Buying a used car can be a tricky task. Obviously without knowing the previous owner, it can be difficult to determine the vehicle’s history and overall shape, leaving many stuck in the “buyer beware” gray area and stranded on the side of the road after unknowingly purchasing someone elses problem. Buying a classic car to build a Lowrider is a whole other saga as we’re often dealing with cars that are 40, 50, and sometimes 60 years old! No “Carfax” report is going to help you now! The truth of the matter is that there are some similarities when buying a Lowrider in comparison to a newer car, but in our world the nature of the beast is a little different. Obviously we are building project cars in most cases so while the daily driver questions aren’t as applicable with antiques and classics, the questions you need to ask yourself are many. Does the car need more work that I can give it? How much rust is it suffering from? Does the vehicle have a clean title? Do the numbers match? Has the car been rewired? Was the suspension altered in any way? All of these are relevant questions for you to consider when deciding to search for the perfect project car. Having the records and car history for older cars is usually a plus, but condition and parts availability are key factors that will help you determine whether you can afford to take on the project or not.
Times have changed since the years past in which we all waited for the newspaper classified sections, the “Recycler” and “The Penny Saver” to see what kind of vintage autos were available on the market. Today, we have a wonderful resource on the Internet, which can link us to websites like eBay and Craigslist, where buyers and sellers can meet at the click of a button. These sites also allow for more comprehensive photos, giving buyers a more clear sense of the shape of the vehicles for sale. We still have print classifieds today, but they pale in comparison to their heydays, as the convenience of the Internet sites have taken priority. The Internet also allows us to find cars in different states and in different conditions, making it a bit easier to find highly sought after cars and determine the going market values for different makes and models, depending on condition. Location plays a huge part in vehicle supply and demand as the states with snow and humidity usually have the cars with the rusted floors, thanks to the salt that was thrown on the road to melt the ice and snow. Cars from dry states like California, Arizona, and Nevada are usually the most sought after in the restoration market.
Some builders love the hunt; there’s simply nothing like finding that diamond in the rough for a great price. A few weeks ago, we set out on a quest to find a second generation Impala/Caprice, and the search began with Craigslist. We found the car’s county location and headed out to take a look at it. When we got to the shop that had the car listed, we realized the price was good but that it was too much of a project for what we were looking for. We packed up and left on another lead that we had found. This hunt went from dream to nightmare as the car was completely disassembled and in a thousand pieces. After realizing that the car had several parts that were not available from aftermarket manufactures, we realized that it was going to cost us twice as much to build. We offered a fair price anyway, but it was declined, so we packed up and left to check out our last lead. When we arrived our nightmare continued, and the situation had actually gone from bad to worse! This car had been listed on Craigslist using all the right keywords, but what we found was a car that might as well have been returned to the junkyard that it was pulled from. Our search totals were as follows; one day, three different counties, 180 miles of driving, and zero to show for it. We did gain a lesson learned, and that is that the hunts or excursions can still be just as frustrating as they were in the past. Supply and demand are still the key factors that can drive the price of your project car into a the right investment.
Just a few years ago, if you found a $1,000 car it was a deal. Usually the body would have been in halfway decent condition and in most cases, the car would be running. In today’s economy, that same car would be $2,500 and it might not be a driver. Simply put, the lower the price range, the more diligent you should be when inspecting the car you want to buy. These vehicles are the cars that need more work to get them back on the road. Don’t be discouraged, however. There are still deals out there that you can look up to find the car you want without even having to haggle on the asking price.
When looking for a car you need to rely on two things patience and timing. I have often found cars when I wasn’t looking for them; sometimes they just seem to pop up. If you’re looking into getting your feet wet with a newer Lowrider, you should take the approach as if you were buying a used car. If you’re looking for an older car, you have other questions to take into consideration. Regardless of genre, this column can help you find the perfect Lowrider project car for your taste and budget. To be continued.
1. You will be surprised to learn that one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure.
2. We found this Impala that somebody had given up on. With no frame or trim, this shell was only worth its weight in parts.
3. The cars are still out there; this Caprice was a good find if you wanted a driver.
4. Whether a car or a truck, you will find cars in different conditions and in different states.
5. When you find this many cars in one place, you know the person that has them knows what they have and you will be paying top dollar.
6. Sometimes you can find good project cars at automotive swap meets or car shows.
7. In these tough economic times, unfinished projects can be great starts for someone else. People usually abandon builds because of money or a lack of interest.
8. When we spotted this $1,000 Monte Carlo it looked good. It was taken apart but everything was still in the vehicle.
9. This car had vinyl at one time and had some minor rust patching to do.
10. The owner had started to take the car down to metal.
11. The hoods on these cars are so long and were known to buckle from their own weight. This particular car didn’t have that problem.
12. Doing a walk around will let you see the potential problems that the car might have.
13. This engine had not been tampered with and was as stock as can be. When it came time to crank the engine, it did turn over but it still needed to be overhauled.
14. The interior on this was rough but could still be revitalized.
15. The dash was complete and not altered.
16. As you can see, all of the parts were inside the car.
17. The trunk lid was cherry and didn’t need much to get back to normal.
18. When we spotted the license plate, we realized that this car had not been registered for some years and that it might have several fees.
19. All of the trim was accounted for.
20. This was another good find, a 1979 Lincoln.
21. This car was running and was parked because of gas prices.
22. The only thing wrong on this original-owner Lincoln was the minor rust around the vinyl.
23. This Impala was ready to be bought but with a missing hood, it was going to be a tough sell. No one really has parts for this car and to replace the hood, you might be paying as much as what the car is worth.
24. This was a good 80s starter car that somebody had been working on and ran out of money. These types of deals are still out there you just need to be patient and be ready to pull the trigger when you find your deal.