Does an interesting story add value to a car?

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In addition to benefitting from a trove of data, Hagerty Insider also relies heavily on the expertise of veteran market watchers, including Dave Kinney, appraiser and publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide. On these digital pages, he answers often-asked questions about collector car values and buying and selling. Though Dave can’t put a value on an individual car in these articles (that’s what people pay him to do in his appraisal business, after all), he can field questions about the appraisal process, how to go about buying and selling classics, and the industry as a whole. Have a question of your own for a future article? Ask in the comments section.




I wanted to get my cars appraised, but the appraiser close to my town always posts pictures of where he is and cars he is appraising. I learned long ago to keep my private life private, and I’m afraid if I hire him to appraise my cars—I want to sell a few and buy one more—he might show my cars to a worldwide audience. Your thoughts? —Walt B.

Dave Kinney: Red flag! I don’t even know where to start here. This is Appraisal 101, and it makes me crazy mad that anyone would think that’s okay. Clients have a right to their privacy and are inviting an appraiser into their financial lives. That’s a big responsibility, and an appraiser should never violate that by publicly disclosing details of who their clients are, what they own, or their personal opinions about the cars they’ve seen. This is true for all appraisers, not just automobile appraisers.

The only time this would be okay is if you have direct permission from your client to do so, which is quite rare. Do I have appraisal stories that would make for great fodder on social media? You bet. Famous—or infamous—clients? Check. Crazy-cool cars owned by someone with lots of assets? Yup, but you won’t hear about it from me.

My social media is full of car shows, dad jokes, and dog photos. If I’m in another town for an appraisal, you won’t see me posting from anywhere near the client’s cars, office, or home.




Ford 427 SOHC engine valve cover detail
Stefan Lombard

Hagerty Valuation Tools is based upon a vehicle’s condition but presumes numbers-matching engines. Many original engines in 1960s muscle cars were used up or blown up by their aggressive teenage drivers and are therefore hard to find in the surviving bodies. How does a period-correct but non-numbers-matching engine affect the value of an otherwise excellent-condition 1960s muscle car? —Vic V.

DK: I really do wish there was a one-size-fits-all answer to your question, but there isn’t. I’ve written before about how the buying public is in love with numbers-matching everything, sometimes paying more for matching numbers than actually focusing on getting a better car.

I’ll bet many readers have a story about an owner blowing up their engine, denying they were racing, and getting a replacement motor under warranty. I remember one kid in my high school bragging that his dad went with him to get a brand-new engine for his car; he didn’t want that crappy block that blew up. Forty years later, I think someone regrets the choice made that day.

To answer your question directly, I’ve seen period-correct cars with non-original motors bring sale prices everywhere from full retail to as much as 50 percent off. Some buyers will only buy original motors; some could care less, but they will be happy to accept a bargain. To answer the question specifically to your car, I’d refer you to a qualified appraiser.




General Motors Technical Center in Warren, MI
General Motors Technical Center in Warren, MI. GM/Carol M. Highsmith

My father-in-law left a 1967 Chevy Caprice to my wife, and the story behind it was that a General Motors executive had ordered the car but died before delivery. Is there a way to research the history of this car through GM? —Al T.

DK: The GM files are famously incomplete for Chevrolet. I’m not going to say that finding what you are looking for is impossible, but this is the definition of finding a needle in a haystack. If this was a Pontiac, for example, you could rely on Pontiac Historical Services to get you some baseline information such as where your car was delivered, a number of production dates, retail price, and much more.

As an appraiser, this is where I would say we need to talk about the difference between interesting information and valuable information. First, let’s remember that in 1967, when your car was built, there were a lot of GM executives. Second, at this point, it’s a nice story, but…

Does a GM executive’s potential ownership make the car worth more money? Probably not, unless the person was well-known both inside and outside the company, like John DeLorean or Zora Arkus-Duntov. Beyond them, however, plus a small handful of design talent, the list of GM personalities is relatively short.

The story that your car was possibly ordered new by a GM executive is a cool one to pass along with the car. Is it worth more to a potential buyer because of that? Sorry, it is not.




MG MGA Car At The British International Motor Show, 1958
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

I have a 1958 Morgan +4 two-seater and a 1966 +4 four-seater, both concours restorations, plus a 1958 MGA roadster in similar excellent condition.

At 91, my age forces me to sell. Can you advise me as to their worth and how or where is the best way to sell in this market? They have been insured with Hagerty for a good many years.  —Wally S.

DK: To help determine value, I would advise going to the online Hagerty Valuation Tools to get an idea of the range we could be talking about. Your cars sound exceptional (on paper), which means they could fetch top dollar. Just keep in mind that cars often sell for more, and for less, than their printed prices in a guide. Every price guide is just that, a guide, and not the gospel.

