An Open Letter to the Typical Classic Car Seller/OwnerS

Consummate Detroiter Thom Douglas shares his love for classic cars and his contempt for an older cohort of owners who think classics should accrue value instead of miles, making them unattainable for a new generation. — Ed.

I'm getting increasingly bothered by the fact that I don't have a car, whether drivable or not. This frustration rises exponentially when I'm "window shopping" for a car on Craigslist. I come across one in which I'm halfway interested (usually within the late 1930′s, late 40′s, early 50′s or late 60′s model years) & then see the price.

When you want $4,000 for a rusted up, disassembled, & probably incomplete, shell of a *insert faux-rare model here*, you probably (unintentionally, of course) aren't trying to sell it to anyone under the age of 40. Then you, the "older" car enthusiast, turns around to bitch & moan about how your "old car enthusiast culture" is dying because we, the younger generation, seem to be disinterested in your culture.

News flash, old timer(s): it's not that we're not interested, on the contrary, we're very interested.

The problem is that you price these "collector" cars at ridiculously high prices. So, you poured half your retirement fund into restoring it. No one told you to do that. Yes, the car looks great, but don't expect to make back what you put into it, then plus whatever that bullsh*t KBB says the car is worth.

The only people who can afford these immaculately restored cars are people of your age group. No wonder the classic car culture is dying. The only people who can afford them literally ARE…dying.

Now, to be fair, I have no problem with a "well maintained" classic, priced reasonably at $10,000. If the upholstery is good, the paint is decent, & there is little or no rust, that's definitely 100 Benjamins well spent.

But when you come on the internets & you post a rusted up, non-running, "they made 1 million of these cars, but it's definitely rare" Ford for $10,000, that is NOT 100 Benjamins well spent. In fact, it's literally a waste of money. And time, both on your part & the readers'/shoppers' part.

I see postings all the time for classic cars with low-ish miles (40-50k), in decent shape, & drivable. And then I see their $6,000 price tag. That is a hell of a deal if you ask me. My favourite postings are the ones that have a 30′s, 40′s, or 50′s car for sale & in the description it says "this was/is my daily driver." Dear seller, you're doin' it right.

I can justify giving you $10k for a car if it looks presentable, IF…& only "if," it is not "perfect" because it's your daily driver. Anyone who appreciates a classic for what it is: a car to be driven, deserves to have an extra $2k added to their asking price, because they know the true value of the vehicle they are trying to sell. As long as you can upkeep your classic AND use it as a daily driver, you have my respect & money.

I CAN'T justify giving you $10k for a car that is in perfect condition that you just let sit in your garage in between seasons/car shows. I don't care that it's never seen rain or snow. You know what that tells me? It tells me that this isn't a car to you. It tells me that you think this car is some sort of trophy. Something to be looked at & never truly driven for fear of God only knows what.

If it's not in decent shape because you're neglectful, then that tells me that the car means less to you than it does to the man who thinks it's a trophy. It tells me you think it's equivalent to a paper napkin: something to be disposed & forgotten about. Since that's what it appears to be, you should probably just drop the asking price to "free."

But getting back to immaculately restored, never driven cars…

So one or two parts might be a little hard to find. That's not worth not driving the car. Don't not drive it because you're afraid something will break. Cross that bridge when you come to it.

Classics are not "special." They are not "rare." They are not meant to be roped off so a child can't touch them. They are cars, meant to be driven, enjoyed, used, & loved. Not the faux-driven, faux-enjoyed, faux-used, or faux-loved like too many classics are. If you have a true, unadulterated passion for automobiles, not just classics, you will understand this article. If not, then I'm sorry I've wasted your time. If you feel so inclined, send me an angry email that I will just post & make a mockery of in a later article.

Thom Douglas loves boats, vintage cars & educated vocabulary; gin Martinis, Manhattans, Southamptons, or a good Scotch; jazz or music that's equally as relaxing. He blogs about Detroit and life on his blog Leftovers For Dinner.