Can I Still Afford This Hobby?



April 09, 2012

Feel like restoration and routine maintenance are pricing you right out of the hobby? The Historic Vehicle Association feels your pain. Check out these tips to make your garage dollars go just a little bit further.

In last month’s issue of the HVA eNews, many members took the time to comment on an article that examined the growing trend of vehicle preservation.  In the piece, entitled To Restore or Not to Restore, the floundering economy was cited as one possible reason to explain why more people than ever are leaving vehicles in a “rough original” state rather than going to the expense of totally restoring them.

Everybody Does It

It can be hard to justify all the money spent on something that most folks consider a hobby. One of the facts revealed in an economic impact study commissioned by the Historic Vehicle Association in 2010 found that people spent an average of $8,770 every year on general vehicle costs related to restoration, repair, parts, and maintenance. Historic vehicle enthusiasts spend an average of $2,734 annually at professional auto shops—not surprising when you consider that the average hourly rate for a professional restorer is around 75 dollars.

A good rule of thumb, so say the experts, is to figure that a full vehicle restoration job will take around 1,000 hours. Since the average collector car value is less than $30,000, naturally one has to consider if it’s worth paying a professional $75,000 to restore one.

While frame-off restorations have been the popular movement for the last 50 years, the mindset that this is the only option is becoming somewhat a thing of the past. There are many reasons for “survivor” vehicles gaining popularity—from their increasing rarity to the stories they tell—but here we explore some ways you can make restoring a vehicle a little more pocketbook-friendly.

Keep It Real

Think about what it will take for you to feel you can enjoy the car. For some people, that may mean a frame-off restoration. But for others, it’s using all the original parts you can and calling it good when you have a reliable driver. Once you have that picture in mind, plan accordingly.                    

Do Your Research

As part of your project plan (every restoration job should have one), take the time to meticulously research every facet of the vehicle you hope to restore. It’ll pay off in savings later. Use the internet to connect with people who have undertaken similar projects and find out everything you can about their experience—from leads on parts, or even a parts car, to tips and tricks to solve problems unique to your preferred make and model.

Join a Club

Consider it as essential as doing your research. Restoring a vehicle is a monumental task; you’re going to have questions along the way. If you join a club and make some friends, answers and money-saving advice are generally free and just a phone call away. Clubs are also great places to get some hands-on help. Clubs offer resources such a parts and service directories and online discussion boards where you can even trade or barter with other members to get a specific job done.

Consider the Possibilities

It’s pretty incredible what you can find on eBay and in the classifieds, so resist the siren’s song of parts catalogs. Anyone can pick up the phone and order parts that they need from a catalog, but this may not be the best way to get the job done. Sometimes there’s no other way and it makes sense; just don’t get caught up in the ease of using a catalog. Repairing rather than replacing can be a better choice not only for originality’s sake, but also for your wallet.

Take Your Time

Rome was not built in a day and neither will your vehicle be restored. Vehicle restorations are not normally a quick or easy process, especially if you are doing a majority of the work yourself. Remember to keep a fluid “timeline for completion” and, if you run into a roadblock, take a step back and regroup. Hasty decisions just to get the job done can be costly, so be patient, anticipate setbacks, and stay focused on completing one facet of the project at a time. 

What is the best piece of advice you can offer to save some dough on your old vehicle? Log your comments below or over at the HVA’s Facebook page, then look in a future issue of the HVA eNews for a “top 10 list” of the best reader tips and responses.    

 

Comments

  1. Mark Mederski Columbus, Ohio

    Keeping a vehicle, motorcycles in my case, original/unrestored has little to do with budget and everything to do with what's right.....in some collectors' opinions. We can take a page from those who care for old oil paintings and fine wood case furniture from the 18th Century. While there was a time when fairly aggressive approaches to stripping and refinishing fine art and decorative art objects was approved of, curators and conservators eventually learned that with the removal of patina they also lost real evidence of real original surfaces of these objects. And they lost evidence of wear, and sometimes originality. (A stripped and refinished auto or motorcycle is harder to appraise for correctness than an original one.) My selections in motorcycles, mostly produced in the 1950's and 1960's have for the past 20 years favored machines that are still completely original paint, plating, upholstery, even tires in some cases. If you wait, search a little longer you will probably come across such a machine. Until recently original unrestored motorcycles were cheaper than correctly restored bikes, but that is beginning to shift. Just like a Chippendale High Boy chest that has been stripped and refinished and screams shiny and new now drives customers back a few feet, and motorcycle that is nicely preserved yet shows honest wear is smiled at, and invites its audience in for a closer look at its honest aged appearance, makes one marvel at its condition. We owe it to future generations to leave some cars and bikes alone, leave them some originals to study. Of course it's more difficult to carefully clean and polish and original bike or car, judging where to stop and such, but worth the effort. And by the way, Hemmings Sports and Exotics magazine has been doing some nice stories around original cars lately. MM

