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Buying an Affordable Classic — Affordable Classic Car Reviews
Reviews, opinions and market analysis of classic cars we can all afford
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Category — Buying an Affordable Classic

Dave Knows Cars Blog Adds Classic Car Section, Buy, Sell, Trade!

I’m excited to announce my Dave Knows Cars Blog, dedicated primarily to Mercedes-Benz vehicles just got an upgrade. I’ve included a category on that blog that deals specifically with classic and vintage cars… and what are referred to as “young classics” as well. Cars that aren’t really that old, but cars that have a strong enthusiast following even if they don’t necessarily have huge potential as true collector cars in the future.

Here is a link the the first posting from that category “Classic Mercedes Category Added to Dave Knows Cars Blog!”

Check back often for new content here, and please let me know if there is something you’re looking for or something (a car, not arts or random car bits) that you’d like to sell, I get good, quality hits on the Dave Knows Cars blog everyday, it might be a good place to get some solid enthusiast exposure for that old car you’re trying to sell, especially if it’s a Mercedes-Benz.

classic-R107-Mercedes-Benz-SL-560

I helped a local gentleman sell this 1987 Mercedes-Benz 560 SL this week. It didn't meet reserve, but a deal was put together after the auction with the high bidder who drove over from Wisconsin to pick up the car.

I know several people trying to sell and trying to buy good Mercedes-Benz SLs from the 1960s through the 1990s. Please let me know what you’ve got or what you’re looking for. It’s a good time to be in the market for a car like this, prices are a bit depressed, but well maintained, well options cars are worth paying up for.

This 1980 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL Euro model with a fun 4 speed transmission is currently for sale in the Twin Cities... this is a really nice, unique car. Priced at $14,800, but all reasonable offers will be considered.

This 1980 Mercedes-Benz 280 SL Euro model with a fun 4 speed transmission is currently for sale in the Twin Cities... this is a really nice, unique car. Priced at $14,800, but all reasonable offers will be considered.

July 23, 2010   No Comments

1976 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC: Price Reductions on Craigslist… Going, Going, Gone!

1976 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC: Price Reductions on Craigslist… Going, Going, Gone!

While trawling auto classifieds online this weekend I started to notice some things that I touched on in Friday’s article, the growing desperation of some car owners to sell their cars, and fast, because economic times are tough and they need the money. I spent several hours searching local Craigslist classifieds and then expanded my research to other cities and states. Things like “Must sell now, rent is already late and I must pay it by the 10th” or “Must sell this weekend” are popping up in more and more ads. I’ve been noticing one particular car, a 1976 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC, on the Twin Cities Craigslist for a little more than a month now, that’s the specific example well explore here.

The red car in question, and the seller's silver illusion.

The red car in question, and the seller's silver illusion.

The Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC is a rather unloved car to begin with. Most of them will always be worth less than an equivalent SL, despite the fact that there was only one more expensive Mercedes-Benz model at the time it was new, the W100 series 600 model. Today most people would rather have something they can take the top off of in the springtime.

It will always lag behind the rare Euro version 450 SLC 5.0 liter cars, some of which made it to the states as grey market cars. These were the cars produced to homologate the model so Mercedes-Benz could compete in road rally competition in the late seventies and early eighties.

Despite the fact that the 450 SLC occupies one of the lower rungs on the Mercedes-Benz collector ladder today, they’re still unique, they do have somewhat of a following, and I guess if I could buy one cheap enough I would.

First price reduction, mid October.

First price reduction, mid October.

I first saw this particular car for sale on Craigslist in early October, price: $6000. The seller claims it has had over $1000 in recent maintenance work and it’s ready for the next owner to get in and go. In the ad the seller makes a case to potential buyers that you could take his red car and build a ‘tribute’ car to look like the “silver 450 SLC pictured” along with his red car in the ad “and be worth a easy $25000 to $35000”. I think we all know that would NEVER happen. So you’re looking at a run of the mill 95,000 mile SLC for $6000.

Another price reduction, seller getting desperate.

Another price reduction, seller getting desperate.

A week or so later he “reduced” the price down to $5000. He clearly wasn’t getting enough action on the car over those three weeks, as the car was listed again on November third, this time at $3500. In my opinion $6000 was never a realistic number for this car. $5000 is probably a little high as well, $3500 not only sounds reasonable to me, but it seems like a bit of a deal.

Friday evening the 6th of November I saw the car listed one more time. This time the price was reduces all the way down to $2500 and the ad had been revised to say “Must sell car this weekend”. By the time I sat down at my computer on Sunday to write about the ongoing saga of this car and take screen shots of the listings, the last ad had been removed from Craigslist. It looks like the $2500 price was attractive enough to someone to pull the trigger on this car. The seller got his money, less than half of what he was originally asking, but he can put it in the bank and get on with his life.

