How to buy the vintage sports car of your dreams
Sports car

For anyone with more than a passing interest in cars, there are always one or two that stand out from the rest. Whether it’s the exotic Italian supercar you had on your bedroom wall as a kid, the Japanese roadster your cool aunt drove, or a classic German coupe you’ve long admired from a distance, sports cars usually occupy a high place on any car lover’s list.

While owning a classic sports car can be an incredibly satisfying experience, there are plenty of things that can (and do) go wrong in the process. Follow these expert tips make sure you end up with a vintage sports car you love for the long haul.

Consult a specialist

Thanks to the Internet, there are now a huge variety of specialized online forums dedicated to pretty much every make and model of sports car ever made. If there’s a particular one you’re interested in, connect with other owners online to learn more about what it’s like to own one. There’s nothing vintage car owners enjoy more than talking about their cars.

Get the full story

“The most important thing when buying a vintage car is getting as much history as possible,” says John Pera, central inventory manager of exotics for a luxury automobile dealership in Toronto. “There are people who own these cars who have records, and that’s the kind of car you want to buy – one that comes with a binder full of records.” Not only will these records tell you everything you need to know about the car’s maintenance history, they’ll also reveal a lot about how lovingly the previous owner took care of it.

Check your judgment

The whole point of owning a vintage car is enjoyment, so it’s important to buy something you love. That said, love can sometimes cloud our judgement and lead us to make poor decisions, and that can be an expensive mistake when it comes to classic sports cars. “Sometimes emotion gets in the way,” says Pera. “My first car was a Datsun 240Z and it was a bit of a rust bucket, but I just loved the car and the styling of it. The mechanic said, ‘Don’t buy this car,’ but my emotion said I have to have it. I had it for less than a year and it fell apart.”

Get a second opinion

When you’ve found a car you love with all of its records intact, Pera recommends taking it in for a thorough inspection by a specialized mechanic before you take the plunge. “Spend the $400-500 and bring it to a reputable dealer to get the car looked at head-to-toe,” he says. “There are a lot of specialized mechanics and shops that have been doing this for a long time. Bring your car to the right person and get their advice, because chances are you’re going to be servicing your car with that person if you do decide to buy it.”

Know your budget

While you can’t be 100% sure your car will appreciate in value, you can count on having to spend money on repairs while you own it. “There’s always going to be something that needs to be done, whether at the moment or coming up,” says Pera. “One day it’s the battery, one day it’s the door latch, or the tires, or the air conditioning. There are always things that are going to need attention as cars are sitting around.” With that in mind, don’t blow your budget on the purchase price – you’ll need to allow for upfront maintenance costs, as well as repairs that will inevitably come up throughout the years.

Passion before profits

In classic cars, as in any kind of investment, there’s no such thing as a sure thing, so choosing a car that’s personally meaningful to you is just as important as picking something you think will appreciate. “Appreciation is always a gamble, you don’t know which way these things are going to go with the market.” Pera says. If, however, you do your research, buy a car that makes sense to you financially, and take care of it properly when things go wrong, you’ll likely be rewarded if and when you decide to sell. “Most [vintage sports cars] are a safe buy,” says Pera. “Eventually that value is still going to climb because they’re not producing them any more and there are more people collecting them.”

Jeremy Freed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. His writing about fashion, travel, food and design appears in Sharp, Harry and re:Porter magazines, among many others.

Jeremy Freed is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.
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