As always, there is good news and bad news — but the bad news might be good for us old car collectors.
First, the good news. From all indications restoring old cars for resale is a profitable thing to do with your time.
The bad news is the supply of vehicles that are desirable for restoration is decreasing. It's the old supply and demand thing.
I like the good news.
It has come to my attention — quite by accident — that there are some people who are buying classic American and import cars for driving pleasure only. These folks join car clubs, go on cruises, go racing, and do other activities in vehicles they purchased complete. Many have little mechanical knowledge or interest in repairs or service. They just want to drive. The cars are garaged and used for pleasure only.
One of my acquaintances from Utah recently bought a complete '50 Ford on a Chevelle chassis. To make everything work, the builder widened the car by 4". This was an expensive deal in my mind. I'm sure he spent over $40,000, looking at the work.
My friend likes the car but he has no idea of the details of normal maintenance. For example, there is a hand-made shroud over the engine covering the carburetor and intake manifold. When I asked how to remove the shroud, he replied, "I don't know."
When I asked him about the lake pipes and their operation, his answer was "They're not hooked up."
Call me Billy or call me silly but if you have a custom '50 Ford, wouldn't you want the lake pipes working?
The coolest part of the '50 Ford is the removable hardtop. That's right. The car builder built a removable one-piece hardtop, like the '56 Thunderbird.
It has beautiful paint, excellent interior work and plenty of detail. We went for a ride and the Ford was tighter than a drum. The Ford was great! Any car guy would appreciate it.
The owner is doing the Central Oregon car show in Bend and then Hot August Nights in Reno before heading back to Utah. The car is called the Coupe-less Ford '50 and some car magazine will be all over this car soon. And some custom car builder made some serious money on this deal.
My restorations take a long time and are full of things that are unexpected and costly. But they're fun. For me, a classic car is about the journey of taking something from the scrap heap and transforming it — not just buying a car and taking it to car shows.
This brings me to the bad news: less supply of desirable vehicles to restore — and higher prices for the good ones.
My '63 Plymouth Belvedere post car cost me the sum of $300 total to buy the rusting California black plate car. The previous owner of my Plymouth likes to say, "At $300, Allen got no bargain!" And my wife agrees with him.
But, at the Pomona swap meet in July a four-door '63 Plymouth — in worse condition than mine before I started the restoration — sold for $2,000.
I have been watching in Hemmings and the prices for "Restorable Vehicles" have started to move up.
Maybe classic cars are a good place to put your money. The stock market has basically torn everyone a new ass.
Another sign that the times are changin' is Route 97 from Redmond to Bend, Oregon, a drive I took last week. Many loyal readers may remember an article two years ago about the Redmond/Bend old car bonanza. Things have certainly changed.
Redmond Salvage at the north end of Redmond has nothing pre-1980.
Gary's, south of Redmond by the airport, has nothing pre-1970. He has sold all the early stuff.
At the mid-point between Redmond and Bend was another guy that had 56-62 Chevrolet front ends mounted on his building. That business and the cars are gone.
Bend Auto has a few 1950, 1960 and 1970 cars in the upper lot. The owner, Dwaine, is a super guy and he has sold a lot in the past two years.
Finally, Bend Auto Salvage, north of Bend, is all but out of business. Sad but true: this area for old cars has pretty well dried up.
This brings me back to supply and demand. I believe that the demand for import and American specialty cars for restorations — and inevitably for sale — will increase in value. That's my theory and I am sticking to it.
How about parts for the restoration guys? For the purist that wants a 1962 date-coded voltage regulator for his 409 two-door, they are available — at a price. A big price…unless you're lucky.
Last week I bought two Chrysler correct voltage regulators at Pomona for $1.00 each, new in the box. I saw these same voltage regulators at the Mopar event at Woodley Park for $50. What was the difference? I was in the right place at the right time.
My garage is full of treasures like this and my inventory is growing.
I believe this restored car market for both car buyers and car rebuilders will continue for a long time. It is my belief that more people every day are starting to notice that all the 2003 model cars look about the same.
There you have it: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Wait — I forgot about the ugly.
Ugly is the next possible restoration for me: a 1965 Pontiac GTO. The car is not ugly. What is ugly is the fact that I have too many cars in the fleet at the present.
However, someone once said, "Cars keep you out of the bars." And I guess there is wisdom somewhere there.
Originally published in the August 2003 Automotive
Copyright 2003 by KAL Publications Inc.
Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.