  2. John Ilg N. Chatham, Ma 02650

    I came into possession if a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, 2 Dr Hardtop that was restored in1995 and purchased by my wife's late husband in 1996 a year before he died. After examining all his and my service costs to the present date, 2012, it is obvious that each few years the repair cost increased considerably do to parts inflation and increasing labor costs. I have been very fortunate to have a very reliable mechanic to perform the difficult parts of service and replacement I cannot do myself. One thing I have learned is that," this is a young to middle aged hobby". I know many will disagree but, life changes as one gets up there in age as do values. I have found that the older you get the less you drive the toy and it tends to have silly little problems with your cost going up as you drive it less . So, remember the fun you had with it and sell it to someone who can continue to drive it while it is in good shape. Just a few comments on my past enjoyable years with the Black Beauty.

  3. Joe Essid Richmond, VA

    I focus on keeping our '68 C-10 truck looking good and running well. I don't worry about winning any awards, except praise from my wife who loves to drive the truck. I keep some advice in mind from a collector I encountered in the "Old Cars" weekly: buy your classic a Christmas present every year, beyond what you spend on safety and repairs. So this year the '68 got new weatherstripping; two years ago, a new dome lamp. Those are cheap and keep one's hand in the hobby. I just don't have the time or money for a pristine restoration and prefer "drivers" and more common classics that don't make me lose sleep at night.

  4. Thomas Pettie Corinth, Ms.

    We (my wife & I) have a 1956 Imperial. Twelve years ago we were on Alabama gulf coast and had a single car accident. Car suffered damage to right rear corner: not severe, bumper bent , corner of quarter crunched, and damage to trunk pan--spare tire wheel well area. Being fairly new to the hobbie, I VERY foolishly insured with underwriter of family car. End result was next to no coverage or support from underwriter. The delay was long causing car to deteriorate . The car sat outside in full southern heat and sun for several months. I was told car was in covered storage. I was stupid enough to believe and did not go to area to see. End result was doing total repaint, paint damage from exposure, re-chrome for same reason, new correct upholstery and carpet. This had to be done to bring car back to condition at time of accident. It is no longer oregional and cost a large fortune to get back to look at time of accident. Do not restore if not necessary!!

  5. george Arizona

    Did anyone else notice how this piece started out with the redundant paragraphs? Copy and paste articles leave something horrible behind if the write isn't proof reading..

  6. Robert Meek Madison, Alabama

    Restoring a classic or muscle car is an expensive venture. As your artilce states, there are ways to economize the cost as well as some hard lessons learned as you move through your project. Several lessons learned from going through two car projects. 1. Do your home work on the shops you are planning to use to ensure the result of their end products 2. Quality paint jobs are expensive but are well worth the money spent. It is the first thing that is observed at shows and cruises. 3. After market parts don't always have the fit and finish of the origiinal parts, reuse as many of the origiinal parts as you can. 4. If you are working to a shop's estimate of cost for your budget, plan for contingency cost because there will be unexpected discoveries as prep work progesses. There are a lot of cars sitting in shops that were started with good intentions based on estimates only to encounter the unexpected that impacted planned budgets with no contigency. 5. If you are buying and providing parts to a shop, devise a way to manage the supply of these costly parts to prevent them being lost or pilfered. 6. Keep a constant check on the progress of the project in a shop. This will ensure that the money being paid is resulting in a satisfactory completion timeline. Be sure you understand and have in writing how a shop expects to recieve progress payments for completed phases of work on the project. 7. Know that after you complete a project and time ebbs on, there will be things that happen to your restored classic whether she is a trailer queen or she is driven. The hobby has ongoing cost that impact you descretionary budget whether it is entry fees at shows, operating cost to drive and maintain, travel cost for long distance cruises, insurance, club dues, etc. Just know you might not ever realize the return on the investment if you go overboard with project cost. 8. A trade off of high dollar investing in a restoration project may be to find a car that is already been done that someone has a need to sell. This is a consideration for those that think that they want to get into a project but in reality will never have time based on their career schedule. This will avoid the frustration of never finding the time to complete a project car. In most cases you will be money ahead.

