Q: My goal is to have a beautifully restored vintage car by the end of the summer to take me on a well-deserved road trip. But, I havenʼt started looking for one yet . . . whatʼs the smartest (and most cost effective) way to go about locating one?
Well, I will tell you on one condition: take me with you. Not kidding. I’m a good driver, and a mediocre navigator, but more importantly, I am an excellent DJ. Also, my special talent is that I can sniff out obscure/oddball/strangely poetic people/experiences wherever I go, and engage them. It’s golden. Plus, I can make up a limerick when needed and I know all the words to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Butter.” I’m indispensable.
Road tripping is like no other form of travel because it combines autonomy and freedom with the luxury of time. It’s the perfect trifecta for renewal, in my opinion. How perfectly magical to wander aimlessly and spend time frivolously in a vintage car, a veritable time machine on wheels. You know, they say time is only a human construct . . .
Vintage cars are not my forte, BUT I happen to have a good friend, Ron Fleming, who, in addition to being a stellar graphic/brand designer (a principal at Yyes) and an arbiter of vintage style, is also an authority on vintage cars. He is the proud father of a ’69 Cadillac El Dorado, and a ’65 Buick Riviera—both perfectly restored and lovingly maintained. And, he’s the guy. With the promise of whiskey, I lured him to an old school steak joint and stripped his brain of all the good intel. Here it is for you, served up scattered, smothered and covered, like the best of truck stop hash browns.
Finding your baby:
You may have a mild yearning for either a boy or a girl but all you really care about is that it’s healthy, right? Here’s the deal with vintage cars—unless you’re an avid enthusiast looking for a super specific model, train your sights on the car that speaks to you. But in doing so, follow these guidelines and words of wisdom.
*In general, the fewer owners, and the more love it was shown the better. If you can buy from an original owner, even if it is not in perfect condition, you’re in the best position. Loved for many years, and neglected for the last few, you’ll get the best price possible. You’ll have to put in some work, but it will be worth it.
*Beware of the “Mechanics Special.” In general, never buy from a mechanic. If it’s too much trouble for them, it’s too much trouble for you. Alternately, if they’ve recently restored it, then they will be looking to recoup all their money back and you won’t get the best deal.
*Several owners is super iffy: cool kids buy them and use them hard, then offload them. The cars end up traumatized with cosmetic fixes but deep, deep wounds. Look for signs of modifications like cutting holes in the door panel to install speakers—this is evidence that more priority was put on being cool than maintaining the car.
*Riding the clutch—some drivers do it and it’s destructive to the car. No matter what the odometer says, the wear on the left side of the clutch pedal will tell you the true story. (Unless it has been replaced. Duh duh duh.)
*Paperwork! Hold the title in your hand. Make sure it is actually available to be sold. You’d be surprised how many old cars are “title-less.” Not true. Somebody has the title somewhere. If the person selling you doesn’t have the title, don’t buy.
*Have the car inspected by a pro. Just so you know what you’re getting into. There is a lot of romance and “car fever” that goes along with finding your dream car. The 3rd party opinion can be invaluable.
*Shut up and drive! Definitely take the car for a spin. Not only to see how she handles, but to see if you like to handle her (sexual pun only sort of intended). Truth is, old cars all have their own personalities. You won’t be able to change them, so best to make sure you two are compatible before tying the knot.
I’m making our playlist now. We’re headed north, right?