This article is about the important difference between a car that has been restored, to a given degree, and a survivor car. Then I will talk about Build vs. buy. Right now the year is 2018 and for a few years now the hot cars have been survivor cars. I get it, and I too think they are only original once. That is something very special. Before Survivor cars were hot is was Restomods, and before that it was RatRods, heck in the 90’s Model T’s hit their high and were hot. Many opinions claim the survivors should bring more money than a restored car. I say they are apples and oranges just like a restored car often next to another restored car, that analogy is a green apple compared to a red apple. Don’t use one to determine value on another. Silly. It is like comparing the value of a house on a lake or river to a house not on a lake or river.
Restorations have been my thing so that is what I can write about with confidence. I have owned some ultra low mile survivor cars, i.e 900 mile and 1,200 mile cars. Cool but tough to drive, and not really a project. Tough to see a transformation and get a sense of pride and accomplishment. When I started restoring cars the quality was far less than the extent and quality I do now. It was a natural path vs. going the other direction, from high quality to lower quality. It is important to remember while cars are in fact are only original once, and seeing that originality is cool, if your plan is to drive your car, even occasionally, having reliability, including being able to start and stop is important.
The basics of a restored car are the new or rebuilt mechanical systems. Along with their components are far superior than a worn out, or car with wear ,and or has leaking components. Moreover, when the parts and components that make up a vehicle’s systems sit idle, they deteriorate from nonuse. This concept alone is why a survivor car is the orange and a restored car with new or rebuilt systems is the apple. Two very difference things. What your preference is is irrelevant, but again it is not logical to use one to establish value for another.
Another statement I hear is “buying a car done is cheaper than building one”. This always makes me chuckle. (see blog article on this) I rarely hear a guy 2-3 months or years after he claimed a big ‘score” on a car that the score was a real value. A recent story was a “score” at a live TV auction of a “restored” ’70 Dodge Challenger Big-Block car for $38k. While walking around this car I noticed house wiring on the car, yes 12 gauge house wiring and wiring cap nuts used for connectors. This is unsafe to the owner and those of us around that car. The car clearly had been restored fast and built to flip. If this is what can be seen on the surface, what might be lurking underneath and in hidden areas? Not a good value. Hence building a car vs. buying a car, the vast majority of the time is the better choice.
Do you really think sellers are loosing their ass and selling a well restored car all that often? The answer is hell no. Buying a restored car done right or building the car yourself is the best deal going. You know what you have and you can truly be proud of your car. Picking up an unfinished project or basket case can be a great value. Look out for any work already done so you don’t run into re-work. When it comes to valuation be sure to keep things in perspective. (See blog” but I can buy it cheaper for costs)
Not unlike a Restomod, or a Ratrod, or a customized Jeep, maybe a late model car is your thing, there is no right or wrong preference to a car and all good car guys never judge, smirk or sneer at your ride. Wheels and a motor, working or not are the basics of our hobby. The good people that make them go make them great!
Please think of this. Your buddy with the thirty thousand dollar bass boat, a few grand in tackle, another couple grand in fish finders etc., he does not think how much he can sell the fish for that he catches, in fact he may throw most of his catch back in the lake! Classic car restoration is like fishing, it is not about the value of the fish you eventually land in the end, but the experience of the journey it took to get the fish in the boat.