The moral of the story here? Sellers always want more money than someone is probably willing to pay them for their car, but if you’re diligent and watch a car for a while deals like this do present themselves. If I had the space for this car I probably would have offered the guy $3000 for it when he was trying to get $3500 and still come out alright. This particular model is at the bottom of its depreciation curve and as long as the new owner maintains the car and there are no catastrophic failures he can probably drive and enjoy the car for a couple of years, sell it, and probably get out of it what he’s put into it And any true car hobbyist that’s honest with himself understands that if you can do that you’re doing very, very well indeed.

November 10, 2009   No Comments

Why NOW Might Be the Best Time to Buy an Affordable Classic Car

We’ve covered much of the ‘where to buy a classic car’ question recently, but how about the question of ‘when to buy a classic car’? I don’t know that there’s a golden rule as when to buy your next affordable classic, it depends upon the car and the opportunities presented to you.

In my experience there are two huge factors that influence a potential purchase… money and space. Do you have the money to buy and do you have a place to put your new acquisition? If you’ve got those two things it’s just a matter of finding the right deal. Permission from a significant other could be a factor, but you’re on your own when it comes to getting your wife on board. So you’re ready for a new car, how can timing allow you to get a great deal on a great car?

The classic car market does shift seasonally, especially in northern states or states where people cannot drive their classic roadsters year round. In places where people are forced to store their cars away for the winter the question as to whether they should mothball the car for one more winter always comes up. If the owner has to pay for storage over the winter he must decide if it’s worth the money or if it’s time to sell the car.

I did a quick search in the Minneapolis / St. Paul area for self storage units about 10’ x 15’ in size. They ranged from between about $75 and $200 depending upon location. I’m talking the drive up kind, not heated or anything fancy. To store a car through the coldest winter months of November through February will cost at least $300, probably more. I took this into account when I bought my 1976 BMW 2002 for $700 one November knowing I wanted to eBay it in the spring. If I had not had free storage available at a friend’s St. Paul warehouse I would have never bought the car. I would have paid half what I paid for the car in storage for the winter.

Covered BMW 2002, free winter storage.

Covered BMW 2002, free winter storage.

This is the kind of storage issue that leads a lot of people to put their cars on the market in the fall. Most people don’t get the urge to buy a fun convertible as winter approaches for the same reasons people look to get rid of them. People want to buy fun cruisers in the spring, to enjoy during those first really nice weekends after the long winter, and on into the summer. In the fall you’ve got the potential for a lot of cars on the market and not too many people looking to buy them. They’re harder to sell and prices drop quickly when sellers become impatient. When a seller just wants to get rid of their car you can really capitalize on a good deal.

Another thing a ready and willing buyer has on their side these days is a generally poor economy. In this regard the affordable classic car market is much like the stock market. In these lean times those with the cash have more opportunities for bargain shopping, snapping up cheap stock and cheap cars that have flooded the market.

The affordable classic car market has been especially affected during this brutal economic down turn. I believe it’s the little guy who was on a budget a few years ago who finally sprung for a neat affordable classic that might find himself in an economic position today that forces him to sell his baby. He probably doesn’t have a 3+ car garage, he may not have a surplus of cash that allows him to continue to maintain, license, and insure a purely fun, indulgent second or third car. The top tier car collectors who buy the blue chip collectibles like Mercedes Gullwings and 12 Cylinder Ferraris continue to pay up for the best cars, mostly oblivious to what’s happening on the low end of the spectrum. It seems to me it’s the casual hobbyist on a budget that’s been especially hard hit.

I was reading through some local Craigslist classifieds last night and saw quite a few listings citing economic woes as the reason for selling. It used to be “baby on the way” or “buying a new house” “wife says the car’s gotta go”. Now there’s a lot of “lost my job, can’t afford to keep it” or “downsizing, must sell”. A lot of people are hurting, a lot of people are cleaning out their garages.

Who knew the affordable classic car market was so Darwinian?

Who knew the affordable classic car market was so Darwinian?

Taking into consideration the time of year and the general state of the economy it is an excellent time to find some real bargains on the low end of the collector car market. If you can cobble the money together in the next couple of months, you’re bound to find some great deals on an affordable classic car. As harsh as it may sound, the collector car savanna needs vultures too.

November 6, 2009   No Comments

The 10 Best Places To Find An Affordable Classic Car Pt 12: Word of Mouth

Part XII: 1. Word of Mouth

We’ve covered a lot of good places to find affordable classic cars in our countdown, but how do you find those unadvertised hidden gems that no one else knows about? The truth is, some of the best classic car deals I’ve ever hear about were for cars that were never advertised anywhere, the buyer was found through word of mouth, or perhaps an old car story was told, someone investigated, spoke with the owner and put a deal together. But how do you get plugged in like this?

