Vintage Classic and Collector Car Buying & Rating Guide

How to rate the condition of your Classic and what the point system means to you the Classic Car owner

The Standard of the automotive hobby for rating cars is the 1 to 5 point system used by The Old Car Price Guide. Just what is meant by the rating system is not so easy to determine and is quite subjective. Not to mention seller and buyer will always differ in opinion as to just what color of horse they are dickering over no matter the circumstances.

However, like the government, the system is not perfect but its better than nothing. The Old Car Price Guide and NADA Special Interest Car Guide describe their respective class structures in their publications. Though in both the descriptions are a little unclear at times. The following should provide a better understanding of this system and how it relates to the value and overall condition of your car.

Note: Custom vehicles can fall into any of these categories as far as condition is concerned, but their price ranges may not. I have seen quite a few customs restored and modified to a level that if they were stock they would qualify for class 1 or 2. These customs are sometimes more valuable than a class 1 or 2 car, but only if the modifications are all done with a high level of attention to detail and professionalism. There is something to be said for a LS1 powered 69 Camaro with a 5-speed tranny and four wheel disc brakes. That said, pure stock cars give a solid base line to base value on, customs due not. So, the collector hobby does not count them in the value guides.

Class Ranks

Class 0 - The Truly insane restoration

This class is the one that is left out of most if not all guides. Simply it is because there are not too many in this condition and those that are bear no resemblance to what the average or even above average restorationist can hope to attain. Basically it is restored to a condition that even the tightest factory conditions could not have attained. The car is beyond new and even then a new car sees daylight. It is the "perfect" car, the one-of-a-kind National show winner.

Since cars in the class 0 range change hands at prices that have no relation to reality, there is no purpose in there inclusion in the books other than to state that there is something higher than a Class 1 restoration.

Class 1 - The Concours Restoration

Class 1 is the easiest to define and the hardest to determine. The car must be judged 95 points or better (preferably better) out of 100 at a national meet. A class 1 car can go to a national meet and win or tie for best in class or best of show, if a class 0 is not there. This means that not only are the correct parts used, they are installed correctly, just as the factory did including mistakes if any existed.

To simply determine what it would take to restore a car to correct class 1 condition would take a non-expert six months to one year of research alone. An expert would spend several hours to properly assess the elements required to make a class one car and would probably have to take some things apart. Non-obvious criteria would be option mix (some options required or prohibited other options), radio instrument markings, color and style options. At this class you need to know exactly what the correct color is AND its shade. You do not want the mix to be to light or to dark, it has to be Perfect.

The NADA does not cover this value in its book because the value is very volatile depending on the seller or buyer and location of the car and the deal.

Class 2 - The Cherry Restoration

Class 2 is what many people think of as the class 1 car. To anyone other than a fanatic, it looks perfect. It will win at local shows and place well, if not win, at national meets. Even though it may win, it is not a 100% correct. This is the beautiful Red Corvette that beats out a 100% correct Yellow Nova.

A Class 2 car might have a New Die-Hard Battery or a Holley insteadl of a Rochester Card, etc..  Codes for options might be wrong (Like it is supposed to have a Red interior but has been fitted with a new Black one or vice versa). On the road you cannot tell a class 2 from a class 1, except for the fact you will never ever see a class 1 driven on the road.

This is known as the High Class in the NADA Special Interest Price guide.

Class 3 - The Sunday Driver

Class 3 is what most hobbyists have setting in our garages getting pampered. A class 3 car looks good and makes up 90% of local car shows. A Class 2 that is driven on the streets for 6 months without severe detailing will become a Class 3.

A Class 3 car will show the signs of non-fanatical detailing too. Decals may have deteriorated, the gauges in the dash may show wear. The Radio may have been replaced with a tape deck or CD player. It may have other non-original parts and or upgrades. The car still looks good but the finish is no longer perfect, some chrome may be faded or non-stock wheels may have been added, the drivers seat upholstery has acquired a few creases. However, nothing major is missing and a winters work and some bucks can make a class two out of it.

Class 3 cars fall into the NADA Average category.

Class 4 - The Clean Daily Driver

Class 4 is what some owners still drive to and from work. At this class you have two extremes. One is the little old lady driven 4,000 miles a year car and has some slight body damage and a little rust (California little not Ohio little). The other is the car with high mileage and some custom modifications to keep it running (or in some cases running better). This car has a lot of work done to it in the hopes of keeping it around until you can afford to park it and restore it (or to hand it off to your teenager after you buy that class 2 car). Either way this car is going to take a lot of work to get into show condition. Especially if it has a lot of modifications and had the removed parts thrown away a long time ago.

Most classic cars for sale on eBay are in this condition. They are still cars that don not look bad, and are what is referred as 20/20 cars. They look good from 20 feet away or passing by at 20 MPH. Either way they are usually still cared for in one way or the other by their owners and are good cars for the most part. The biggest thing to remember is that these cars can take deceptively good digital pictures.

This is the NADAs Low category.

Class 5 - The Beater

Class 5 is not a junker despite what many people think. Rather, this is the common car that is found in most local ads for about $8,500.00 It is or can be a daily driver without to many problems. Mechanically it is intact and runs fine. The interior is probably fairly worn out and it may have a good share of rust, but the floorboards are still in fair shape and the doors are still free of most rust. For most of us this is our first restoration and it teaches us never to do that again (i.e. the 74 Opel Manta I restored for my son..) To get this car mechanically to a level Four simply requires a tune up, new tires, exhaust, and brakes. While the exterior needs some repair and a trip to Maacco for a shot of paint. The interior and rubber are probably gone and a lot of detail work needs to be done. All said, many Class 5 cars should stay that way, but many make it to class 4 or 3 depending on how much time has been put into them. Usually it costs to much and requires to much effort to get this car to a class 2, but many have gone broke trying.

The NADA does not class these cars, since like the high end cars, values fluctuate to much to get a good handle on it. Price is more than likely determined on how old the paint is and how much rust the car is showing, if it has AC and how well it runs and if it has any special features or options.

Class 6 - The Junker

Class 6 - This is a true junker, the kind of car you pay $2,000.00 for if you take and $5,500.00 if you only get the parts you want off of it. More marriages have been put in jeopardy over a class 6 coming home with the husband than anything else. This is a definite parts car. But once again, there is no accounting for bad decision making and some class 6 cars have been restored (or have had a vain attempt at it made at it). Prices vary from $0 (take it, its yours) to $5,500.00 depending on how bad you want it and how much the owner wants to get rid of it.

Class 7 - The Shell

Class 7 - Yes, there is something worse than a #6. The #7 is worse than a junker. This is the rust bucket sitting behind a neighbors house. The engine is locked or non-existent, not a single body panel is salvageable, the glass is broken or smoked over, and there is not a single lense on the car. It is virtually useless even as a parts car. For the most part these cars are give-aways, although why would you waste your time. You have to remember junk is junk and unless this car has a very rare option and the parts are salvageable it is not worth wasting time or effort on and even then, its still only worth the value of those few parts you need of it. Under normal circumstances this car is completely unrestorable. The only exception being is if it is a real one of a kind and even then only if the value restored is in the 6 figure range.

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