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Classic Car Watch
Narrowing the List of Finalists... and Selecting a Car

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.

March 3, 2018
By Scott Lewis

In this installment of my search for a classic car I will test drive some cars to help narrow the selection.

I revisited a car dealership, and found a new car to add to the mix. Yes, I am a glutton for punishment.

In my last article I mentioned I was heading to Dallas on 3/2. That trip was to test drive 2 cars, and get a "ride a long" in 2 other cars. For better or worse (better), that trip did not happen.

I made contact with the dealer in New Braunfels (which is located halfway between my house and my job). I managed to get to test drive 2 of their cars on my lunch break on 3/1. This was going to be very useful information as these cars were driven the day before my trip to Dallas. It would provide as close to possible a back-to-back comparison of the 6 cars highest on my list of finalist.

The first car I drove was...

1965 Mustang - $27,900 (link)

Description: Burgundy over Black, 289, 4 Speed, Front Disc.

Driving Notes: Although I was there to drive this car, I could not help but notice the paint. From my previous visit I stated it had a nice amount of metallic in it and should pop in the sun. On this visit the car was still indoors when I arrived. It almost looked dusty. Nope, it was the metallic in the paint. It seemed more intrusive than I remembered. When I looked at it in the sun it did indeed have a decent pop to it. Maybe too much. I am sure Adam (the painter at the restoration shop I do photography for) is going to say it has too much metallic.

This car took a while to warm up enough that I could drive it. I stalled it about 4 times. This does not bother me. Old carbureted cars need to warm up to hold a good idle. This car might need a little tuning of the carb. Nothing serious.

Once I managed to get the car underway, I found it less than desirable. Some of this is not the car's fault. The seat was all the way back and it was a little uncomfortable for me to work the clutch. This is the way things were 50 years ago. Leg room in a small car was short. The clutch take up was not my fault. It was very high in the clutch travel and had very little feel for the transition point. This is something I would get used to, but will want to look into it just in case. I would also look into seeing if the seat tracks could be modified for more front seat legroom.

This car could not stay in its lane. It pulled to the left going down the road. Then it pulled to the right under braking. This car does not have power brakes, but does have front discs. It was not confidence inspiring. In fact, it worried me. Granted... I fully expect to install a 4 wheel disc brake upgrade on almost any car I buy. This car will need that almost immediately. The steering will need a rebuild at the minimum. I would just assume install a power steering conversion (about $1,000) or consider upgrading to Rack & Pinion. This is not objectionable, but I will have to plan for it in a timely manner.

The in-dash temp gauge did not work, but the three little aftermarket gauges below the dash were working. I would be looking to put the factory 66 Mustang 5 gauge pod in this car, so this is a non-issue. However, it does mean planning for more upgrades early in my ownership.

Overall this car was pretty decent. The exhaust sounded great, and they claim the engine was rebuilt about 5 years ago. It seems to have more power than stock, but that is hard to tell without really getting on it.

This car is a balance between features and cost. It looks good (well, maybe too much metallic), it's engine seems strong, and the transmission seems to work well enough. It will need steering and brake upgrades right away to be a viable driver. The gauges are not important as they would come later along with a console and other niceties. The big ticket item (for me) is A/C. This car is going to need a Vintage Air system installed to enjoy it during the summer (which lasts for 9 months in San Antonio).

Next up was...

1972 Camaro RS - $29,900 (link)

Description: Yellow over Yellow/Black Houndstooth, 350, 4 Speed, PS, PDB, A/C.

Driving Notes: The most egregious issue with this car was a very heavy vibration at 3,500 RPM... in all gears. The salesman said it could be a driveshaft out of balance. That does not jive with the RPM in each gear. If the driveshaft was out of balance it would be speed dependent, not engine RPM dependent. That means it has to do with the engine, the transmission, or what's in between (clutch/flywheel). Regardless, this is a serious issue that will warrant doing some diagnostics on the car right away, and could be expensive to fix.

When I first started the car, the gas gauge initially read so far past full it must have been pegged. After a brief period of time it bounced all over the place. The temperature gauge did not work. The speedometer is way off. I was on the access road to the highway keeping up with 70mph cars, but the speedometer never went above 60. The salesman pulled his phone out with a GPS speedo and we were doing about 62 mph when the car said we were just under 50 mph. This is a simple gear swap (I have done it before). You just have to do the work to determine the correct gear to put in there.

