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Daydreaming about lapping up the miles in your vintage Alpha or BMW is romantic, but it’s hardly preparation for owning the real thing. The sonorous exhaust note and just-so vintage interior you lust after can come at a high price. Unlike the car in your dreams, a real vehicle requires maintenance.
It’s not that you shouldn’t buy that classic — you should. You just have to understand that the initial cost of the car is only the first sacrifice you’ll make on the altar of vintage motoring. It’s a lifestyle. Go into it prepared, and it can be rewarding. Jump in at the deep end, and you could end up penniless.
To Drive or Not to Drive
We’re fans of driving cars here, but if you’re planning on buying a classic, you will have to decide whether to drive the car or store it. As investing goes, there are better choices than cars. However, it’s your choice.
All cars will need some small amount of driving to stay in good working order. When you’re not driving the car, make sure you’ve got a safe place to store it. In the case of a classic car, that should really be a climate-controlled garage. Make sure the doors are secure to protect the car from weather damage and theft.
There’s a reason classic cars are expensive, and that is scarcity. Many beautiful specimens were left to rot outdoors and succumbed to rust, sun damage or neglect. Like any car, you need to keep your classic clean inside and out to guarantee it will continue to serve you and future generations well.
The paint on older cars doesn’t include a protective clear coat, so it’s extremely important that you use a car-specific detergent that’s soft on the finish. Never use dish soap or other alternatives. To remove minor imperfections, periodically rub the paint down with a clay bar before you wash and wax the car.
Engine internals are even more sensitive than your car’s finish, and the bills will be bigger if you slip on it. Since the vehicle may be driven less than a typical car, you should check the oil, water and coolant levels regularly. Check grease fittings and U-joints every two to three months to make sure things don’t dry out.
Many classics fall victim to the wear of time on their interiors. Wood cracks, leather dries out and even old Bakelite plastic bits on American cars warp and discolor. A little patina is fine, but you should know how to maintain your interior so you can enjoy the car as it was meant to be enjoyed.
Log on to the owner’s club for your particular classic car and do some research to see what people use. There are always tricks to bring out the best in wood and leather. People will use furniture cleaner, lemon oil and all different tricks.
Enjoy Your Car!
As stated earlier, storing your car for posterity is your own prerogative. However, we would advise you to share your car with the world and drive it!
There are lots of opportunities to show off your classic ride. Take it to the local cars and coffee show, or better yet, sign up for a road rally. There are special events just for vintage cars where you can enjoy the thrill of a drive along the coast with other motorists.
You’re going to have to put up with the tribulations of old car ownership whether you drive or not. Life is short, so drive ‘em if you got ‘em. That’s what we say.