Classic Car Watch
Narrowing the Shopping List

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 4, 2016
By Scott Lewis

It is a great time to be alive. (NOTE: Be sure to read the big twist at the bottom of this article)

I have been introduced to the idea of buying a classic car with a loan. I expect to put approximately 20% down, and hope to get a payment under $300 per month. I will have to ultimately wait until I apply for a loan to see what my actual budget will be. Assuming my credit rating can get me a 12 year loan with no more than a 9% interest rate I should be able to swing about a $30,000 purchase price.

I am NOT quite ready to buy. I still need to get some finance issues in order. My apartment lease is up at the end of June, and my divorce will hopefully be complete at the end of April. All things that could impact the timing of getting a car. I do hope to buy something this summer. So this month I want to cover the mental process I need take to narrow down my selections.

It is time to "take stock" in what I need, over what I want. Of course, I don't need a classic at all. Given that I am going to get one... what do I need and what can I live without (at least for a while).

Let's take a moment to review the cars I am looking at:

69-72 Corvette
69-73 Camaro
65-68 Mustang
68-73 Misc GM Muscle Cars
68-74 Misc Mopar Muscle Cars

I need to be able to drive my classic on a semi-regular basis. That means I will drive it at least a little every week. I will drive it to work once or twice a week and as much as possible on the weekends (all assuming good weather).

I live in South Central Texas. It gets HOT here. So any car I buy needs to have Air Conditioning. Many cars I see for sale do not, which does not bother me. I have no trouble putting a Vintage Air system ( into a classic to make it comfortable to drive.

Next, I would prefer a manual transmission, but this is not a requirement. I am willing to replace an automatic with a manual in the long run. I have mixed feelings about get a #s matching car (meaning the numbers cast into the engine match the VIN for the car indicating it is the original engine). If the car is priced appropriately without its original engine I have no problem. In fact, it could make getting a car easier. For instance a Corvette that would be priced at $35K with its original engine, vs the same car for $25K with a crate motor. And the crate motor will likely be better for driving the car a lot.

Finally, I plan to upgrade the brakes and suspension on any car I buy. Ultimately I want my classic to handle well and be safe enough to drive regularly. It should not feel like the sloppy old cars we remember they were. Again, this can come later. However, if I bought a car with all drum brakes... the brake upgrade would need to happen soon rather than later. So, conditionally this is not critical, but it is important.

Because Air Conditioning is so important, I have to plan for it up front. That means if the car does not have working A/C I must budget in the cost to add a Vintage Air system into the purchase. I did a quick check on Summit Racing and the Vintage Air SureFit system for a 70-73 Camaro is $1,435.97. Worst case... assume another $1,500 to have it installed. So my $30,000 budget needs to drop to $27,000 for any car without A/C.

If we look at last month's list of 10 cars... we have the following that either have A/C or cost no more than $27,000 without A/C:

1972 Corvette, Red over Saddle, 454, 4 speed, #'s matching, A/C - $28,700

1966 Mustang Coupe, White on White/Red PONY Int, V8, 5 Speed, Aftermarket Console - $20,900

1971 Firebird Trans Am, Blue with white stripe, Black Int, 455, Auto - $24,995

1972 Challenger Rallye, Vitamin C Orange, 340, Auto w/ Slap Stick Console - $26,900

1970 Oldsmobile Rallye 350, Auto, R134a A/C - $29,995

1970 Nova SS, Black on Black, 454 with dual quads, 4 speed, Bench - $27,000

Only 2 have A/C. That means spending money right away after buying the car. I think I have a way to do this and get it wrapped up into the loan, but that is for another article. Let's just assume for a moment that I will be able to buy the car and have the A/C installed.

Time to look at some more cars. Here are a few that piqued my interest since last month's list. All were still for sale up to about the 3rd week in March. I have not had time to recheck them (see the twist at the end of the article).

