Please read this if you're considering buying a classic car, from us or from anyone else.
Classic cars have a reputation for being unreliable and expensive, which deters lots of people, especially young people, from owning and driving their dream car. This reputation stems from 3 main factors: 1) the majority of classics cars for sale are Drivable Projects misclassified as Daily Drivers 2) neglectful ownership and 3) lack of integrity in the industry.
1) Classic Car Classifications
In the modern era of classic flippers, used car salesmen, and eBay bullshitters, the terms that are generally used to describe classic cars have lost their meaning entirely. Classic cars can be tricky because too often people look at the cosmetics to judge whether or not a car is good, and while cosmetics are important, they aren’t to be used to classify a car.
One person puts a new coat of paint on their car and does an oil change, while another person takes their car down to nuts and bolts and spends 3 years and $80,000 doing it properly – both get called a restoration. This is especially relevant when buying a car from overseas, as standards of quality vary hugely country to country, as well as, of course, person to person. People play fast and loose with the terms restoration, driver, and project and you, the buyer, lose out because you may not know how to ultimately tell the difference and then get stuck with something you overpaid for and are unprepared for.
At Dutch Safari, we’re doing our part to formalize and standardize the classic car industry. Our standards are much more rigorous than most, which is why you pay us for our selection process. We remove the subjectivity and guesswork entirely. Here are our definitions:
We believe that the word restoration is sacred. It shouldn’t be used often and it is a term that is very clear cut. Restoration means one thing: that the vehicle is fully disassembled, taken to bare metal, all hardware and rubber are replaced, the motor, transmission, axles, brakes and steering are all rebuilt, and the car presents as it did or better than when it came from the factory. That’s it. Anything less is a freshening. Most claimed restorations on the market these days are freshenings.
A Daily Driver should be drivable, usable, and fully functioning. That means that everything works, that you can hop in turn the key and go to meet your buddies in town, or take a weekend trip to the mountains and not be afraid of whether or not your car will make it. That means you can't list out three things (“But it’s only three little things!”) that it needs to be “otherwise perfect.” A Daily Driver may have surface rust, but no through-rust or soft spots in the metal. A Driver’s cosmetics are secondary to its function but that doesn’t mean they can’t be nice. See our inventory.
A project is a car that needs works. Many classic cars, and especially Range Rovers, fit into this category and are passed off as drivers to unsuspecting new owners. If you went on Craigslist today, you’ll see hundreds of Range Rover Classics for sale, ranging anywhere from $500 to $35,000 – 98% of those are projects. We mean it. There a few types of projects and this is where it gets a little tricky.
This is a car that will need a full restoration, a car that’s been sitting in a field or garage for many years and needs absolutely everything replaced or repaired to be on the road again.
Haven’t-Run -in-a-Year Project
This is a car that someone was driving regularly until it either broke or they didn’t need it anymore, and it has been siting unused since. These projects can be particularly deceptive, as they may claim to only need a new battery to be brought back to life, however they start to show issues as you drive it. Some issues will appear on the drive home, some in the first week, some in the first month, and some in the first six months.
A drivable project is a vehicle that runs and drives but needs effort to be put back into Daily Driver shape. A drivable project isn’t necessarily unusable or a total cosmetic mess; it may get you back and forth to work or even across the country, and it may even have show quality paint and a perfect interior. A Drivable Project is a car where not everything works. Maybe the A/C is out, two of the windows don’t go up and down, the steering is loose, or the exhaust needs to be resealed. Usually it’s a combination of things. A Drivable Project is any vehicle that has differed service and that isn’t mechanically 100%.
A rusty project is any classic with more than just surface rust. It could have an amazing motor, be mechanically sound, and even look perfect but lurking inside is through-rust, or soft spots in the metal. Rust is the devil in the classic car world. Certain parts of the country, and the world, are much more prone to it than others. Rust is a wallet killer in projects and quality rust repair is hard to find. Most shops with a well skilled welder charge upwards of $90 an hour and repairs take time to be done properly. If you aren’t well versed in what the process of proper rust repair entails you can easily be taken for a ride and lose your hard earned money for something that will just have to be redone in a couple years. You might even think it was done right and visually it could look very good, but there is a very big difference between proper rust repair and half assed repair. Don’t be fooled by low quotes from low quality rust repair shops, unless you are fully understanding of the process, can check in on the shop while work is being done, and properly check their work when they are done you will most likely get exactly what you paid for which is a low quality repair. This will end up costing you more time and money in the long run as you’ll have to have another welder properly repair the panel later.
