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Car Restoration and Antique Car Collecting Part 3:

Getting your Treasure Home.
by Vic Donnell

If you are lucky the vehicle you have purchased runs well and is licensed, and you live close to where you purchased it. Under such circumstances all you have to do is drive it home, followed by someone else, or have the seller deliver it to you.

If a vehicle is drivable but not licensed, check with your state DMV and see if they issue temporary tags for transport. Most states do, and for a nominal fee. Of course, you can always take the title back with you, apply for tags and then go put them on, but that's fairly tedious. Some states allow you to drive such vehicles without tags if you call the state police for permission. Don't use tags from another car, however, as some states consider that a felony. Stiff fines and legal difficulties might ensue. You can make it easy if you have a trailer. Just carry trailer the car home.

My first, deliberately purchased, collectable car was a 1956 Ford Thunderbird. I bought it from Amos Menter in Dallas in 1968 or so. I was stationed in Mineral Wells at the time, so driving the car home was do-able. Amos was a reputable dealer in collector cars and had a good reputation. The car was in “good used car” condition but it was not perfect. We got lucky with this purchase.

Usually a restoration project car is in no safe condition to drive and/or it's located a long way from home. In that case it needs to be shipped, typically by truck. There are lots of trucking companies that specialize in transporting vehicles, and their charges are quite consistent - usually $1.00 per mile in an uncovered truck, $2.00 per mile for closed truck. Hemming's Motor News and Old Cars Weekly advertise lots of trucking companies. I purchased our Auburn in 1989 from a retired college professor in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. It had been determined by many members of the ACD Club to be “unrestorable.”

That’s why it was still available when I found it. I didn’t know that. So I restored it anyway. There is a complete, picture book, story of this restoration. When it arrived home, Jan took one look at it and said, “We paid WHAT for this?”

Of course, you always have the option of renting a trailer and towing your vehicle yourself, with total costs typically averaging $0.45 per mile. It is generally not a good idea to tow the vehicle itself, unless the distance is relatively short. You have no way of knowing the condition of its wheel bearings or tires and a failure could be catastrophic (read: expensive). When I found our Model T, it was stuffed inside a box trailer in Round Rock. It had been brought from New Jersey by a retired man who had moved it here where he hoped to resettle. His real estate deal had fallen through, so the car was for sale. There’s a good story that goes with this purchase. But the short version is that the seller agreed to pull the trailer from Round Rock to Shady Hollow in South Austin rather than to have us deal with trans-loading all the contents for the trip. That was a really good deal.

We got a 2-fer deal in about 1973. I was on faculty at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY. While carpooling home from the Academy, a friend and fellow faculty member and I were carpooling over Storm King Mountain to our quarters at Stewart Field. We were stuck in a traffic jam on the hill which was not an unusual occurrence. My friend asked casually what my interest was for the next collector car to purchase. I told him I was interested in the Continental Convertibles and would like about a 1965 model. His comment to that was, “Well, it looks like there’s one stuck in this traffic behind us.” Well, I purchased that car that day with the condition that I also take the man’s wife’s car, a 1962 Continental sedan. The sedan was disabled due to the transmission failure but I salvaged a ton of parts before disposing of it. Together, we drove the convertible home and towed the sedan with a tow bar (a practice I do not recommend). Jan and I drove the 63 Convertible for the next 39 years.