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What's "Rare" in Classic Cars?


While few cars being manufactured today are considered instant classics, the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro included, the cars of the past have earned a reverence and appreciation that no technologically advanced retro-wannabe could ever gain. To further make that point, the Classic Car Club of America awards a car classic status if it was manufactured in limited quantities no later than 1948, with a high performance engine, luxury features and a high price tag to confirm its pedigree.

Rare Beauty
As many ways as there are to define "classic" in terms of cars, there are also a number of ways that a car can be considered truly "rare." Beauty, while entirely subjective, is a rare quality that people instantly appreciate in an automobile, such as that in the 1956 Buick Roadmaster or the 1962 Studebaker Avanti. The dramatic simplicity of the Avanti's lines immediately captured the public's attention. Adding to the Avanti's value today is its limited production; only 4643 were produced by Studebaker.

Unique Features
Another quality that defines a rare classic car is the incorporation of unique features. The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL with its gull wing doors was in production from 1955 to 1957 and is considered one of the most collectible Mercedes ever built. At a recent auction held at Bonhams, a 300 SL rolled off the display ramp for a price of $772,240.

Limited Production
In 1969, Pontiac built fewer than 700 Firebird Trans Ams and consequently are seen at auction with bidding in the $110,000 range. Being a limited production vehicle in itself does not always merit consideration as a classic car. Combine rarity with beauty, historical significance, or other factors and value skyrockets.

Past Lives
If your project car is a 1980 Trans Am Bandit Special Edition, you are aware of the attention given to a car with a special history behind it. Before the DeLorean appeared in the film "Back to the Future," it already had rare classic status for being a limited production vehicle with a checkered past.

Vehicle Valuation Appraisal
If you rescued a neglected and abandoned rare beauty from a forgotten barn on some back-woods property, and discover that your prize still has all of its original parts, your "matching numbers" car is rarer still. After a professional restoration from a top restorer, for insurance purposes, you should get a vehicle valuation appraisal from a certified appraiser. Seek appraisers who offer certified appraisals through the International Vehicle Appraisal Network or the National Association of Vehicle Appraisers.

Specialty Insurance
Ordinary auto insurance underwriters may not be the best choice for insuring your classic car. Depending on its value, condition, and other factors, insuring such a vehicle through an agent who provides specialty insurance might be more appropriate. The fact that you car is the product of a limited run or is considered a rare classic for other reasons may mean that very few insurers have any data for accurately setting your rates. To play it safe, they will invariably set higher rates.

In negotiating your auto insurance rate from a specialty insurer, you will establish an "agreed value" which both of you consider a fair sum for reimbursement in the event your vehicle is destroyed and deemed a total loss. It is for this reason you will make sure your prospective insurer accepts appraisals.

Reducing Risk
As a condition of coverage, your specialty insurer will insist that you agree to a few stipulations to reduce the risk of damage or loss of your vehicle. Your driving record must be pristine and you must be over the age of 25. It will help if you belong to a car club and successfully complete a driver safety course. There will be mileage restrictions that can limit your driving of the vehicle to closed courses such as events like the Lehigh Valley Concours d'Elegance.

Don't be surprised if your insurer asks for proof of ownership of a vehicle which you specifically use as your daily driver. There is rarely a deductible for this type of policy, which may include coverage for items like tools and car show display items. The right type of policy for a classic show car may actually cost less than your standard commute car policy, despite the fact that the coverage involved will be comprehensive in nature. Not only will property damage and personal injury liability be on the policy, coverage for fire, theft, vandalism and flood will also be considered as risks.

Safe Keeping
Another necessity for being considered for specialty insurance is safe storage of your vehicle. Parking your rare classic on the street, in a carport, or public garage are unacceptable. The only low-risk storage solution for your vehicle is inside a locked garage.

Off-season Preparation
Speaking of storage, during the off-season for car shows, your vehicle may remain in suspended animation for months and need special preparation for long periods of inactivity. Make sure the gas tank is full and replace the coolant to benefit from the anti-corrosive ingredients it contains. Dirty oil contains acids, water and other corrosives that can cause rust and weaken bearings. Replace the oil and top off brake and clutch master cylinders.

Leave the convertible top up to prevent persistent creases and leave the safety brake off. Chock the wheels and disconnect the battery. For cement garage floors which condense moisture under the vehicle, place a plastic drop cloth under the vehicle. Start your vehicle once a month and keep it covered with a cloth drape, not plastic. By taking professional care of your vehicle during the off-season, you are reducing rust, corrosion and deterioration, so next year you can proudly show off your rare classic beauty.

Special thanks to Travis for this article



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