Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Building a Rare Classic American Car Collection

Mark Pieloch caught the bug early. Riding along with his older brothers in their 1960s muscle cars sparked a lifelong love. Now, many years later, his Pieloch Classic Car Collection contains over 130 classic and antique cars, most with very low mileage or full frame-off restorations. It wasn’t always that way, though.

Getting His Start

After he graduated from high school, his father gave him a hand-me-down 1967 Ford Ranch Wagon for college in Boston. The car had over 130,000 miles on it and was badly in need of repair. With no money but lots of determination, Pieloch took the project on. In 1975, he proudly took the fully restored Ford Ranch Wagon with him to college. (Unfortunately, he did such a great restoration job that an “admirer” of the car stole it soon after he started school.) The Ranch Wagon was the first of many cars Pieloch restored. Mustangs, Bel Airs and Camaros followed. He loved restoring cars. The problem was that after working on a car for so long and bringing it back to its glory days, he found he couldn’t say goodbye. Rather than sell his masterpieces, Pieloch started collecting.

Collecting and restoring cars sounds like an expensive hobby. It can be, of course. The truth is, however, that anyone can start collecting cars. Pieloch restored his first car because he needed it for school and didn’t have the money to buy one. He was willing to work hard and restore the car to working condition. While he was at it, he discovered he had a talent for restoration. First cars in a collection don’t have to break the bank or be some rare, exotic, one-of-a-kind model. Keeping an open mind and a willingness to use some elbow grease can be the start of something big.

Not Just for the Wealthy

Jay Leno, a long time collector, advises the novice to stop looking for a rare treasure, particularly when first starting out. He says that even if a car is not a rare collector piece, it can be fun to drive, affordable and great for weekend cruising. Plus, it can come with a great story. Hemmings Classic Car magazine lists several makes and models from the 1970s that are affordable and make a good first collection investment. Making the cut was the 1973 to 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Coupe, 1972 Pontiac Bonneville four door hardtop, 1975 to 1978 Matador Coupe, 1973 to 1974 Buick Luxus Century Coupe and the 1976 Gran Torino.

Most initial collector purchases are project cars. Collectors recommend that beginners work on and complete one project at a time. When looking to purchase, choose a car that is within driving distance. Buying unseen over the Internet, particularly with the first project, is too risky at this stage. Keep your budget, capabilities and personal preferences in mind. Purchase a Chilton’s or other detailed manual about your particular car. The object is to have fun and learn.

The Mark Pieloch Classic Car Collection started small. In addition to the over 130 antique and classic cars now in the collection, Pieloch has vintage gas pumps, antique pedal cars, antique radios, restored neon auto signs, antique restored soda coolers and a restored 1952 Seeburg Model 100 jukebox. It all started with that 1967 Ford Ranch Wagon back in 1974.