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By Phil Lapin / Technical Coordinator

Part 1 of a Series - Overview

We are going to try something new, exciting and different in this column!  The main objective will be to cover all of the steps and considerations involved in purchasing and restoring a vintage automobile.  This begins with basically asking a number of questions as to why you are considering a purchase, and moves on to issues such as prices, your technical skills, family support, garage space and so forth. It will move through various steps of restoration, concluding with the memorable day of taking your first drive - or entering a car show.

What is most exciting about this project is that YOU - the members of CPPC - will have a major impact on this series, through your combined input.  We will send out an Email blast every couple of months.  It will ask you for comments on your experiences or thoughts on various specific topics.  I will then take your input and build them into the various parts of the series.  Where needed, I will do further research to enrich the topic.

One major objective is to keep the newsletter installments at reasonable length - somewhere around the length of this Overview which you are reading.  This may completely cover some topics, whereas others will require more information. Where more detail is needed, it will appear on the Club website and be cross referenced with the newsletter.

With over 100 members in our Club, I believe we can gather a wealth of knowledge and information. The outcome will be not only to help "newbies" consider their first classic car purchase or inheritance, but also to help our existing members with issues on their own cars. My thanks goes to Randy Ealy, who first conceived the "Off the Hook" column - and who envisioned the step by step journey we are now beginning.
I am looking forward to working with everyone on this.  PL

Part 2 of a Series - Basic Considerations on Owning a Classic Car

Why?  Why does one get into the world of classic cars.  For most people, it seems "love" is a key word in the equation.  Loving old cars, family history with a vintage car from long ago, appreciation of the technology and craftsmanship from certain decades, saving something historical from being destroyed, and just plain loving working on older cars are all common reasons.  At the opposite end of the spectrum is the possible idea of owning and restoring cars for profit - which is rarely if ever the motivation behind this great hobby.  The CPPC Technical Committee has worked with many club members and far flung non members - all of whom share this common theme of love and passion about working on vintage cars.

Getting back a return on your investment: Don't go there!  It is extremely rare to recoup anywhere near the total costs involved in restoring a vintage vehicle. Breaking even is typically not even realistic, especially when factoring in labor and outsourcing. In the world of rather exotic classics, purchased as completed cars, there may be potential for profit, but typically only after holding a car for many years.

In the CPPC community, there are many stories of individuals who have done complete ground up restorations - spending $50,000 and well upwards of that - never to even expect getting back the time and money invested over typically several years. We also see this in club tours of private car collections - where passion and appreciation always outweigh the profit motive.  It is amazing to me personally how many private collections exist which are completely unknown the the public. These are collections with literally dozens of vintage cars. D.J. Freeman said it all: "Restoring old cars is like lending money to a family member - never loan more than you can afford to give away!"

Why Plymouth Classics?  Very often, this goes back to an early experience in a family with a Plymouth. In my personal case, it goes back to my coming home from the hospital as a baby in 1945 - in a Plymouth! Plymouth vehicles have a reputation for being reliable, solid and economical - this is how they were marketed. They were also very affordable, had good parts availability and were easy to work on. (that still applies today).  The other two common "vintage vehicles" in the mid-1900s were Chevrolet and Ford - but Plymouth often had improvements before those other two brands.  Thus: many people were exposed to the cars from childhood. CPPC member Dennis Mowery has owned his 1948 Plymouth since he was a young sailor courting his future wife! Great memories.

Club members have owned all kinds of cars - but their favorites are often Plymouths.  Bill Call, who was instrumental in founding CPPC, has a magnificent collection of primarily Plymouth automobiles.  When I first joined CPPC, I asked him why he liked Plymouths so much. Even with Bill, it went back directly to his experiences with Plymouths when he was very young. Phil Hall and his wife bought a 1973 Plymouth Belvedere as a young couple.  That same car has over 300,000 miles on it today, and has had duty of many kinds in his family.

Within the Cascade Pacific Plymouth Club, we have over 100 members who own a combined 160+ Plymouth Vehicles. (the total is over 200 cars of all makes)  These cars range from the late 1920s through models in the 2000s. The largest percentage of owner's Plymouths are in the post WWII 1940s through 1950s models.

Restoration versus completed classic?

There is a wide range of options for getting into a classic car.  One can purchase a pristine fully restored "show car", or a reliable "daily driver" - both of which are ready to roll.  Then there is the question of restoring a classic - either with moderate repair needs, or a full redo.  We are talking high initial cost, to the lowest initial purchase price in the order listed above.  Here is one example from a car valuation book: A 1946-1948 Plymouth 2 door Club Coupe is worth around $18,000 if it is a "show car" and not driven regularly. The same model in good to very good condition, and fully drivable drops to $8,000 to $12,000. (this is a "daily driver"). If it needs complete restoration the value drops to $2,000 to 4,000.

So, initial cost is typically one-half of the decision making process.  The other half is the willingness, interest in and ability to undertake various levels of restoration.  Some people are completely capable of undertaking a major restoration - usually with considerable mechanical/technical background.  Even here, there are aspects of a restoration which are better jobbed out to a specialist.  More people will be comfortable with a vehicle requiring only partial restoration. Initial budget allowing - it is far easier to purchase an already restored vehicle - which in the long run will probably be the least expensive option! Reasonably priced cars are available if you look and are patient.  If you are not mechanically inclined, this is the best way to go for most.

In all restoration situations, Cascade Pacific Plymouth Club members can draw upon a huge base of technical and practical knowledge through the Technical Committee.  This insight can guide you as to the proper decisions on what work is required, and can even provide on site help in certain restoration or repair situations.

Focusing upon cars needing restoration at some level, do not underestimate what will be involved.  It ALWAYS takes more time, energy and money than one would envision. Removing the chrome on the front of a 1940s Plymouth should take a couple of hours.  Rusted screws, frozen fittings and hidden rust can stretch that simple task to a full day or more.  I know! Then, you find out your headlight buckets are rusted beyond repair - and you search for and purchase a serviceable used set for another $100 out of pocket.  These are very common situations.

Special Thanks to Scott Whiteman, Pat Krake, D.J. Freeman and Phil Hall for their input on this article.

 

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