1969 Camaro, Gold w/ Black Vinyl over Black, 250 6 cyl, Powerglide, A/C, Console - $23,995

Notes: Another 6 cylinder car. But it's a 69 Camaro!!! Again, with the A/C I can enjoy driving immediately. Link

1969 Corvette Convertible, NOM 350/350 HP, 4 Speed, A/C - $24,900

Notes: NOM (Not Original Motor) is fine with me, especially since it has A/C. We might have money in the budget to add a 5 or 6 speed, or maybe fuel injection. Link

1971 Corvette, Red on Black, ZZ4 Crate Motor, 5 Speed - $24,990

Notes: Since I don't care about #s matching... a crate motor with a 5 speed is perfect. Just add A/C and go. Link

1970 Chevelle SS, LS-5 454, Red w/ Black Stripes over Black Int, Auto w/ Console and Buckets - $29,900

Notes: This breaks the rule... no A/C and over $27,000. Plus it is a "tribute" or "clone." I would have to call, but it is not a $s matching car. But I really, really like it. A car that for all intents and purposes is a SS 454 that I can drive!!! At this price I would want it to at least be a real SS. So, did they upgrade an SS to a 454, or did they start with a plain Malibu. Heck, even if they did start with a Malibu they did everything right. The dash is an SS dash, which I rarely see in a clone (and why I wonder if this is a real SS). Bucket with a factory console!!! This car was done the right way for a prime Muscle Car. A Real SS 454 Chevelle with a #s matchig engine would sell for over $50K. But there is also no A/C. So what do I do? Link

1972 Buick GS, Blue on Black, 350, Auto, Bucket Seats, console, A/C, Magnum 500 Wheels - $19,500

Notes: Well under budget. Which means I might be able to get 4 wheel disc brakes and a Hotchkis suspension right away. Sweet! Link

1969 Plymouth Road Runner, Green over Green, 383, Auto w/ Console, A/C - $29,995

Notes: Early Road Runners were very rare with A/C. They were supposed to be a "back to basics" Muscle Car... no frills, just a big block and a low price. This is a little unusual with the A/C and console. They don't say... so I am assume this is not the original engine. Link

1972 Challenger Rallye, Vitamin C Orange, 340, #s Match, Auto w/ Slap Stick Console - $26,900

Notes: Very nice looking... just add A/C and go. Did you know that Chrysler never made a "regular" version of the 340 engine. It was always a performance engine with 275 hp with a 4 barrel carb. The only exception was the 340 6Pack form the AAR Cuda dn Challenger TA. They never made a 2 barrel version, or even a lower horsepower version. The did do that when they switched to the 360 engine... so that make a #s matching 240 car a little bit special. Link

1968 Plymouth Road Runner. Red over Black, 383, #s match, Auto on Column, Bench, Dog Dish - $29,900

Notes: Now this is what a Road Runner is supposed to be. Stripped to nothing but a big block engine, bench seat, and nothing else. And in this case nothing else means no A/C/ Might also means drum brakes all the way around. A first year Road Runner is just the ticket to get me to live without A/C for a while. I really like this. Link

OK, so I bent the rules on 2 cars above. These two were special enough I would hope to be able to enjoy them even without A/C. That being the case... there is one car from last month I think falls into the same arena. Though not a rare and #s matching car, it is a really good example of a "Clone." Like the SS 454 Chevelle above, last month I showed a Cuda AAR Clone... that even had the 3-2 barrel (six pack) induction. This car was also done right. It looks like the car it pretends to be AND cost a LOT less than the car it pretends to be. A real AAR Cuda in similar condition could easily top $100K. So for a fraction of the price of the real thing you can enjoy driving a car that looks like it. So...

1972 Cuda AAR Clone, Green over Black, 340-6, Auto w/ Slap Stick Console - $29,995

Having done all the research above... the whole thing is on HOLD.

Part of getting a classic car was needing a garage. My lease is up at the end of June. I am not thrill with my apartment. But when I looked around the prices where so bad... I thought maybe I should rent a house. The looking at those prices I started thinking I should BUY A HOUSE.

So that's what I am doing. I have been pre approved for a VA loan, and I spend the last week (part of why this was put out 3 days late) looking at house. And it is a seller's market right now. Houses are coming and going off the market in days. I put bids in on three houses in less than a week and 2 were rejected as they had multiple offers.

So... maybe I will work on narrowing this list down, but since I can't do anything that would effect my credit over the next 3 months... this is on hold. And depending on how much I decide to stretch my budget... I might have to wait 18 months to buy a car, which is when my debt consolidation loan is paid off.

Like I said in the opening sentence... it is a great time to be alive.

See you next time!