Catfished by a Classic Car on Craigslist? This Handy Chart Translates Online Ads

Searching Craigslist for the perfect next classic car or truck for my next project is one of my favorite weekend activities. But if you are going to inspect one of these vehicles in person, it’s a good idea to pack your toolkit–and sense of humor–because classics are rarely as good as they seem online. My personal favorite was a classic truck I found advertised on Craigslist with “Everything working as it should” that had a clutch so far gone that the owner had to turn the engine off at every stoplight. Luckily, there’s a viral “conversion chart” to help you interpret classic car ads making the rounds online.

Classic car ads often stretch the truth

The remains of a classic pickup truck rust in the desert, sand and mountains visible in the background.
Classic truck | Remi Jacquaint via Unsplash

You’ll rarely find a completely honest classic car ad online. At best, most listings downplay the negatives of an older vehicle. There’s a certain language you often encounter while reading car ads on Craigslist. Knowing that “ran when parked” means it might have been parked for a long time can be handy.

Are folks who advertise their cars on Craigslist scammers? Usually not. I like to think that most classic car collectors have a soft spot for their old rig; classic car ads accurately reflect how the current owner likes to think of their vehicle.

As long as you know what you’re getting into, hunting down the perfect project car on Craigslist can be very fulfilling. But while you search for that diamond in the rough, the antique car ads conversion chart can provide some much-needed humor.

The ‘Official Conversion Chart’ shows you how to interpret antique car ads

A young and old man inspect a classic car together.
Inspecting a classic car | H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

The classic conversion chart is often shared on social media as an image. Its title reads: OFFICIAL CONVERSION CHART: HOW TO INTERPRET ANTIQUE CAR ADS.

As the original scan is showing its age, I’ve retyped it for you. Without further ado: how to interpret classic car ads.

If it SaysIt Really Means
Rare modelNobody liked them when new either
Older restorationCan’t tell it’s been restored
Needs engine workIt’s been frozen for 30 years
Uses no oilJust throws it out
No rustBody and fenders missing
RoughIt’s too bad to lie about
One ownerNever been able to sell
No time to completeCan’t find parts anywhere
Needs interiorSeats are gone
Rebuilt engineHas new spark plugs
May runBut it never has
Low mileageThird time around
Many new partsKeeps breaking down
29 coats hand-rubbed paintNeeded that much to cover rust
CleanIt sat out in the rain yesterday
Best offerAbout what I expect to get
Aways driven slowlyWon’t go any faster
Prize winnerHard luck trophy 3 times in a row
Stored 25 yearsUnder a tree
Real show stopperOrange with purple fenders
Easy restorationParts will come off in your hand
Ready to showJust washed it
Top goodOnly leaks when it rains
Good investmentCan’t depreciate any more

Where did the ‘Official Conversion Chart on How to Interpret Antique Car Ads’ originate?

A mechanic works on a classic car that is in worse shape than its online craigslist ad showed.
Classic car restoration | Christian Buehner via Unsplash

I would love to know where this classic car ad chart originally came from but I haven’t been able to get to the bottom of it. When I ran a reverse image search, I found it’s been making the rounds on Facebook, Pinterest, and Reddit for years. Some posters use the original scan, while others dress it up with watermarks or even retype it.

It’s been around for so long, that when a since-deleted user posted it to years ago, they titled it “One of my old favorites.” User donutboi420 even commented, “the sacred scroll,” and TopFuel1771 said, “Such a classic. Makes me laugh every time.”

Below is my repost of the original scan of the official conversion chart in all its glory:

Next, find out why classic cars aren’t always easier to work on, or leave a comment if you know anything about the chart’s history–or have ever been catfished by a classic car on Craigslist.