Vehicle & Part Purchase Tips by ScoCar
All listings are for information purposes only and are not necessarily endorsed by the North Texas AMC Club. Regardless of our recommendations or your research, buyer assumes all risk and agrees to hold the North Texas AMC Club, it's members and officers harmless. The following tips and recommendations will help you buy smart and ensure you're getting the quality, performance and service you expect. Please support your favorite AMC vendors with your repeat business.
How To Find & Buy The "Right" Car:
It will cost you up to 10 times as much to fix a rusted out car versus a car with little or no rust. Look for cars with as little rust as possible (great areas to search are Washington, Oregon and British Columbia). Be willing to settle on colors and options or you may spend years searching and never find the right car. Building a "work in progress" or project car will always cost you far more than buying a completed car from someone else. The amount of money you will spend on a restoration has nothing to do with true market value (it might cost you $100K to restore a car that the market says is worth only $35K so choose carefully).
Buy the car model you really want and are most passionate if you plan on keeping it for a while or never selling it as you'll be happier with it in the long run. Approximately 75% of the cars for sale on eBay are junk and are more trouble than they are worth. You might get lucky here but the odds are seriously stacked against you. Look for cars owned by club members and/or enthusiasts as they tend to really care about and maintain their cars. Local and national club members usually know who has nice cars and some "might" be willing to sell them at a fair market value. While at a show, put business cards on the nice cars you might want to own. On the back of those business cards write something like, "looking for a 19XX make and model car in good to excellent condition. Willing to pay fair market value for the right car" Odds say if you hand out 10 cards, 7 people will never call you back, 3 people have the car you want and 1 or 2 will call you back willing to sell you their car. Pay attention to the owner's home and surrounding neighborhood (you usually won't find "nice" cars in bad areas). Avoid cars that don't have a clean title or you may buy a car you don't own and lose your investment. Most cars are getting so old that you may have difficulty finding owners who have the original windows sticker, invoice and complete maintenance records.
Thoroughly check out the car your interested in during daylight hours with a qualified mechanic and qualified paint/body technician you know and trust. AMC's never matched VIN numbers to a specific engine block as with other manufacturers and you really can't tell the visual difference from a 304, 360 or 401 (except for the stamping near the passenger side engine mount). Further, installing an AMC 401 in place of smaller AMC engines actually increases the value among hobbyists. Look for hidden rust, body filler, signs of previous accidents, cracked cylinder heads or block, internal engine damage, wiring problems, fluid leaks, proper operating temperatures, etc. Use your senses here (listen for strange sounds and pay attention for weird smells). Engine knocking (a sound similar to bb's rolling around in a can) can be major engine damage and expensive to fix. Let the car set outside with the windows rolled up for about 15 minutes to an hour. Then, get inside the car and smell. If you smell urine inside the car (a unique smell vastly different from mold or mildew), walk away. No matter what you do, you'll NEVER get the smell out. Ask for a complete pre-purchase inspection and written appraisal from a qualified automotive appraiser. The $250 or so you'll spend on a pre-purchase inspection and written appraisal just might save you thousands by preventing you from buying the wrong car.
There is an "art of the buy and the sell". If you don't know what you are doing, hire someone who is qualified to represent you during the purchase process. NEVER buy a car sight unseen, from photos only or without following the above guidelines. Avoid ads that say "restored sparing no expense", it's usually marketing hype. If it's too good to be true it probably is. Trust your "gut reaction" and don't second guess yourself. Research, research, research: the devil is in the details here. There are several books on AMC's so read them thoroughly BEFORE purchasing a car so you know what to look for: Buyer beware!!!
Auctions "can" be a great place to buy a car (especially at "no reserve" auctions). At no reserve auctions (like Barrett Jackson), cars are required to be sold regardless of the final offer. Most auctions require a 10% buyer commission that the buyer pays and a 10% premium that the seller pays. The buyer will also need to pay a registration fee to bid on cars plus tax, title, license and transportation costs from the auction site. Usually, you'll need to pick up the vehicle you buy within 48 hours of the auction close or pay expensive daily storage fees. So, either pre-arrange or arrange transportation at the auction with one of the on-site transport companies. At auctions, you'll be able to pre-examine a vehicle a day or two before the auction begins so it's a great time to bring or seek out an expert appraiser and paint/body person. Most buyers at auctions are looking for deals to make a fast buck by flipping a car. If you look carefully, you may find many of the same cars over and over again over the course of a year or two. Many who attend own large collections, have deep pockets and it's likely you'll be bidding against them. They are counting on you to get caught up in the frenzy of the auction for them so they can clean up. Exercise extreme caution here: If you don't know what you are doing, hire someone who is qualified to represent you during the bidding process.
