Our beloved original-paint 1965 Volvo 122S automatic is about to be listed on BaT, courtesy of Matt Crandall (911r) and Avant-Garde Collection.

It was a good car when we bought it, and through the ministrations of Cameron Lovre at Swedish Relics it has become as good as it can be and still be relatively stock.

This is not my first rodeo with a Volvo, so I knew the drill. Replace all the suspension bushings. Put in IDP swaybars and springs. Install Bilsteins.

This car had lived all its life in dry So Cal, so I had the windshield gasket replaced prophylactically. I also had a 123 GT dash cap installed (with its nifty little parcel shelf perfect for a Bluetooth speaker) and a USB power source added.

This is a never-hit, original paint car with a restored interior. Dynamat was installed everywhere, even under the headliner.

My biggest surprise was the expense to source and install 123 GT seat recliners. That was nearly $2,000. But the chrome on the recliners is excellent and really gives the interior of the car a pop when you open the doors.

I paid a little over $10,000 for the car and have put another $10,000 into it. Will I get my money back? Well, we will see.

I don’t consider this a restoration. It is more like a refurbishment to bring it up to stock-plus specs that will let me enjoy the car. But no paint or bodywork. No rebuilding of the engine or gearbox. No swapping rear ends. I’ve done all those things on my Alfas, and I just don’t want to do them again.

With the proliferation of online listings, it is now easier to find good cars than ever before. Online auction companies keep setting higher and higher bars for themselves. They have left eBay in the dust, in terms of what a Cars and Bids seller needs to produce, compared to the back-alley presentation of most eBay sellers.

I’m always in the hunt for something interesting; as I have mentioned I can’t seem to get under 10 cars in the SCM collection no matter what I do. But the cars that interest me now are cosmetically very fine, and mechanically need nothing (or just minor tweaks).

Our Jag needed front suspension bushings. Our 928 needed to be brought back from a long hibernation. Our SL55 AMG needed another key with remote. And our Disco needed the rear hatch door latch assembly replaced.

Since the day I turned 16 and bought my “project” Bug Eye for $30 (I overpaid) I have been working on my cars. I have brought one after the other back from the dead. Fifty-four years later I am no longer buying dead cars with needs. I will buy cars that don’t need paint, or substantial interior work. I want well-kept and loved cars that just need a little TLC.

It can be someone else’s turn to pour love and money into these cars. I’ve finally moved past the “buying a project” car stage.

So far it feels pretty good. After all, the 50,000-mile service on my SL55 AMG was $500. And that is all it has needed in the 5,000 miles I have owned it.  That’s less than I paid for the camshafts for one of my Alfas.

What about you? Are you still up for extensive projects or are you going to join me on my automotive Barcalounger and get your exercise by changing channels on your remote control? You can switch from one Motor Trend Network “build show” to the next, and watch dysfunctional families throw parts at each other and do a two-year restoration in four days. It’s automotive fantasy football.

13 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Charles Visconage

    I can relate, I’ve followed a similar path over the last 20 years of car collecting. Up to about ten years ago, I essentially doubled my “investment” in a car (914, 944 Turbo, AMCs, etc) with rust repair, mechanical and paint needs. I bought low and invested lots of time and cash. It was fun, but ultimately not as fun as buying a “done” car. My friend Jeff with an immaculate 911 Turbo G Body remarked to me, “why not just buy a car already done, enjoy it now?” I took his advice around 2008 and have enjoyed a string of “done” or original cars, including an ’87 911 Turbo (930), ’87 Ferrari 328, ’86 928 and ’95 Ferrari F-355. Although the F355 required and engine out service under my watch, it has been an exceptionally reliable car. I actually spent the most on the 930 at 50k miles with it’s finicky turbo controls and engine out to fix oil leaks. From here on out, no more projects, and especially no rust of paint work for me. As you stated Keith, there are plenty of great cars coming to the market through BAT that make for a less risky purchase. Although I did just by a ’57 E Code Thunderbird off a Facebook Marketplace sight unseen, without the scrutiny that BAT brings, but that’s another story.

  2. Avatar

    Yes.
    Buy a nice one that you know you will like and drive, and let all the junk go. Romance is for young people.
    Be well.

  3. Avatar
    rand wintermute

    Keith . Time for you to retire to the beach like I did …. you have too many cars to be able to enjoy them ; I have found that 5 cars is the maximum for one guy to take care of . Your enjoyment curve declines as ownership increases ! You will live longer with LESS. Less is more …!

  4. Avatar

    I am 67 and couldn’t agree more. At this age, time and mobility are most important, as I am learning even more as I await knee replacement next month. Buy things you like in the condition to drive and enjoy them, unless you can’t live without lying on your back on the cold concrete floor of your garage fixing various things on greasy old cars!