Get plugged in by immersing yourself in the car hobby. Attend car shows, subscribe to magazines, sift through eBay auctions, but above all talk to people. You need to let people know that you’re into cars. Tell your friends, family, neighbors that you’re always looking for something interesting, different, old, classic. I’m one of those guys who comments on the old classic filling up at the gas station and ends up talking to the guy for 15 minutes. That’s the kind of guy who says “My buddy’s got a ’56 he’s been talking about selling, do you want his number?”

People need to think of YOU when they go over to their great uncle’s and he tells them he’s finally going to get rid of that old convertible that’s been sitting in the garage since the 1970s. People need to think of YOU when they’re driving out in the country and see an old British sports car with a for sale sign in front of it. Exude this sort of genuine interest and before you know it, cars for sale will start coming to you.

It’s no secret to my friends, neighbors, countrymen, that I’m a car guy, it just seems to what I end up talking about with people. If someone can relate a subject to cars, it will always hold my attention. I’ll mention a few examples of how word of mouth has presented me and people I know with several great opportunities recently.

1958 Triumph TR3A, needs a new home.

1958 Triumph TR3A, needs a new home.

Most recently, just this week in fact, I got an email from my neighbor’s ex-girlfriend regarding a 1958 Triumph TR3A she was given by her uncle some years ago. Now, my neighbor and his girlfriend went their separate ways the better part of a year ago, but she remembered several conversations we had about her little TR3, I told her to let me know if she ever wanted to sell it. Wells, she wants to sell the car now so she got my email from my neighbor and sent me some photos of her TR3 via email this week.

The fact that I don’t have the $20,000 the car is probably worth or any garage space for it is another story entirely. The point is, after a brief conversation across the back yard fence almost a year ago, she thought of me first when she started thinking about selling this car.

I was glad to hear from her, apparently they have been “kinda, sorta talking again… and are maybe going to give it another try” with the relationship. I wish them the best of luck, I thought they made a great couple, and they were fun to grill out with in the summer time. Who knew you could have such hope for romance here at Affordable Classic Car Reviews? Just wait until my wife and I co-author the series “Best Back Seats – Classic American Sedans 1955 – 1959”. That should be a steamy series.

The second story is about I guy I met at work. He came in to Feldmann Imports in January of this year to visit the parts department. He came in driving a mid 90s Mercedes-Benz sedan, he needed to go to the parts department. I walked him over that way as we started talking about cars. He mentioned that he had an old Porsche 911. Of course my ears perked right up. He described a 1982 911 SC Targa, red with a tan interior. He had an old 1970s era Mercedes SL as well, my kind of guy. I told him that I’d love to get a 911 SC, it’s a great starter 911, relatively inexpensive and the engine in those cars is thought to be one of the most robust of the era. “Well, how about I bring it over for you to have a look at this summer?” he offered.

Fast forward to mid June. Just another day at work in the early summer. I walk outside and see a little red 911 SC Targa in the parking lot and another sales person says to me, “Hey Tobin, the guy who drove up in that Porsche is looking for you”. So we finally found each other and had a look at the car. He wanted to put his 911 on the market to make room for something else he wanted to buy, he remembered our conversation six months earlier and came to me.

He offered me that car for $12,000… 88,000 original miles, Carrera chain tensioner upgrade had been done to the engine as well as the air box upgrade. He said if I didn’t want it he was going to list it on Auto Trader and Craigslist for $14,000 to see if he could get a little more for it, but it was mine if I wanted it for $12,000. Again, the space / money continuum was not properly aligned for me at that moment. I thanked this gentleman profusely for thinking of me and for letting me take it out for a test drive with him. That’s such a great handling car, and fast. I have no doubt that was the right car for me, it just wasn’t the right time.

MGB: Original, low miles, no rust, less than $3,000?!

MGB: Original, low miles, no rust, less than $3,000?!

The last story I’ll tell here is how my father bought a completely original, rust free MGB, with 28,000 or 32,000 (something really low) original miles for less that $3,000. It’s pretty simple really. Anyone who knows my dad knows he’s as into cars as I am, that’s where I got this wonderful affliction. A friend of my parents tipped him off that their neighbor had an old British sports car in the garage they wanted to get rid of. It had been advertised in the paper for weeks with no interest. British sports cars aren’t necessarily a hot commodity in the small town in central Kansas where they live.

My dad decided to go over to the seller’s house with his friend to have a look at the car, it was just down the street. What he found in the garage was, in his words, “The driest, most rust free MGB I’ve ever seen” and believe me, he’s seen a lot of them. He’s probably owned 5 of them over the years. This was an original car, this was the original owner, the lady was selling it for her daughter.

It’s a 1974 model, the last year with the good looking chrome bumpers but it didn’t have wire wheels. It’s not the best year for an MGB with all the smog equipment it’s got on it, but it isn’t the worst year either. I don’t remember every detail, but the lady offered it to my dad for $2000. He actually felt bad paying so little for such a great car, so I think he paid her like $2,500 for it, started it up and drove it home. It had been sitting for a long time, so he had to do the brakes and some other things to the car, but it’s an incredibly original, low mile, rust free car.

