Advice for Buying a Quality Car

By Laura

“There goes a 1964 Chevy Impala” or “That’s a 1966 Mustang right there. My car used to beat cars like that all day long back when I was racing,” are typical phrases that my dad, Charlie Gee, has always said. Anytime we go anywhere and see even the tiniest glimpse of a car he can tell you what make/model it is and most likely has a pretty cool story to go along with it. Instead of racing cars, he’s more into showing the now. He loves going to car shows, watching auctions like Barrett-Jackson on television, and fixing up his own classics. Today he generously shared some of his tips on how to make sure you’re purchasing a good classic car that isn’t money pit.

His first bit of advice: DO NOT be impulsive. “Don’t purchase a car based on your first impression of it because looks can be deceiving and don’t buy the first car you see,” was the first sentence that he said when I asked him if he’d give me some tips on trying to purchase a classic vehicle. It’s easy to find something online, in a newspaper, or even drive by and see a vehicle that “looks cool” and is a make/model that you like. You’ve got to really look at a car and investigate it before you let yourself even get slightly interested in purchasing a car.

A picture of my car-expert dad and me!

Many cars are 30 footers…you know…from 30 feet away they look really good, then you get up next to and you start seeing all the defects.” Up close is when you see the dings, rust spots, and scratches. It’s these “30 footers” that you’ll find cheap that you’ll probably have to end up spending a lot of money on. You want to (at least) look for a “10 footer” where things look pretty good even when you’re closer. To get these cars show quality, you’ll still have to shell out some cash, but if you just want a neat car to drive around, a 10 footer is a better bet to buy if you don’t want to break the bank. Even if you want to get a project car, make sure the project you’re getting isn’t bigger than you can handle.

“Shine a flash light down the sides of the car. The light will show you where any bumps, dents, or imperfections are.”

Next, even if the person tells you the car drives just fine, test it yourself. “Always test drive a car if it says it is in running condition and take the car somewhere that has a lift to left professional mechanics give you their opinion of the vehicle.” You might have to pay for an evaluation, it is worth it to get a car up on a lift and really check it out. Have the mechanic give you their professional opinions on how all of the car’s components look.

Lastly, “look for tin worms.” Tin worms are rust holes and rust damage. You can find these anywhere on the car, but the first places you’ll usually see them pop up is near the

These curious car show men won't find any "tin worms" on this SS 396.

bottom of the car where salt, water,and debris from the roads can damage the car. Even if you don’t see any visible “tin worms,” it doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been rust damage before. There are a couple of ways to check for this: 1) go under the car with a flashlight and a screwdriver and lightly tap around. You’ll want to hear a “ring ring” of the metal on metal sound. If you hear a “plack plack,” then you’ve hit a spot that has been repaired by car body putty. 2) Hold a magnet in the palm of your hang and wave it all over close to the car. If you don’t feel pull of the magnet to the car, then you’ve hit an area that has been filled in with putty.

I’ll end this for today. He shared a weeks worth of information in about 20 minutes today! Take these tips with you when you want to go buy any car, but especially a classic. My dad has seen many people at car shows who have gotten scammed, so be careful. Check back and I’ll share with you how to spot a cars that aren’t completely vintage.

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