How (NOT) to Buy A Cheap DeLorean

Created: 7/8/01

Last updated: 

Author/source: Dave Stragand

Editor's note: This was a reply to a DML post by someone looking for a cheap ($6000) car to buy and "fix up". This topic comes up so often it seemed like a good idea to reproduce it here. 

Are you looking for a project car so you can get a D at a lower price?  If so, that's false logic.  It just doesn't work that way.  In fact, it's exactly the opposite.  I'll explain:
An important bit of wisdom was imparted to me early on in auto restoration: "The difference between a $15,000 car and a $20,000 car is around $10,000." It's strange but true. You can almost always get a better deal (when all
told) by buying a car that is great to begin with, than by fixing up one that needs work.  I'm at around $18,000 into my project, and I'm not done yet.  I'm almost positive the "Rule of 20" is going to apply in my case. The "Rule of 20", if you are unfamiliar with it, is Cost of DeLorean + Cost of parts and service = $20,000. That's about $5,000 more than a D in nice shape to begin with...

Now I, on the other hand, bought -my- car for the express purpose of fixing it up. The process itself is what I'm interested in, more than the end result. Will I have a $20,000 car if I spend $20,000 restoring it? Most likely not. And to make financial matters worse, I will have invested a couple-thousand- hours of work to boot.

Sometimes though, the journey is better than the destination. My '58 Plymouth has around $27,000 invested in it, but is still only a $17,000 car. Where did the $10k go? It bought one heck of a lot of fun. A LOT of fun. And it's worth it, IF you can afford it.

I see a lot of posts asking for a cheap D, by someone who will finance. Originally, that's how I approached the original owner. I did pay him cash though when the deal was struck - I wanted to start with a clean slate. I do  remember what it was like to be young, and dreaming of that perfect car. You'll do nearly -anything- to get it. However, trust me on this one: DO NOT BUY A COLLECTOR CAR UNLESS YOU HAVE THE MONEY TO MAKE IT RUN AND KEEP IT RUNNING. Now it doesn't have to be perfect at first, but at least drivable. If you spend every cent buying a car that'll need tons more money before it's streetable, you will stress yourself to death. You'll start to see the car as an endless drain on your wallet, and it may be years before you ever get to drive it. Besides, it's a race against time. The longer it sits, the more it will need.  Eventually, you end up selling the car for less than you layed out, and you'll be depressed as well as carless. This is what my friends call the "Project Car Spiral". Avoid it.

I'm at a point in my life where I have most of the cash and time I need to responsibly restore a car. If you don't have enough of both to begin with, then you won't be happy when you get the car. It took me -12 years- to finally get my '58 Plymouth. It took -15 years- to get my D. If it's worth doing, it's worth waiting, and that advice works on a lot of levels.

Trust me. I've been there, and done that.  Even have the T-Shirt.  =)

-Dave Stragand
VIN #05927

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