ReverendDexter UberDork
9/26/11 3:47 p.m.

We've got a '10 and love ours... it's just too bad there wasn't a Mazdaspeed5

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Andy Reid
Andy Reid HalfDork
1/14/13 9:00 a.m.

If you play with classic cars long enough, you’re bound to find yourself on a slippery slope. It starts innocently enough: You look at a car that’s for sale and think, “Wow, I really love this one. It’s in good shape, so I’ll buy it.”

During that initial inspection, you only notice a few problems that need to be addressed to make the car perfect. Later on, however, you see a few other things that need attention. “You know,” you tell yourself, “it would be even neater if I replaced the carpets—and while doing that, I really should go for some new door panels.”

So begins the slippery slope. Very soon you find yourself spending thousands of dollars on a car that only cost a few thousand in the first place. Thankfully I’ve only done this a few times, and I honestly thought I’d learned my lesson. Then I bought my 1968 Fiat 124 Spider.

The car was a nice 10-footer and remarkably original. I have owned a number of Fiat Spiders over the years and have always thought of them as really terrific vehicles. Compared to other Italian cars, Fiats are underrated and thus inexpensive to own.

I like my cars to be nice, and the Fiat wasn’t going to be an exception. It all started when I replaced the cracked dashboard. I originally thought about buying a good used one, but the supply has pretty much dried up. This left me with two choices: Buy an inexpensive fiberglass dash cover or go with the German-made replica.

The first option costs $99, while the other goes for nearly $600. Of course I chose the replica, as it matched perfectly. After a 10-hour installation process, I had a new dash.
While out for a drive a few days later, I became fixated on the somewhat shabby door panels. They were missing their decorative chrome pieces and were a bit worse for wear.

I called the guys at International Auto Parts, and they had a set of perfect re-pop door panels. While the $400 price didn’t seem too bad, remember that the entire car only cost me $6200. Happily the door panels were an easy install, and afterward the interior looked perfect.

Now that the interior was done, I started to see all the issues with the paint. I made the mistake of looking at the car as though I were doing an auction evaluation.

While the interior panels, trunk and doorjambs were all original and looked good, the exterior needed some work—more than just rocker panel replacement and a few touch-ups. It needed an exterior paint job in its original color.

I originally thought I could save some money here. I reasoned that I could do my own prep work and get an $800 paint job through Maaco. Again, though, this is me we’re talking about and it’s my car. I didn’t want to be associated with a car that was not a nice example.

Near my house is a custom paint shop that specializes in restoration work. They do a terrific job and have painted many muscle cars as well as scores of Rolls-Royces and Bentleys. This was the place to get a great paint job, and this is where I took the Fiat.

We replaced both rocker panels as well as the right-rear wheel well edge with NOS Pininfarina replacement body panels. We completely stripped the car to a bare shell and repainted the entire exterior. By the time I was done, I had spent more than $7000 on paint and bodywork—all on a $6200 car. See a trend here?

Do the math, and there’s obviously little chance that I will make money by selling this one, let alone break even. My guess at the maximum value for the little Fiat is about $12,500. That’s a handsome sum for this fun, diminutive roadster, but it still puts me thousands of dollars upside down in the car.

This isn’t always a bad thing, especially if the car is a keeper that you really love. My problem is that, while I like the Fiat Spider, I haven’t connected with this one in particular. It simply isn’t the right car for me. My advice, which I should have taken myself: If a car doesn’t move you, walk away.

Before you feel too bad for me, though, I have to tell you about my newest car. I found a 1997 Aston Martin DB7 coupe in Mendip Blue. It was on craigslist a month ago for the amazing price of $19,950. This is the lowest price I have ever seen for one of these.

I had the car inspected, and it passed with flying colors. The honest market value for this car is more in the range of $35,000, especially when you add that it has a trunk fitted with Aston Martin bespoke luggage. So while sometimes the hobby can go badly, it all tends to even out in the end.

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1/14/13 9:21 a.m.

i just purchased a Scca vintage 1968 124 as a roller it came with a modern fuel cell Minilights and other goodies. It was 700.00 While finding a race spec 15oo may be expensive it is all about what you pay for the car in the first place. As your article so aptly points out. O also lust after some sort of Aston Martin very well bought.

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