HI, I AM GOING TO BUY MY VERY FIRST CAR. IS IT A GOOD IDEA TO BUY A CLASSIC CAR?
1975 Pontiac Grandville
April, 2, 2012 AT 9:38 PM
I was looking on Craigslist and found a car I was interested in. It's a 1975 Pontiac Grand Ville Convertible. The owner said that he recently rebuilt the original motor. Everything in the car is original interior.
I love classic cars with their lack of unreliable, expensive computers, but you won't want to drive it in winter if you live in a road salt state. Be sure to test drive it, and consider paying for an independent inspection at a shop of your choice, not one recommended by the seller. An unscrupulous seller could have friends at a nearby shop who will overlook known problems and not tell you about them. They will look at brakes, steering and suspension components, exterior light operation, tire wear patterns, and the exhaust system.
Keep in mind that finding replacement engine and electrical parts will not be a problem, but body and trim parts will be if you need to replace something. Check out Year One Company for replacement parts.
April, 2, 2012 AT 10:13 PM
Thank you. If I buy the car, I was thinking about using it as my primary car. I'm very new to cars and feel lost. I don't know if buying a car in the 1975's are a good idea. Personally, would you buy it?
April, 2, 2012 AT 11:32 PM
The biggest thing here is lack of parts and the expense. I would not buy this as a primary car. A part time one it's fine but look for a newer model that will give you better gas mileage and parts would be readily available instead of having to wait a few days for parts.
April, 2, 2012 AT 11:41 PM
Okay, I think I made up my mind not to buy a classic car. I'll buy one of the newer models and when I'm financially stable, I'll buy a classic car as my second car. Thank you for helping me make such a big decision.
April, 3, 2012 AT 2:05 AM
I have a different take on it. My daily driver is an '88 Grand Caravan. Parts availability has never been a problem except for the odd size larger front brake rotors, but that hasn't changed since it was new. It has power windows, seat, brakes, locks, and mirrors, an automatic transmission and air conditioning, and none of those things has a computer involved. Gas mileage is better than my '95 Grand Caravan with numerous computers.
If you want good fuel mileage, consider that a '68 Buick Wildcat was so big you needed binoculars to look in the mirror and see the tail lights, it weighed around 5,000 pounds, could seat six people comfortably, and easily got 23 miles per gallon. What you DO get with newer fuel injected cars is much cleaner exhaust but at a cost of higher repair bills.
I have a '72 Challenger in the restoration shop right now. New body panels and head liner were readily available. My students rebuilt the 340 c.I. Engine. Those parts were also easy to find locally. In the summer I often drive an '80 Volare that I bought new. Brake and suspension parts are still in stock locally at all the auto parts stores because Chrysler was famous for parts interchangeability between various models and years. Even though most of those cars are gone up here in Wisconsin due to the insane use of road salt, there's enough of them around yet that it pays to stock parts for them.
For the car you're looking at, you aren't going to have a problem finding new engine, transmission, and tune-up parts, but you WILL find that there aren't many of them to be found in salvage yards. Scrap metal prices were very high a few years ago so many old cars got crushed.
If you do a parts search on rockauto. Com, you'll see that replacement parts are often less expensive than for newer cars. You must remember though that you'll have to add in the cost of shipping.
Keep in mind you'll be spending lots of money on repairs no matter which car you buy. The more you learn about them, the more repairs you can do yourself to save money. Newer cars starting around the mid '80s typically require the use of a scanner to see what the computers are seeing so you can make a diagnosis. That requires a trip to a mechanic. Older cars are pretty easy to diagnose without expensive equipment. You're smart to be asking these questions before you buy something. You can come back here for advice. I'm biased toward older Chrysler products and I have a few brands I really don't like. Other people here will have different opinions. If you want a really tough little car that's easy to fix, look at a Dodge Shadow / Plymouth Sundance. Stay away from a Neon. Grand Ams and Cavaliers are also good to stay away from. Probably the least safe cars were the Ford Escorts and Tempos. Those have a lot of designed-in suspension and steering problems that can't be corrected.
Also keep in mind that many newer cars have problems designed in to cost you money from simply disconnecting the battery to replace it. Volkswagen and GM are the worst offenders. That is not a concern with most cars from the '80s and '90s. This was done in part to prevent you from buying a good used computer from a salvage yard. You're forced to buy new ones from the dealer and often you must have them installed there and have the software installed too. Tricks like that are why I can't promote manufacturers of certain brands of cars.
