Judging the Value of Face Lift for a Middle-of-the-Road Car

Times Staff Writer

Question: I have a 1967 Camaro Rally Sport and plan to sell the vehicle in the next few months. I think the car is a classic, and I am wondering how to sell it. It needs repainting and about $1,000 worth of work to put it in mint condition. Would I be wasting my money and time to do this before I sell it?


Answer: Whenever you get ready to sell a car, putting the vehicle in good physical condition can be a wise investment. As long as the car runs OK, the main factor determining how much you'll get for the vehicle will be what it looks like. A potential buyer will be put off more by a dented fender than a noisy muffler, and the money you spend repairing the fender you will more than recover in a higher sales price.

Deciding how much to spend to spruce up the car is tricky. You want to do just enough to get the best possible price for the car, but not so much that you price some potential buyers out of the market. For example, the current market price for your car, according to the Gold Book value guide, ranges from $3,500 in fair condition to $5,700 in excellent condition. That's a difference of $2,200. A few people might want an old car in mint condition, but there are probably more buyers who would be willing to take a vehicle that is not quite perfect if the price is a little lower.

For example, you can spend anywhere from $50 to $1,000 on a paint job. For $50, the shop will wash the car, tape off the chrome strips and spray it with an inexpensive, water-base paint. For $1,000, the car will be thoroughly sanded, the smallest dents will be filled with body putty, and they will probably apply a coat of primer and two or more coats of high-quality, oil-base paint. Spending $1,000 will make the car look like it just came off the showroom floor, but you probably won't be able to recover all your investment in the sale. A better strategy might be to spend $300 to $400 on a paint job, which will look nice but not perfect.

Keep the same thing in mind with other repairs, going for the middle range of how much you can spend. You might want to leave some jobs--like replacing all the weather stripping--for the new owner, while doing things like replacing the carpets yourself.

And when you go to sell the car, remember that an older car is always worth more to the owner than to someone who is considering buying it. Don't insist on adding sentimental value to the sales price.

Q: When I drive downhill at 55 miles per hour in my 1979 Toyota Celica, the car pulls back, almost as if I'm applying the brakes. I've had the problem since I bought the car, but the dealer says that this is normal. Do you know what is causing this?--B.M.

A: The sensation that the car is slowing rapidly is caused by an emission-control device designed to reduce air pollution from the vehicle. When you take your foot off the gas, you shut off the main fuel jets in the carburetor and open a "deceleration" jet that lets far less gasoline into the engine. This causes the engine to act almost like you have run out of gas, causing a drag on the car. When you step lightly on the accelerator pedal, the fuel-control computer reopens the primary carburetor jets and the car gains speed. The condition, as your mechanic says, is normal.

Q: I have to have surgery, and my doctor tells me that I won't be allowed to drive for three months. What must I do to protect my car when it isn't being driven? I keep it in a garage.--L.J.C.

A: You should not have to do anything in particular to the car to store it for such a short time. While the car is being stored, you should start it once a week and let the engine run for about five minutes. This will keep the battery from going dead. Be careful to open the garage door beforehand.

When you are able to drive again, take the car to a service shop for an oil change. While the car isn't being driven, acids will build up in the oil that can damage internal engine parts. And check the coolant, transmission fluid and the air pressure in the tires.

Patrick Boyle cannot answer mail personally but will respond in this column to automotive questions of general interest. Do not telephone. Write to Your Wheels, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

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