“Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and…” Go on, you know it, sing along: “Chev-ro-let.” Americans have long had a love affair with cars–classic cars in particular. They’re American Collinsworshipped in our culture, in movies and TV commercials, at weddings and charity benefits, at local hamburger-joint cruise-ins, family reunions, and Fourth of July parades. Young men in their first tuxedos drive them with sweaty palms to Prom.

The robust health of the old car hobby is evidenced by the ever-growing participation and attendance at car shows and auctions around the country (over 6,000 collector car shows and exhibits were held in 2003). Here’s why there’s never been a better time for you to join the millions who have made their dreams of owning a piece of the past come true:

1. Investment. You’ve got to put your money somewhere, and some classic cars are appreciating in value better than your average mutual fund. (Plus, you can’t go into the garage and wax your mutual fund). Take the case of a very nice, 1949 custom 4-door flathead V-8 Ford. Twenty years ago you could pick one up for about $2500. Ten years ago the same vehicle would not sell for under $6000. Today you’re lucky if you can buy one for less than $15,000.

2. Opportunity. While the values of certain collector vehicles, such as muscle cars, are spiraling upwards (and out of the reach of many would-be collectors), there are certain antique cars that are downright affordable, such as the Ford Model A. While a “numbers matching” 1965 Pontiac GTO convertible can easily command $30,000+, a fully restored 1930 Model A will only set you back about $12,000 to $18,000.

3. Family time. Restoring a vehicle yourself, even partially, can be a great learning experience for the whole family. The patience, craftsmanship and attention to detail can be worthy attributes for a young (and not so young) person to acquire. The plethora of manufacturers of licensed restoration parts, paint companies, tools, tires and parts make it easier today than ever to restore that dream car. Many companies have on-line manuals, DVDs and VHS tapes to help you through a particular part of the restoration process.

4. Precious heritage. Pride of workmanship flourishes in this hobby, and whether you choose to do the restoration work yourself or have a professional do it, it’s a testimonial to the days when life moved at a slower pace. Each vehicle has a story to tell and this is not only a valuable, but precious, heritage. What a thrill to know that your children and grandchildren will carry on the history of the car, and your association with it.

5. Creative outlet. There’s no law that says you have to have an original car. You can take a little creative license with the paint, or go wild and turn your nice quiet old car into a screaming purple lead sled with air conditioning and power steering. Either way, you’ll have plenty of people cheering you on. The street rod hobby is growing even faster than the old car hobby in general–one of the national street rod clubs, “Good Guys,” now has over 66,000 members and hosts 22 huge events around the country each year.

6. New friends. The enormous number of car shows, swap meets, cruise-ins and car clubs are all chances to network with the millions of other collectors out there. Meeting new people, getting free tips and suggestions, and involving your family in a nationwide hobby are great reasons to get involved. If you have access to a computer, there are hundreds of on-line chat rooms strictly devoted to “collector car-speak.”

7. Old fashioned fun. There is something about washing and waxing a car that has a soothing quality to it, not to mention the ego boost of the neighborhood crowd you’ll acquire while working on your classic. It’s fun to share your hobby with young and old alike. A Sunday drive with the oldies playing on the radio can bring back fond memories of a time that wasn’t quite so hectic. If your collector vehicle happens to be a convertible, all the better. Put that top down, grab the kids and hit the road!

8. Insurance. Not a four-letter word. There are providers that specialize in low-cost collector vehicle insurance, and offer qualified owners super-affordable coverage. Classic car insurance provides all the traditional coverage that regular insurance provides, but in addition protects the vehicle on an “Agreed Amount” basis. This means the company will pay the full-insured value, with no depreciation, in the event of total loss. By contrast, if you placed your 1970 Corvette, for instance, on a regular auto policy, it might, in the event of a total loss, be depreciated to only a few thousand dollars–a very unpleasant surprise should such a claim occur.

9. Fifteen minutes of fame. Many collector automotive publications seek freelance writers. Keeping a journal of your restoration process means you have the play by play should the Muse strike. Restoration aficionados are always looking to hear about a better (faster, cheaper) way of doing things. Your car could be a star not only in ink but on websites as well. American Collectors Insurance’s website, for instance, has a heavily trafficked “Classic Car of the Week” section where policyholders tell their stories and winners have pictures of their cars posted (see www.AmericanCollectors.com).

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10. New lease on life. Driving a classic car–whether it’s a stately, living-room size Caddy or a ’69 Mach I with a 351 Windsor–gives you a sense of being totally capable of doing anything and going anywhere. Unlimited possibilities seem to appear in the road ahead. Strangers smile and wave at you. There is an air of mystique, respect and passion. There’s no price tag on making a dream come true.   —Courtesy of ARA Content

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