Jim’s Blog: Buying on First Impressions

When you’re thinking about a new addition to your collection, what’s the first thing that you look for? 

Last week, I talked a little about project cars, and we’re covering that topic in the next issue of ACC as well. But that’s got me thinking about buying project cars that aren’t complete basket cases — and when we do that, what sorts of problems are deal-breakers?

Answering this question really gets to the heart of the type of car person you are. I’m more of a mechanical guy, so I’d rather buy a car with a bad engine, no rust and decent paint than one with a solid drivetrain and cosmetic issues. I look for good body and paint — or at least passable body and paint — first, before anything else.  

I’m comfortable building an engine or replacing a transmission, but I don’t have a lot of experience in cosmetic repair, and that’s a skillset that can take years to hone. So for me, that’s an area where I’d rather buy something already done versus doing it myself. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I also know some car people who have the exact opposite sentiment.

How about you? Are there certain problems that will always turn you away from a potential purchase? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.


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  1. Jim –
    I’m a car nut who loves collecting and restoring cars of particular interest to me. But because my strongest skill set consists of signing checks, the mechanical/cosmetic dichotomy doesn’t really apply to me.

  2. Jim, unless it is a complete project, the first thing that grabs my attention is Stance. This is what pulls me in for me to see what the end results could be and what the car may need. It is not a deal breaker, but if I am at a auction and there are over a 1000 cars to look at, it will be the stance that pulls me in like a tractor beam, even if it is not a car that is on my list. Perfect example was a 73 Le Mans that sold at Mecum last month, I mean a 73 Le Mans when was the last time you have seen one or thought of one. However, when I saw it on TV, I reached out through my auction group (my network of friends that watch together in various locations) and sent the link for it in the catalog for any that might have missed it on the tube. Had I been there, my hand would be in the air, especially for the price sold, because that Stance gave me 20/20 vision of just how cool that car was.

  3. well, i did it. @ mecum las vegas. there it was run # F55. American Graffiti in black & chrome. the car i dreamed of in high school back in 1965. unfortunately only 2 people in the room were bidding & the auctioneer was the other person. i quit bidding & it no saled (apparently he was not registered to bid). the more i looked at it, i was blown away by the laser straight body, perfect chrome, new interior, new glass, late model powertrain, & aftermarket air & stereo. this was the one.Saturday i went over to the “bid goes on” desk & made an offer. less than an hour later i owned it, payed for it, & arranged for Reliable to.ship it home to michigan (where it will be stored until spring).. 2 days later it arrived. so far no regrets & no surprises. it makes me feel 55 years younger & i can actually sit in it. & get in & out of it. sometimes you just have to do it. i have missed too many cars that i still whine about. to whomever built this car, i want to say thank you. i cannot even imagine what it would have cost to do one this nice.