Money or enjoyment when it comes to being an enthusiast

Story and Photos by Matt Stone

Being in the car business, I’m quite often asked, “What classic or collector car should I buy? What has the best potential for future investment?” In my opinion, far too many “enthusiasts” want to get into the game in an attempt to make fast money, which is something different than enjoying the car hobby as a collector, hobbyist or enthusiast. There’s nothing wrong with making money on cars; I’ve done it myself. But FOR ME and I emphasize that — I don’t buy cars with that in mind. If I own and enjoy a car and its value appreciates over time, and I sell it while getting my original investment back, plus a few bucks, that is all fine and good. But it ain’t the meaning of life.

My first and foremost answer to this infamous question is, “Buy what you will love, drive and enjoy.”

Now, if the person asking doesn’t know a Porsche from his front porch, has watched too many Ferraris sell for ten million dollars on TV, and is only interested in trying for a quick flip and a tax free profit, then there are a thousand answers, and if I knew them all and was sage enough to crystal ball every car’s future profit, then I’d be retired and living in an old farmhouse in Italy by now. But I’m not. Sure, there have been some picks that have been obvious, others that were sleepers.

Back to the “love, drive and enjoy” buyer for the moment. I usually tell that person to buy the best example they can afford, as opposed to attempting to restore a clapped out rustbucket. The cost of quality parts, labor, and mechanicals to do a proper, factory-authentic restoration (or high quality custom, restomod, or hot rod) has run sky high. Plus the process is filled with pitfalls that can really trip up the novice and his budget. The price of a poorly-done build can be even higher, as a good car has been potentially ruined, and a lot of money must be spent in basting right a turkey. I’m going to print up some lapel pins that say, “Buy One Done,” because if the work and the restoration build were done properly, most buyers will be many dollars ahead by letting the previous owner restore the car and absorb that time and cost.

Anything with a Shelby badge on it – be it a Mustang or Cobra, is a thrill to drive, and has appreciated in value

A word about price: everyone has their own particular threshold of pain when it comes to coughing up money. One of my longtime, best friend’s favorite mantra is, “The Deal is the Driver,” generally meaning price is everything, and that anything is good if it’s cheap enough. I like to save money as much as the next guy, but I also subscribe to paying more for quality. Ultimately, you’ll have something better, and likely save money in the long run. You have to calibrate your own meter when it comes to this metric.

Do research on your own before purchasing anything. Fill your bookshelf before you fill your garage. Unless you already know all there is to know about the marque and model you want to buy, I suggest reading every book and old magazine article about your intended. Knowledge is power…and will save you money and heartache.

Join the club; there are enthusiast car clubs for nearly everything out there, so spend some time hanging around the cars, and the people that own them. They’re usually happy to tell you what’s great, and what’s awful about the car you think you want to buy. And they may also direct you to clubmember cars for sale. Be smart about the “barnfind” phenom; while you may uncover a special, rare pearl in farmer Joe’s barn, you could easily spend too much money for a neglected, beat up old car. So shop with your eyes and brains as well as your heart.

That’s my few pointers and my quicky, philosophical download on how to jump into the collector car pool. Whether you end up making money, losing it or breaking even, you’ll always have a good time and a fun drive if you buy a good example of what you can afford, will love and drive. See you on the road…