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Are You Buying or Selling a Classic Car?

Know the Market

Buying and/or selling a classic car car either be a lot of fun or a disappointing major challenge. It is important that you know exactly what kind of car you are looking for. Once you know what you want, take the time to learn as much as you can about the car. Where does it typically rust? What options, if any were available? You know the routine, but what about the seller or best buyer?

Recently, SEMA did a study regarding Classic Car ownership. We likely all have our ideas on who owns a classic car but there were some surprises for me. They didn’t just look at who owned classics but what they owned, where they purchased it and what there preferences were regarding originality and modifications. Remember, this was a study of ALL classic cars. In my humble opinion, the sellers and buyers of Ford and Mercury Aero Cars are a special breed and the results of the study may not apply directly to our group.

One big surprise for me was that the study found it is rare for individuals to own more than one classic vehicle at a time. I don’t know about you, but most of the real hard core car guys and gals I know have more than one car. They may not all run, but they are collectors. However, I also recognize the expense of multiple cars and the need for car storage buildings adds significantly to the ownership cost.

The report stated 88 percent of classic owners have only one vehicle that meets the definition of classic car. For those who owned only one classic it is a prized possession that is held onto for as long as possible.

Owners like to improve their beloved classic, 30 percent of classic vehicles are in better condition than when they were purchased, 52 percent are in the same condition and only 18 percent are in worse condition.

Ownership for 20 years or longer represents 38 percent of classic vehicles, with 73 percent of the vehicles owned by the same person for at least 5 years. It appears that we hold onto what we like!

Private sale or auction?

Of all classics, 32 percent were obtained from a friend or relative, 27 percent from a dealership, 14 percent from online listings and another 10 percent from a private party. Of those collectors ages 45 or older, 44 percent got their car through a friend or relative, and 51 percent in that group show their vehicles through social media outlets.

Online auctions account for 5 percent of purchases and in-person auctions for 3 percent. All other sources, including salvage yards and swap meets, account for 9 percent of purchases.

As is or restore?

Among owners, 29 percent want their car restored to factory condition, 26 percent desire a resto-mod update with the original appearance but modern mechanicals, 7 percent prefer to go full custom or hot-rod, and 37 percent are happy just to keep their classic in running, driver condition. 

However, it was reported by the shops that work on classic cars that only 20 percent of their business is restoration, while 30 percent involves custom or hot rod builds and 50 percent is meeting the demands of the resto-mod market, which is still growing.

All of this information is very interesting, some surprising and other expected. The one important variable I would like to see provided is these percentages by age of the owner. Who is driving the resto-mod market? Is it the retired collector who now wants the look but not the pain of an old car driving experience, or the younger generation that doesn’t appreciate the experience of driving an old car? I also believe that the relative rarity of a particular car impacts the likely hood of that car being modified or resto-moded. I also suggest that the rarity will impact who might want to collect that car, what condition it will be in and how it will be stored and used.

What do you think?


Some of my first and strongest memories from my childhood relate to cars. I still remember when things happened based on what car I was driving at the time. I grew up and lived in Iowa for nearly 40 years before moving to Southern California and now live in Tennessee. I was a Corvette fanatic for years but then re-discovered vintage American Muscle. My wife, Katrina, and I decided we wanted to focus on unique and rare muscle cars. After a lot of research we fell in love with the Ford Blue Oval Aero Cars. These were only built in 1969 and and aerodynamics became an important part of winning races. The only purpose of these limited production cars was to win NASCAR races using the Boss 429 and 427 power plants complimented with a special, wind cheating, aerodynamic body. The Ford Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II are terrific and historic cars. This site is devoted to these car and their owners past and present. We provide an Online Registry for recording the long term history and ownership of every remaining Talladega, Spoiler and Spoiler II.

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