  7. Alex Ford Simi Valley, Ca., USA

    Some cars and motorcycles should be original and unrestored and others should not. It is not one way or another. Take a 1972 Long hood Porsche 911 T with S gauges, brakes and suspension as ordered from the factory in special order color: black. Why not strip it from black and paint it silver if it suits you? Sacrilege you say? And, you'd be right, if it weren't for the fact that the engine was stolen some 15-20 years ago and has never turned up. So now what to do? The car still has it's authentic five-speed transmission but not it's rear window and seats, also stolen. Changes the picture, doesn't it. Even if one makes the entire car period correct and shows the car and looks for original value, why not make the car a hot rod. Select a more striking color. Put a 2.9 RS spec mechanical fuel injection motor based upon a 2.4 engine block. Don't worry if the 2.4 is a 72 or a 73. Add a limited slip differential. Put some great and comfortable seats in good for a race day or just a cruise or a trip of 800 miles per leg. Add a great radio/stereo/mp3 player. No one but their budget can say for sure what car should be preserved as close to original or taken to another step. Now for a gold-colored Ferrari 328 GTS....another story-Zioo

  8. mike montgomery elkhart,IN

    I was in a quandry about leaving our car from 1950 original or restore it.It came down to wanting to drive it & not let it sit.I have owned it since 1973 & occasionally got it running & drove it not to far from our house.The body was rust free,but paint was literally falling off the car. Since it was stored so much, the rear main seal gave way & the anti-freeze,despite being changed periodically, "crystalized" & caused the passageways to be particially blocked.Thus,causing overheating problems. I never had the $ to restore it. Now,in retirement,it has been stripped & repainted its original color & is now having the engine reassembled after it was dipped & cleaned. It was a low-mileaged original (21,000), but I couldn't trust it to drive anywhere.As my wife said,either drive it & enjoy it ,or sell it. I want to drive it.

  9. mike montgomery elkhart,IN

    I was in a quandry about leaving our car from 1950 original or restore it.It came down to wanting to drive it & not let it sit.I have owned it since 1973 & occasionally got it running & drove it not to far from our house.The body was rust free,but paint was literally falling off the car. Since it was stored so much, the rear main seal gave way & the anti-freeze,despite being changed periodically, "crystalized" & caused the passageways to be particially blocked.Thus,causing overheating problems. I never had the $ to restore it. Now,in retirement,it has been stripped & repainted its original color & is now having the engine reassembled after it was dipped & cleaned. It was a low-mileaged original (21,000), but I couldn't trust it to drive anywhere.As my wife said,either drive it & enjoy it ,or sell it. I want to drive it.

  10. jay salser Texas-near Dallas

    I tell all who propose a restoration to consider all aspects before even purchasing a vehicle. Some want to rush to purchase a vehicle without considering that by "building a war chest" (saving funds for a better car) they may save big bucks in the long run. A vehicle in better condition may cost more at the outset but can save a lot of headaches and money during the process because--it is in better condition and has all of its parts. I find that rushing to buy a car to restore is probably the biggest and most common mistake by would-be restorationists. jay in texas

  11. Tiny Alger, Michigan

    I bought a 1969 chevy nova back in 2000, I've put a high performance motor in it, new trans, rebilt rear end, and some cosmedics, it could use a paint job down the road a ways, but still looks pretty good, I've had it up for sale for two years since I retired, but I'm not giving it away, I enjoy driving it and will continue to do so, if it sells fine, if not I'll see you on the road.

  12. Hank FL - FLORIDA

    I purchased my '87 560 SL off e-bay, sight unseen. Foolish you say. Perhaps. The car had an depth inspection from a Benz dealer so I felt comfortable proceeding with the purchase. I guess I lucked out. The automobile is in beautiful almost unused condition. All parts match, beautiful original paint, lightly worn interior and it drives like a dream. Problems have been ordinary wear and tear mechanical. After comparing dealer vs. independent repair costs I went with the Benz dealer. The only aesthetic thing I considered was painting the wheels since they show the maximum wear. But after reflection I felt doing this would make the painting obvious and the wheels out of keeping with the remainder of the car. As a result I have a nicely preserved classic automobile. The biggest Carfax knock on the car was that it had five previous owners. I have many of the original service records but have been unable to secure them all, leaving me with some gaps. Dealers site the Federal privacy laws as their reason for refusal to release service records without the owners approval, some of which I have secured. But finding them all has, so far, been a challenge.

