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A Labor of Love and Profit

Classic Cars Rev Up Return on Investments

Vintage auto aficionados labor over projects that can reap thousands of dollars in profit

Even in a tight economy, vintage autos rise to the occasion. Classic car shows, tours and parades help preserve their authenticity and appeal. “These cars all appreciate,” says Randy Stone, 54, a collector in Greensboro, N.C., who retired from a mergers and acquisitions career with a medical company. “It’s very rare that a well-constructed, well-restored antique vehicle goes down in value.”

Stone has been fixing cars “since I was, gosh, too small to know the difference.” He now operates a 4,000-square-foot garage behind his house. His 77-year-old father, David, visits two or three times a week to supervise.

Inside the shop are models from the 1930s through the 1970s. How many? “If I give a number, my wife will decide that’s too many,” Stone says in a southern drawl. “People who know old cars will understand. You just don’t count.”

Long-term projects

Parts for discontinued lines can be hard to come by, and restoration enthusiasts are often willing to pay a premium. “Many of those are very, very rare,” says Jody Anderson, 45, president of the 1,800-member National Impala Association in Minneapolis. He sells brand-new obsolete parts for Chevrolet Impala and its sister cars, manufactured in two basic styles from 1958 to 1964 and from 1965 to 1970.

For some cars, it can take 20 years to locate all the needed parts, says Dave Chiotti, 68, a retired supermarket meat cutter and collector in Santa Rosa, Calif. “If push comes to shove, you have to remake it,” he says of the costly proposition, which requires extensive research and a machinist who can handle the elaborate task.

Chiotti and his wife, Marilyn, 66, spent three years restoring a 1939 Studebaker Commander. They finished in 1997 and still drive it today.

While the Studebaker held special significance, a 1962 Buick Skylark convertible meant even more. When the couple saw it for sale online five years ago, they knew this was the same car that they had sold nearly four decades earlier.

Dave Chiotti originally custom-ordered the Buick for $3,600, just before he and Marilyn began dating. They sold this “honeymoon car” in 1967 for $650 to buy a 1952 MG TD.

“It was just another used car,” Marilyn Chiotti says of the Skylark. “Little did we realize how special it was ever going to be.”

With appreciation, they paid $7,500 in 2005 to buy back the Buick that tickles their hearts.

Susan Kreimer is a writer in New York City.

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