This question began rattling around in my head after reading this excellent article by Aussie DriveTriber, John Coleman. A link to his story:
Now back to the USA!
"All the vintage tin is gone!" I've heard this complaint a thousand times! Their is some truth to the fact that you'll never find a '32 Ford Coupe, '37 Ford 2-door sedan or a '59 Cadillac for under $15K, but worthwhile classic cars are still out there. In fact, all you have to do is look in the most obvious places. I looked in the easiest to find place around: Craigslist. I've pulled out 10 of the best buys on classic autos in the Nashville, Tennessee area. I searched for cars that were 100 miles from my zip code, between the years of 1900 and 1959 and under $10K. I got over 200 hits! The below are the highlights.
A more door, Oldsmobile:
Sellers Craigslist description: "1959 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 - $3800 - 4 door. Runs and yard drives. Will need brakes looked at. Will need some attention to the floor boards. Neat old car. May trade. Call leave message for any questions."
Late '50s Oldsmobiles are the embodiment of American car design in the 1950s. Large rear fins and spacious interiors were standard. This example looks to be a solid car to start out with. You would need to own or rent a garage to store the automobile while you brought the car up to road worthiness. Being a four-door this car isn't going to be worth much even in concourse condition, but you and ALL of your friends and family can cruise in it! You'll want to have a carport to store it under after getting it running.
A 2-door Desoto:
Sellers Craigslist description: "1951 DeSoto - $5000 - I have a 1951 DeSoto 2 door Coupe that's all original with a 251 flathead six motor and a straight a matic transmission 5000.00 cash firm..."
This Desoto is a great starting point. It appears to have all of its exterior pieces and they look to be in usable shape. Requesting some pictures of the interior and the engine would be a likely next step for anyone interested in purchasing. You do not see Desotos everyday! This would make a nice oddball car. Will need a paint job. You'd probably need a small garage to get this thing going, but could park it in under a carport once the major work was finished.
Something even weirder:
Sellers Craigslist description: "1955 Hudson Wasp- 61K orig miles - $5,500 2nd owner car--was sitting in barn in Iowa for last 35 years. Car starts and runs and was started routinely over the time it was stored. All original, very cool car. Headlights were removed years ago but go with car as well as some other items. see pictures of the additional items. 202 engine, auto transmission. interior is clean. no rust problems. Needs paint, bumper chrome and carb adjustment and that's it. I drove it last week around the house and other than carb being a little dirty it ran good. 61k original miles."
This Hudson is great! Probably needing only minor work to get it driveable. It would be a good idea to ask for engine pictures as a next step. Also, ask about how the engine acts when running. I can honestly say I've never seen one of these before! Different is cool. In order to get the kinks worked out you'd want the use of a garage. After working out the mechanicals, a carport would do for storage.
Big Beautiful Buick!
Sellers Craigslist description: "1952 Buick special 2 door strait 8. Automatic will run needs carb rebuilt. Body is in good shape. Hood will open from either side. Needs interior work. Cool old cruiser. $5,500"
This Buick is a wonderful looking car! It does appear to have some rust under the drivers side door. Patch panels are easy to get, but require specialist tools to install. The car doesn't seem to be missing any parts. The odd looking black paint on the grille and bumpers could be changed to a more suitable color (silver). Engine pictures and interior pictures are the next step in the buying process. Along with asking about how the engine runs. A garage would be needed to sort the car out, but a carport would work for storage after that.
Chopped Top Truck:
Sellers Craigslist description: "1950 CHEVY TRUCK CHOPPED 4" DISC BRAKES SETUP FOR CHEVY ENGINE, NEW FLOOR PANS TO BE PUT IN. BILL OF SALE ONLY. $3,800 CASH ONLY..."
This truck is an opportunity! True, it will require a little more money to get running, but when it is, you will end up with a better Classic car experience. This truck will afford you the opportunity to install a new or remanufactured engine and transmission. This will allow you to avoid a lot of the problems that will happen with trying to run an old engine. This will require the use of a garage for an extended period of time and an additional amount of available money. It will also require the use of specialist tools and a general knowledge of how a car operates and some mechanical skills. Once you are done, you'll actually have a ride that's worth more than it cost to build and buy. You'll also understand how the mechanics of how a car operate. That's worth any aggravation that might happen during the build. Plus, this truck will be worth quite a bit of money after completion.
Sellers Craigslist description: "1953 MG TD - $7,800 - 1953 MG TD roadster. Really nice original steel body. Engine was replaced a long time back with a Datsun 4cyl and manual transmission. Does not run. Needs restoration"
This one is a little bit of a gamble. Since its had a Datsun engine installed there is a very good chance it's been rewired. If it has, and the wiring is in good shape, then you have eliminated the problem with English cars. If not, then you'll have to figure it out on your own. I suggest ripping it all out and installing an aftermarket wiring harness. You are going to need some electrical ability and a LARGE amount of patience with this car. You'll also need access to a garage for the duration of figuring out the wiring. I'd suggest storing the car in a garage after repairs are made. These cars are stolen all the time. You don't want yours to be one!