He got this car thanks to his friend that knew his neighbor was trying to sell “an old car”. He wasn’t even looking for an MGB, but when a great opportunity comes along, sometimes you just have to take advantage of it.

By letting people you come into contact with know you’re always looking for another fun car, they will think of you when they see or hear of an opportunity. These are generally opportunities that don’t come up for others, you can often get to cars before they go on the market.

These cars will likely be close to home and easy for you to go look at… and in the end, as much as we think the car hobby is about cars, it’s really about people. The friends you make while searching for fun classic cars, the friends you make while driving them. It’s all about people. I love being the person my friends think of when they see their neighbor push an old covered car out of the garage, and over time it’s put me in contact with some nice cars and even nicer people.

October 29, 2009   1 Comment

The 10 Best Places To Find An Affordable Classic Car Pt 11: Craigslist

Part XI: 2. Craigslist

Craigslist.com is a car classifieds powerhouse, it holds the number 2 spot on my list of 10 ten places to find affordable classic cars. If you’re patient and review the site you’re liable to find some of the best deals on affordable classic cars that are close to home so you can go look at them, buy them and not have to worry about shipping your new acquisition, after all, shipping just adds to the ultimate price of your car.

Porsche 911 For Sale on Craigslist

Porsche 911 For Sale on Craigslist

I strongly believe that if you’re in a major city in the U.S. there must be one example of just about every car within a few hundred miles of you. It might take a long time for a Euro spec Mercedes-Benz 500SL with a manual transmission from the mid 80s to appear for sale, but when it does, it will probably show up on Craigslist first.

Craigslist is easy and free for people trying to sell a car. When someone passes away and a family member has to clean out the garage, that old 1962 MGA MKII that’s been under the painting tarp with years worth of cardboard boxes stacked on top of it will probably end up on the local Craigslist site. A lot of cars that show up on Craigslist are uncovered, non-running, borderline barn finds that someone is just looking to get rid of. It’s these sorts of opportunities I like to watch for.

If you can buy the car cheap enough you can put some work into it and have a nice little driver, but be careful! If too much work is needed, or if the work is beyond your expertise or budget you should walk away, or buy the car cheap enough so you can part it out if you’re interested in that sort of thing. Don’t think buying a $700 car and spending every night for the next 2 months picking parts off of it and putting them on eBay is a great revenue stream.

In most cases, depending upon what you’re parting out, you will end up earning far less than minimum wage after you calculate the hours you’ve put into the project and at some point you’ll have to have whatever’s left hauled away to the junk yard if you can’t sell a car that’s been picked clean of all the good bits.

Craigslist makes it very easy to list cars for sale, they don’t ask for a lot of specs or details. This makes it somewhat difficult to search for specific cars, years, or models you might be interested in. You’re pretty much at the mercy of the titles people create for their ads.

I end up using as few words as I can when I search for classic cars on eBay. If I want to look at Porsche 911s from 1978 – 1983 range, the 3-liter SC cars, I only type “Porsche 911” in the search box. Of course I have to sift through all the Porsche 911 ads, from all the years, and here in the twin cities there are pages of them, but I won’t miss any listings.

Local MGB listings with Fiat and Triumph ads mixed in.

Local MGB listings with Fiat and Triumph ads mixed in.

If I’m looking for an MGB I am going to search using the keyword “MG” and see what comes up. Sure, there will be some MGAs and maybe even one of those hideous MG TD replicas built from a Volkswagen Beetle, but at least you’ll see what’s out there in your area. You’ll probably get hits on a couple of Triumphs from those folks who list their Spitfire like this; ”1974 Triumph Spitfire, great condition, not MGB, not Alfa Romeo” A listing like this will show up for anyone searching for Triumphs, MGBs, or Alfa Romeos because the listing title includes all of those words. A little annoying to people searching for MGBs I guess, but the seller will get more search hits on their listings as a result. Maybe the guy who had his heart set on an MGB might actually buy his Triumph.

I live in a place where cars rust a lot, where it’s cold for 6-7 months out of the year, there are fewer fun convertibles in this part of the country, and certainly fewer rust free cars in the upper mid west, that’s why I often visit other Craigslist markets if I ‘m looking for a perfect car or one I’m willing to pay to ship.

Craigslist Los Angeles and San Francisco are both great. There are often rare cars for sale on these sites, and there always seem to be more listings for specialty classic cars. California has always been a car lover’s paradise with a big population. A lot of interesting cars were sent out to California in the 50s and 60s, so when a garage in southern California is cleaned out there is a good chance there could be something cool lurking in the shadows.

Just 5 Fiat listings on Craigslist in Minneapolis.

