Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Where Have All the Old Cheap Cars Gone?

Missing: all the old cheap 70s and 80s cars that used to populate Autotrader websites...

Where have they gone? It used to be that when searching online for old, cheap restoration projects or parts car donors you could find dozens of prospects. Today it seems that they have all disappeared. And I find this very sad and troubling for the next generation of car fans.

What better way is there for a young person to confirm and cement their love of cars than to restore their own old car? A privileged few with daddy's credit card can pick up a true old collectors car and spend a fortune restoring it (or having it restored), but I'm talking about the hardworking young guy or gal who just wants a project to call their own, and wants to get their hands dirty without spending every last penny they have. Where can they find their toy?

In an age where auto parts stores and websites make it easier than ever to find parts and tools and kits necessary for automotive restoration, it seems paradoxical that there are fewer and fewer old cars around begging to be fixed. Not only are more recent cars out of reach financially to many young people, but they are becoming increasingly complex and difficult (if not impossible) to work on.

I am a firm believer that every young car fan needs to start with a simple, affordable restoration project to get a feel for the procedure. Something like a Chevette, or a Turismo, or a Pacer. Something that will break neither the spirit nor the bank account. A 'starter car' that one can still find parts for at a local wrecking yard, or online. Strangely, I find it easier to find odds and ends of late-late-model car parts on sites like Craigslist and Kijiji than I do to find the cars they originally belonged to!

My suspicion is that there are two issues that have cut into the supply of decent, simple car renovation prospects: tightening fuel economy restrictions, and the Cash-for-Clunkers programs of a few years back. Many people who have no interest in repairing their own cars trade in their junkers on newer models, and those junkers don't interest car dealers, so they're quickly scrapped. It was the same deal with C4C programs the world over: many cars that would have traditionally found their way to dingy corner used car dealerships with "500 bucks or best offer" scribbled on the windshield in grease paint were sent directly to the crusher.

This was my project from a few years back, a 1981 AMC Spirit I bought off of for $600

It doesn't seem that this trend is going to reverse itself. Do any of you know where one can still find these basic restoration projects? By scouring internet websites can they be found? Is it better to hunt farmers fields and small town garages in the hopes of stumbling across that ideal first car to redo? Feel free to post your ideas and sources, as I'm sure that there are many young people asking themselves the very same question!

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