August 13, 2010

Car Talk

Is it worth it to make his 1963 dream car a reality today?

Syndicated columnists

Dear Tom and Ray:

I graduated from high school in 1963, and my dream car was the 1963 Studebaker Avanti. Well, life got in the way, and I never realized my dream of owning an Avanti. I recently have been going on eBay to find Avantis that have survived these past 47 years. I have located several that are rated from museum quality to daily drivers. This car did not achieve star status, as Studebaker went out of business in 1966, and a Canadian company produced replicas for several years. But the '63 and '64 models, in average condition, seem to be going for between $6,000 and $13,000. My questions are: (1) Do you think a 47-year-old vehicle could be a dependable car for everyday use? I do not want a trailer queen or a covered dust collector in the garage. And (2) the Avanti was known as a muscle car in its day, so could I expect it to still be as strong today? I know I'm not. Finally, (3) in the vast experience you both have with automobiles, do you think I would have to drive this kind of car with kid gloves and always be fearful of old-age-related problems? I really don't want to own a money pit.
-- Gary

Tom: We'll take your questions one at a time, Gary. Do we think a 47-year-old car can be dependable for everyday use?

Ray: No. Forty-seven-year-old cars are, generally speaking, unreliable. Not to mention unsafe. That's why most people got rid of them 35 years ago.

Tom: Would it still be a muscle car today?

Ray: In looks, yes. And possibly on the road, too. It's possible, if the compression is good and everything is in good working order, that you could floor it and accelerate pretty fast. Just make sure nothing's in your way. Like a curve. But that leads directly to Question 3:

Tom: Would you have to drive this car with kid gloves and always be fearful of age-related problems?

Ray: Yes. And that would preclude flooring it and trying to drive it like a muscle car.

Tom: When you buy a car like this, what you're really buying is a hobby, Gary. If you don't have the time or the interest for an old-car hobby, then buy a 1/10th scale model Avanti for your desk instead.

Ray: Right. If what you really want is a daily driver, the cheapest, most bare-bones, brand-new Nissan Versa is going to be safer, cheaper to run and much more reliable, and will handle a lot better than the Avanti.

Tom: So you have to decide what you really want, Gary. If you want to fulfill your lifelong dream, then buy an Avanti. Just understand that you're not buying a car, you're buying a dependent.

Ray: And on those weekends when it's running well and you're not out searching for parts, you can drive it up to the old high school and pretend it's 1963 again. You can imagine that all the other kids are jealous of you, that the prom queen wants a ride home and that you still have hair. Good luck whatever you decide, Gary.

(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk Web site.)

Advertising

Partner video

Advertising