Just 5 Fiat listings on Craigslist in Minneapolis.

18 Fiat listings on Craigslist SF Bay Area.

18 Fiat listings on Craigslist SF Bay Area.

While it might take a little extra effort, the pictures aren’t always the best, and it’s impossible to carry out a surgical search like you can do on eBay, Craigslist is a great place to find your next affordable classic car. You can usually find good cars close to home for sale by motivated sellers. If the stars align and you do your due diligence it’s probably one of the best places to find your next affordable classic car.

October 27, 2009   No Comments

The 10 Best Places To Find An Affordable Classic Car Pt 10: Driving Back Roads on the Weekends

Part X:  3. Driving Back Roads on the Weekends

Sometimes we have to look for an excuse to take our affordable classics out on the weekends. Our next best place to find an affordable classic car might not be the most efficient, but it may just be the most fun.

VW bus along Route 66 near Seligman, AZ

VW bus along Route 66 near Seligman, AZ

The drive to the coffee shop or bookstore is never long enough, for me anyway, when I’m in my weekend fun car. One of the most fun ways to enjoy your car is taking it out onto rural back roads with twists and turns, a 55 mile per hour speed limit, and perhaps a good lunch option an hour or so away that you can loosely use as your destination or reason for the drive.

While out on drives like these keep your eyes open for cars parked in the front yards of farm houses with plywood signs leaning up against cars with “4 SALE” painted on them. Some great deals can be found like this, if you’re lucky enough to drive past something that interests you.

During the summers I drive from the Twin Cities down to Road America, a wonderful road racing circuit about an hour north of Milwaukee in Elkhart Lake, WI. I have to cross most of Wisconsin on two lane roads as there is no good interstate route from west to east that gets me to the track. Along this drive I’ve seen some cars worth stopping for. I saw a Volkswagen Beetle, just a standard sedan from the mid 70s, for “$800 obo” painted on the sign leaning against it.

It made me wish I was driving a pick up truck with an empty trailer behind me. The car was orange, one of my favorite period colors for those cars. It was in decent shape, from 20 feet anyway. I couldn’t see any rust, although one would have to assume there was some lurking in the floor boards. The point is, with $800 obo on the sign, you’ve got to think the guy would have given it to me for $500 if I were to take it out of his front yard for him. If he wouldn’t want to take just $500 for it, maybe I could get his wife involved, you know she’d take $500 for it just to make it disappear. At the very least it would have been a fun project to clean up and sell back in the cities where a much larger, urban population could be reached for the sale.

On that same drive over the past few years I’ve seen mostly American cars on the side of the road for sale. Old Ford Mustangs, Corvettes, tons of Camaros in various stages of disassembly, on blocks, with weeds growing up around them. I saw a Porsche 944 Turbo two years ago. Sure, that car probably needed a new turbo and tons of other things, but if you can buy these cars cheap enough, put them on a trailer and take them back to a city you can put them on Craigslist and reach a large audience, or, depending upon the car, put it on eBay and put it out on the national market.

"4 Sale" A potential street rod project along Route 66 in Missouri.

"4 Sale" A potential street rod project along Route 66 in Missouri.

I drove Old Route 66 from Illinois to L.A. a few years ago in a Volkswagen Westfalia, and I have never seen more cool cars just sitting out in fields, parked next to old garages, behind barns. I saw something worth stopping for every day I was on the road during that trip. I’d love to do it again someday with a car trailer.

A lot of the cars you may find this way could have real issues, they could have been seriously neglected, they could be rusty if they’ve been sitting behind the barn for a long time, but there are cars worth pulling out of such circumstances. If you get lucky you might get a look inside a barn or two and see something that might really be worth picking up.

While it isn’t the fastest way to find your next affordable classic, if you keep your eyes peeled while you’re driving the back roads and you get lucky, you could find an incredible deal on a car you wouldn’t have expected to find out in the middle of no where. If you don’t find anything… it was just a nice afternoon lunch at the end of a fun drive. Be sure to take a different way home so you can drive a new route and increase your chances of coming across something interesting parked on the side of the road.

October 26, 2009   1 Comment

The 10 Best Places To Find An Affordable Classic Car Pt 9: Local, Free, Car Classified Magazines

Part IX:  4. Local, Free, Car Classified Magazinesfree-ads-lot

These car classified publications are often overlooked as one of the best places to find affordable classic cars as people walk out of the grocery store. I’m talking about those weekly publications printed on low quality newsprint with blurry photos, typos in the descriptions, full of used car classifieds from local car dealers, franchised dealers all the way down to the bottom feeder dirt lots. Despite their shortcomings, these publications do sometimes contain ads for those affordable classic cars you wouldn’t expect to see in such a publication.

Late model Mercedes-Benz SL, worth a look.

Late model Mercedes-Benz SL, worth a look.

