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Classic Cars

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Don't you just love those antique cars with the flowing lines, wooden side-runners and pot-lamp headlights? Classic car buffs do. They love them so much that they collect, restore and drive old cars.

A classic car is any older vehicle -- from the first one ever built, to cars put on the road 25 years ago.

Every owner of a beat-up '56 Chevy truck is a classic car owner, but car buffs are more serious about the hobby. They restore their vehicles to look like they did when they came off the showroom floor.

Almost anyone could be a classic car buff. Maybe your hairdresser, your dentist or your teacher has a classic car tucked away in their garage.

"The classic vehicle restoration hobby is peopled by enthusiasts from all walks of life," says Dan Jondron, a car buff in Washington.

Many classic car buffs specialize. Some people like any antique car, while others are interested in only one make, model and year.

Many people drive classic cars for the nostalgia -- because they remember riding in the same vehicles during the 1940s or 1950s.

Most classic car buffs belong to clubs and organizations. Joining a club helps people meet others who are passionate about the same kinds of cars. These clubs organize car events and shows and offer their members assistance in their restoration projects.

For instance, the Antique Automobile Club of America was founded to preserve the history of the automobile and automotive literature. The club headquarters in Hershey, Pennsylvania, houses a public library. It is also involved in establishing a museum.

A classic car show can be held as a rally or as a display. A rally has drivers and their classic cars travel a specific road course under a time limit. A display, which can also be called a concourse, involves the display and judging of pristine autos.

"[A rally] can be an ice cream social, when a group of 25 cars will go to a seaside town to get an ice cream," says Dan Jondron. "Or, it can be a race. There's one that goes right from San Francisco to New York."

The Antique Automobile Club of America holds national tours and 10 national meets a year. Vehicles are judged according to how well they have been restored. The goal is to get the vehicle looking as it did when it left the factory. The club welcomes antique cars, both domestic and foreign, along with commercial vehicles (even school buses), motorcycles, and trucks.

About three million people own classic cars worldwide. Everyone who drives an older car is included in this figure. There are probably about 500,000 people who are actually classic car buffs. Roughly 150,000 of those people own more than one classic car.

"Many of the collectors are older, in their 60s and 70s," says Jondron, who has an Internet page dedicated to the cars. Still, he's found that young people are just as excited about classic cars as the generations before them.

"My friend Bob spends most of his free time with his son fixing up classic cars," says Joe Washco, a car enthusiast in Minnesota.

Interest in classic cars continues to grow. "It's something that's being past down from generation to generation," says Washco.

Although the hobby is dominated by men, many women enjoy collecting classic cars. Janet Ricketts is the executive vice-president of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA). She was installed as the president of the organization in February of 1999. "I was the first woman president of this fine organization, which was founded in 1935 with a current membership of 55,000 worldwide," she says.

"My Porsche club president and secretary are both women," says classic car buff Christopher Menke. "Stereotypically, women like houses and men like cars, but I know this to be untrue in many cases."

Collecting cars is an expensive hobby. It costs thousands of dollars to buy a classic car, even if it's in bad shape. The sky's the limit on how much can be spent. Once, a rare Bugatti classic car went for $21 million at an American auction.

This classic car has been lovingly restored by a classic car buff. Restoring a car to its earlier glory takes research, hard work and plenty of enthusiasm.
Courtesy of: Antique Automobile Club of America

Menke owns four cars together worth about $70,000. He spends $4,000 in tools and parts a year. Registration and insurance is another expense.

Statistically, driving a car is a pretty dangerous thing to do. However, classic cars usually don't reach high speeds and are not driven on the busiest roadways. So, it isn't really a dangerous hobby.

"If your goal is to hot-rod as fast as possible, then you are endangering yourself," says Menke. "If you drive responsibly and confine your speed runs to the track, it's very safe."

"I think it is pretty safe," agrees Joe Washco. "The only thing you have to watch is how much money you spend!"

The physical requirements vary for this hobby. Someone who does restoration is probably also a mechanic. They must lift heavy car parts and have good hand-eye coordination.

You can turn your love of classic cars into a part-time or a full-time job. In the United States there are plenty of classic car dealers, mechanics and people doing restoration work. It's also possible to rent out your car for weddings or as a movie prop.

You can also spend weekend afternoons volunteering to drive in parades. "Several cars have been used to assist the Make-A-Wish program for the terminally ill," says Menke.

Getting Started

Listen to the stories that older people tell about their cars. They will entertain you for the afternoon, and they will also give you valuable information on how to fix old cars, says Dan Jondron.

For many classic car collectors, it's not just old cars they like. They're also nostalgic for the old days. Why not stop by the video store and rent an old movie to get a glimpse of the world of yesterday?

Visit museums every chance you get. You will see all kinds of fantastic cars. Some let you get behind the wheel.

Collecting cars is a social activity. Car collectors enjoy meeting others with similar cars, talking about cars, and going for drives.

Maintaining a classic car takes dedication and hard work. You have to be prepared to look for spare parts and to wash and wax your car on a routine basis.

While it's a lot of work to own a classic car, that shouldn't stop you from enjoying them. Go to museums and any car events happening in your area. Joe Washco keeps up his interest in cars through photography and maintaining a classic car Web site.

You don't have to have a car in order to join a car club, says Ricketts. "You just need to be crazy about automobiles. In order to be a member of AACA you need not own a vehicle, but merely to have an interested in antique or classic vehicles." Find out if your local club has a junior membership for younger people.


The Antique Automobile Club of America National Headquarters
501 W. Governor Rd.
P.O. Box 417
Hershey , PA   17033
Phone :  (717) 534-1910
Fax :  (717) 534-9101
E-mail :

Antique Studebaker Club
P.O. Box 28845
Dallas , TX   75228-0845
Toll-free :  800-527-3452


Car Collector Online

Cars and Parts Magazine


The Classic Car-nection Home Page

Classic Car Source
A good directory to sites and information
Test your classic car IQ with this quiz

Restoration Advice
Check out this big list of links

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