While millions of car enthusiasts are filing into traveling auto shows to sneak peaks at the newly engineered driving machines, New Jersey resident Stan Eason prefers cruising in one of his classics: a pair of ’65 Mustang Hardtops, a ’66 Hardtop, and a ’79 Corvette T-top. Eason is a collector of vintage automobiles, a passion sparked by a former roommate. Together, they fixed up muscle cars, which Eason describes as “1960s classics that defined high performance; the ones with the big engines that made them run fast.”
But even as a boy, Eason, 37, had an interest in cars. “I have a vivid memory of my grandfather’s ’57 Chevy Bellaire.” Another early memory is of a car accident near his home, in which the only details he remembers are parts of a Mustang that landed on his lawn.
Today, Eason says, technology has made cars almost indistinguishable. He revels in the details and craftsmanship of older models. “Back then you noticed cars because of their lines and contours. There was an effort to make each car different,” he says. “The response to driving one of these cars today is amazing because it’s such a throwback to a different time.”
Eason, director of communications for Jersey City, and the spokesman for Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham, has been collecting cars for more than 12 years having purchased six. His first, the high-performance, gas-guzzling ’76 Pontiac Firebird, cost him $2,500 and too much effort. It was retired to the junk heap. Eason paid $490 for his second car, a ’75 Firebird in better condition. It also required extensive work. Eventually, he gave it to another collector.
Collecting classic cars involves a number of expenses: purchasing, restoring, and storage. Eason estimates that he has spent more than $10,000 per project. Fortunately, he has a two-car garage; he rents two others.
His favorite classics are Mustangs. “They defined sports cars,” Eason says, “and made sports cars more stylish and affordable.” His dentist is the owner of a ’67 Pontiac GTO, Eason’s dream car. Although he’s not ready to sell, Eason jokes: “There’s been enough work done [in my mouth] over the years that I think I’ve already paid for it.”
- FIND A CAR: “Timing is important, but the Internet is a great source,” says Eason. “When you’re out driving, these cars are also great conversation pieces. People love to talk about their cars. You can always find out if someone’s willing to sell.”
You can also check out other sources such as Collectible Automobile magazine and Hemmings Motor News (www.hemmings.com) for information on shopping, pricing, parts, value guides, classifieds, and showrooms.
- WATCH YOUR SPENDING: Older cars are not computerized, so do as much work as you can. “Don’t let it become a money pit,” Eason warns. “Restoration can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.You could spend $15,000 on a classic Mercedes, but it might be worth it.”