Franchised dealers or run of the mill used car lots get all sorts of trade-ins. These dealers rarely pay much for an older car. Many times they don’t take into account the potential collectibility of a car when putting a price on someone’s trade in. They don’t want to overpay, they’d like to give the customer a safe trade-in value for a car they probably don’t really want anyway. High volume dealers don’t want to be slowed down by “just another old car” and therefore generally offer really low trade-in numbers so they can quickly flip the car without worrying about losing any money on the transaction.

Classic BMW 6 Series, bad wheels, but cheap.

Classic BMW 6 Series, bad wheels, but cheap.

This dynamic opens doors for the savvy buyer who understands these older affordable classic cars. I might be using the term “classic” loosely here. Let’s just say cars with character, special attributes or qualities that might make them good weekend drivers or club cars. There is a lot of junk to sort through in these publications before you find anything remotely interesting. I usually find one to three potentially interesting cars per issue of this sort of publication. It’s this kind of publication where I found the ad for the 1976 BMW 2002 I have been writing about in the Affordable Classic Tales section of the blog.

If you find something interesting you can usually approach a dealer for such a car with a low offer, I mean, go really low, chances are they didn’t pay much for the car. If you’re serious about a particular car be prepared to back up your offer and really be prepared to buy the car if they’ll sell it for your price. A high volume dealer doesn’t want their time wasted, they’d often rather do without any headaches that might arise from selling that 10, 15, or 20 year old car… the needs it may have, the thin market such a car might trade in. Tell them you’ll take it off their hands right then and there, as it is.

Classic VW Beetle Convertible among regular used cars.

Classic VW Beetle Convertible among regular used cars.

Surely they’ll counter your offer, they have to on principle. Go back and forth a couple of times and you’ll quickly be able to tell if they own the car cheap enough to sell it to you for your price. If you have to, give them your phone number and tell them to give you a call if they decide later they want to take your offer. If they actually let you drive away you know you’re offer is too low.

These days, the only way you can leave a dealership without the car you want is if your offer to buy the car is truly a number they cannot live with. Circle back to the dealership if they haven’t called you in 15 minutes and ask them, “Honestly, what will you take for me to get this off your lot right now?”. The next number they give you will be the bottom line number and you can be sure you’re getting it for as low a price as you can. At this point… if you’ve come back a second time, and they’ve given you the bottom line number, on principle, you have to buy the car. If you don’t, you’re just wasting the dealer’s time and your own time kicking tires.

Franchised car dealers put huge amounts of money into advertising their cars for sale. These free publications that are at the exits of grocery and convenience stores are easy to pick up and easy to flip through, sift through the junk to encounter a few gems. Find out from the store manager when the new issues are distributed and swing by to pick them up early. Odd ball trade ins and cars dealers are looking to move quickly are precisely the kinds of affordable classic cars I personally love looking for. They don’t want the hassle of another old car, I don’t want to pay too much. I’m there to make their life easy, they’re looking to move an old car, if done correctly, everybody wins.

October 25, 2009   No Comments

The 10 Best Places To Find An Affordable Classic Car Pt 8: Marque and Model Specific Websites

Part VIII:  5. Marque and Model Specific Websites

We’ve clearly established the fact that the “world wide interweb” has changed our lives forever. Can you even remember what the world was like without it? The car hobby was quite different pre internet. Enthusiasts interacted with each other on a much more local level in general, and when it was time to buy or sell a car you were pretty much at the mercy of print publications, most of which reached fairly local or regional audiences.

Thanks to the internet, car hobbyists from all over the country, and world for that matter, can get together in forums and discuss their cars. Every one of these forums I’ve ever had a look at seems to have a classified or for sale area. Like car club publications, these sorts of classifieds are posted and viewed by enthusiasts actively seeking something specific. The fact that they’re web based means things move quickly, postings are added easily and often, and you can react to them quickly, that’s what makes them the fifth best place to find an affordable classic car.

Web forums exist for just about every car you can imagine. Whether the forum is more broad, geared towards a particular manufacturer, or a specific model, every car seems to have some sort of following. As they say, “there is an ass for every seat” and so too does there seem to be a place on the web for all of those people to discuss the modifications they’ve made to their cars, what’s wrong with their cars, what’s right, and questions about what they should do to fix the most recent problem that’s come up.

Forums, the good ones, can be great places to meet other people that share your passion for a particular car, but perhaps even more importantly, a great place to ask questions and learn about your car, how to fix something if it goes wrong. I’ve been quite impressed with a few forums that I signed up with, here are some I’ve found especially good.

