"A penny saved is a penny earned," Benjamin Franklin espoused. "Watch your pennies, and your dollars will take care of themselves," is often attributed to Andrew Carnegie. Unless the government decides to discontinue pennies, as has been tossed around lately, then it's only worth its melt value. Cash certainly doesn't increase in value over time, but stocks do. Then again, even the best stocks are somewhat volatile and subject to fluctuations in the market. But you know what holds value like a good stock, and allows you to actually enjoy your hard earned money? A well-built vintage car.

OK, we'll admit that the value of vintage cars fluctuates, and very much hangs upon the prevailing style of the day. Even the ultra-valuable blue-chip cars can oscillate if they just aren't the hot thing at the time. Just like a stock, however, if you hang onto it long enough and treat it well, the end worth is usually worth the wait. But you know what you can't do with a stock? Have the time of your life driving it hard and making memories. Look at it this way, let's say your stocks lose value, you just lost cash with no gain. If your bitchin car goes down in value, you still have the value of the fun and memories made behind the wheel. And trust us, in the long run when you're looking back over your life, that's worth more.

You still need to plan for the future though, and car guys aren't always the best at that since we love to constantly improve and play with our toys. With that in mind, Dana Manier of the 401K Club Hot Rod Shop developed a new philosophy for making the two worlds meet: drive your investment. The idea isn't exactly new, but he is the first guy we know to actively advocate that a well-built car can be as good as money in the bank.

You're probably wondering, how does this whole alternative 401(k) thing work, and what makes it different than just building a car? Our takeaway is that it's really a simple formula with three key points. Step number one is to choose a car to build that has mass appeal. Yeah, yeah, we know we always advocate building the unknown, unloved underdogs, and we always will, but you have to take that step with the foreknowledge that it's unlikely for the finished car to have the same market value as its more popular and mainstream counterparts. For example, a Monza is just never going to fetch the same price as a first-gen Camaro. Even if the specs and performance numbers are exactly the same, some cars are just going to command more money. You know the usual suspects: Camaros, Mustangs, 'Cudas, and so on.

The second most important step is quality of presentation and workmanship. What separates the cream from the rest of the curds is how well put together the final product feels. Even if it's totally functional with a great parts list, a car that feels well integrated and shows a factory-level build will always command a higher price than one that feels like it has lots of stuff just bolted on. You know that difference when you see it. Hand in hand with that, reputation goes a long way. In this case it can actually pay off to have a shop with a history of building excellent cars perform much of the major work. It might sound contrary to what we normally preach, but it's far easier for a buyer to put his faith in a brick and mortar establishment staffed with professional car builders than even the most capable garage wrencher.

The last criterion is one that's a little more nebulous. Choose something with classic, appealing style. Styles and trends come and go, but there are certain design cues and parts choices that create a timeless package. That may mean you won't get to be the cutting-edge flavor of the month, but that's really not such a bad thing since those cars don't often age well. This criteria is pretty personal since a car needs to be your vision of ideal, and there is no single answer, but we can give you one major concept to consider: keep it classic. That doesn't mean you can't change, modify, and update the car, it just means that the final presentation should retain a vintage flavor. Even if you build a fully modernized Pro Touring '69 Camaro, the final presentation should still have that quintessence that makes people love first-gen Camaros. How you get there is your journey.