Q: Hi Greg and thanks for your cool columns on the collector cars. I’m still too young to drive (only 13) but I’m hoping to buy a collector car one day that I can afford and have fun with. I love the car shows in my area and watching the Mecum Auctions on TV. I know I can’t afford those TV cars, but I see that the Chevy Corvairs are priced fair, so what do you think about them? Also, I see you bought an AMC Concord, so how about them? They are priced lower than most collector cars I see on the internet or in the collector car magazines like Auto Roundup and Hemmings. Thank you.
— Bobby S., Canton, Ohio.
A: Bobby thanks for your email and kind words. Both the Chevy Corvair and an American Motors Corporation (AMC) car offer reasonable prices to enter the collector car hobby. Your letter is rare in the fact that during my 40-plus years of writing about cars, I’ve only received a few from readers your age wanting to own a collector car first and foremost when they learn to drive. Back in my day, you were usually handed down a “collector car” as your first vehicle, but just didn’t know it when we drove them.
When I was your age and living in south Jersey, I would eagerly wait for Sunday’s Philadelphia Bulletin newspaper so I could see the full two page ads that a giant car dealer named Reedman in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, ran each week. Reedman was a huge new and used car dealership located in the Philadelphia market and they always had cars in those ads for as little as a few hundred dollars, which always attracted my attention.
I have attached the only Reedman ad that I could find, specifically one from what looks like late 1970 or 1971. This ad is lots of fun looking at, especially the cars listed like a 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird that is listed for $2,899. Today, a 440-V8 powered Superbird commands upward of $100,000, and probably double that or more if it’s a 426 Hemi. This ad is loaded with muscle cars, so enjoy browsing how it used to be.
To your question, the Chevy Corvair as a collector car is a decent selection, especially since it doesn’t take that much to buy one in nice shape. I’ve always liked Corvairs because of the car’s unique rear-engine, rear-drive technology. The car took a bad rap when Ralph Nader wrote a book called “Unsafe At Any Speed,” which criticized the car as one of the most dangerous ever built. Nader pinpointed instability on the highway and in the turns. This instability had to do with tire pressures, for as long as you followed the recommended tire pressures of 15 pounds in front and 26 pounds in the rear, the early model Corvairs were stable.
So, in my opinion, Corvairs are pretty cool cars and collector worthy for those on a budget.
Models like the Monza Convertible Turbo or a regular Corvair coupe or sedan are priced to buy, while other Corvairs that are popular include the Lakewood station wagons or the very neat Greenbrier Sports Wagon passenger vans. There is also a Greenbrier pickup truck that has a real cool side opening to load cargo, but I think the Corvair Coupe would be a good choice for you to get started.
As for the AMC cars, I did purchase a 1980 Concord and put on a new exhaust system and have it sitting in my garage for a total investment of about $3,000, delivered to my home with my state taxes and tags all paid. This should give you an idea of what’s possible on a small budget.
The good news is that my 258-inline six cylinder Concord has only 27,000 original miles, has a great interior and is in excellent overall mechanical shape, sans a few small and easily fixed body blemishes. It could actually be my daily driver if I wished and could use a paint job down the road as the paint is thin in a few places.
Again, remember cars like an AMC Concord or the Corvair never be “big money” collectibles.
However, these lower-priced collectibles offer future enthusiasts like you an excellent gateway into the fascinating hobby of collecting automobiles. Looking at repair and parts availability, I would opine that the AMC would be cheaper to repair if something major happens to the engine or transmission.
Other AMC models to look for are Hornets, Gremlins, Pacers and even a Javelin six cylinder, all able to be purchased for less than $7,000 in very decent shape. I recently saw a real nice Javelin go for $5,400 on eBay, so keep checking your hometown newspaper ads, internet sites and Auto Roundup and Hemmings magazines for good info. There are always deals out there, and one could be close to your home when you are ready to pull the trigger.
Good luck Bobby and let us know when you save enough money and buy your first collector car. I promise you’ll have a lifetime of fun.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now, BestRide.com and other Gatehouse Media publications. He welcomes reader questions on old cars, auto nostalgia and old-time motorsports at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pennsylvania 18840 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.