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The Essential Guide to Buying Your First Classic Car

We first encountered Alex Manos, founder and CEO of L.A.'s Beverly Hills Car Club, while browsing for an "affordable" but cool classic car. BHCC simply has a bigger and better, and more reasonably priced, selection of them than anyone else in the country, if not the world. From an iconic Jaguar E-Type to a rare race-bred Ferrari, and everything in between, Manos has got it, usually in multiples, at incredible prices.

Most of the cars Manos sells are in need of restoration to some degree, and range from mere shells for under $10,000 and dust-covered barn finds, to cars that are nearly ready for the show field clocking in at $250,000 or more. But he specializes in drivable examples that don't cost the Earth, and you can decide how much you want to invest in making them perfect, or not. And prepare to be shocked at the deals you can get on ones that are far from pristine but very usable – $24,000 for an E-Type, anyone?

Quite simply Manos has great taste and an excellent eye, loves all examples of true automotive beauty, doesn't spend a fortune on overhead, is justly proud of an ironclad reputation for honesty, has a massive 135,000 sq. ft. showroom/warehouse and constantly turns over his inventory, allowing him to be extremely competitive on pricing. Quite often his customers come from Europe and farther overseas, because even with the cost of shipping there are amazing deals to be had.

Manos' father owned an E-Type when he was growing up and this instilled an early love for European sports cars that later inspired BHCC. His first classic car was a 1962 Lincoln Continental with suicide doors in need of repair, and young Alex worked on it himself. Once it had been restored, he was deluged with offers from people wanting to buy it. He next restored a classic convertible that someone literally handed him a check for at a traffic light, which led to the establishment of BHCC in 2008. 

A decade later Alex has established relationships with some of the world’s most elite collectors, but also places equal regard on the average car enthusiast, and prefers to deal in affordable classics. "You have to be patient and follow your heart," he counsels. "Find the car that excites you, and then leap into action when the right deal comes along because those cars do not come up too often." Here are Alex's seven essential rules for buying your first classic car:

Rule One

"Firstly, arrive at a decision as to what car you would like to buy - year, make and model. Will it be a Porsche, Mercedes, Ferrari, Jaguar, Mustang? Will it be a daily driver or will you be using it on the weekend only? If a daily driver, make sure you become very good friends with a mechanic so you can have an ongoing relationship with someone who will know the car inside and out and be able to work on it."

Rule Two

"Next, give yourself a ballpark figure as to how much money you would like to pay for it so you have a budget and know what figure to work with when looking to make a purchase. The budget is essential when you negotiate with the seller and helps you stay within the amount you have set yourself. Are there specific reasons why you are adding a classic car to your life? Is it for investment purposes or is it because of the sheer love of the car? This will also help you decide how much to spend."

Rule Three

"The most important part of this is for you to do your research. Take your time and do your homework and make sure you have gone above and beyond due diligence in order to understand exactly what it is going to cost you. Read everything and become knowledgeable about the car you've chosen. Ask yourself how much time you are willing to invest in your newly acquired classic. And how much time and money you are willing to spend restoring it if it needs some work."

Rule Four

"Now that you have decided what car you are going to buy, have an amount of money in mind, and have done the research, start looking around — but bear in mind that if you find the exact car you are looking for, don’t hesitate because classic cars are not like modern cars where there are hundreds or thousands of them available. There is a high demand for classics and they can be sold very quickly. So it would be prudent not to hesitate once you've found an exact match for your requirements."

Rule Five

"The more original the car is the better it will be if you want to sell it at a later point. If you don't understand how to confirm if everything is original, first ask the seller; and if you still don't feel comfortable, find an inspector who can confirm the seller's claims. Every car is different, and when confirming if the car has its original matching numbers engine, the most important item, you need to know that some cars match the VIN and other have a different sequence of numbers, for starters."

Rule Six

"Before paying for the car in full, put down a deposit right away but also immediately arrange for a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) prior to signing over the rest. That way after you've had a professional inspect the car you will know exactly what you are getting, and be able to determine if you are willing to live with the car the way it is and at the price you are paying."

Rule Seven

"Finally, know that getting insurance for your classic car can be cheaper than you think. Some insurance companies offer special lower rates and packages if you only drive your car on the weekend, so don't let that deter you from getting behind the wheel of the car you've always dreamed of owning. Because you will then have a lifetime of excitement and a whole new community of people to connect to."