Restoring Versus Modifying:
Old cars "can" be made to have some modern conveniences with improved steering, braking, suspension performance without spending a fortune. On the other hand, you won’t be able to turn your old car into a new Z06 Corvette or Shelby GT500 Mustang (i.e. you can't turn a sows' ear into a silk purse). Most of the old cars did not have power windows, power door locks, cruise, navigation systems, MP3 players, in dash DVD players, power seats, power trunk, keyless remotes, etc. Adding these conveniences really won't help increase the value of your vehicle (unless the right buyer is interested in it - a rare situation).
Remember, your car is only original "once" but it can be returned to stock appearing or stock "if" the original parts were kept by the owner. Be VERY careful with modifications for future resale value: it's all part of a wise exit strategy. Try to keep it original or stock appearing and keep your original parts (with all hardware, cleaned, tagged with what the part is and place in storage bags with desiccant packets - storage supplies are available from Eastwood). If you don't have room to save your original parts, ask a friend, rent a storage facility or sell them on eBay or one of the classified sites (someone else probably has a use for the parts you aren't using and is willing to pay fair market value for them).
Modifications you make may not have very much market appeal to hobbyists who may want to buy your car down the road. For example, if you convert over to a modern fuel injection GM or Mopar engine with overdrive transmission, you have seriously affected the value of your car among hobbyists and they'll likely pass should you decide to sell. Modifications that improve the steering, braking, handling, exhaust, tires/wheels, and audio of your car without going "too far" can be an excellent upgrade and won't serve to hurt values much. 100 point show cars are rare: they must be tailored everywhere and are most aren't driven. This route can cost you a fortune so unless you have "deep pockets" avoid this route. Don't go "too far" by over-restoring your car. Back in the day, no factory cars had $20,000 paint jobs and you'll likely never recover much of the costs for this or other outlandish upgrades.
How To Buy Parts From Vendors:
Vendors only have three things they can sell you: product, price and service. Pick any two but you'll never get the best of all three (i.e. you won't be able to buy the highest quality product at the cheapest price with a 110% money back guarantee, zero restocking fee and the highest level of service). Thoroughly research your purchase BEFORE you buy. That said, ask your club members, racers and fellow AMC friends for their opinions and read the AMC forums about your vendors and the parts you are interested in buying. Generally, opinions can vary but with some thorough research, you can quickly find out who has the best product, price or service and which parts will work best for your application. The best days to order parts are Monday through Wednesday and place your order as early as possible as. Most vendors have a shipping cut off of 12:00PM EST and it may take several hours to several days to get your order ready to ship.
When ordering, have your credit card and parts/part numbers ready, tell them your specific application, shipping instructions (most cannot ship to a P.O. Box) and ask for a total with shipping, handling and applicable sales tax charges. Some orders may have extremely long lead times (up to several weeks or months). If you MUST have a part now, ask if the item is in stock and if not, approximately how long before it ships. Most vendors will not charge your card until your order ships. Some purchases may be special order only and ARE NOT RETURNABLE (check your vendors order policy).
Items used for racing and/or off-road use may not be 50-state legal and may not include any warranty (check with your vendor when ordering). For maximum assurance, request your order include full insurance with shipment tracking and delivery signature confirmation using UPS or FedEx. Shipments will not be delivered on holidays or on Saturdays or Sundays (unless you request Saturday delivery at an extra charge). Inspect ALL shipments to insure you have received the order in full (including hardware and instructions) and that it is in good condition. DO NOT accept damaged shipments. Some vendors may require you to call them and request an RGA or RMA # before sending an item back and they will require specific packing and shipping instructions. SOME vendors may have required restocking fees up to 25%, less shipping and handling and the item(s) may need to be returned within 10 days to 1-year (depending on the vendor) in original packaging in like new condition with a copy of your original receipt so be sure of your order BEFORE you buy.
Some parts may not work well for YOUR application or with your existing combination. Horsepower, torque and performance figures are subject to normal variation caused by and not limited to altitude, humidity, barometric pressure, temperature, powertrain age/condition/state of tune, dyno brand & calibration, etc. There is a point of diminishing returns (adding several parts together may not produce a total horsepower figure equal to all parts individually). Some products may differ from the actual photo shown on a web site or in a catalog.
