Where to Go to Get the Know
Contributed by Gary West
The Nigerian Prince came through, you've just received the check from the Lower Berzerkistan National Lottery, Great Aunt Flossie, with the fatal bowel obstruction, has shuffled off the mortal coil and left you the full bucket. In any event you have now bought or decided to buy a classic, antique, and rare vehicle of your dreams. What you need now is information and a place to find it. Proper truthful information can prevent that tramp steamer voyage to automotive and financial ruin. Perhaps I can help (with the information not the financial ruin.)
In my humble opinion there are four areas of information to be tapped, some with confidence and some with a grain of salt. From truthful to huh? I would list Car Clubs, their publications and members first, a close second are collector car auctions and specific motorsport magazines, then forums and finally the Internet, where I bring the entire salt shaker.
Car clubs, such as but certainly not limited to, the BMW Car Club of America and Porsche Club of America, are created and run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. Membership includes excellent national and local publications feature the marquee exclusively. Many car clubs have technical advisers on staff to provide invaluable information regarding mechanical issues. Their on-line forums tend to be substantive. Most all have Buy-Sell-Trade columns and I feel comfortable dealing with a long time club member. In addition, the local chapters stage various events which give you the opportunity to visit with like-minded folks. Face it, if you're in the market for a 1971 Blowfish 3000 Grand VonZippy then where better to hang out than the monthly club meeting of VonZippy owners. When you've finally made the decision to purchase that dream American/imported sports car, truck, motorcycle, etc. then it's time to associate with the appropriate club. This is the land of good advice and possible bargains as enthusiasts like to sell to enthusiasts. Personally I would much rather pass on my car to a person that will appreciate it as I did and I'll sometimes take a lower price to insure the future integrity of the vehicle. Car clubs specific to a make and model are the past, present and future of the avocation and I put great faith in them.
Collector car auction magazines and specific motorsports magazines are two sides of the same coin. There are a pair of collector car auction-result magazines that are held in high regard, the first is Sports Car Market and the second is American Car Collector. Both are published by the same organization located in Portland, Oregon. SCM evaluates classic and antique cars sold at high-profile auctions worldwide. ACC does the same with cars of American manufacture presented at auctions staged in this country. These evaluations are done by free-lance analysts who photograph the car, write a pre-auction objective synopsis and then a post-auction subjective prices. The objective compendium includes the known hard facts about the car, model, year, color, s/n, mileage, obvious flaws and faults, and a grade ranging from 1+ down to 5-. The subjective paragraph is the analyst’s person opinion of the vehicle. Subscription to these magazines isn't cheap because the information contained within isn't smoke, mirrors and stronzate (an Italian word for “when down in the cow pasture, don't step in the stronzate). In addition a subscription to these magazines includes a pocket price guide that lists all manner of sale price information as it relates to collectible cars sold at auction worldwide. Visit their website.
Hemmings Motor News is another player. They publish two monthly magazines, one devoted to classic cars and a second titled Sports & Exotic Car. Both are full spectrum but I enjoy S&EC as they like to highlight cars that don't require a Sheikh's purse to acquire. A corollary to these publications are “Buyers Guides”. Most give a reasonable stream of information to help you focus on the prize. What I appreciate are the warning signs they assign to certain makes, years and models. Examples: watch for rust here, weak gear synchros there, prone to sunroof leaks, etc. Two magazines that truly address those of us not living in Monaco are Grassroots Motorsports and Classic Motorsports magazines. These are for the budget-conscious auto-crosser, amateur racer, enthusiast, restorer, rebuilder, do-it-yourselfer who has a limited bank account. You'll never read an issue without learning something useful and practical. The folks who are responsible for content get their hands dirty and encourage everyone to do the same.
On-line forums and the Internet can both be tremendous sources of information but not to be taken on blind faith. As Reagan said, “Trust but Verify”. Lots of car fans have posted valuable, correct videos of repair and maintenance procedures. I've used them and I thank those people very much. But I've also seen the “place these magic beans in your gas tank and get 200mpg. Just send $$$$ to Big Ernie's Butt-Dyno and Deli.”
Along the information highway we have the independent shop that specializes in working on your particular and is generally regarded as masters of the marquee. When you find such a place take off your hat and kneel. An independent, honest shop that gets it right the first time is the Unicorn we all seek.
I'd be remiss if I didn't reveal the single greatest source of classic car automotive information available and it's free or perhaps cost only a cold beer. OLD GUYS! Yep, Geezerpedia. Find a bunch of old guys that have spent a lifetime associated with your dream car and you stand on the steps of Informational Valhalla. Good luck.