  13. Steve cross plains wi

    I have been in the auto repair business most of my life and I am always amazed at what it costs to restore a car. I have to many collector vehicles some are show quality and some are drivers and I have one survivor. One of the drivers was restored back 25 years ago and belonged to a family freind. It was in poor condition when I found it 11 years after his passing but with alot of elbow grease I managed to bring her back to life and now it is one of my favorites. It get the most use and in good weather I drive it almost every day of our short season.I have considered redoing the car but it is fun just the way it is.

  14. Craig California - Bay Area

    My advise for someone looking for a car is as Jay from Texas said - buy the best car you can up front, as you will be dollars ahead in the long run in lower hassle and restoration cost. Secondly, I consider my car a rolling restoration. I have been working on it since 2003, and each year I budget enough to tackle another area of the car while still enjoying and driving it to shows and events. I started with the body, paint and chrome work, which was the largest up front expense in the process, but has the biggest impact on making the vehicle presentable. The mechanicals came next, but it was not until this year that I pulled the motor again and completed the engine compartment restoration complete with new/OEM replica wiring harness and everything else correct. The interior is acceptable, but not in restored condition. That will be a project for next year. My view is that if I drive and enjoy my classic car, not just work on it and look at it sitting in the garage, my ownership experience will be more satisfying.

  15. Craig California - Bay Area

    My advise for someone looking for a car is as Jay from Texas said - buy the best car you can up front, as you will be dollars ahead in the long run in lower hassle and restoration cost. Secondly, I consider my car a rolling restoration. I have been working on it since 2003, and each year I budget enough to tackle another area of the car while still enjoying and driving it to shows and events. I started with the body, paint and chrome work, which was the largest up front expense in the process, but has the biggest impact on making the vehicle presentable. The mechanicals came next, but it was not until this year that I pulled the motor again and completed the engine compartment restoration complete with new/OEM replica wiring harness and everything else correct. The interior is acceptable, but not in restored condition. That will be a project for next year. My view is that if I drive and enjoy my classic car, not just work on it and look at it sitting in the garage, my ownership experience will be more satisfying.

  16. Ben Stratford, Ct.

    I have my 1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7 convertible from high school. Bought it back in 1975. Dumped over 35K plus endless hours of labor. Never did a full resto on it. Not sure I will ever get my money back. It sure did keep me busy over the years. I guess thats a good thing. I love the car. I am always the only one with a car of this type. Dont have the heart to sell it. She sleeps next to her sister my Jaguar XK-8 Coupe in Sapphire Blue. They make a stunning pair! Happy Motoring!!!! Paintxpert

  17. Chad Winston-Salem, NC

    I agree wholeheartedly with the thought of "calling it good" based on your own personal presences. I have only had my '69 MG Midget for a couple of years and it was already basically restored. But it still needed a lot of little improvements. Over time, I have made some modifications to make it what I feel to be "right" for me, but those improvements have to be balanced by actual engine and mechanical repair, some of which cannot be anticipated. I just finished a complete engine rebuild which didn't cost as much money as I anticipated but it took a long time. I now am also going to set a certain amount of money aside every month to save and or spend on the car. Restoration investments also should be based on the end goal: whether you keeping the car forever or looking to sell it one day will impact how much you spend and how true you stay to the original.

  18. Cinthia in most states, you caonnt buy a vehicle until you are 18. you can provide the money, but it would have to be in a parent's name. as for the cost of insurance, it depends on the make and model and year of the vehicle. a newer vehicle will be more expensive due to the additional coverages you would want such as comprehensive and collision as well as liability. if an older vehicle, it may be too expensive to purchase collision and/or comprehensive so you would just get liability. rates will vary from company to company with some being cheaper than others. also, if you have drivers education you can get a discount on liability, as well as for drug education, and multi-car discounts on your parent's insurance.rather than buying a seperate policy, get it on your parents policy and you will be rated on their vehicle so you can drive it as well, though you inform the insurance company that you have a seperate vehicle that you will drive.don't buy a car just to learn to be a better driver, but so you will have your own car. driving it will give you the advantage of getting more experience as well as provide you seperate transportation.

    in most states, you caonnt buy a vehicle until you are 18. you can provide the money, but it would have to be in a parent's name. as for the cost of insurance, it depends on the make and model and year of the vehicle. a newer vehicle will be more expensive due to the additional coverages you would want such as comprehensive and collision as well as liability. if an older vehicle, it may be too expensive to purchase collision and/or comprehensive so you would just get liability. rates will vary from company to company with some being cheaper than others. also, if you have drivers education you can get a discount on liability, as well as for drug education, and multi-car discounts on your parent's insurance.rather than buying a seperate policy, get it on your parents policy and you will be rated on their vehicle so you can drive it as well, though you inform the insurance company that you have a seperate vehicle that you will drive.don't buy a car just to learn to be a better driver, but so you will have your own car. driving it will give you the advantage of getting more experience as well as provide you seperate transportation.

