Buying tips for classic car buyers.

If you are considering the purchase of a classic car such as an EJ or EH and don’t know where to begin, perhaps these suggestions may serve as a guide to determine what you are looking for.

  1. Do some basic research.
  2. Ask the initial questions.
  3. Test drive the car.
  4. Get a professional inspection.
  5. Do the paperwork.

Determine what you are looking for.

When shopping for a used/abused/adored/restored classic car you have choices ranging from cars that have to be hauled in a trailer because it’s basically just a bunch of loosely connected parts all the way up to cars that you want to haul in a trailer to protect it’s museum quality restoration.  Your first level of decision making is to determine where in this spectrum you want start.

Questions to consider include:

  • Do you want to do a major restoration?
  • Are you interested in and capable of doing some mechanical work yourself?
  • Do you want a car you can drive every day?
  • Would you enjoy entering your car in shows & competitions?
  • Do you just want a great looking car to drive on weekends in good weather?
  • Are you buying as an investment?

The answer to these questions determine how you measure the flaws you are certainly going to find.

Do some basic research.

If this is your first venture into this fantasy land, you obviously have more research to do than an experienced owner.  A good investment of your time, even if you are not a first-timer, is to do some pricing research.  The “beginner” should spend at least a little time reading about some of the characteristics and unusual maintenance requirements of the different EJ-EH models.

Pricing research can begin by  looking in ‘The Trading post’, ‘Unique Cars’ or any other specialty car or classic car buying periodical. They can give you a very good idea of what is available and the general prices of the different makes and models.

There are many EJ-EH car clubs located throughout Australia. Joining or visiting one of these clubs would give you the opportunity to talk with some car owners who will gladly share their experiences with you about the practical side of owning their old Holden.  Ask questions such as how easy or difficult is it to find a good mechanic for repairs, do you need to use unleaded petrol?. what would they be sure to look for if they were buying another EJ or EH.  In a single evening at one of their meetings, you could learn things that would help prevent much grief later.   A very good list of EJ-EH clubs can be found at the links page on this site.

Ask the initial questions.

When you locate a car you want to pursue, be prepared with a list of questions you want answered.  Having an actual printed, in-your-hand list will help you remember the important issues and help prevent the conversation from wandering.  Let me re-state a point to keep in mind when doing this initial investigation – you will find problems.  Any car you look at will be 40 plus years old.  If it was in absolutely perfect condition, the price would be prohibitive unless you are prepared to pay for a museum quality car.

Keep in mind there are two basic types of questions: questions with factual answers and questions with opinion answers.  Questions like “How long have you owned the car?” and “Have you had problems getting repair parts?” have easy, factual answers.   Asking “How does it run?” or “How does it look?” is asking for their opinion.  It is my opinion that asking the factual questions first are easier for the seller to answer and help lay the foundation for the opinion question.  The answer to “Who does your drive-train and engine repairs?” not only gets you the name of a source of repairs, but also lets you know that repairs have been needed.

Test drive the car.

Now for the fun part!  You have located a candidate, scheduled a test drive, and now you are ready to actually see and drive what is, quite possibly, going to be the fulfilment of your dream.  A reality is that letting you judge one of these classic cars is as dangerous as letting a nineteen-year-old with raging hormones select a mate for life.  Before laying eyes on this beauty, we need to determine, as rationally as possible, what are going to be the minimum requirements for appearance and performance. Our next goal is make a clear assessment of the car.  To aid in this process, we suggest that you go prepared with the proper tools and a checklist to insure that things are not over-looked in the passion of the moment. One extra benefit of being prepared is that the seller will realize you are a serious buyer who is likely to discover the car’s weaknesses and perhaps will be more complete in describing the car’s condition.

The first things you want to evaluate are the condition of the bodywork and appearance issues. In general, bodywork is more expensive than mechanical work. The biggest enemy of a classic car is rust. You need to look for rust with the same zeal as a detective covering a crime scene. We discuss this more on the checklist.

Next you need to confirm the mechanical condition. Keep in mind you are not looking for a car with absolutely no problems. You just want to know what needs to done immediately, what will need to done soon, and is this car capable of being maintained and available for your driving pleasure.

Get a professional inspection.

We have prepared a checklist on a “printer-friendly” page.  Some buyers have found it helpful to cut and paste the list to a text editor or word processor so they can make changes and editions.  To see the list Click Here.