Regardless of how extensive the damage, just about any vehicle can be repaired. The question is, is it worth the time, effort and expense? In the wake of a hurricane or major storm, many classic car owners share a common dilemma in the case of a total loss: Should they accept the insurance payout and use the money to purchase another classic, or buy back the salvaged vehicle and restore it?
“I think the key for most people is whether or not the car has sentimental value,” said Scott Johansson, Senior Claims Manager at Hagerty Collector Car Insurance. “It’s a lot easier to let it go if there’s no real family history. But if it was your dad’s car or your mom’s car or your grandparents’ car, then that decision gets tough.”
On the other hand, the power of nostalgia might actually make the decision easier if you already know you’ll never part with your car under any circumstances. But if your car was damaged by salt water, be prepared — the restoration could be long.
“Sea water causes a lot more damage than fresh water,” Johansson said. “Engine, interior, transmission, metal, pretty much anything electrical … it’s a mess. It’s essential to flush the car as soon as possible to limit the damage.”
Hagerty Fleet Specialist Randy Clouse said water — especially salt water — is a car’s worst enemy since it can find its way to practically every inch of the car, carrying sand, silt and even sewage with it. Knowing that, there are no short cuts in the repair and restoration process.
“You can’t be certain there’s nothing foreign in the engine or the transmission unless you take it apart and clean it,” he said. “All electrical components and gauges — done. Carpet and upholstery — done. Differential, brakes, every single hose clamp …”
Clouse and Johansson agreed that, in some cases, there may be a silver lining.
“Despite the damage, at least you’re working with a complete car,” Clouse said. “You don’t have to go searching for hard parts.”
Johansson added: “If you decide to restore your car and it was a No. 3 or 4 (lower condition car), maybe you can make the upgrades that you’ve always wanted to make. On the other hand, if you take the insurance money and buy another classic — instead of waiting months for yours to be restored — maybe that will speed up the healing process.”