Friday, August 15, 2014

My goal with this blog is a discussion about having fun with cars you like, not always the ones you need. The focus is on affordable, attainable, and usable cars. The point of beaters are that they are cars that you can actually use, they should be daily driveable. The term beater usually means a car on it's last legs, limping along with no maintenance and little repair, cars being driven into the ground. Nothing wrong with that as long as they are kept in a safe driving condition. A Better Beater is an car you drive because it's something you like and want. It's maintained and improved to a point where you have some pride in it, but it's never going to be a showpiece or an ego trip. It's never going to impress the gold chainer driving the new Vette or late model BMW. The street rod or muscle car guy in the lawnchair would certainly turn up his nose at your ride. But that's not the point. It's not a competition. ( at least with them). A real car guy can respect any car that has been maintained and improved.

When the rat rod phenom started I welcomed it as a real change in attitude in the old car hobby. I saw it as an emphasis on driving and using the car instead of treating it as a shrine. A guy could drive his old car that needed a little (or a lot) of work and get a little respect for his efforts. It was, and still is a bit like that but it degraded into a caricature of shoddy workmanship and poor and even dangerous execution and design. I don't advocate any modifications that are unsafe or driving a car that is unsafe due to worn out brakes,tires,steering, non-functional lights etc.

There are tons of cars available right now in every category and price range. I choose to concentrate on the affordable and attainable models that a bucks down guy can afford to buy and finish. On DIY repairs, improvement and customizing. Low buck options for paint, interiors and wheels. Creativity and resourcefulness. This all resonates with the roots of hot rodding. Early hot rodders were looking for solutions, how to improve their ride within their capabilities and budget. As they gained more experience their skills grew and their cars benefited.

I'm going to present my current project as an example and discussion point.  My goals with this car was to have a "classic era" pony car that I can actually afford to buy, finish and use. My Mustang journey follows.

My very first car was a 1966 Mustang coupe with a 289 and a four speed. I bought it 1973 or 1974 after graduating high school for 300.00. Truth is, I bought it because my Dad talked me out of buying the old Cadillac Coupe de Ville I really wanted. I kept it for a year than bought a 1964 Cadillac convertible and didn't think about Mustangs again for 40 years. In 2007 I bought a new V6 Mustang coupe and after a time I came to appreciate it's virtues as a simple basic fun vehicle. This car was intended for my wife and it was pressed into family car service. Later it was given to my daughter to drive. I had really wanted a convertible GT model but felt my wife and daughter didn't need 300 hp to drive around town. A V6 would do and I felt a hardtop would be much safer for my daughter as a new driver. So I bought a 1996 Mustang GT convertible as a hobby car. It was in pretty good shape but I've invested as much money as I paid for it so far. But it's good reliable fun to drive car that gets good gas mileage to boot. I've driven it to LA a couple of times Lake Tahoe and Reno and up the coast to Mendocino and Ft. Bragg. These cars make excellent daily drivers. They are plentiful, inexpensive, and the 4.6 motor has excellent longevity. There are tons of stock and aftermarket parts and support available. At my age expensive insurance is not an issue, as I am well past the age of 25 yrs. While I still like this car (which I still own) I started to get into the Mustang mystique and the first gen cars started to look really appealing. Part of the attraction is these are totally depreciated cars. Their value can only go up. Improvements made to them will boost their value and it is even possible to make a buck when you sell them. As much as I like my '96, I have tracked it's declining value as I monitor Craigslist sales. Just because it's Kelly Blue book value declines, doesn't really mean much, as I will discuss later.

Like most Mustang fans I would love to have one of the following models:

1967 "Bullitt" fastback
1968/67 "Gone in 60 seconds" Eleanor fastback
1968 California Special 
1969/70 Boss 302, Boss 429,
1969/70 Mach One
Any Shelby or clone
Any early year fastback or convertible.

However a common problem occurs. lack of money. The prices of these models start at merely expensive 10-15 grand, to the stratospheric high six figures. What's a guy to do? Dream and wait for the lottery pay off? Go to Good Guys shows and drool over someone else's car? become an armchair expert able to recite every nuance and specification for the cars they can never possess? Or should they take action?

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