Question of the Month: Buy a finished car or complete a project car yourself?

We’re working on the July/August issue of ACC right now, which means it’s time again for our question of the month: Is it better to buy a finished car or complete a project car yourself?

A lot of classic car buyers are looking for an immediate thrill. They want to slide behind the wheel of a shiny new-to-them Camaro or Mustang and go to a car show, or a cruise-in, or just out on a Sunday drive as soon as those keys are in-hand. These buyers know that buying a car all done is usually cheaper than building it personally, and they aren’t interested in spinning any wrenches. The downside? They may settle for a car that isn’t the exact color or specification they really wanted. But hey, life is short, right? Buy now and use now.

Other buyers would rather personally complete a project to exact specifications — like a red/red ’67 GTO with a 400, 4-speed, buckets, Cragars, a big Holley double-pumper, glasspacks, and a chrome Sun tach. This is the do-it-yourselfer who will buy a basket case or a rough driver with the intention of doing a lot of the work in his garage, maybe to rebuild the car he had in high school. The end result, usually after a couple of years of work, is exactly what was visualized, even if the process didn’t really save any money. But there’s value in the experience. Buyers like this believe the journey is the destination, and bringing a car back to life is a good way to spend time.

Pretty much every car person has done it both ways at least once — we’ve all bought the pristine car and at other times taken on the project. So what do you think? Which way is better? Would you rather buy a nice shiny example and take the kids to a cruise-in right away, or do you see more value in working a car into exactly what you want — maybe with a father, son, or daughter’s help? Is the pride in completing a project worth the extra money and time you’ll spend compared to just saving yourself the trouble and buying someone else’s completed car?

Share your thoughts, along with your name and city/state in a comment on this page or in an email to by Tuesday, May 27. And look for your comments in the next issue of American Car Collector!


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