Start Your Engines: How to Become a Vintage Car Collector

Do you dream of muscle cars and antique Mustangs? You aren’t alone. Events like the Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit’s Motor City attract over 40,000 classic cars and 1 million enthusiasts who love them each year. With numbers like these, starting a vintage car collection of your very own can appear daunting, but fret not; you needn’t wait for an annual car show to roll around to get started. Whether your daydreams are filled with classic cars or American vintage, becoming a vintage car collector is as simple as these 5 steps.

1. Start Your Research


Close-up of Red Vintage Car

The Fox Classic Car Collection wasn’t built in a day. To narrow down your search, sift through the forums of the Antique Automobile Club of America for helpful information from aficionados, gurus, and fellow novices. Once you’ve decided on a particular model or two, read dealer reviews from sites like DealerRater to find a reputable seller. Finally, consider costs like import duties and taxes if the model you’re after has to cross the border.

2. Choose a Lane

Ease off the gas for a moment and determine exactly how much time you want to allocate to your new passion project. Is this simply a weekend hobby, or will this be a lifetime pursuit? It goes without saying that nearly every antique car requires some deal of restoration, but classic car restoring is a hobby unto itself. How much time are you willing to allot? The sooner you can articulate your collecting style, the faster you’ll be on your way to becoming a vintage car collector.

3. Find a Garage


Sleep black vintage car in parking lot

Save for restoration, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is finding storage space to accommodate your growing fleet of cars. Unless you’re in the process of finalizing the specs for a custom-built garage, you’ll likely need to select a storage unit. Keep climate, security and budget in mind:

  • Be sure to get a second opinion from an expert—rust is a collector’s worst nightmare
  • Make sure the facility you choose offers 24-hour surveillance and secure individual access
  • Determine the monthly or annual costs associated with renting space

Look down the road to determine additional costs should you wish to grow your classic car family—you may want to inquire about volume discounts and package deals.

4. Select a Starter

You’ve done your research, decided how much time you’re willing to put in, and allocated for storage. Congratulations aspiring vintage car collector! You’re ready to hunt for your first starter car.

  • Scan the listings of sites like Old Cars Weekly to find conventions near you
  • Search for model-specific swap meets and trade shows in your area
  • Don’t neglect treasures that can be found at an auction or local salvage yard

5. Get a Tune-Up


Classic car interior

Restorations may be complete, but the final and most important aspect to being a real vintage car collector is preserving your collection with regular maintenance. A simple high-quality car cover and regular engine checks are the most important requirements. Be sure to also take it for a spin every now and then to make sure it not only looks beautiful, but that the engine also stays running smoothly.

While the roads of vintage car collecting can seem intimidating to navigate, by following each of these steps you’ll be well on your way to building a collection of classic cars worthy of the Concours d’Elegance.

Photos: morrison /, Standret /, Paul Matthew Photography /

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Start Your Engines: How to Become a Vintage Car Collector