International shipping: Peace of mind or a crateful of regret?

VEHICLES COVERED: 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing

WHAT WENT WRONG: As the popularity of classic cars grows and more collectors participate in events overseas, the odds of suffering a shipping mishap rise accordingly. It’s one thing to roll a classic onto a cross-country hauler that never leaves the pavement; another thing entirely when it is loaded into a container, hoisted by a crane and placed aboard a cargo ship – as the owner of a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing can attest. At some point during the loading or unloading process, a steel crate containing the $700,000 Gullwing – which had been shipped from New Zealand to California – was dropped from a height of 10-25 feet.

DAMAGE/LOSS: The drop distance was considerable enough to cause substantial damage to the Gullwing’s body, frame and mechanical systems. In order to fully assess the damage (most of which was not easily identifiable), the vehicle had to be completely torn down. The car’s frame and transmission underwent magniflux inspection to determine whether there were any distortions, weak spots or cracks in any of the weld joints; the frame was sent to a specialist to make sure it was straight; the engine was torn down and fully inspected; and body work was required all around, along with a new paint job. Total cost of repair was nearly $500,000, which Hagerty paid – minus a $1,000 deductible and an unfathomably low $500 that the shipping company was required to pay, thanks to the “Carriage of Goods by Sea Act,” which limits the amount recoverable to $500 per 100 cubic feet.

LESSON: The lesson here couldn’t be clearer: There is no substitute for international shipping and touring insurance. If you choose to rely on the shipping company to cover your classic in the event of a claim, you’ll get $500 – along with a crateful of regret.

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