Connecting with other collectors, so you can get tips from them, is one of the first steps in the hobby. There's also the possibility of repurposing decals from scrapped parts, if you're handy with a razor and know your fixative agents. Some used-car dealers keep a hand in the detailing game, so it's possible that -- if your reassembled classic is missing just a few pieces -- they'll be able to get you the decal in relatively good condition even if larger parts are out of their hands (or your budget). After all, stickers and decals are just sticky paper that's been glossed over -- not exactly made to live as long as the steel and chrome of the car's larger pieces.
Muscle cars, in particular, are a great source of excitement for classics enthusiasts precisely because they were made for a younger market that prized looks and power over long-term investment. They're rare because they were produced cheaply for a punishing market, and their scarcity is what makes them so valuable. And what goes for a steel body or an engine block, of course, goes double for paint jobs and external details. Don't let the rarity of these items fool you into thinking they're more than they're worth, even though it may seem essential to follow up just as strongly on the final cosmetic details.
In any case, it's important to keep a handle on your collector's impulses and remember what your end goal really is. If you've already made compromises on the recondition -- for reasons of budget, speed or just practicality -- it doesn't make sense to go insane trying to track down year- or model-specific branding when a lookalike will work just as well. What's important is remembering that a hobby is just that: something you do in your spare time to make yourself happy.
If you're going to be happiest with vintage decals and stripes, create a budget and compare prices to make sure you're not getting fooled. If you're more excited about getting that monster on the road, by all means, don't interrupt your own pleasure by waiting around to find the perfect shade or nick-free racing stripe. Remembering to stay out of the money pit is, in this instance, just as important as remembering why you came to the hobby in the first place.
For more information on classic cars, check out the links on the next page.