So you’re going to finally going to buy the testosterone fueled hot rod you have always wanted. While there are tons of segments of hot rod culture out there, this article should provide a helpful guide as an overview that applies when looking for your first one.
Keep in mind, prices will vary widely with demand. If you are looking for a beat up ’32 Ford coupe, expect to pay well over $10,000 for a non-running version that needs a lot of work. Professional shops have been snatching these up the last few decades, along with all the 1920s and ‘30s iron, in order to do high dollar restorations and conversions. They are rare these days, so prices are outrageous.
That brings us to the other big price factor: condition. Immaculate cars simply cost more as they appeal to more buyers. A common saying in the car community is to pay now, or pay later. Sure, you can save money by buying a rust bucket, but rust repair can be expensive if it is in the frame, firewall, or floor pan. However, look closely. Surface rust can be hideous, but easy and fairly cheap to repair. Body work can also be tricky. That paint the previous owner sprayed in his garage could be hiding inches of Bondo®, or it could be flawless steel under that junk. Look closely at everything.
Also, consider if you will accept a modified car, or if you are looking for a factory survivor. Are you okay with someone else’s modifications? This can save you thousands if they started an expensive project and gave up halfway through. It can also cost you when you have to change things the previous owner did incorrectly, or where they went a direction you don’t like. Buying a tri-five Chevy already plumbed for fuel injection sounds like a great idea, unless you already bought the carburetors.
For the best deals around, you might want to look into more of an avant-garde hot rod. Sure, your Aunt’s Geo Metro will never be cool. But look at the alternatives out there. If you’re thinking 1960s and ‘70s iron, it isn’t just Mustangs and Chevelles. The Mercury Cougar is cheaper than its Mustang cousin, and offers all the fun. A first generation Oldsmobile Omega is an unknown at car shows and cruise-ins, but consider it for what it is: a cheaper Chevy Nova with a better grille. For the best bang for your buck, take a look at the obscure wagon variations of classic muscle sedans. No one wanted the wagons for decades, so they are still cheap to buy today, and a mid ‘90s Chevy Caprice wagon has the same basic small block as the Corvette, and can feel every bit the muscle car while hauling all your stuff.
The key to being happy with your project long term lies in you knowing exactly what you are looking for, and exactly what you may have found.