Classic Car vs. Piece of Shit Money Pit?

At what point does a car switch from being old and shitty, to being a classic.

I saw a 67 Mustang the other day: definitely a classic. It was completely restored, but it got me thinking, even if it was in rough shape, I still would have thought “Wow. What a car.”

So, I have a 97 Sable in fairly good shape. It’s got leather interior, sun roof, power everything, AC is perfect, etc., but it’s starting to show its age. Really though, it’s a fine car.

I’m seriously thinking about getting it re-painted and spending some money on the upkeep. Is it worth it? It’s got the 3.0l Duratec engine with about 220,000 Kms and is still running quite well. The transmission case had some cracks in it a few years back - indeterminable cause - so the tranny has about 60,000 kms less mileage than the rest of the car.

I like the car. What should i do? What would you do?

Sable? Isn’t that a Buick? I don’t know about classic, but any car that’s luxurious and is still in good shape is worth upkeep in my book, especially a fairly solid car like a Buick, Caddy or Continental.

Of course, take my opinion with a grain of salt, what I know about new cars wouldn’t fill a thimble, I’m kind of a hands-on kind of girl. The whole idea of having to own specialized computer diagnostic equipment to fix your car irritates me.

Sable is a Mercury, and it’s just a rebadged Taurus. Hardly what I’d consider a classic, and I personally would not bother keeping it maintained with the intention of long term ownership, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if the OP loves his Sable I guess he should go for the overhaul.

I have a 1985 Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am. It’s in bad shape and I’m in the same boat. Do I restore it or junk it? I figure it would cost me about $5000 to get in back to “good” shape. Right now, those cars are a dime a dozen. I could probably pick one up for about $3000 in as good of shape as I could hope to restore mine. Sure, one day it will be worth something, but I’ll probably be dead before that day comes.

That really is the million dollar question. What will be a classic and what will remain junk? Sadly, my oracle is on backorder.

We’ve had a 99 Sable, purchased new, and frankly, I think it’s a piece of shit, but to each their own. The engine isn’t too bad though–I can accelerate to highway speeds in an acceptable amount of time.

I had a friend that thought his Chevy LUV mini pickup was going to be a classic.


Merc Sable? A classic? Maybe in 20-30 years. But I really doubt it. It just doesnt’ have any panache (IMHO).

It’s 10 years old. You like it. That’s great. I would keep it running, not worry about the paint and save for a new vehicle.

IMO sports cars and high-end luxury cars have a decent chance of becoming “classics”. Mid-range sedans? Forget it.

IME, a lot of cars become classics because they’re the cars that people wanted when they were too young to drive. When they get older, they can afford to buy and/or restore their dream cars.

As far as the Sable goes, I’d say keep it if it has some personal value to you. trade it if it doesn’t. I doubt that it would be a smart investment, but it’s may be a nice car with some memories attached.

BTW, I asked about the costs of doing restorations on non-collectors cars here.

If you can find a mid 80’s muscle car in really good shape for $3k right now you should pick it up. Those will become collectable well before your death (so I hope). There are already articles coming across in the hot rod magazines about them since they do have some serious power and can be had cheaply. I would love to have one as they were the cool cars of my childhood and I can’t afford to own a 60’s era muscle machine.

More and more, I’m finding this to be the case as well. I own a '85 Vette that’s in great mechanical condition - that is, it runs awesome. The air conditioner, radio, and power windows, not so much. I do need to put some money into it, but can’t right now. That said, I’ve gotten way more compliments on it this summer than in the previous five years combined.

I’ve thought about selling, but want to get a good price for it as it’s only got 32K miles on it (no, that’s not a typo). Your post gives me hope, Clurican.

That depends. Who would’ve thought a 64 Impala would be such a classic?

Hell, I’ve even seen early 70s Impalas fixed up and looking pretty nice.