The transmission shifter was not exactly to my liking. It worked, but the throws were long (expected) and the shift knob when in 1st & 3rd where too far away for my taste. This is not a problem with the car, just a personal issue. The clutch was a bit heavy, but very easy to modulate. I liked it.

The car drove down the road fine, and the brakes worked well enough without pulling to one side or the other. Remember, this is a 46 year old car, so it is not expected to be perfect. I would do a brake upgrade. The steering was reasonable. It stayed in its lane nicely at 70 mph.

Oh... there were no seatbelts in the car. Hmmm. Seatbelts became mandatory around 1968, so what gives?

Overall, the vibration is scary. I cannot buy this car for that alone. There is no way to know what is wrong. It could just need a new harmonic balance. Or it could need a flywheel &/or clutch, or maybe the engine was rebuilt and it was never balanced. You could spend a lot of money trying to fix this issue.


I went back to work after the test drives. The yellow Camaro was the most disappointing. When I saw it the first time I was captivated. I could see myself in this car. Before driving it my only concern was if it would feel fast enough. The engine vibration killed that. I could not rev the engine over 3,500 RPM, and it was doing a tick over 3,000 RPM at highway speed.

So there I was about an hour before leaving work and my trip to Dallas. Would any of those car be a lot nicer to drive? I almost convinced myself the 69 Camaro with the ugly interior would drive as bad as the 72 I just drove. Is this what I have to expect from old cars. I had my biggest hopes for the 1965 Mustang RestoMod. With its late model 5.0 motor, automatic transmission, 4 wheel disc brakes and 17" wheels and tires... it had the best change to impress me... though still without A/C. In the back of my mind I was also hoping the 66 Mustang with Pony Interior would be nice enough because it was $4,000 cheaper and already had A/C.

I did a quick check on my notes, and planned my trip for Friday, 3/2. Then I decided to get on Cars On Line. I plugged in my usual... Years 1965 thru 1974, Price $18,000 up to $35,000 and Location = Texas.

The first car that came up was this:

1968 Camaro - $26,500 (link)

1968 Camaro Sports Coupe 1968 Camaro Sports Coupe

Description: Corvette Bronze over Black, 327, 3 speed on the column, 72k miles... in San Antonio!!

I was stunned. How could I have not seen this already. I immediately texted the owner to see if it was available. He texted back saying yes and for me to call him. I did, and also mentioned that his name, Raul, seemed familiar. I asked if he was the guy I met at a car gathering last year selling a Gold 1969 Camaro (crate motor, 6 speed). He was. In fact, I saw the old ad for that car here. As for the timing, he told me he posted the ad a couple of hours before I called.

I arranged to come see the car that evening. After driving the car I made a deal to buy the car on the spot and cancelled my trip to Dallas.

This car drove excellent. Very tight for a car with manual steering and manual drum brakes. The car stopped pretty good, but required a lot of pedal effort. I don't recall needing that much effort on the 67 Camaro I sold back in 2003. The steering, though requiring a lot of turns at parking speed, was surprising free of play. It will be fun exploring the limits of this car on some out of the way side roads, where it is safe.

I needed to have Raul teach me the Three on the Tree. I never drove a car with a manual on the column before. It adds a lot of charm to the car... and will likely be the first thing I change. My hand bumps into my right knee as I shift into 1st gear.

The carpet is quite faded as you can see in the photo above. It does not look as bad in person. Also, I was not impressed with the wheels. Granted... this car is screaming for a set of BF Goodrich Radial T/As. I remember being very impressed with the same style Rally wheels on the Green Monte Carlo I drove. I want to be impressed here. I will look into that. The centers might need detailing, or replacing, or... something.

Conclusion

I am in the process of getting this 1968 Camaro. I have my financing with Woodside Credit. We are passing around some paperwork as I type this... on a weekend. They will pay for and inspection (well, they will order an inspection and charge me for it) then it should be pretty quick. I already have my insurance through Hagerty for a mere $303 per year.

I hope to have the car in time to take it to Cars & Coffee on 3/10.

My mind is full of all the things I can do to this car. I will be doing a lot of research. My friend that owns a restoration shop already told me we need to sit down and have a serious talk because there are so many options. He doesn't want me to do the wrong thing. Me too.

I will be writing an article very soon on all the possibilities I can think of for this car. Plus, I can't wait to get some decent photos of the car... and even do a full photo shoot... with my own car!

So the search is over, but the journey is just beginning.

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