Outside the Box

“I just bought another car…”

My wife has heard me say this so often that she just says “uh-huh” and goes about her business. I readily admit that I have the hot rod disease and have acknowledged that it cannot be cured…only managed. I don’t do so well at managing it, either.

I am “enabled” [a term taken right from many abuse programs] by the fact that we use these vehicles for product development. This gives me the rationalization to buy them, but does little to justify why we proceed to turn nearly every one into the “project de jour.” You know, wheels, tires, brakes, seats, exhaust, A/C, and of course, air suspension. Not to mention the obscene amount of hours spent on paint and bodywork. Not until you own a body shop can you be so miserably aware of how much time and money is spent creating the perfection you see in today’s hot rods.

So why do I continue this path? Well, I just can’t help it. I can’t let a muscle car with a solid body rest without trying to save it. Currently I am “enabled” [there’s that word again] by the fact that muscle cars are steadily increasing in value so I can call all of this an investment. Closer to the truth is the fact that all of the cars that I have right now I would own if they were only worth a few hundred dollars. I figure as long as I stick to that position the worst that can happen if the market crashes is that I get “stuck” with some really nice cars!

I've heard the opinion that the massive increase in muscle car prices is ruining the sport. The thinking is that the little guys won’t be able to afford even a rusty project car and only the rich guys will own muscle cars. I think there is another side to this. When prices escalate it become feasible for companies to create parts for these cars. Five years ago there was no reason to build a suspension system for, say, a Nova, because nobody would spend that kind of money for a car that was only “worth” a few thousand dollars. Now that Novas are bringing much bigger money you are finding all kinds of reproduction and aftermarket parts being built for them.

As the quantities go up the competition gets more intense and guess what? The prices come down. This scenario may not help the “little guy” right now but when his income grows into the market in a few years there will at least be cars and components available to buy. If this were not the case you would find prices even higher because of the lack of supply. If you doubt this try pricing some Boss 429 Mustang parts. Talk about bringing tears to your eyes!

Another thing the rise in muscle car prices has done is to encourage more creativity in building cars that were traditionally considered “turds.” I find myself looking quite favorably at Falcons, Caprices, Tempests, etc., because they can be made into truly nice cars with much less expense than a similar Camaro, Mustang or 'Cuda. You just have to expand your definition of “hot rod” a little! One trip to a street rod event will show you the popularity of street rods other than the traditional '32 Ford. Obviously the '32 Ford will always be king, but look how many Oldsmobiles, Plymouths, and Chevy street rods you see these days. The hot rodders who built and own these cars certainly don’t consider them a “second choice.”

I think another reason you see a large variety of custom cars these days goes all the way back to our high school years. Think about what you drove back then…or wanted to. Not everyone had Camaros and Chevelles. A lot of us drove Buicks, Pontiacs…and worse! Variety is a good thing. So is looking for the hidden treasure. Remember the brown haired girl who couldn’t make the cheerleading team in high school? I thought so.

The point is, most people remember their youth fondly and want to relive it in some fashion. THAT is why we are seeing the increased interest in muscle cars. The people who now have disposable income to spend didn’t drive a '32 Ford in high school…they drove a '60s car of some sort.

At the end of the day the decision to buy or build a certain vehicle is not really life or death. Anything that can be bought can also be sold if your interests change direction. As for me, I have several cars that I have bought primarily to develop suspension systems. We have Camaros, Chevelles, Novas and Tri-fives around here that make great display, demonstration and development vehicles. 

But I also have two or three that I consider “keepers”…cars that I have spent a long time looking for and fixing up. My '70 Pro Street Mustang [which is my original air ride car], my '70 GSX Buick, and my '69 Mustang are the cars that I spend my personal time and money on. I don’t attempt to justify spending that time or money or even bother to keep track of it at this point. It’s pure enjoyment …just the way it should be!  

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