Please contact your vendor(s) directly with any problems and keep accurate records of the facts. Be nice, calm and try to work out any issues BEFORE disputing any purchases. Purchases made on debit cards CANNOT be disputed like credit cards. Purchases made by credit card can only be disputed for a limited time (check with your credit card company).
You won't get anywhere by being a being rude, mean or nasty. If you are a 1%er that can never be satisfied (and you know who you are), realize that no business should have to deal with that. If you expect that you will never be satisfied, you won't be...ever! Good, bad or indifferent, vendors are humans too which means they can simple mistakes or misunderstand what you really want. Realize up front every vendor can make mistakes, yes EVERY vendor. Make every attempt for them to make your situation right on the phone or via e-mail. Give them time to respond to you and realize that they may not be able to snap their fingers and make it 100% correct immediately. After reasonable attempts to satisfy you and you're still not happy, simply don't do business with them again.
Please act intelligently, responsibly, respectfully and like an adult: DO NOT flame your vendors on forums and/or newsgroups. THEY must make a living and have families and employees to support. THEY can't do that effectively by dealing with customers who intentionally flame them publicly. Again, always be nice and it will eventually come back to you many times over.
Buying used performance parts or parts out of a junk yard can save you money but it can also cost you more than you think. "Some" used parts can be warped, cracked, ready to fail or may have been repaired improperly. You simply won't know without an in-depth inspection prior to purchase and then having a thorough check after the purchase (hot tanking or bead/sand blasting & magnafluxing which checks for cracks).
NEVER buy parts from someone over the Internet who request a money order or cashier's check only without seeing at least a photograph to verify the part in fact exists. Even then, it's a risk because those payment methods CANNOT be disputed. Consider using Pay Pal for your purchases. Anyone can easily sign up for Pay Pal in minutes PLUS they offer excellent purchase protection. Pay Pal works for just about any type of purchase too (even overseas purchases).
Getting Your Parts Installed:
Some parts may require specialized tools and/or in-depth mechanical knowledge. If you don't feel comfortable and/or don't have the knowledge and/or tools to work on your own vehicle, seek the help of a qualified mechanic. Sometimes, you "might" be able to find a mechanical gear head in a club to help you work on your car. Some items may not come with instructions or hardware and "may" require fitting, adapting and/or separate substantial purchases to fit/function properly (this is normal with aftermarket parts).
Make sure you have a service shop manual handy, the proper tools, a ventilating fan and lots of patience. The service shop manual will detail necessary tools, torque specs, sealants required, installation/removal sequence, etc. You can rent some tools locally from local auto parts stores or you can go to Sears, Lowes, Harbor Freight, Northern or local hardware or auto parts stores for tools. You'll likely need a basic set of SAE wrenches, 3/8", 1/4" and 1/2" drive ratchets with short/long/flexible extensions, deep and standard sockets up to 1", Phillips & flat head screw drivers (magnetic bits come in handy), torque wrench, charged or corded drill with variety of bits, hammer, scissors, floor jack and jack stands, shop lights, extension cord, thread locker, anti-seize, penetrating oil, carb cleaner, hand cleaner, shop towels and a shop broom with dust pan. Some jobs will require an air compressor with air tools, torch, soldering iron/solder, wiring strippers & connectors, wire brush, battery terminal cleaner, saw horse, special drill bits, welding equipment, special jacks, engine hoist and multiple people to help you.
Thoroughly clean and degrease all necessary areas first (areas of your vehicle where you'll be working on as well as the surrounding work areas). Then, take detailed up-close photos of the parts you'll be working on from multiple angles with bright light BEFORE removing or replacing. This will help you should you need to know how the parts fit together but may not be shown or depicted in your service shop manual.
Carburetor cleaner or a parts washer can effectively clean bolts of grease and grime. Penetrating oil makes removing rusty or seized bolts and nuts easier. Anti-seize (for areas not requiring semi-permanent thread locker) makes future bolt and nut removal easier. Try not to get brake fluid on your paint: it will permanently ruin it. Before cutting or drilling anything, measure three times and cut or drill once. Remember the following when tightening or loosening most nuts, bolts and screws: righty tighty and lefty loosey. Torque all bolts to factory service shop manual specs using a torque wrench (click type works very well).
Spend the extra time to clean up and re-organize your work area and tools before you call it a day. Keep hand cleaner and shop towels in your work area and use them BEFORE sitting in your car or going into your house. It will make it much easier the next time you want to work on your car and your wife, girlfriend or significant other will appreciate it!