Today: A car purchase that clearly was meant to be.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2010

Dear Tom and Ray: My grandmother once owned a 1963 Rambler. It was the only car she ever had -- my grandfather bought it for her the year I was born (the car was brand new, and so was I!). She had that car until she passed away in 1994. When we were at her house going through things and getting ready to sell the house, I went out to the garage to see the car. Much to my horror, it was GONE! My dad explained to me that she had sold the car when her health was starting to decline. Everybody loved that car -- she took immaculate care of it all those years. It really broke my heart to know that it was gone.

Fast-forward a few years, when I took a new job in the same area near where my grandmother had lived. I happened to be at a car show, and in the midst of all those '57 Chevys, old T-birds, Corvettes and Mustangs, which all start to look alike pretty quickly, I saw a very familiar-looking car a couple of rows over. Sure enough, it was my grandmother's '63 Rambler! I introduced myself to the owner, and we talked quite a while. A couple of years later, I noticed he had the car for sale. Unfortunately, I was in no position to be able to buy it or care for it.

Now it is for sale again! I'm trying to be as practical as I can, I don't want to make a rash decision, but I want that car -- if for no other reason than to have it back in the family again, and for the satisfaction of saving it from some unknown fate. I jokingly told the guy, "My grandfather bought it for his wife, so I'll buy it for MY wife!" He let me drive the car -- I never got so many thumbs-ups in my life! (Usually it's that other finger!) My wife is OK with this, but space is limited, and I know just enough about cars to know that I would rather pay someone else to do any major work on it. The car is in pristine condition, and I certainly would want to keep it that way. What do you think? What are the ins and outs of owning an antique car like this? It would be fun to take it to all the car shows. My sisters are trying to talk me into getting it. I'd like to think my grandparents are looking down from heaven, saying: "Buy it! Buy it!" Should I just go for it?

-- Dave P.S.: All the original paperwork is with it, including a 1963 issue of Motor Trend magazine in which it was declared Motor Trend's car of the year.

TOM: Dave, you absolutely have to buy this car. This car was meant to be yours. And after seeking you out several times, only to be cruelly turned away by you, Grandma's Rambler is begging to be reunited with you once more. You can't deny it!

RAY: Is it practical? No. But we all know that love isn't always practical, Dave. Sure, it's going to cost you a few bucks. But this is a piece of your history. How can you put a price tag on that?

TOM: It would be best if you had somewhere to store it, especially during the cruel winter months. So once you buy the car, you'll probably want to start looking for a new house. Something with a three-car garage.

RAY: Right. And you'll want to do some of the light maintenance yourself. That'll require a Sears 759-piece tool kit with a rolling steel cabinet. And don't forget the air compressor.

TOM: Of course, you'll need to install a hydraulic lift. That may require a little renovation of the garage to give you the required head room. But 15 feet ought to do it.

RAY: For the more complex repairs, you'll need a professional. And because of the age of the car and its delicate condition, you'll need a retired geezer who used to work at an AMC dealership. Of course, it's best to have that person living on the premises. So budget for a small guest house on the property, too.

TOM: And maybe a second guest house for his nurse. And don't forget to equip the mechanic's house with a wheelchair ramp, a Stannah Stairlift and a portable defibrillator.

RAY: But that's all small potatoes compared to the pleasure you'll derive from having your grandmother's car back in the family. Don't let it get away this time, Dave.

TOM: Right. I once owned a '65 AMC Ambassador that I loved. And I let it go. A few years later, I tried to get it back, but it was too late.

RAY: Right. My brother didn't care for his cars the same way your grandmother did, Dave. By the time he tried to reacquire it, it already had been shipped to South Korea as scrap metal, and had returned as 1,400 Zippo lighters.

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