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Watching old car auctions on TV, your pulse quickens when you see a beautifully restored Hemi ‘Cuda or Shelby Mustang selling for over six figures. Then you mumble to yourself, “Everything is out of sight. I will never be able to get into the classic car hobby.

It is true that high-end automobiles seem to be on an endless upward trajectory in value. Financial secure baby boomers, remembering the cars of their youth, can now afford to buy one. This pent-up desire is helping to drive up prices today.

This puts these cars out of reach for the average Joe, who needs the cash AND a place to store the car AND free time to maintain it. But there are still plenty of ways to immerse yourself in the hobby while spending very little money. Here are three of those ways, with a range of varying expenses.

# 1 Automobile club membership

Auto clubs have been around almost as long as the cars themselves. One of the most important, the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), was founded in the 1930s. Whether it is an all-brand club like the AACA or a specific club. brand like the Mustang Club of America, one thing they have in common is that vehicle ownership is not a prerequisite for club membership.

Should this deter you from joining? Absolutely not. These clubs are full of individuals who welcome all car freaks no matter what you own. You will be able to spend time with like-minded people, talk about topics that interest you, and learn more about the models you like from other club members. Depending on your available time, you can also volunteer for various activities. Here are some of the tasks clubs typically seek help with:

  • Writing articles for the club newsletter.
  • Volunteering to take photos at shows.
  • Assistance with parking and movement of spectators during club meetings.
  • Offer races to older club members who no longer drive.

As you get to know the folks at the club, don’t be surprised when they offer you a ride in their precious jewel, or better yet, tell yourself that it’s your turn to take a ride to the flying !

Your real cost: Minimal. Most clubs have an annual membership fee (average figure of $ 50), plus your gasoline and travel costs. But, you will be in the hobby, surrounded by cars that stoke your passion!

Attending auto shows can be a fun and inexpensive way to indulge in a classic car hobby. Photo: Dana Rose Cristal.

# 2 Collect Automobilia

Collecting items is a human condition, probably dating back to when we were cave dwellers, and every piece of stone and wood served a present or future purpose. Today, popular collectibles include coins, comics, marbles, pens, and watches. How does this apply to you, dear car enthusiast? Easy: Much of the hobby is devoted to “automobilia” (a fancy word created from the mixture of “automobile” and “memories”).

What can you collect? Everything related to the industry. I have a soft spot for books and magazines, which I found mostly at yard sales and flea markets for a dollar or two. Old road maps are a recent obsession: they are cheap and take up very little space. Model cars, be it dealer promotions or kits, are a good way to have cars, just on a different scale. License plates, radiator caps, spark plugs, and dealer signs are also fun to find and take home.

Speaking of hunting, the fun can be in the hunt. Besides garage sales and flea markets, also think of real estate sales, antique shops and friends and neighbors! Online shopping on eBay and similar sites is also an option, but beware of reproductions if an item is touted as “antique.”

Your real cost: Limited by how little or how much you want to spend. You could literally start a collection of printed items and spend no more than $ 25 or so, including a nice storage binder. Warning: this hobby is very addicting!

1953 Packard Advert 03
Researching vintage advertisements is a great way to build your automobilia collection.

# 3 – drive a vintage car

Before I think I’m going to suggest that instead of a last-gen midsize sedan you put yourself in a rusty, unreliable ’60s wreck, let me explain. The quality of the cars has constantly improved over time. The gradual improvements have had a positive impact on the quality, durability and longevity of a vehicle. Innovations such as electronic ignition, fuel injection, sealed bearings, and stronger bodies have made it possible to create cars that can easily travel 150,000 miles or more with regular maintenance.

Jaguar Century: 100 years of automotive excellence

This hasn’t always been true, however.

Consider the year 1987 (30 years ago) as an arbitrary point of comparison. In 1987 a 25 year old car was built in 1962. Your typical 1962 era automobile had a carburetor, drum brakes, bias ply tires, no seat belts, and no rust protection. Air conditioning, power windows, and a radio were paid options, if available. You were lucky to have traveled 100,000 miles without major system failure. If you’ve seen a 1962 car on the road in 1987, your reaction might have been “look at that old jerk that still drives!” “

92 FordMustang
1992 Ford Mustang. Photo: Ford Motor Company.

Go for daily drivers

Today (2017) a 25 year old car was built in 1992. Every new car from 1992 was equipped with computerized engine controls, 3 point seat belts, disc brakes, catalytic converters, tires radials and a complete anti-rust treatment. Many 1992 (and older) cars are still on the road today, exceeding 200,000 miles.

If you can “afford” to use a 25 year old car on a daily basis, you might be able to have your cake and eat it too. This option works best in multi-car families, where one spouse has a newer car for family use and the other spouse drives a more limited amount.

But it’s not unreasonable to think that a 25-year-old car can be driven on a regular basis. Think about the cars that come to mind? Think Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaros, Mazda Miatas, BMW 3 Series models and even more exotic dishes like Corvettes and Mercedes-Benz convertibles! A quick scan of online ads shows that many of these vehicles are available for $ 15,000 or less.

Tips and advice

To be realistic: You need to check out these used cars very carefully. Here’s a huge benefit to club membership: Bring another knowledgeable club member to help you. Your realism should extend to the more limited versatility of a sports vehicle. These cars have limited interior space and can drive harder.

Back to the positive side: You have a vintage car! A 25 year old car is eligible for AACA shows and can be taken to cruise nights or “Cars & Coffee” events. Clean it up and bring out your pride and joy for everyone!

Your real cost: The entry price is low if the “vintage car” replaces another car in the household. Factor in some additional maintenance and repair costs, and don’t forget to check with your insurance company (letting your spouse know can also be a good idea). Choose your price and dive into the hobby. You can still watch the auctions on TV, but now you’ll be proud that you’ve found a way to get into the game without spending a fortune.

Richard Reina is the Director of Product Training for CARiD.com. He enjoys restoring and driving old cars with a special love for all things Italian. Richard is also passionate about music and is a huge Beatles fan.

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