"Primered, Ready for paint" How many times have you read those words in the classifieds or on CL? If the car was ready for paint why doesn't the seller just have it painted? Well he might figure that the new owner can pick the color. Or maybe he has invested as much money as he was willing in the car and wants to cut his losses. Maybe. Or maybe he realizes that he won't recover enough of his investment in paint to make it worthwhile. Possibly he is just sick and tired and just wants to get rid of the old clunker without spending another penny. Any or all of the above could be true. Perhaps the car has perfect bodywork , panel alignment and surface prep but he in a financial bind as has to dump his project.
The problem with primered cars is that you don't know whats under the primer. Could be straight solid metal or could be twenty pounds of bondo and chicken wire. Could be lots of surface rust that was spray bombed over without being neutralized or sealed. If you are considering a car like this you've got to examine it closely before you roll the dice. Try to determine if there is evidence of serious prior collision damage. Pay attention to the alignment of the front fenders, hood, doors, deck lid and valence panels. Look for buckling of the quarter panels around the wheel well area and roof pillars. Look at the door striker area to see if it looks hammered on. Look in the wheelwells and around the radiator support for wavy or hammered out panels. A lot of sellers will just hammer out the the damaged radiator support instead of replacing it. Look at the front and rear frame rails and floorboards. Since most cars will not have the trunk lining panels in place, shine a bright flashlight at the back side of the quarter panels. Any dents and buckling will be apparent. Also if you see what looks like pasta strings hanging out the back you will know that there was a lot of bondo slathered on the other side. While you can't expect perfection there is no reason to buy a piece a total piece of junk either. At any price.
My Mustang was advertised with a salvage title. That meant of course that it had sustained collision damage that the insurance company determined that the cost of repair was in excess of the car's value. The car was a "total loss" from their point of view. So there are several factors here, extent of damage, cost of repair, and vehicle value. The extent of damage is a given. In other words, the amount of collision damage the vehicle sustained is a fact. Cost of repair is a little more flexible. It depends on the extent of the damage and the quality of the repair. Will parts and panels be replaced or straightened out? Labor is expensive and is a big factor in cost. Vehicle value at the time of the collision is the most flexible factor. Most of the classic 50s and 60s cars had dropped to very low levels before the cars achieved collectible status. Running cars in decent condition were going for only a few hundred dollars. Combined with the rising price of gas, this relegated many of these "gas hogs" (including now coveted muscle cars) to the scrapheap.
For example. There was an article in Car Craft magazine about ten years ago about a genuine 1970 Boss 302 Mustang that had been modified to the owners specifications after 10 or 15 years of ownership. The owner had purchased the car as a currently finished and driving car with surprising low mileage. He had driven and enjoyed the car for years. Now he decided he wanted to go through the car and "restify" it. He took it to the bodyshop for cherrying out and paint. Upon teardown the bodyman found extensive prior damage to the front subframe and even buckling to the front of the floorboards. This required a total replacement of the front subframe and inner panels. The bodyman figures that the car had sustained extensive collision damage at one time and had been stored somewhere for years, accounting for the low mileage. As the value had skyrocketed it was now economically feasible to fix it up and sell it for a sizeable profit. The prior owner could have done the job properly, but either way it looked good enough for the current owner to buy it and use it for years. I'm guessing that the seller didn't disclose any of the cars history. Maybe it had changed hands a couple times and the truth was lost . The point of this discussion is that a Boss 302 is worth plenty now. It is worth the cost of proper repair but it wasn't then.
I'm sure you've seen the Goodmark ads where you see the skeletal remains of some Camaro that is undergoing restoration. Between rust and collision damage sometimes there isn't that much left or worth saving of the original. My coupe was worth next to nothing at one time, truth be told it isn't worth a whole lot now. So I can easily see how it was totalled out. Who knows the whole story? Carfax? Maybe. Or just a registration history check.
Another way for cars to be scrapped is if they sustain a major mechanical breakdown. Blown engine or transmission? Blown headgasket ? If the cars not worth repair, Just Junk it. Blown headgaskets are the plague of later model cars. Fuel injected overhead cam motors make headgasket repair a prohibitively complex and therefore expensive repair. Acura Legends are great cars and one of my favorites, but they are famous for blowing headgskets and transmissions. I really wanted a first gen coupe but I had to think about it logically. Here's a car with no following, no support, no resale value and a notoriously fragile engine and transmission. I made the smart move for once and went with a Mustang.
Sometimes cars come from estates and none of the surviving relatives want it, or think it is worth anything. Especially if its been sitting for years. Anything that hasn't run in years is probably going to be a headache. Still, if you are satisfied that the body and interior are in good shape and it's not missing any parts, it might be worth buying. If it hasn't been placed on "non op " status there will be back fees due. Past due registration fees can easily climb into hundreds of dollars. Some sellers will tell you the "it's off the computer". In Calif. the DMV will charge you the last three years reg. fees with penalties and any incomplete change of title fees. Another problem is that once the car goes into the junkyard it will be sold with a salvage title. The light and brake inspection will have to be done also. In California I believe that a salvage title cannot be restored to a clean title. Other states may vary.
Back to my Mustang. After a thorough inspection I saw that the chassis and body was in pretty good shape. Actually the front and rear frame rails and floors looked really good. Looking in the trunk, the quarter panels looked okay. However the rear of the trunk floor, the tail light panel and the rear valence had been repaired. The repair to the rear trunk crossmember had been crudely done and there was a bit of rust there and on the tail light panel. This leads me to believe that the car has sat unrepaired for an unknown amount of time then repaired and returned to service, or at least registered again. The car was currently registered in the seller's name when I bought it. This was strong point in favor of of my buying it. As you can see from the pictures I posted, it didn't look too bad. I figured that if I decided to keep the car I could always redo the repairs later. The cost of the replacement panels was only about 250 dollars.
Next prepping for paint.