Let the Rod­der Be­ware

Tips to Con­sider When Mak­ing a Pur­chase

Street Rodder - - Contents - ■ By Ron Ceri­dono ■ Pho­tog­ra­phy by the Au­thor

Tips to con­sider when mak­ing a pur­chase

Caveat emp­tor is a Latin phrase that means "Let the buyer be­ware." That’s ad­vice that has never been more ap­pro­pri­ate than when it comes to buy­ing a car on the In­ter­net. Re­cently we’ve heard a va­ri­ety of hor­ror sto­ries con­cern­ing street rods that have been pur­chased sight un­seen that turned out to be mis­rep­re­sented by the seller who was ei­ther de­cep­tive or un­in­formed.

Buy­ing a car on the ba­sis of pho­tos and a writ­ten de­scrip­tion is a risky propo­si­tion. A case in point is a good friend who bought a '32 Ford with what was said to have a “fresh” en­gine. Hear­ing the rods knock­ing when it was un­loaded from the de­liv­ery truck was the first in­di­ca­tion that some­thing was wrong, and it took $7,000 in re­pairs to make the en­gine right. While that was bad enough, the en­gine turned out to be the tip of the ice­berg as the Deuce had to be over­hauled from one end to the other, in­clud­ing re­plac­ing the doors that were more plas­tic than metal.

If you’re in­ter­ested in a car that is lo­cated out of your im­me­di­ate area, plan on mak­ing a trip to check it out for your­self—a plane ticket may save money in the long run if the ve­hi­cle in ques­tion turns out to be a dud. If trav­el­ing isn’t fea­si­ble, or you lack the ex­pe­ri­ence to de­ter­mine the con­di­tion your­self, en­list the help of a pro­fes­sional. Check Hem­mings Mo­tor News or, even though it is some­what ironic, the In­ter­net for a cer­ti­fied spe­cialty ve­hi­cle ap­praiser/in­spec­tor. A com­plete re­port will usu­ally run around $350, which is rel­a­tively cheap in­sur­ance—we’re sure our friend would agree in hind­sight.

When ex­am­in­ing a prospec­tive project your­self there are a va­ri­ety of fac­tors to con­sider; me­chan­i­cal con­di­tion is one. A test­drive will usu­ally make any de­fi­cien­cies in the ve­hi­cle ob­vi­ous. Lis­ten for strange sounds and check the flu­ids for any ev­i­dence of con­tam­i­na­tion. Look for signs of blow-by or oil leaks and smoke from the ex­haust pipes. If time al­lows, and you’re sus­pi­cious of the en­gine’s con­di­tion, ask for a com­pres­sion or leak-down test.

Along with the en­gine and trans­mis­sion, pay at­ten­tion to the brakes and steer­ing and check the op­er­a­tion of all the elec­tri­cal ac­ces­sories. Again, turn­ing to a pro­fes­sional for ad­vice may be wise if there are any doubts about your own abil­ity to make those judg­ments.

While the me­chan­i­cal con­di­tion may or may not be crit­i­cal as mod­i­fi­ca­tions are of­ten planned, the con­di­tion of the body is usu­ally the top pri­or­ity. First off, don’t over­look miss­ing or dam­aged trim or other com­po­nents that may be hard to find and ex­pen­sive to re­place. Check the align­ment of

the doors and body pan­els. Look care­fully at the un­der­side of the body, pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the rocker pan­els—check the floors in the pas­sen­ger com­part­ment and trunk. Then, of course, be on the look­out for ex­ces­sive use of plas­tic filler, or “body­man in a can,” that hides dam­age that has not been prop­erly re­paired.

A com­mon ques­tion is: “How much filler is too much?” The usual rec­om­men­da­tion from sup­pli­ers is a max­i­mum of 1⁄ inch af­ter sand­ing 4 (how­ever by street rod stan­dards that’s a lot and an 1⁄ inch is of­ten seen as the 8 max). There are a va­ri­ety of ways to de­tect the pres­ence of filler, par­tic­u­larly if it hasn’t been skill­fully ap­plied. Sand scratches can be an in­di­ca­tion as well as mis­matched pan­els and crooked body lines. Even run­ning your hand over the sur­face (use your left hand it you’re right handed) will show highs and low that may in­di­cate re­pairs that have been made (or those that are needed). Of course there is the old trick of us­ing a re­frig­er­a­tor mag­net, which won’t stick if plas­tic filler is present, but the most ac­cu­rate means is with one of the thick­ness gauges that are avail­able. For as lit­tle as $20, testers are avail­able that will mea­sure the thick­ness of any filler, primer, or paint with sur­pris­ing ac­cu­racy.

Re­gard­less of whether you do it your­self or hire pro­fes­sional help, don’t let the ini­tial ex­cite­ment of look­ing at a prospect or the fact that there is money burn­ing a hole in your pocket in­flu­ence your de­ci­sion. It’s wise to be skep­ti­cal so in­ves­ti­gate any pur­chases thor­oughly—and let the buyer be­ware. Take a look at these two ex­am­ples that prove the point.

For the dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ence: https://bit.ly/2Ot1qBF

■ Here’s one of our projects in wait­ing, a '56 DeSoto. From 25 feet it looks pretty good, but it has some com­mon is­sues that will be ex­pen­sive to re­pair. A car like this has to be pur­chased for a price rep­re­sen­ta­tive of its cur­rent con­di­tion, not its po­ten­tial.

■ Typ­i­cal of a car its age, the Mopar has some dings that are not dif­fi­cult to fix. An­other bump be­hind the wheel­well, again not too dif­fi­cult to re­pair.

■ Now we’re get­ting into more se­ri­ous prob­lems—there is ev­i­dence of rust in the rock­ers. The right rear fen­der was snagged on some­thing, leav­ing be­hind this com­pli­cated re­pair.

■ Since the rear quar­ter is badly rusted from the in­side it will have to be re­placed. There are no re­place­ment pan­els avail­able so it will have to be fab­ri­cated or a donor found. For­tu­nately the pas­sen­ger com­part­ment floor is solid and will only re­quire clean­ing and paint.

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