In 2023, there are so many options to sell your collection. The more traditional ways of classifieds (now always online with perhaps a print option) or a traditional “in-person” auction are still viable. The growing popular option is an online auction. It’s a very cost-effective way to sell a car, but the format often invites people who have no interest in buying but lots of interest in asking multiple questions and making comments. Consignment with a well-known and reputable dealer is always a good way to go, too. And here’s the wild card: Consider donating one or all of your cars to a museum, school, or charity.

In the end, do what’s comfortable for you. You might ask friends in the local Morgan or MG clubs what methods they have used to sell a car. Chat up some folks at a car show or cars and coffee. A trusted relative, your attorney, or your account/tax advisor can also help. Weigh your options in any case.

I have sold (and donated) cars in each of the above ways, and for me, the answer differs with each car. Best of luck, don’t do this alone, and always remember the good time that the cars brought you.


If you’ve got a burning question for Ask the Appraiser, leave it in the comments below and stay tuned for Dave’s next column.




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    Yes, I certainly agree that the individual “story” is what determines whether there is value-add or not. History is usually interesting, but not necessarily valuable in monetary terms. And frankly, there can be “interesting stories” that can DE-tract the value. I once knew a guy who had a really neat car – that had had a death in it (with really exciting circumstances = interesting story). He told that to the first few lookers, but quickly decided that it probably wasn’t a good piece of provenance to give to a new buyer!

    Depends on the story, depends on the documentation of the story, and depends on the car.

    A Trans Am with even very loose ties to Burt Reynolds had added value even if the only was titled in his name. We saw this before his death where he partnered with builders who put the cars in his Hp name restored them and sold them as Burt’s car.

    There are other cars that are nothing special that may have been owned by a celebrity say like John Voigt. It could be a fake wood grained K car convertible with the only proof being a pencil with teeth marks. Just no value there to really anyone unless you just love a good story.

    Heck I made a good story last week as I drove a Football Hall of Fame player in the HOF parade. I drove him amount a large group of the greatest players. He was a really great guy and had a heck of a history. Did that add to my cars value…….no!

    What it did do is add to my memories and give me a great story to tell my buddies.

    Same on my Pontiac. It has a number of great stories like 100+ mph laps at Indy to being used by GM and a well know performance company for display. Did that add value…..No!

    The moral here is don’t let money get in the way of a good story. All cars can have great stories that to your life or your families. But that does not mean any value is added money wise.

    So enjoy your cars and make stories. Should it lead to more value great but never bank on it and just enjoy the story.

    Also do not pay the celebrity tax unless the name is Shelby or some name that really does add value to the car due to its documented history. In other words Carol needs to have been in the car more than once just to sign it.

    A friend of mine (former Shelby Mustang owner, now has a Superformance Daytona) jokes that the Cobras and Shelbys (old and newer) WITHOUT Shelby’s signature are rare and will be the ones worth more money.

    A story is just a story. Tall tales can be made up. They need to be backed up with some kind of proof to have value, and even then, the value is questionable and based on historical significance.

    In your Burt Reynolds example, the value was that the vehicle was actually titled in his name.

    I bought my 65 impala out of a storage unit several towns over. When I got it home, my neighbor across the street advised me that the car sat derelict in my yard (under former owners related to the seller) for 10 years before ending up in the storage unit, and the hole in the windshield and dented dash came from one of my tree branches. I estimate that adds 2 cents to the value, but it’s a fun story

    Just a Market Place side issue of mine…. Why doesn’t Hagerty allow pictures to go to a true “Full Screen” in their for sale ads. Other publications do this and it makes for much better close inspections by the followers, and then they allow for a magnification option as well. Hagerty pictures are surrounded by an acre of dead black space…. what’s the point? Jon

    If you want “full-screen”, you need a lot of pixels. You won’t get that from your typical cell-phone image, or even the small-scale JPEG provided on line. You need a “real” photographer with “real” camera gear. Like the guy who does the Red-Line series. Or, at a minimum, me. With MarketPlace, Hagerty is working with what the seller or the agent provided.

    The answer for how a 91-year-old (or any inexperienced seller for that matter) should sell their very fine collectable car should always, ALWAYS be consignment. Selling a fine collectable car is no different then selling a house…and if you’re selling a house do your do it yourself? Or do you hire a qualified real estate agent? The answer is obvious. A qualified dealer will always be able to get more money than you will be able to get on your own, make his profit on the difference, and therefore a seller is really giving away nothing…except the time, work, and frustration that goes into such a sale. Considering that so many cars today sell sight-unseen, it also may be likely that the dealer doesn’t even have to take possession of your car for display purposes. It can remain in your garage until it has already been sold. But auto sales is not respected in the way that real estate sales are, leading many to believe that they can do a effective job all by themselves. They are mistaken, and the smart seller will hire a professional every time.

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