  19. Jenny Hi my name is Evan Mayo, I am the developer of a sowtafre title called The Complete Motown Software, which took a number of years to develop. It is a compendium of the history of Motown music/artist/labels/recordings. During that development time I had also collected a number of obscure albums. One of which I think might be of interest. Rev. Columbus Mann He Satisfies Me Wingate Records WG-701Tracks:Family PrayerLove The Father Has For MeHe Satisfies Me/I Can't Sit DownAmen Amen/Just Believe (Salvation is Free)Oh JoshuaIt's Worth It AllJoy BellsThis album was recorded after his Motown recordings and the only LP recorded on the Ed Wingate's Wingate label. Ed's other labels such as Ric-Tic, Golden World each only produced a singular LP. And their J&W label producing none.Back to the initial matter. Would it be possible to LOAN the LP to Baylor so that you could record the music and add to the BGMRP collection? Wanting to loan and not donate, because it was a rare find, and obscure LP valued at over $200. the LP and cover is clean and had not been played by me since acquiring over 2 years ago (not wanting to risk damage or wear). Please let me know, I am emptying my collection on eBay shortly.Evan MayoCharlotte, NC

    Hi my name is Evan Mayo, I am the developer of a sowtafre title called The Complete Motown Software, which took a number of years to develop. It is a compendium of the history of Motown music/artist/labels/recordings. During that development time I had also collected a number of obscure albums. One of which I think might be of interest. Rev. Columbus Mann He Satisfies Me Wingate Records WG-701Tracks:Family PrayerLove The Father Has For MeHe Satisfies Me/I Can't Sit DownAmen Amen/Just Believe (Salvation is Free)Oh JoshuaIt's Worth It AllJoy BellsThis album was recorded after his Motown recordings and the only LP recorded on the Ed Wingate's Wingate label. Ed's other labels such as Ric-Tic, Golden World each only produced a singular LP. And their J&W label producing none.Back to the initial matter. Would it be possible to LOAN the LP to Baylor so that you could record the music and add to the BGMRP collection? Wanting to loan and not donate, because it was a rare find, and obscure LP valued at over $200. the LP and cover is clean and had not been played by me since acquiring over 2 years ago (not wanting to risk damage or wear). Please let me know, I am emptying my collection on eBay shortly.Evan MayoCharlotte, NC

  20. Charlie Buhl Herndon, VA

    I got into the hobby with a 50-footer '66 Mustang I bought 20 years ago, put a painful amount of money in, and ended up with not much more than I bought. My second Mustang was a '66 coupe that was an excellent amateur restoration, but more importantly, all original and a California car lo mileage with almost everything original or NOS. I don't do mechanical work, I buy it from trusted friends in the hobby. I now own the '66, and also a '65 K-code (hi performance) fastback which was in perfect condition when I bought it. The nice thing about thorough restoration to original specs is once its done, the cars are almost always durable and simple mechanically, and you can enjoy them a long time spending just a little money after the big money's spent. My hobby rules are as was previously stated -- buy the most you can, don't expect to make a killing by repairing it yourself. Original or new old stock parts work while reproduction parts will let you down. The new hobbyist needs to know what he's in it for -- speed, originality, the "wow" factor, whatever. Unless you're in it full time as a business, you won't make money on your classic, but you'll enjoy it. Charlie

  21. Kente I'm with Cowboy Bill on this one They're awful. The auto gearbox is hoeeplss, the engine is pitiful, the handling borders on frightening, there's only 2 seats and practically no boot space.Plus, they were designed to be parked head-on to the kerb, so you could get them in a small space but I've not once seen one that hasn't been occupying an entire parking space to itself ..

    I'm with Cowboy Bill on this one They're awful. The auto gearbox is hoeeplss, the engine is pitiful, the handling borders on frightening, there's only 2 seats and practically no boot space.Plus, they were designed to be parked head-on to the kerb, so you could get them in a small space but I've not once seen one that hasn't been occupying an entire parking space to itself ..