with the new 5 MPH bumper requirement. At least it is better than what Chevrolet did with the Camaro from 74-77.

With all that said... you would buy a 75 Trans Am to save money off the more popular models. So I think this car is priced too high. I could be wrong, but $15k seems much more reasonable to me... IMO! 

1973 Dodge Dart Swinger - $13,000

Description/Comments: Darts are supposed to be entry level Mopars. However, the HUGE bumpers they put on them in 73 really ruins the look. If I had one I would see what it would take to swap them for the smaller, 71-72 bumpers. I don't know if it would be easy, hard or impossible, but I would look into it.

So... that means this car is a bit of an orphan (like our Trans Am above). And for that I want it cheap. Hell, this was a cheap car when it was new. The only reason these cars are worth anything is because all the cool Mopars are so expensive. This is the cheapest way to get into the Mopar game. And I think it should be cheaper than $13k. It only has a 318. That was a total grocery getting engine.

1973 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 - $14,750

Description/Comments: We have a real Z/28... with a big block. He even said NMN (I think he meant NOM, Not Original Motor). Don't forget... the Z/28 only came with a small block... a LT1 350 for 73.

That being said... I like these car... even with a big block. But I HATE huge hood scoops. And I HATE fake split bumper cars.

That makes this car a conundrum. You could try and find a period correct engine and return it to stock. It will never be a matching numbers car, but its value would be higher if it was at least close to original. Or we could could have a car we could drive the wheels off. I would go for the latter. But that hood has got to go. And for that I would take the price down to cover the cost of replacing the hood and having it painted to match. A TH350 trans behind a big block could be an issue. I would prefer a TH400, or else get a beefed up overdrive for this car.

So... this becomes a project car, to make it right. So we offer a low amount and see if he bites.