Things to look for when you buy the car:
- Make sure the car is as close to rust free as possible.
- Check all of the body gaps on the car, such as door gaps, hood to the fender, hood to the cowl, and trunk gaps. Gaps should be no more than 1/8” ¼” on any part of the car.
- Gaps that are closer or wider mean that the car has had body work,
- Look at the engine, check for leaks around the intake manifold, water pump, radiator, valve covers and all major areas that can leak.
- Inspect the brake lines, this will mean that you need to lift the car. Here you will be looking for leaks where the lines connect at the drums, and the calipers, you will need to check brake proportioning valves for leaks and junction block.
- Look at the wiring and check for burned or Jerry rigged wiring, areas where somebody had cut the wiring to add a stereo or extra lighting.
- Check the interior for cracked plastic parts, torn seats, and bad carpet.
- Turn on the key and check the lights and blinkers to see If they are working, check the dash lights and instrument cluster.
- Start the engine and listen for strange noises like knocking, clicking, tapping and other such noises, these are all indicators that the engine needs attention.
- Test drive the car and listen for whining noises, knocks, clicks and other noises. As you test drive the car check acceleration of the car for hesitation and general sluggishness, if the car has an automatic transmission look for slipping as you put the car in a drive gear, check the reverse gear for slippage also. If the car has a standard transmission check for slippage as you release the clutch pedal, go down a hill and see if the transmission pops out of gear while coasting down the hill. Check to see if the transmission grinds as to try to put it in gear, this means that the clutch needs to be replaced.
The bottom line here is that all of the reasons listed above give you bargaining power with the seller. If you just take their word for it then you lose the power to bargain and get the price down. The more that you have to fix or repair the better the price should be.
Don't expect a few things wrong with the car to generate thousands of dollars in savings. The truth if there are enough bad problems with the car to drive the price down thousands of dollars, you probably don't want it anyway.
You should be looking for the car with the least amount of problems even if you have to spend more to start with. This is why it's always better on your first restoration to have a professional inspect it for you, a true professional will always know what to do.
Make sure that you tell him that you will be restoring it as a family project and you want to get the best car you possibly can for the best price. He will know what to look for. He will charge you for his services, but it will be well worth the expense until you learn how to inspect one by yourself.
I hope this has helped one or two of you decide if you want to do a classic car restoration with your family, in the end, you will have a lot of fun and build a really cool car. You and your family will be proud to say that you built you classic car.
David C. Atkin