"It Has Just One Small Rust Spot:" The Old Car Decoder
You have decided to jump headfirst into the old car game, and you are anxious to pull the trigger on the process by buying a four-wheeled blast from the past. Ahead lays a very cruel path of pain and disappointment if you make a bad decision.
The initial purchase price may be well within the price range of most car guys, thus many of them may begin to get buck fever about the vehicle. This is the exact point where emotion might blind side common sense, and where a car guy finds himself to be the proud owner of a four-wheeled nightmarish money pit.
The first step is to truly understand the consequences of an old car purchase.
You are buying a vehicle that has done its time on the road, it may now simply deserve a dignified send-off before it faces the crusher.
However, its current owner may see the old relic in a completely different light. This is the time of year when guys start to believe that their rusty pile of junk is worth its weight in platinum, because the “very same car” went for huge bucks at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale.
That “very same car” was a very rare and mint low production car from the same make and year. It was formerly owned by Elvis. The seller with the rusted-out factory cousin will connect the two vehicles like four-wheeled Siamese twins, and price it accordingly,
Here is an actual interpretation of the sales pitch language for old cars:
“One small rust spot” means a car that is 95% rust, and the owner is pitching a minor touch up on the paint scheme.
“Needs some work” means that the old war pony is going to need a crack team of bodymen, fabricators, mechanics, a priest and a flat out miracle to save the vehicle.
“Runs” means the guy is running gas through a rubber line from an elevated glass bottle to bypass a rusted-out gas tank and non-pumping fuel pump.
“Original interior” means that the car has become a self-governing rodent metropolis united in an ungodly stench and divided only by the front and back seat.
“Numbers matching” usually indicates a stuck engine or blown transmission.
“Good rubber” means that three of the four flats on the car will probably take air.
“Second Owner” is part of the new math program in which second means every number after five.
“Handyman’s special” is rust with a stuck engine. It has five chrome trim pieces that may be salvageable before it gets squashed in a final act of mercy.
“Slight miss in motor” means at least two cylinders are completely and expensively dead.
“Slight noise in rear end” means a complete differential re-build.
“Everything works” is code that indicates almost half of everything works on the vehicle.
“Slight overheating problem” is a cracked block.
“Brakes work” means a complete brake overhaul.
“Drive anywhere” means bring a trailer.
“Good glass” means that the windshield crack runs slightly below the driver’s line of vision.
“Always stored inside” means mostly stored outside.
“Never smoked in” means never smoked in since it was parked in a pasture 30 years ago.
For more of J Sutherland’s work go to mystarcollectorcar.com
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I have seen their show. I will concede that their finished products look like rush jobs and they cast few illusions about the quality of the finished product as a low end auction-ready commodity.
I met a guy driving a 1966 Impala SS. He said the body was straight but the chassis and drive train were gone when he bought it, and he had the body mounted on a 2010 Silverado chassis - the wheelbase, track and hard points were that close. He ventured the opinion that GM has been making the '65-'71 119" wheelbase chassis all along, using it for Chevy and GMC trucks. That must be the best of both worlds, a classic body on modern underpinnings.