  5. Avatar
    Michael Calkins

    I so feel you Keith. At 66 years of age my stable includes four very diverse cars, the oldest of which is a 1999 Italian exotic. All are in excellent condition and need little work other than routine maintenance, cosmetic care and the occasional odd repair that I farm out to a trustworthy shop if it’s more than a one-day job. I no longer feel the need or desire to take on a major project, much less a full restoration. Instead, I enjoy driving and showing my cars, and the interactions that provides with other enthusiasts (at least pre-COVID and hopefully again soon). As the good book says, for everything there is a season, and while every season is different, each holds its own unique rewards.

  6. Avatar
    Don Peterson

    I’m thinning the herd, but with a purpose. Like you, I’ve sworn off total restos. But, I’m finishing what is already here so I can sell them onward in preparation for “the big move”. BaT seems amenable to listing the oddities as they are completed.

    The big question is… which ONE do I take with me to Colombia in 18 months? 59 2000 Touring, 77 Spider, or 99 916 GTV?

  7. Avatar

    with too many projects sitting in MY driveway, this sounds like a great New Year’s resolution!

  8. Avatar

    I am about to turn 71 and can relate totally. My collection numbers five if you count the 08 HHR SS and I have decided I no longer want to be a “collector”. Covid has kept my away from the local Cars and Coffee for a while and given me some time to reflect. As you know, no matter which car you pull out to drive it always needs something. I think the first to go will be the 1960 MGA which is a very nice restoration and good runner. My size 13’s make the pedals a challenge but I still love driving it. I wrestle with selling the 65 Corvette big block coupe which I bought at Mecum Monterey in 2012 and you did a feature on it in Nov.-Dec. 2012 ACC. Then you followed with another in March-April 2013 ACC on the “Your Turn” feature with a half page pic of me with the car and and my comments. Since then, more car show awards than I have room for have accumulated. The 91 ZR1 is fun but needy and with the values seemingly rising a bit may move on soon. I am in the process of my last “big one”, bringing a 1948 K1 Allard back from the dead, and with it consuming most of my “car time” keeping the others in top shape is difficult. An additional motivator is the need to replace Big Red, my 2012 Silverado 2500 with a new 2021 and not have payments for 6 years. I will check back in some time in 2022 and let you know how the downsizing went. Great mag by the way, I’ve been enjoying it since 2005.

  9. Avatar

    We all seem to be getting older, fortunately. My next birthday will see the dreaded 80. Three fun cars plus a daily driver are the max I want to deal with. The lift, bearing press and engine hoist went to my youngest son a few years ago when I realized racing was work and the competitive juices seemed to fade. Other than oil & filter changes and cosmetic attention my time with these vehicles is spent driving them. The XK 120 coupe and Arnolt Bristol get driven more than the TC ; all have been massaged to offer a bit more than the way they originated. None of them have needs and if I were swap for something else it would have to be in comparable condition. I consider myself a very fortunate individual

  10. Avatar

    Love the picture of Bradley with screwdriver in hand tuning the carbs ! Probably will end up being your most expensive “mechanic” but worth every penny.

    Brad

  11. Avatar

    Hi Keith, Seems like the concensus is that “less is better”. I agree with “rand wintermute” below. He says 5 and I would say 4 is enough really. Like they say…”its not having what you want but wanting what you have”. Maybe cash in a few cars for some college funds? Never can have too much there. Please keep us posted. A fan!

  12. Avatar

    Keith, being of similar age, I decided I needed to perform one more complete restoration. But not on a “heavy” car. I decided on a Lotus Elan, which is small, simple and light enough for me to lift, carry and restore nearly every component by myself (well, OK, I employed help to lift off the body.) And when it’s done, I hope to wash my hands one more time, climb behind the wheel and search for the twisties.

  13. Avatar
    Dean Laumbach

    Buying project cars for refurbishing or “barn finds” poses an alluring challenge to an enthusiast of that particular model. This challenge is enticing as pretty much the same way a competitive long distance runner wants to eventually challenge themself by completing a marathon. A lot of hard work, money, and frustration is what this person will be up against. I would estimate that in most cases the money invested will be considerably more than the vehicle’s value at completion. Project cars almost always go way over budget as the underestimation of the costs involved are typically less than anticipated. I am often asked by enthusiasts who purchase “project cars” my opinion on their choice of vehicle they have taken on. Not uncommon for me to advise the owner to resell that car to someone else as a project and start with a car that is a lot closer to the finish line. These cars usually cost considerably more up front, but they are closer to the goal which is owning a car you can actually drive and enjoy.

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