What's the Value of My Classic? - Part Seven - Stories


In Part Five of this series, we reviewed misconceptions the average Classic is insignificant, why and what you can do about it. In Part Six we discussed issues deciphering Condition Grading systems and suggestions to overcome the influence of opinion. In this segment, we are going to discuss records in the form of stories and why they are important to the value of your Classic.

Every car has some kind of specifications, such as year, make, model and from inspection and/or documentation you can usually determine other details such as the kind of engine and transmission, or possibly optional equipment. That's what most owners think about when we say "documentation". Others shoehorn maintenance records into the same category. Yes, adding these items to a vehicle's dossier is important, but they are rather boring statistics. That may be one of the reasons many of today's Classic car owners are ingrained in the belief no one cares about these things and that the documentation effort is a meaningless, time-wasting task. 

If you fall into that category, you should rethink your position because a rapidly growing division of owners are beginning to understand the market has changed; "We're not in Kansas anymore". They no longer consider themselves as just a hobbyist and their Classic is not some "trinket" in their "man-cave". They view ownership as part caretaker and conservator, their Classic a form of investment and acknowledge recording the history, details, records and stories is not some frivolous activity; it's a responsibility. They have been taught documentation (details, specs, records, stories and photos) is what Collectors rely upon and the greater the details, the more of the Burroughs Theorem© applies. 

There is an additional component regarding this movement. Something you should be aware of. These very same owners are becoming more engaged in preserving their automotive history, regardless if efforts fail to increase the price of their Classic. They do it for the love of the hobby and different types of value. They want to leave something meaningful behind, a small slice of history that might otherwise be lost.

For me, the most important issue we discussed had to do with automotive legacy. After we are gone... what kind of statement about automotive history do our groupings of cars represent? I also became more aware of the "story-telling" aspect of my own cars...how should those memories be preserved?
Keith Martin
What's My Car Worth

But they do have a place in the story of your car. Most Classic car owners have limited documentation about their vehicle. Just as today, most people thought those records were immaterial, especially during the early years of ownership. And before the availability of digital versions, most manufacturers simply threw away documents we would pay dearly for. 

“I received a call informing me the bulk of Ford’s performance documentation was being discarded as a part of downsizing the archives...had I not acted quickly, the details needed to reproduce the MKIV would have been lost forever.” 
Mike Teske
Kar-Kraft MKIV's

Over the years, more and more information about the car became a permanent feature, such as production tags and VIN's. Today's cars also have electronic records tracking title work, repairs, accidents and more. However those records are something no Classic built before 1984 will have. Unless all past owners kept those details, it's up to you to create.

"A vehicle's history has always played a role in the value...but it is only recently that a vehicle's history has played such a tremendous role...It's your job as the vehicle's current caretaker to preserve that story for future generations. 
Bryan Shook
Vintage Automotive
Modern cars are usually assessed far more for their utilitarian purpose of transportation, than collectability. As such, the records available include what could be referred to as utilitarian details; the kinds of things a buyer would be interested to know and as a way of "grading" one used car against another. Considering the popularity of these services, it's hard to imagine anyone buying a used car would refuse to review the details they provide and without a doubt, they have triggered decisions on which car to buy.
So ask yourself these questions, "If I were buying a used car, would I use these records? Would they improve my interest in a particular car? Would they influence my buying decision or pay more for a certain car?"
Source: Wikipedia
 If any of your answers were "yes", walk a mile in the footsteps of a future caretaker regarding your own Classic. "If I were buying my own Collector car, would I want to know the details and its history?  Would they improve my interest? Would they influence my decision to become the new caretaker or pay more?" Regardless of your answers, the most important thing to remember is any "yes" reflects agreement with the Burroughs Theorem regarding your Classic.

Documentation Drives Credibility,
Credibility Drives Significance.
Significance Drives Value
Value Drives Demand and
Demand Drives Revenue

No modern record-capturing services can log even a single story. Candidly, most people buying a commuter car could probably care less if it was used in a parade, owned by someone semi-important or used for a cross-country family vacation. But it is a well known fact, those very same details "color" the history of a Classic. A photo album authenticating your Classic in a 1950's parade, on the same family vacation, or a note confirming it was owned by the Mayor creates a nostalgic link. They combine to tell an irreversible story, build long lasting emotional connection and make your car more interesting.

If a person was admiring your Classic, 
which "story" would you want "ringing in their head"?
Above -"Do you want to know a secret?...Do you promise not to tell...Closer
let me whisper in your ear...Say the words you long to hear...I'm in love with you!"

Below - "I can't hide the way I feel, I don't love you anymore."

"A few years back I received a letter from a woman in her 90s; she'd gotten married in a 1951 Hornet. In fact, it was the only car she and her husband had ever owned. After he died in 1996, the Hornet was parked in her garage. I went to look at it. Physically, it was fine. Mechanically, it was worn out. It had gone more than 260,000 miles. But it was all there. Every receipt was in the glove compartment. So I bought the Hornet. But really, I was buying the story more than I bought the actual car."

Jay Leno
Regardless of your preference to open an account or use Garagistry, the fact of the matter is you need to collect and organize the known history of your Classic in a meaningful way. You should take some time to search out and acquire missing details and supporting documents. These things are becoming more important every day. When you're done, find a way, besides a shoebox or a filing cabinet, to store and protect these items. 

“As an avid car collector for decades, I can attest to the significant benefits of Garagistry. Their services provide a fast and convenient back- up for our original documents. The opportunity to trace ownership lineage, restoration work, and history of a given vehicle adds great credibility, and credibility adds great value. I highly recommend Garagistry and all their services. Their business model will help preserve our automobile heritage”

Tim Wellborn
Renown Automotive Collector Wellborn Muscle Car Museum