Preservation Class Cars

Preservation Class Cars

Over the past several years, Hagerty’s Cars That Matter has observed unrestored cars sell for prices that would have astonished in the recent past. Preservation Classes are being added to concours nationwide to showcase well preserved and mostly unrestored, un-refinished, and unaltered cars.

The old car hobby is headed in the direction of the fine art, decorative arts, and antique furniture markets, where a premium is placed on originality and where refinishing or altering a well preserved example can have a negative effect on value.

This isn’t to say that it is wrong to restore a car. Cars, unlike art and even furniture, are used and exposed to the elements and are made from different materials that don’t always age harmoniously. Often, restoration is the only way to preserve a car if it has deteriorated to a point where its useful life has been exceeded.

For those exceedingly uncommon examples of vintage cars that have managed to survive with original powertrains, finishes and interiors in sufficient condition to serve as an exemplar for a correct restoration on other less fortunate examples, clearly, careful preservation is the route that will ultimately result in the greatest return on their owners’ investments.

Cars That Matter is working on a uniform system of pricing for these cars since including them with deteriorated older restorations in the Condition #3 or Condition #4 category as other price guides do may be expedient, but it does a disservice to anyone attempting to ascertain the true value of a Preservation Class car.

Desirability drives the market. The completely original — down to the deteriorated tires — 1911 Oldsmobile that RM Auctions sold in 2007 for more than $1.5 million was likely the only one on the planet in that condition. It sold for nearly double what a restored car would have brought. And as the saying goes, they’re only original once — no amount of false patina or even the deterioration of an old restoration could approximate what the 1911 Oldsmobile in its untouched original condition represented.

The same held true for the Aston Martin DB4 sold earlier in 2008 at the Artcurial sale in Paris for more than $475,000. It brought approximately 80% over the price of a Condition #1 car because it had a documented, one-family ownership history, had low miles and was completely original and stunningly well preserved.

The Aston and the Olds sold for what they did because they were unique examples of automobiles that were desirable, significant and rare to begin with. The market perceived the opportunity to purchase either of these cars to be virtually unrepeatable — there are likely no other examples in similar condition nor can any existing examples be made to approximate them.

As a general rule, it seems safe to say that well-preserved, completely original examples of significant, desirable and rare cars with fully documented histories can sell for 75% to 100% more than the best restored examples of the same car, perhaps even more in the case of an ultra-desirable car for which it is virtually certain that another original example will never surface.

The rarer the car the less likely that a car in similar condition will surface, thus, the greater the premium. Conversely, a 1965 K-code Mustang convertible with very low miles and well preserved original paint and interior could be expected to bring 25%-30% more than a Condition #1 restored car (rather than 100% more) because it is a virtual certainty that with such huge production numbers, there are other Mustangs in a similar state of preservation.

Just as the market’s opinion of value evolves, Hagerty’s Cars That Matter’s view on Preservation Class pricing is evolving and will continue to evolve. As a general rule, for regular production cars (greater than 1,000 built) the premium over a Condition #1 car for unassailable and very well preserved originality is between 25% and 50% depending on the rarity and desirability of the car and the state of preservation.

Hagerty’s Cars That Matter wishes to acknowledge the pioneering work done in the field of automotive preservation by The Federation Internationale des Vehicules Anciens (“FIVA”) and by Bloomington Gold.

FIVA was founded in 1966 to safeguard the future of the collector car hobby through legislative advocacy to ensure the ability to safely use vintage motorized vehicles on public roads. FIVA is also actively involved in the classification, preservation, and authentication of vintage vehicles through the issuance of FIVA ID-Cards.

FIVA’s main focus is on scrutiny and classification of a wide range of motorized vehicles based on historic authenticity and originality. FIVA has four vehicle preservation groups that range from Group 1 “Authentic” vehicles that are factory original down to perishables such as tires and spark plugs to Group 4 “Rebuilt” vehicles. The 1911 Oldsmobile sold by RM and referenced above would likely be an example of a FIVA Group 1 car.

Group 4 “Rebuilt” cars are at the opposite end of the spectrum where considerable restoration work has been carried out and perhaps enough pieces were missing or little to none of the original finishes remained so that a fair amount was left to the interpretation of the restorer.

Most cars with FIVA ID-Cards fall into the Group 3 “Restored” category. These are cars with a known identity and history that are in sufficiently good pre-restoration condition. In this category, little was left to the interpretation of the restorer.

The remaining category of Group 2 “Original” cars are less profoundly preserved than Group 1 cars, with some period replacement items such as tires, spark plugs or hoses in evidence. The Artcurial Aston Martin mentioned above might after scrutiny be determined a FIVA Group 2 car.

In addition to preservation categories, FIVA also classifies vehicles by the modifications (if any) carried out. The classes are Type A (“Standard”), Type B (“Period Modified”), and Type C (“Reproduction”). Obviously, chassis and body modifications will create the greatest number of issues.

An example of how the two categories work in harmony with each other would be the case of a complete and well-documented 1958 Cadillac Brougham authentically restored in its original configuration and colors. This would be classified as an A/3.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, an exact reproduction Ferrari 250 SWB complete with actual Ferrari axles and powertrain from a much less desirable Ferrari 250 GTE will be classified as a Type C Reproduction and will not even be granted a FIVA ID-Card until the body and chassis reach the twenty-five year age limit.

Bloomington Gold has spent nearly two decades certifying well preserved and mostly unrestored, un-refinished, and unaltered Corvettes. Those meeting their standards are awarded either Survivor® certification or Benchmark® certification depending on how well preserved the car is.

Bloomington Gold’s Survivor Certification is roughly analogous to the Group A/1 and Group A/2 categories of FIVA. Restored cars are judged not against each other but against factory standards and may earn a Gold or Silver Certificate based on the authenticity of the restoration. No attempt is made at classifying altered or reproduction vehicles. They are ignored for purposes of Bloomington Gold certification.
A Survivor is defined by Bloomington Gold as follows:

A panel of Certified SURVIVOR Judges certifies that the car met this set of standards:
1. Is 20 years or older
2. Completed a 20+ miles road test within one hour
3. Is over 50% unrestored, un-refinished, and unaltered from the way it left the factory in at least three of the four areas:
a. Exterior (Paint, Trim, Glass)
b. Interior / Trunk
c. Under Hood
d. Chassis (Suspension, Frame, Wheels)
4. Over 50% of the original finishes (paint, fabrics, plating) remain good color references for the restoration of a car just like it.

WORKING DEFINITION: PRESERVATION CLASS CONDITION CARS should have virtually all of their original factory paint intact and in good condition. A small unobtrusive blend on a panel or two or minor touch-ups are acceptable but at least 80% of the exterior finish should be original factory applied paint. The paint should be in sufficient condition to accurately convey the original shade and be reflective. Minor scratches, checking, and small dings are expected and acceptable.

With the exception of consumables such as rubber floor mats, the interior of the car should also be original. Soft materials such as leather may display a patina, dirt, minor discoloration and minor cracking but no tears. Replaced material should be at a minimum and be unobtrusive.

The engine compartment and trunk should also be well preserved and original with no paintwork and with original wiring harnesses intact and functional. It is expected that consumables such as hoses and belts may have been replaced; however, the car must have the powertrain that it was delivered with, its original tools (if supplied), and a period spare should be present.

Read next Up next: Dorothy Deen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *