How to... Check and appraise a classic car

This week's How to... features Lance Lambert, a classic car expert, host and producer of the US television show, Vintage Vehicle.

Collectible cars, naturally, are a very 'hands-on' hobby. As a new or experienced collector, you will often find yourself at car shows inspecting vintage automobiles up close.

In this video, Lance shares his methods for weighing up the value of a classic motor.

1. Condition is the most important thing

Condition is one of the main things in establishing the value of a motor. Ask yourself: what is the car's body like, and what kind of condition are its parts in?

Circle the car a number of times, paying particular attention to the wheel wells, the quarter panels, behind the windows and anywhere that can attract rust.

2. Use a magnet

Here, Lance employs a magic tool: a magnet. A magnet can help you identify if part of the car's body has been damaged.

Lack of magnetic pull indicates that body filler, lead or bond has been used to repair prior damage or solve a rust problem. (Of course, the magnet won't work on fibreglass bodied cars.)

This can be a big help in determining the cars history and condition. But also remember that a car which has been repaired isn't necessarily bad: repair is typical with decades-old classic cars.

On the other hand, with a potentially valuable classic like a Duesenberg, prior repairs can affect the car's worth.

3. Open the doors and check underneath

Here, a lot of otherwise hidden problems can emerge. Again, check for evidence of rust, signs of any bodywork restoration and use the magnet.

Also examine the sole plate. Is it wet, are there any signs of rust, and what kind of condition are the nuts, bolts and screws in? With classic cars, there can be many secrets hidden beneath the surface.

4. Keep all the paperwork!

For a proper appraisal, all the facts must be laid on the table. For instance, any restoration or rebuild information and the amounts spent on any interior or bodywork.

Keep receipts and anything else paperwork-related that is relevant to your car. If you have a collection, then perhaps keep a well-organised book for each car.

Not only will this aid the appraisal, it may also raise the value of your car - a buyer will be impressed by a comprehensive, organised and well-presented binder. Show them how much your automobile is really worth.

5. Check for the transmission, accessories and VIN numbers

Check the gear transmission. How many gears are there? And is it the original, or an aftermarket addition to the vehicle? Also, are there any accessories, such as air conditioning, tape deck systems or anything else?

Provided these accessories are authentic, they can add real value to your car. Look for the car's VIN number, indicating to buyer's when and where it was made and what the car was originally equipped with.

VIN numbers can provide clues to anything. For example, if the car was originally had a six or eight cylinder motor at its time of manufacture.

6. The most important thing: the VIN plate

The Vehicle Identification Number plate is arguably the most important item to be inspected, even before you look at the engine or the mileage or the tyres.

Inspect the VIN plate carefully, and make sure that it is the original plate. If it looks as if it has been disturbed, look in the service history and check for repairs to the front valance.

Then inspect the car's numbers: one stamped on a plate on the top of the fascia, visible through the windscreen, and the other beneath a plastic cover on the vehicle's floor beside the driver's seat.

All of the numbers must match perfectly.

What can the VIN plate tell you? Absolutely everything: when and in which factory a car was built; the body style; engine type; interior trim colour and body colour; and even its rear axle ratio.

The VIN should also detail the original bodywork at the factory where it was painted, and give information on the car's original interior and its colours.

If the plate on a car is missing, it will understandably have a hugely detrimental affect on its value.

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