Benzworld.org Classifieds

Benzworld.org Classifieds

Benzworld.org is a very comprehensive Mercedes-Benz enthusiast website with forum sub categories for most Mercedes-Benz models. It’s an extensive site with a general For Sale section, but I’ve noticed some of the specific model areas seem to have their own classified sections, so it’s worth a look around the site to make sure you’ve seen everything there is to see. Whether you’re looking for a whole car or a replacement sun visor for a car you’ve already got, classifieds on benzworld.org are a good place to look. Today alone, more than 20 classifieds were posted on the benzworld.org general classified section. I’m sure within each category there are many more, that’s real activity, no stale classifieds here.

Vintage air cooled Volkswagens, TheSamba.org

Vintage air cooled Volkswagens, TheSamba.org

I came across the best Volkswagen enthusiast site I’ve ever found some years ago when I was looking for a used Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia camper. The Samba.com is an extensive Volkswagen site with forums covering every air cooled Volkswagen ever made. The forums on this site are very active and are moderated by some pretty knowledgeable folks. The classifieds on this site are just as impressive. There are separate categories for all sorts of Volkswagens and new listings appear daily. Today, for example, seven new Vanagon listings were posted. It’s a great place to meet those people who have 12 Volkswagens in their backyard who have decided it’s finally time to sell some of them off. There are always good deals, and interesting cars, at The Samba. Vintage Volkswagens will rarely ever win a drag race, but there are some interesting cars that can be a lot of fun. They’re easy to work on and, relatively speaking, pretty easy on the pocket book.

North American MGB Register, everything B.

North American MGB Register, everything B.

When it comes to affordable British sports cars it’s tough to beat the MGB. Between roadsters and GTs, 4 cylinder cars and V8s, there were more than half a million MGBs built between mid 1962 and 1980. These are great entry level sports cars that offer more fun than their often small price tag would have you believe. The North American MGB Register (namgbr.org) is a website where owners can sign up and register their car, so other hobbyists can keep track of them I suppose. There is a similar site for the MGA, the North American MGA Register (NAMGAR). There are the typical forums with guys talking about their cars in way too much detail…but these are the same guys that will come to your rescue when your car won’t start or when you turn on the lights and the windshield wipers go on. They have a classifieds section where you can find complete cars or the most seemingly insignificant part for your car. Many of the folks on these registries have two, three, or five and a half MGs. These members are generally in tune with the market and are realistic when it comes to their selling prices.

Mazda RX7, all generations, all years.

Mazda RX7, all generations, all years.

When it comes to more modern affordable classics the Mazda RX7 has always interested me. Unconventional rotary engine and unique styling it’s been a cool machine through all of its design changes and different iterations. RX7Club.com is a solid RX7 resource for RX7 owners and enthusiasts. This site splits up the categories between the different generations of RX7s as you would expect. The classifieds are fairly extensive. It looks to me that you may have to sort through quite a few highly modified and non stock cars to get to the good, original stuff, but it is an active community with quite a bit of action on the different forums.

A great Alfa Romeo Resource.

A great Alfa Romeo Resource.

The last website I will mention specifically is the Alfa Bulletin Board (Alfabb.com), a site dedicated to the wonderful cars from Milano, Alfa Romeo. This is a huge Alfa community, as a result, there are lots of good classifieds here. There is something about Alfisti, not unlike MG owners, they can never seem to make due with just one car. At the same time, they can never seem to work on all of their projects very effectively either, so perhaps that’s why there is such a good classified section here. In future articles I plan to review two Alfa Romeo models in particular, the Spider Veloce and the GT V6, both are pretty exotic machines that can be purchased pretty cheap these days. Of course, a cheap purchase price doesn’t mean they’re cheap cars, the purchase price is often merely the price of admission. Good ones are out there, and I think the Alfa Bulletin Board is a good place to find them.

Enthusiast forums exist for just about every make and model of affordable classic car, I’ve simply mentioned a few that I visit regularly. All of these sites will have classifieds sections where these die hard enthusiasts advertise entire cars or parts for them. Unusual model variants often appear on sites such as these. If you’re looking for something specific don’t just look through the classifieds and see if it appears, be sure you throw your hat in the ring and post a “Wanted to Buy” message to the classifieds section. Let people know what you’re looking for. Don’t be shy, folks on these sites are generally happy to help someone looking for a car like theirs. It is important to read the rules of each forum, and be sure to read the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section to see if your question has been answered before, you want to be taken seriously. If you follow their rules and read for a while before you write… like listening for a while before you talk, you’ll be welcomed with open arms and you may just find that affordable classic car you’ve been looking for in their classified section.

October 21, 2009   2 Comments

The 10 Best Places To Find An Affordable Classic Car Pt 7: Market Letters

Part VII:  6. Market Letters

The Market Letter is probably the most unique place to find an affordable classic. These publications are generally only known to true insiders of a particular make or model. The expertise and niche nature of these publications really set them apart from other classified sources or your run of the mill newsstand publications. These publications are essentially publications full of classifieds of a particular make or model of car often mixed with specific market analysis and model information.

