Custom Car Builders USA | Classic Car Restoration

Where to Find a Classic Car to Restore

classic american muscle car show

You Are Ready to Buy That Classic Car

Restoring a classic car is a labor of love, passion and dedication. Whether your interest is muscle cars, British sports cars or pick-ups, there are plenty of marketplaces available to you. The most important thing, and one we can’t stress enough, is to do your research and to stay safe when searching.

It’s not all fun and games. Finding and restoring a classic car takes research, time, attention to detail, money and good old-fashioned elbow grease. It’s a big commitment, and one that you’ll want to dedicate to the “right” project car.

While some people have the good fortune to inherit a car to restore or have managed to grab a “barn find” most will need to search for that perfect project car.

Starting Your Search for the Perfect Car

So you have a car in mind. Maybe you’ve always regretted selling that beat-up 67 Mustang that kept breaking down. Or you’ve always wanted that twin cam MGA that your dad told your 16 year-old self you could have when you earned “sports car money”.

Now you think you’re are ready to find and transform a “project” from its current (likely neglected) state into a masterpiece you’ll be eager to show off around town or at car shows (or maybe just to pamper in your own little garage).

But where can you find the perfect ride to put your effort into? This is a question many enthusiasts face when starting out on their journey.

Before you start, if there is one piece of advice we’d like to stress – patience. Many folks get to a place where they can afford to buy the car of their dreams. Tax return, savings, bonus, lottery win – whatever the source, you don’t want to blow it. One thing we’ve seen so often is the guy or gal who decides they have to buy the car “this weekend”. Using this strategy you have a very good chance of buying the wrong car in haste and regretting it for years to come. Trust us on this.

Now let’s take a look at  some of the tried and true places you can keep an eye on to find that classic you have been hankering to buy.

1. Auctions 

Auctions can seem a little daunting for those not used to the process. Although quick and fast bidding can drive up prices, some really nice wins can also be had if you go into them with the right approach.

Tips to Make the Most Out of Auction Hunts:

  • Know exactly what you want (and what you don’t)
  • Have a solid budget and stick to it like GLUE (do NOT let the heat of the moment push you into paying more than you set out to)
  • Know that if you miss a ride there will always be more opportunities in the future
  • Do your due diligence (check serial numbers, inspect the car, and ask the seller why they are putting the car up for auction)
  • If possible, take the car for a test spin
  • Be sure to read the FINE PRINT
  • Don’t be the first bidder

2. Estate Sales  

Savvy car enthusiasts and hobbyists alike know that estate sales sometimes have hidden gems at bargain prices just waiting to be scooped up. Estate sales are held all year long and can be found in your local newspaper as well as online.

Pro Tips:

  • Attend the first day when good deals are available
  • Ask about payment terms upfront
  • Ask about pickup policies
  • Conduct a full inspection if possible (ideally by your trusted mechanic). Unless it’s a true bargain no matter the mechanics and you are knowledgeable about this.

3. Barn Finds

These are the finds that legends are born from. Some of the best project cars have been found in barns, forgotten and ready for restoration. What types of cars have been discovered in barn finds? Just about any type of car you can imagine has been found in a “barn” at one time or another. (Hagerty “Barn Find Hunter” is really entertaining and jaw dropping).

The advantage of a “barn find” is that some owners are all too eager to simply just “get rid” of the vehicle that is taking up space and just collecting dust. So while these “gems” are hard to find, the treasure hunt is almost always worth the find. But to be realistic, some people spend a lifetime chasing that elusive “barn find”.

Pro Tip: Rural communities off the beaten path are often the best places to keep your eyes sharp and on the lookout. You should also not shy away from tapping the locals to help you in your search. Oftentimes, someone knows someone with a vehicle they “might” want to unload. You never know.

 

4. Online Auto Marketplaces

The internet is a vast resource full of opportunities. Take advantage of it. There are entire sites dedicated to selling classic cars in all kinds of condition. Although you can filter your searches based on several criteria including distance and price, be prepared to travel a bit to find the right deal.

Note the listing of the following websites is not an endorsement of the business. There are many sources and these are just a few. Do your own research as well and check all sources through reviews and endorsements from others.

 

Bigger Online Marketplaces

Niche Marketplaces

Finding the Right Classic Car to Restore Doesn’t Have to be Hard

Fact is, project cars are in abundance and not all that difficult to find if you know the right places to look. Once you’ve narrowed down what it is you’re looking for and have a set budget in place, the only thing left to do is keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground. With a little patience and effort, the right deal will present itself in no time.

 

Lastly, and importantly. There have been cases of enthusiastic buyers being cheated or worse, harmed, by criminals. When buying from an individual use common sense and don’t carry cash to a meeting unless you are certain it’s a straight purchase. Pro tip: meet the potential seller at a local police station.