That said, a mid-1980s Lincoln Towncar will never, ever be considered a classic. American cars took a bad turn in the mid-1970s, everything prior to that had a bit of personality – even the big family boats of the 1960s (e.g., Pontiac Bonneville). Even 1980s Mustangs are garbage.

In my opinion, the only American-made car produced in the last 30 years that will be considered a classic are Buick Grand Nationals (moreso with the GNX). Everything else is cheap (lots of plastic) and pretty lame.

Aw man, that’s an *awesome * project car, if you’re into that kind of thing. You can just get parts here and there, online and at swap meets and spread it over time to help defray the cost of a full blown shop restoration. It doesn’t have to be a concourse winner to turn heads. A little bit here and there and you’ll be at cruise nights and local car shows in no time and even be seen as a bit of a trend setter with your retro 80’s styling.

Rat rods are enjoying a huge revival right now and it’s because it’s affordable hot rodding. For just a little bit of cash (in the great scheme of things) you can have a fast car that’s fun to drive, which is something everyone should do before they die.

Oh, I know - there’s no way my car will ever be a classic since they only made about 50 gazillion of them, but that also means there’s parts galore, which is a good thing. And she’s got balls, that’s for sure. Love my baby.

…is the story on collectable cars. As was mentioned, the few cars (mostly 1960’s Camaros and Mustangs) skew the average resale values up wards. Face it, a 1963 RAMBLER sedan will NEVER be worth its restoration cost-because nobody wanted the car when it was new! Or take the automotive oddballs-like a 1958 EDSEL Pacer-sure, there aren’t many around 9in good condition)-but even the (relative) scarcity hasn’t made these cars into collector’s items.
Restoring old cars is eaither a hobby or a delusion-suppose you (like Jay Leno) happen upon an old 1912 STANLET Steam car-Leno can afford the $$$ to restore the car-and it will look nice in his collection. But you? You would bankrupt yourself, and (most probbably) lose money even if you were able to restore it.
It is a rich man’s hobby-venture into it at your own peril!

Anyone who has been into lowriders in the last 30 years or more can appreciate them for the old school looks.

I agree with you about most of the cars made in the last 30 years, but somebody has been buying up those cheezy-looking late '70s Monte Carlos and turning them into old school lowriders as well.

I was a rather rabid GTO owner in my day, my friend was president of the GTO Association of America who restored more than a few Goats. Not one did he ever get back what he put into it. They weren’t pieces of shit, but they were certainly money pits.

If you want to fix it up as a hobby, because you really love the car, then maybe it’s worth it to you. I don’t consider an paint job and engine rebuild to be that big a deal, providing you have alternate transportation available (and remembering that I’ve only done it to cars made before catalytic converters), so if you like the thing and enjoy working on it, it’s worth it.

I’ve decided that this is my dream money pit restoration…I dread the day that I ever stumble across one, because my wife will forever lose me to the garage.

Behold…the sublime beauty of the Saab 92:

It has money sinkhole written all over it…but I want one…I must have one… :cool:

The popular priced makes actually bring a little more as antiques/collectibles than the midprice lines (although nowhere near as much as the luxury makes).

There are probably five '57 Chevy Bel Airs out there for every '57 Chrysler 300, but according to, the Chevy will bring an average of $46,200 for your basic 2 door hardtop coupe, as against $28,200 for the Chrysler.

Going back a quarter-century, a '32 Ford is a classic. A '32 Essex Terraplane is a curiosity. A '32 Pontiac is a chicken coop.

All old cars are a “piece of shit money pit”. They are unsafe and unrealiable. Sure some are a cool looking “piece of shit money pit”, and some are a collectable “piece of shit money pit”, but most restorations cost far more than the car is ever going to be worth, assuming you include your labor. More or less as Bobotheoptimist said.

It’s a hobby. Like some hobbies, sometimes you can get something back out. But they are not income producers for most dudes.

Dr. Deth’s input is stone-ass correct, in my experience. Never made any money on any of my rods.