Part One of Two

Buying a beautiful, classic automobile can be as simple as typing into Google and pressing enter. Websites will have every classic car, in every color, from Craigslist to CarMax. But you could be buying a lemon, and not even know it...without specific experience of buying and selling vintage cars, overlooking even one aspect of the process can have you crying. If only you had some handy rules of thumb when making these important purchases! Well, thanks to Jeff Allen of Flat 12 Gallery in Lubbock, Texas, now you do!

Jeff Allen is an up-and-coming television personality, and an expert on classic car negotiations. With Flat 12 Gallery and his restorer Perry Barndt, Jeff travels the country buying, fixing and then reselling classic cars, creating his empire. Now with his television show, "Car Chasers" airing on CNBC, Jeff and his crew are sharing their hard earned experience with the car enthusiast crowd. "The show is not just about cars," says Allen. "It's about the negotiation process and where to invest."

When the focus shifts from enjoyment to an investment, fun weekend road trips are put aside for practical fiscal knowledge. When the investment has to make money down the road, there are a few rules to keep you on the right track.


This car buying strategy can be different for each car enthusiast...when each investor has his own likes and dislikes, it can come down to one thing: Buying what you like. "I have lived by this motto, and after all these years of doing it, I've never been disappointed," he says. "I know other car dealers who have sold cars at auctions and lost thousands of dollars, and I always want to ask them, 'Did you really like that car, or did you buy it because you saw it and thought there was money there?'"


Various vehicles have production runs much larger than others, and some are smaller, limiting the amount of vehicles in existence. In terms of investing, a car with a limited quantity from the manufacturer is the more worthwhile investment. "The lower the production numbers, the higher the value of the cars," says Allen. "Depending on the make and model, there's a book out there that'll tell you all the production numbers, all the options, how many were made of each color. It's amazing the breakdown you can find. Now, with the Internet, you can find more."


In a perfect world, a vehicles engine, transmission, and rear axle will all correspond to the vehicles VIN number. "Number-matching" cars are in demand. "True investment cars are going to be numbers-matching cars," Allen says. According to Allen, the last six digits on the VIN number are simple to check on the motor. Rear end and transmission are slightly more of a challenge, being stamped with time codes, which you can investigate, and make sure the dates sync correctly. "It's not a problem if not everything matches," says Allen. "It's just not going to bring the bigger money that an all-matching car will. You can never lose if you find an all-numbers-matching car. It's a way safer bet."


This piece of advice is seemingly universal, almost everyone understands that the fewer the miles, the better the vehicles value. Allen dismisses this advice, and adjusts his bids accordingly. "I've bought Porsches with 200,000-plus miles on them," he says. "I never worry about it. It just has to be reflected in the price. I've bought some cars that from the outside and inside you'd go, 'Oh, that car's got 40,000 miles on it.' You get in and you go, 'Oh my gosh, 200,000 miles!' But the person maintained it. They kept it up. From an investment point of view, when you're looking at what you can do to turn your money into more money, low-mileage vehicles are like a sure thing," he says. "They're only low-mileage once."


Want an easy way to steer clear of potential problems? Keep your eyes open for rust damage. "Rust is a killer," says Allen. "I always walk away when I see it. It's not because I don't know how to fix it. I do. But it's not going to be the same. You can replace panels, but once you start with a rusty car, in my opinion, it's always a rusty car. It will never be factory-original again." Allen then softened his stance slightly.

"If I saw a bubble or two on a quarter panel that would not bother me," he says, "but when you can see through the trunk and floors and the sides are all eaten up, there comes a point when your money is better spent finding a nicer car. It can just become a money pit."