The Porsche Market Letter

The Porsche Market Letter

The expertise with which these sorts of publications are put together has no equal. The people who write, assemble and publish these pieces are the true experts in their fields. I am most familiar with two publications in particular. The first is the Porsche Market Letter, boasting close to 1000 Porsche classifieds per issue (printed every two months). The Porsche Market Letter is clearly the publication to look at if you’re serious about a Porsche of any type. Have a look at their extensive website for more information.

SL Market Letter

SL Market Letter

The second publication is the even more specific SL Market Letter. This publication is, as its name implies, specific to the Mercedes-Benz SL, from the 300SLs of the 1950s to the newest, modern SLs, they’re all covered. The SL Market Letter also includes classifieds and market analysis of other Mercedes-Benz models, typically the most collectible models, coupes and specialty sedans. As the SL Market website subscription page states:

“Keep in mind that it would take many magazines, newspapers, and internet-searching hours to gather the “sense of the market” found in ONE issue of the SL Market Letter.”

I would have to agree, the depth of knowledge this publication taps into is vast. Publisher John Olson is also the author and publisher of  “The SL Experience – Five Decades of the Mercedes-Benz SL”. If you’re looking for a collectible Mercedes-Benz there’s no doubt it’s worth subscribing to the SL Market Letter, some wonderful examples show up each month, many of them meeting our “affordable classics” criteria. You can visit the SL Market Letter website for more information or for a look at several sample issues.

Market letters are specialty publications produced for the most serious enthusiasts, collectors and investors and that’s exactly why you should be looking at them as one of the best sources for your next affordable classic. The information contained in these publications can serve you well even after you’ve obtained your affordable classic. While more expensive than a subscription to Hemmings Motor News or Auto Trader Classics market letters reside on an entirely different level in terms of expertise of specific makes and models. In the end, what’s finding the RIGHT car worth to you?

October 20, 2009   No Comments

The 10 Best Places To Find An Affordable Classic Car Pt 6: Marque Club Publications

Part VI:  7. Marque Club Publications

I’ve always believed that joining the car club for the specific make of car you have is a good idea, for a number of reasons. National car clubs are the keepers of the flame for specific car makes. Most have significant histories going back many years, founded by the first enthusiasts who decided to organize, formalizing their passion for their cars. Clubs and their members are probably the best resources available to find a good car, learn more about a car you’ve got, or sell your car when the time comes. porsche-club-panorama

Clubs generally have well developed publications, individual magazines dedicated to that particular marque. These publications chronicle the happenings of individual chapters and the national body. They include things like event reports, car shows, technical articles explaining particular models or mechanical aspects of individual cars or their components. All of these publications include classified sections where members can list cars for sale.

I’m familiar with several of these publications, specifically The Mercedes-Benz Club of America’s (MBCA) “The Star”, the Porsche Club of America’s (PCA) “Panorama”, and the BMW Car Club of America’s (BMWCCA) “Roundel”. The classifieds in the back of each are full of excellent, well cared for examples of classics… some affordable, others, not so much.BMW-Club-Roundel-Magazine

While I believe these publications can be a decent place to find an affordable classic, I also think that the club members listing their cars often think too much of their cars and put huge sale prices on them. It’s probably safe to say that cars owned by club members have been fastidiously maintained and cared for, wiped down with a soft cloth often no doubt, but be careful to not overpay just because someone thinks their 1969 Porsche 912 is the finest example on the planet.The-Star-Mercedes-Benz-Club

I was looking through the classifieds in a recent issue of “The Star” and saw some very high prices and phrases like “Best in the U.S.”, “Mint”, “Excellent Condition”. I’m sure a lot of these cars are in great shape… but best in the U.S.? Going back and looking at the previous issue, and the issue before that, I saw the same car, same description, same insane price. The Star is published every two months… so this guy has listed his car for six months with no takers (It’s a 1976 450SLC, the coupe will never have the appeal of the roadsters). I’m sure it’s a fine car, but the market doesn’t seem to think it’s worth the $17,000 he’s asking for it even if with its 58,000 original miles.

Classifieds in these publications can be a great place to find some of the lowest mileage and nicest cars of their kind in the country, obsessed over by true marque enthusiasts, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence and try to get a great deal. If you’re going to pay up for a great car, make sure the seller can produce records, receipts and documentation for any work they’re claiming has been done to the car.

I think joining the local chapter of any national marque car club is a great idea. It will put you in touch with people who share your passion. It will open up opportunities for social events as well as track events were you can learn to drive your car to the limit of its ability… or at least to the limit of your ability. You’ll automatically start receiving the club’s national magazine and you’ll have access to quality classifieds and be privy to inside information regarding the marque. If you do join a club, make sure all the people in your local club know if you’re looking for something specific. One of them just might know where to find that BMW 3.0 CS project you’ve been looking for!

October 18, 2009   No Comments