2) Correcting Neglectful Ownership
Minus a few lemons, cars built before 2000 were built to last as long as service schedules were followed and issues were addressed as they came up. A well-maintained Range Rover Classic will be far more reliable than a neglected Land Cruiser, despite any pre-conceived ideas or reputations - human ownership is the most important variable.
When a car has been on the road for more than 20 years, chances are it has had a neglectful owner who may not have known enough or cared enough about the vehicle to maintain it, or perhaps was not able to afford to maintain it. This is why most classic cars fit into the Drivable Project category. Ownership history and maintenance records are gold in the industry and most people will say its because it tells a story, but what it really comes down to is knowing what has and hasn’t been done to the vehicle so you can have an idea of what your ownership future will be like. It gives you the ability to prevent and predict unneeded future costs. It’s what separates a manufacturer-certified pre-owned vehicle from a used car you buy from the guy down the street. The peace of mind knowing that someone who knows what they are doing took a look at it, figured out everything that was wrong, and then corrected it. Without that knowledge, a $3,000 classic car can turn into a $15,000 car very quickly, and there’s no turning back once you’ve sunk in more than the car’s value in repairs. This risk factor deters many from driving their dream vehicle and we at Dutch Safari are here to fix that.
We treat each car we import as if we are going to own them and drive them for the next 2 years. When they arrive we do a preliminary assessment of what it will need mechanically. We buy genuine parts, or OEM if genuine isn’t available; this can be very time consuming as most parts will come from an overseas supplier, but we don’t want to buy cheap Chinese counterparts that will need to replaced again in three years. After those repairs are done, we drive the cars as our own daily drivers, put them through their paces in all real world situations (around town, freeway, offroad, through traffic, etc) so that we give any lingering issues a chance to pop up. After a few weeks of this, we do our final repairs and only afterwards can it be called a Dutch Safari Daily Driver. Only when we’d feel comfortable having you hop in and drive two thousands miles, and then use it to commute to and from work every day. Basically, we don’t cut corners in an industry that is made up of cut corners.
That is why we charge what we do for our cars - you either spend it now, or you spend it later and are angry about it.
The classic car industry is notoriously awful, and self-perpetuates because even good-intentioned people soon realize that they can make more money by, well, just following suit and swindling buyers. Seemingly good restoration shops will rob Peter to pay Paul, and 3 years into the "restoration" you'll realize no real has been done to your car and there is absolutely no legal recourse for getting back the money you've paid. "Everything works" means probably eight things don't work. "It had a full engine tune up" means the oil was changed. Ask us for 10,000+ examples if you'd like.
Maybe it's because we're much younger than the people who traditionally make up the classic car market, but we don't accept that status quo. We think the status quo is absolutely fucking ridiculous.
Dutch Safari Company is not a dealership or used car lot, we’re a concierge. That distinction is huge. A dealer buys a bunch of cars, and then tries to talk you into buying one with maximum profit. Once you drive it off the lot, you’re on your own. And it’s too damn bad when it blows a hose the next day, your mechanic tells you all the belts have to be done the next week, you find out the heat doesn’t work in three months (you bought it in summer and didn’t think to ask!), and your kid in the backseat wonders why his window doesn’t go down. As a concierge, we talk to you first, and then find the perfect car for you. Whether that’s a show car, a daily driver, or a project, we want you to know exactly what you are getting. No surprises. No bad deals. Our fee is the same, no matter what car you get. A concierge is helpful, transparent service that extends beyond the immediacy of one transaction. No matter what you need help with down the line regarding your car, we are there. Always.
We want you to be happy, we want you to be able to drive your car safely and comfortably every single day, and we want you to recommend us. We all win.