It may not be for the faint of heart, but there are people who are buying classic cars—both restored and yet-to-be-restored—online, via auction sites and dealership web sites.
"We bought our '55 Porsche Continental Cabrio from pictures on an eBay auction held in Hawaii," admits Michigan collector Barry Wolk. As the online offers slowly climbed, Wolk did a little offline research and contacted the head of the Porsche Club in Hawaii, who knew the car.
"He said it was being fairly represented," says Wolk, who ended up buying the Porsche for the reserve price — the minimum amount acceptable to the seller. The long-distance deal was done.
Though cars are among the most-researched items online, most are actually bought in person. I'm that way. I like to get behind the wheel and drive it (when possible) before making an offer. People with deeper pockets than I might buy an expensive classic collector car sight unseen, but that usually includes hiring a pre-purchase inspector to evaluate the vehicle. Also, many companies have liberal return policies that take some of the risk out of long-distance shopping.
Bill Hill of Michigan has a strong interest in "unusual" unrestored cars and trucks, and his garages hold automotive treasures from 1915 to a couple of post-World War II Woodie station wagons. Hill bought a rare 1931 Hudson sight unseen, and he was willing to buy a couple of 1935 Hupmobile coupes online just to get some sought-after original fender skirts for the '35 Hupp he was cleaning up. Buying vehicles "long distance" doesn't faze him.
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