Many people love the look and feel of driving a classic car but how do you decide which model is the best to restore? The first thing you have to ask yourself is will the car be an investment or will it be a driver that you take out on the weekends to have fun with.
Restoring for investment reasons has more to do with how far you need to go to get top dollar and what your skill level is to restore the car to its original condition. Restoration can be a very complex task when you are trying to get the most money and will mean hundreds if not thousands of hours of research to understand paint colors, engine markings, molding details and basically how every part may have looked after it went through an assembly line. When you have completed your project the car should be made of 90% or better restored original parts using duplicate aftermarket parts only on consumable items like fan belts, hoses and other items that break down over time. The cost in parts alone can be far more then you will ever get when you sell it unless you are very selective on the type of car you choose and are very lucky to get parts at a huge discount. This type of car usually has less then 10,000 miles on it no matter how old it is and has never seen rust or an accident. This car was probably put away by its original owner for preservation reasons. The market value for an investment restoration car may be $100,000 or more and will require sale through a broker or large auction house.
Restoring for show is what most people enjoy as a hobby. Although there are levels of restoration in this class it is not uncommon for the owner to take the car out on a nice day and put a few miles on the odometer. You can consider this type of restoration never complete because the parts used in the restoration are often after market products that simulate the original but won’t pass the scrutiny of close inspection. The car will be most likely restored to its original factory build sheet meaning that no addons are included and nothing is missing. Numbers should match on the engine and all other items as best as the builder can obtain. Mileage is not of an extreme concern but should be about or under 50,000 miles. This type of car can be sold on the open market or at an auction to bring the best price.
Drivers, Tributes, Modified and home restorations are the final group of cars you will see on the market. These vehicles should be in good condition however to get them to that point anywhere from a small amount to a large amount of work may have been performed.
Drivers are pretty uncommon today with gas prices so high but there are a few people that love their cars and will keep a classic for driving on the weekends. A driver is what its name says. The car will pass state inspection but you can expect a number of different modifications to happen. Many drivers will have upgraded fuel systems, brakes wheels. The cost of maintaining a driver is more important to its owner then the price they will get if they ever sell it. Since these vehicles are on the road you can expect a mid-range price that could be improved if the owner has held on to the original parts they have replaced.
Tributes are vehicles that had a different birth then where they ended up. You see cars like this most often in base model mustangs and camaros that are modified to have the same look as Shelby or SS/RS versions. Since the higher end model is based on the same body performing the modification during restoration can be economical. If you find an old 6 cylinder fastback mustang that needs new front end sheet metal and its drive train replaced then why not spend the few extra dollars and get the Shelby type aftermarket parts and make your own tribute car. This type of car takes a lot of attention to detail during the build but they will never bring the same money that an original SS/RS or Shelby would bring. Tributes also make fun drivers and are often seen in local events.
Modified vehicles are similar to drivers or tributes but they take it a step further. Low Riders are a good example but there are other builders that will completely modify a vehicle for show or the track. The amount of money you put in is almost never what you can get out at sale time. Building a highly modified car is something you do for reason either to fulfil the needs of a customer that you already have or for racing. Some race cars that were owned by professionals can bring good money at auction but for the most part to meet the needs of a 1/4 mile track you end up gutting the car so bad that there is no other use for it.
The amount of time and money that you will dump into your restoration must be planned long before you begin it. You should know what your customer will want if you intend to sell it and work in that direction. Restoring vehicles isn’t a science but there are many guides available if you decide to take your driver and turn it into a show car. Documentation is always important no matter which direction you go and you should keep full records of every part and modification you make.
The biggest choice will be the model of car you select. Selecting the right car can be as important as any work you do on it once you buy it. Low production numbers are a good key that the model you pick will be worth the work and increase in value later on. Proper research should let you understand that each part on the car adds value. You may look for factory or dealer add-on packages and options that set your car apart from the others. Sticking to the core set of Muscle, Antique and Classic cars is always a good bet but remember you will be competing with many other vehicles and buyers that have access to a lot of documentation to pick apart your work.
As for any investment of time and money you should do your research and decide if the car you pick is to make you happy or make you money.
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