Many of us dream of owning a classic car, and many are now surprisingly available, especially later classic models between the 1970’s up to the millennium.
If you fancy spending your Sunday afternoons in a Ford Corina MkII, a Mazda RX7, or a Ford Mustang, then you will probably find many good examples of these and others quite readily available. But before you part with good money, make sure that you do your background checks and don’t end up with something other than you expected.
A classic car is an investment that will increase in value, but only if it is a pure-bred model. If you buy something that is either not the real deal or has had non-standard parts added, then you risk losing out on its true worth.
Once you have identified the car model that you would like, carry out exhaustive research on it and try to understand common faults with them. This will help you identify if there are any recurring problems that the car may have and, crucially, any parts that were commonly replaced, which may detract from the originality of the car, and thus its value.
Look for service history
Any car of age will have had service work done on it, and most – if not all – of it should be recorded. Most owners will keep that paperwork and you will be able to see everything that has happened to the car. Similarly, there should be a chain of yearly test certificates, which will show the mileage at each test and will also highlight any advisory issues, such as brakes being near limits and rusting problems.
This is where engine and chassis number prove invaluable, and the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) becomes important.
The VIN wasn’t standardised on cars until the 1980’s but almost all older cars still have a unique identifier that can be used to trace it and go a long way to establishing its authenticity. The standardisation meant that the VIN was located in a common area under the bonnet or visible through the windscreen, but on older cars it may be attached to the inside of the driver’s door, or under the steering column.
Once you have the number, there are several online resources as well as Government agencies that can help you establish the identity and background of your vehicle. Old cars can have a lot of secrets and a hidden past, but this is one good way to make sure you find out most before buying.
Examine the car
Once you have found your car, don’t just buy it. This is a vehicle that you are likely to want to keep and cherish for many years so you need to ensure that it is sound and not likely to cost you a fortune in repairs.
You will need to carefully examine the car, paying particular attention to any rust that might be there – including the underside – and the addition of other materials such as filler, which might suggest that the car has been in an accident or damaged.
Rust is fairly apparent, but areas of filler can be found using a magnet. If a magnet won’t stick to the car -assuming that it’s not a fibre-glass body such as on a Reliant Scimitar – then it may indicate that there is filler there.
Check the suspension by pushing down on it, and examine the engine for oil leaks and its general condition. Remember to also inspect parts of the steering system. You should be looking for signs of wear on bearings and the condition of rubber gaiters, designed to keep dirt and water out.
If you take proper precautions, you could end up with a car that will be your pride for many years, get it wrong and it could all end badly.
This article was submitted by our contributor Emma Lee