4/30/18 3:58 p.m.

Does anyone have any good book recommendations for someone researching their first classic car purchase?

I’ve finally reached the point in life where I can afford to fulfill my dream of owning a classic car but since I don’t have a ton of experience I want to make sure I’ve done my homework before I start shopping. I’m fairly car-literate when it comes to the basics for modern cars (oil changes, basic electrical, etc) but I’m starting from scratch when it comes to 60’s-70’s vehicles.

I’ve been looking for something to give me a basic foundation of knowledge, something like “Classic Cars for Dummy’s”…most of the books I’m finding are either “history of” or coffee table books but nothing that’ll help me know what to look for, basic mechanics, etc.


stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
4/30/18 4:49 p.m.

I don't know about any books that cover old cars in general, but buyer's guides are pretty common for specific makes and models.  If you have an idea of what kind of car (make/model/year) you're looking for it may be easier to provide a recommendation.

Gary SuperDork
5/1/18 2:05 p.m.

I'd suggest "The Essential Buyer's Guide" series published by Veloce in the UK. There are over a hundred available for various classics. I have the one for the TR6 written by Roger Williams and it's excellent. It was published in 2006, so pricing recommendations are obsolete. But it provides thorough information to allow anyone to feel confident in their search. You'll know exactly what to look for.

Treyplus20 New Reader
5/1/18 6:41 p.m.

Thanks for the suggestions. I'm in the market for a good starter car, something that is popular enough that it won't be hard to find parts for and with enough of a following that I won't have too much trouble getting help with repairs when they spring up and I can't handle it myself. And I'm definitely not looking for a show car, just a daily driver I can take out when the weather is nice. I'm expecting to spend something between $20-25K which I think will get me in the market for what I'm looking for, I'm just trying to do my research and figure out how best to allocate my resources.

I'm looking for classic muscle...Chevelle, 442, Nova, etc. I'm sure that at under $25K I'm going to price myself out of the "collector" car market, GTO/Camaro/Challenger, but like I said, I'm looking for a good daily driver anyway. I'm trying to get as much information as possible so I know what to look for and avoid, the pros/cons of different makes and models of the era, what options or upgrades are worth the money and which aren't. I guess what I'm really trying to do is narrow down my search to a specific make/model and then shop from there while also educating myself on classic cars in general. Like I said before, I have some basic knowledge on modern cars but I know nothing about naturally aspirated engines, carburetors, etc. 

I did find "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Restoring Collector Cars" which isn't exactly what I was looking for, but for $15 it's better than nothing...


MadScientistMatt PowerDork
5/2/18 7:40 a.m.

Number one rule - bring a refrigerator magnet. The drivetrain parts on a '60s era American car are going to be far cheaper to repair or replace than rusty sheet metal.

slantvaliant UltraDork
5/2/18 8:22 a.m.

A couple of standard recommendations:

Stockel and Stockel, "Auto Mechanics Fundamentals"

 Petersen's Automotive Troubleshooting & Repair Manual 

and, of course, the factory service manuals for any car you which interests you.



Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
5/2/18 3:45 p.m.

Hi Trey,

At this moment, I'm here at Autobooks-Aerobooks in beautiful downtown Burbank, CA reading your posts and trying to figure out how to help you best.

Off the top of my head, Practical Auto & Truck Restoration by John Gunnell is a good place to start.  The book is about planning and organizing your project to save time and money.  It deals with not just the car, but your tools and shop space as well.

As far as the actual resto work is concerned, please tell me how much experience you have.  Have you ever rebuilt an engine or dug deep into the guts of your suspension / drivetrain?  Have you ever done any type of body repair or paint?  Do you weld?

I'm asking because we have how-to books on all those subjects that might get you launched in the right direction or at least assist on which work to farm out.  We have books on restoring specific makes and models as well as rebuilding their specific engine /drivetrain /suspension components.  We have books on various subsets like carburetion, transmissions, interiors, etc.  For instance, if your resto candidate has a Rochester carb, we've got the books.  Same goes for Holley, SU, Stromberg, Dell' Orto, Weber, etc etc.  We even have books on laying up composites and Fiberglas.  We have the buyer's guides, parts interchange manuals, and numbers-matching references as well as access to many shop manuals both original and reprint.  So let us know what your current level of automotive involvement is and we'll try to home you in on some good books.  Follow the link provided and have some fun rummaging around yourself just to see what's available.

Tom1200 HalfDork
5/2/18 11:59 p.m.

The number one thing you here every expert say is buy the best car you can. I'll use one of my inane examples; if your budget allows for a tatty Super Bird but an imaculate rust free mechanicly perfect Barracuda you pretty much know which one to buy.

Rust; 70s car rust ferociously so make sure whatever car you buy is sound, which brings me to my next thing. Get a prepurchase inspection.

When I buy any car I look at what my budget is then pick 3 or 4 models that I like and then do the research on all of them. The joy of the Internet is that virtually every model as a website with knowledgeable owners and marque specialists (There is even one for my lowly Datsun1200)

After I've finished the research I start shopping; I find a 2-3 cars from each model and then test drive them. I usually buy a less popular but abundant model, I also like mid level trim models. An example would be buying a small block car vs big block. A Z28 is cool but you can buy a lesser RS or standard trim and get the same body style for a lot less money. That leaves money left to add some extras like A/C or the set of wheels you really like.

I'm not a muscle car guy but like everything else I'm sure there are buyers guides that will alert a buyer about the things to look for.

Finally it has been mentioned already but make sure the body and chassis are straight and rust free. Engines, trannies and brakes are cheap to rectify. A rusty car with a bodged crash repair has left many an owner gutted. If you don't know how to look for these get it inspected. 

gjz30075 HalfDork
5/3/18 6:32 a.m.
stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
5/3/18 8:43 a.m.
Jerry From LA said:

Off the top of my head, Practical Auto & Truck Restoration by John Gunnell is a good place to start.  The book is about planning and organizing your project to save time and money.  It deals with not just the car, but your tools and shop space as well.

John Gunnell is a long time automotive author - I haven't seen this particular book, but have a couple others he's written (and I met him once), so based on my past experience I'd recommend taking a look at this one.

5/3/18 10:57 a.m.

very informative guys, thanks. will read up and come back more knowledged hopefully

AngryCorvair MegaDork
5/3/18 1:36 p.m.

Welcome to the forum!   Here's what I recommend:

Start with a list of attributes that are important to you, ie

  • 2-door vs 4-door vs convertible
  • big vs small vs something in between
  • modified vs stock appearance
  • modified vs stock performance
  • etc.

Also consider when / where / how you will drive it, ie

  • local-only, "ice cream" runs with the family
  • occasional commute
  • highway road trips
  • slow lane vs fast lane
  • autocross and/or track days

I'm 51, so i started off driving cars from the '60s and '70s in the early '80's.  i was already an experienced driver when people started modernizing crappy old cars with things like electronic fuel injection and overdrive transmissions and grippy tires and robust cooling systems and aftermarket air conditioning and better seats etc.  you'll have to decide how important any of those things are to you, and how "unoriginal" you're willing to go, in order to have a more 2018-friendly car.


wannacruise New Reader
5/4/18 7:25 a.m.

I would reiterate that if you are not planning on spending money on restoration work and can't do or don't want to do the work yourself then buy the best example that you can afford.  The cost and time of repairs start to take the fun out of it really quickly.  Hemmings Motor News and all their subtitles is a good source for info about a lot of cars.  Also, just start to browse any of the forums for the cars you are interested in.  You will start to see many of the areas that are troubling other owners.  Forums such as for the The TriFive Chevies, the Mustangs, Mopars, etc.  

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