April, 3, 2012 AT 11:28 AM
Cardiodoc, You made my day. I'm reconsidering buy the classic car. It's a real beauty and I don't think I will be happier with any other car. Thank you for providing me answers on a professional level. I will show my dad the info and maybe he will reconsider it as well. Much thanks, and I will definitely come back to ask questions in the future.
April, 3, 2012 AT 1:34 PM
Everyone has a different take on classic cars. Yes parts are available like Hard parts and it's easy when students can do stuff for you right away and not have to pay for them to work on it. But you are talking a kid with little to no experience and the parts that will be hard to get are body parts including interior as well as exterior. The vehicle Cardiodoc refers to are readily avialbale through catalogs, Grand Ams weren't the most popular car tobegin with and parts like exterior or interior will be harder to find, not so much stuff like alternator or brakes, etc. Or stuff that is easily rebuilt.
April, 3, 2012 AT 2:24 PM
I have yet another opinion. Classic cars are fine if the right person owns them. They require nearly constant tinkering and repair to keep them reliable and if you are not at least a decent mechanic yourself this car ill be in the shop more than you drive it and the cost will skyrocket. They don't drive like anything you are used to either. They have no computer to make it purr and if you have never owned a car with a carburetor, you are in for an experience you may not like. Us old guys that drove these cars when they were new know what to expect.
April, 3, 2012 AT 7:09 PM
Yup. I hadn't considered the carburetor issue as far as repairs, but I've had GMs, Fords, and lots of Chryslers, and rarely had a carburetor problem. They're relatively simple devices. It's the adjustments that can get complicated or confusing.
Part of the attraction to these older cars is the nostalgia. We drove them when they were new and fell in love with some of them and the time they represent. I have little to no interest in '50s and '60s cars as they were before my time.
As for the tinkering that Wrenchtech mentioned, half of that is because we want to tinker and we look hard to find something that "needs" tinkering. I tend to ignore small things until they become big things. For sure I'll start to think about repairing something after a part falls off on the highway! That is not the way you want to take car of a car.
Something else to think about is breaker points. If I remember correctly, GM's High Energy Ignition (HEI) system showed up in the '76 model year. It was a very nice system and it can be converted to older cars but that might detract from the value if you want to keep it as original. Breaker points require periodic maintenance and adjustment. GM made that very easy by providing a means of adjusting them with the engine running. You can find more information on how points work and how to adjust them here:
It's geared toward automotive students and covers electrical theory that is typically hard for hands-on people to understand. You can use a dwell meter that doesn't cost very much. "Dwell" is explained too.
As a former suspension and alignment specialist, I can tell you that these cars are by far the easiest to set the wheels precisely to where you want them to be when doing an alignment. Most other brands of cars use adjustment methods that are somewhat hit or miss, and you finally take what you get when it's "good enough". There are a few common wear items that I can share how to inspect and replace, but there is nothing known to be a common safety issue as on some newer models of other brands. Looking at your photo of this car, I wouldn't mind having it in my garage. I would certainly trust it to get me back home more than some of the other cars I have right now.
As a side note, we have the nation's second largest old car show and swap meet, after Carlisle, PA, 50 miles from me in Iola, WI and you can find just about any parts there. We also have two shows three hours away in Jefferson, WI that is big enough that you can barely see everything in an entire day. There's a lot more new stuff at that show and it's very heavy on GM stuff. There's a lot of vendors that have new sheet metal, new chrome, and new wiring harnesses. You can even find new windshields, gas tanks, and interior parts. It looks like the car you're looking at doesn't need stuff like that, but at least you know it's available.
Most of us learn the best by taking things apart and peeking inside, but I should warn you that this isn't a good way to learn on a car you have to rely on to get you to work, school, and home. Too many things get broken in the process. I learned a lot this way but left a trail of undrivable cars behind. With the internet, you have the luxury of being able to read up on something before you tackle a repair. We would hate to see you turn this car into junk from misguided repair attempts. Between all of us here, we can tell you what to look for and how to repair just about any problem you can come up with.
April, 3, 2012 AT 7:52 PM
I didn't say anything about carb repairs. I mean just driving a car with a carb through different seasons. The tinkering part isn't just being anal. A car that old has constant electrical issues and rubber seal issues. I have a 78 Vette and every single time I use it, a new electrical issue shows up. I have repaired leaks from nearly every ofifice in the engine. No a big deal for me but could be a real pain for someone that doesn't do their own repairs