Polly wants to jump head first into classic car ownership, but it’s not just for a selfish love of speed. She wants to share this car with her mom and grandmother. I can think of no better way to strengthen family bonds than from behind the wheel or under the hood.
Unlike many of you, I didn’t get into cars from a family member who was also a gearhead. You all have shared some wonderful stories about wrenching with parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters. Those are memories that will last forever, and while my wrenching skills are limited I look forward to bonding with my children over cars.
Even though Polly doesn’t consider herself a gearhead, she appreciates a good car and wants to give her mom the opportunity to finally own a classic ride. I’d say she’s more of a gearhead than she thinks.
Here is the scenario:
My mom has long dreamed of owning an antique/vintage car and as a result, so have I. But I’m not a car whiz and worry about pouring tons of money into repairs and finding obscure parts.
This spring, my Nana is moving to Long Island and the car will live in her house, which is across the street from the beach. We’d keep it in the garage to minimize exposure to salt water but inevitably, it’ll face some salty air.
No one in my family is a major car buff but all of us can do basic maintenance on a car and would treat the car properly to ensure we aren’t the assholes who destroy an antique.
My mom and I live in the city but will be visiting my grandma on Long Island regularly, so we’d like this to be the car we drive around town when we’re doing fun activities with her. It would likely be used 2-3 days a week during the spring and summer and 1-2 days every other week during the other 6 months. The primary destinations for the car would be beach, church, grocery store, and LIRR stop, basically a slightly more frequently used “Sunday Car”. It would be driven, max, 30 miles a week. Maybe 40 if we get really crazy and go to the movies a town over.
To be honest, we just want a cool looking, fun to drive beach car with some history to it! If someone asks me about the car, I plan to be able to speak about it intelligently with them and tell its story. My family and I immigrated from Ukraine to the United States in 1995, so if we can get any kind of Eastern European history into this car, that’s awesome.
My primary family unit is my grandma, mom and I. We would consider ourselves strong, independent, but also fun-loving and silly, women. We’d like this car to reflect our personalities.
I’m the jerk who can’t drive a manual, the rest of my family can. But I’m willing to learn and hopefully not mess up the car in the process.
If it’s at all possible to stay under $7000, that would be great. But if that’s delusional, tell me as much and I’m willing to save up longer to afford a $10,000 car.
Budget: up to $10,000
Daily Driver: No, weekend and beach car
Average Miles Per-Week: 3o-40 miles
Wants: Something that reflects the independent personality of Polly, her mother and grandmother, possibly Eastern European
Doesn’t want: To have to travel very far from NYC to buy it.
With a $10,000 budget, it’s important to differentiate between a “collector’s car” and a “classic car.” Collector’s cars are often classics, but just because something is categorized as “classic” doesn’t mean it will be collectible. Most true collector cars will be beyond your budget, and that is fine! You aren’t looking to make money at the Barrett-Jackson Auctions someday, you just want something with some history you can enjoy.
So you may end up with something a little offbeat that isn’t easily recognized. That will be part of the fun. You’ll have people coming up and saying “Oh cool, what’s that?”
I think a great choice will be a 1958 Chevrolet, specifically this gorgeous ‘58 Chevy Del Ray in Freehold, NJ. That is a relatively short drive from NYC and the price is perfect for your budget. Miles on this are “unknown”, but don’t let that scare you. As long as the body is in decent shape and all the major components are in good working order you should be fine. This Del Ray should comfortably seat four in style and have plenty of room for jaunts into town. The parts on these were shared with many other cars so finding replacements as needed shouldn’t be a problem.
Classic cars are all about style, and you aren’t going to get much more of that for six grand. It’s a great starting point to see what it’s like to own something from a different era and try out some of your own wrenching.
I think you’ve got the right idea: get a car that you can do some simple work on and drive around. Tons of classic car fascinations involve big projects or adventurous oddballs that end up spending a year or more in the garage before ever making it on the road, if they ever get there at all. Setting your sights on something simple and in good shape already is definitely the way to go.
So I’d point you to this immaculate 1963 Rambler wagon. Is it fast? No. Is it filled with the highest of automotive technology for its time? No.
This Rambler is straightforward and uncomplicated and already in really good shape. It looks like one of those cars that you do routine maintenance on and just enjoy driving. The seller up in the Palisades is asking $6500, the mileage is a paltry 83,000, the interior has been redone with original materials, and it’s wonderfully blue. I think it’d look gorgeous parked by a beach, loaded up with towels and blankets and ooh maybe a little picnic with some pickled herring.
I’ll admit, the Eastern European history part of your fantastic classic car plan is what really got me excited. It’s so rare we get people asking for requirements that are as worthwhile as that, so I really wanted to try and find something that worked for that as well. And I think I did: this lovely Communism-red Soviet-era 1988 Lada Niva.
You want something that reflects nana Polly’s independent personality? Girl, the Niva has you covered. The Lada Niva is a plucky, rugged little bastard that nobody ever bothered to explain the concept of ‘giving up’ to. It looks sort of like an old VW Rabbit wearing snowboots, and it has a friendly, round-eyed face with the indicators placed just so that they resemble a pair of perpetually befuddled eyebrows.
I drove one of these all around Reykjavik, Iceland, and found it to be charmingly crude but wildly capable. Polly and her crew can use this guy as a fun beach car in the summer, where it’ll be capable of driving right on the beach, if that’s how Polly wants to roll, and during the winter there’s really not going to be any conditions that will stop it.
It’s a car built in the former Soviet Union! There will be plenty of history to talk about when Polly drives her little red mule over a couple of picnic tables to get to a better parking place. It’s rare here, sure, but it’s hardly complicated mechanically, and this one looks really well-sorted.
It’s for sale in Brooklyn, and while they’re asking $10,900, I’m pretty sure you three can talk the seller down below $10K.
This is going to be great. Polly is about to have the baddest grandma on Long Island.
I scoffed at Jason’s choice of a Lada Niva and wrote it off as his usual bad NyQuil-addled advice until I saw your request for something that reflects your family’s Eastern European heritage. And that’s a noble goal, but I fear it conflicts with your request to have something that’s relatively easy to work on and get parts for.
But I think I have another solution. You should look to a man named Zora Arkus-Duntov. While born in Belgium, he was of Russian Jewish descent, and in a long and storied career at General Motors is credited with being the father of the Corvette. And a classic ‘Vette would meet all your needs just fine. It’s historic, sexy and will definitely get you noticed.
Now, $10,000 probably will not get you into one of the Corvettes that Arkus-Duntov was most associated with, but it can easily get you a very nice C3 Corvette. I found this lovely blue 1978 model with an automatic gearbox in Michigan for just $9,995. Fast? Not at that point in time, not really. But a worthy classic addition to your family? I’d say absolutely. The only downside is that it’s a two-seater, but you can all take turns, right?