A Hot Rod Nash:
Sellers Craigslist description: "1936 Nash - $9,500 - 1936 Nash 2 door sedan body all steel ready to paint. Has mustang two front end with disc brakes has Chevy straight 6 with fresh rebuilt turbo trans new,has tri-carbs, chrome column new radiator new tank new gauges new wheels and tires has original seats super old car make excellent street rod have too many needs to go..."
This is a pretty neat car! It looks like all of the body work has been done and all it needs is final paint and the details worked out. Taking a project over from someone else can be a disaster! It can also be an opportunity to own a super nice car, for not much money at the end. I'm not sure why they went with the straight 6 Chevy engine instead of a V8. The cost would have been the same and the work is the same regardless of the engine. You'll save some on exhaust pipes and a muffler I guess! You'll need a fair amount of mechanical problem solving skills and some additional cash to get this one moving. You'll need permanent access to a garage, both for the build and to store the finished car. Once your labor is done, you'll have a excellent pre 1948 Hot Rod!
Stock all the way:
Sellers Craigslist description: "1928 FORD MODEL A TUDOR SEDAN - $9,500 - 1928 Ford Model A Tudor, older restoration, mostly original: 6V system, original distributor and Zenith updraft carburetor. Driven regularly, starts and runs great. Transmission rebuilt and clutch replaced around 12 years ago but less than 5,000 miles on it. Upholstery in great condition, tires have most of tread remaining and no dry rot or cracking. Hydraulic brake conversion on 1940's Ford vintage drum brakes. Many spare parts included such as starter, generator, distributor, extra Zenith carb, extra Sparton horn, three 21" wheels and many replacement and tune-up parts. Nice 90 year old car to drive or restore again. Always garaged and has clear Tennessee title. Text me if any questions or to arrange to see the car..."
This is a great Model A! It is in very good looking shape and appears to only need to be cleaned up. It might need a new interior, but those are easy to find and don't really cost that much. It will need new tires immediately! Do not drive on tires this old. Bad things will happen. The hydraulic brake conversion is the only reason why I would recommend this car to anyone that hasn't been around mechanical brakes. Mechanical brakes are dangerous! They have NO PLACE on any public roadway. If you've never had any experience with them, then I would suggest staying away from any car that has them. Since this car has already had the expensive conversion performed, the problem is gone! Any time this car isn't being driven or on display at a show it will need to be in a garage. Theft isn't as big a problem any more, but the elements are. The paint on this car is in good shape and should be buffed and then cared for.
A Shoebox in the woods:
Sellers Craigslist description: "1949 Ford Shoebox Coupe - $3000 - This is a rolling ,chassis only ,I need to sale I have to many projects ,no title ,body is in really good condition for this old car,would make a nice project..."
This one will require the most work out of any car pictured. Unlike the chopped top truck above, it will never be worth more than you spend on it. That's the drawback to '50s Fords! I will readily admit to being bias in favor of this car. I'm not bothered by that, as they are fabulous! Parts are difficult to find and when you do locate them they are expensive. You'll need a garage to do the rebuild and a small fortune to pay for it. It will never be worth more than $10K in stock form and if you go the Custom route, 50% of people will hate it and want to know why you ruined it and the other half will LOVE it! Since you'll be spending a ton of money on it, you'll need a garage.
Stock with a little bit of power:
Sellers Craigslist description: "1948 Ford super deluxe - $9,500 - up for sale is a all original 1948 Ford Super Deluxe (3 on the tree) with original flat head V-8, paint , seals and interior. Even has the original spare tire and wheel in trunk. The car is in all around good shape and in driving condition. we have installed new master cylinder and brake shoes and fuel pump. we drive this to lunch on nice days. has a small hole on driver floor board that we will fix in the shop and carpet needs replaced... NO TRADES!!"
This Ford is a really nice car! If stock is what you want, then I'd recommend this over the Model A. The reason being, this car is actually large enough to allow people to ride with you and it is powerful enough to easily make speeds of over 55MPH. The Model A won't do that. The fender damage is regrettable, be sure to point that out in the price negotiations. Anything this car needs is readily available from numerous aftermarket dealers. You'll need a garage to keep this one in.
A few final points:
Remember, you can't drive these old cars like you would a new one. I know that's obvious, but you'd be surprised what's not obvious to some. Don't be afraid to negotiate prices. Do not buy it unless you really want it! If it's not what you want, then don't be afraid to walk away. Have fun! The searching and purchasing process is one of the best parts about owning a Classic car. You'll learn a lot and meet some interesting people! Plus, the story of how you found your Classic will be a story you'll talk about for a very long time.
I hope you all are starting to think about letting a classic car in your life! They are cantankerous, but wonderfully rewarding things. I wish you all the best in your search and maybe I'll see you out there! Then we can both Keep on Cruisin'!