Antique Car Values – Determine your price


Classifying an Antique Car

The definition of an antique car is as follows: an antique car is generally defined as a vehicle over 45 years of age.  This is the Antique Automobile Club of America’s direct definition.  So who is this club and why does their definition matter?  The AACA has been around since 1935.  The group facilitates events and gatherings of the world’s top automobile enthusiasts every year.  They have one goal in mind, preserve awareness of the American Antique car.  Simply put, this is the best group to place the general label of “antique” at 45 years.  Antique cars are classified into vehicle eras.  There is a the veterans, brass and vintage eras.  Each era encompasses a small block of vehicles that support that time frame of American vehicle history.  So in today’s terms you would think that there would be an “electric era.”  Wrong.  Turns out the first electric car was developed in 1835 (careful with this one as prototypes were started in 1834).  It’s simply amazing to find out the very ideas we hold as futuristic thoughts have been in theory since before the 1900s.

Antique Investment

It goes with no surprise that antique cars are investments.  The cars are often purchased with goals of earning profit over a course of time.  Interestingly enough, there were only two periods of sharp decline in antique car values.  Early 1990s there was a sharp decline and then once again between 2008 and 2009.  If you spend some time researching these time frames, you will quickly note the sharp decline in the U.S. economy or possibly even in the world economy.  Like a lot of hobbies of today’s society, these investments become luxury items and are all to often sold to recoup losses during difficult times.  It’s important to note that you must take in all of your surroundings when you’re considering the value of your antique car in a current market.  A pristine antique could quickly suffer penalties in value that are totally out of the control of their owners.  There’s not a wrench in the toolbox that will fix the problem of the world’s economy to keep your investment in tip-top value.

Finding Value

You may want to hop over to our Antique car pricing tools page to find out what some of the “experts” think your vehicles worth.  Once you’ve got a ballpark figure.  Consider these important facts:

  1. Number Matching – This is a term that is used when an appraiser considers the true value of your antique car.  When vehicles are produced, various components of that vehicle are stamped to help associate the parts to the vehicles identification number (VIN). On the surface, many buyers don’t realize that the restored version doesn’t include the original components.  It’s not always on the surface and if done properly, not detectable at all.  However, if the motor matches, axle matches and various other heavy equipment comprising the vehicle matches, then the overall value of the antique car is raised.  Basically, it’s as natural and original as you can possibly get.  Just like the term, numbers mean everything and sometimes outweigh the alternative of a newer replacement part, even if esthetics are compromised.
  2. Custom Cars – This goes hand and hand with Number Matching.  All too often, original parts are replaced with favorable performance upgraded components.  This can sway the potential buyer if the custom parts are not desired and the true original equipment is preferred.  Antique cars can be difficult to find original equipment for.  Performance from the original equipment is not always up to standard with today’s technology.  Sometimes heavy parts are replaced with lighter newer alloys just to reduce vehicle weight and increase performance.  Make sure you consider how your antique car is put together and whether or not you should choose custom parts for your investment.
  3. Restoration– This is a big one.  Everyone will interpret what the true definition of antique restoration is.  Realistically, a restoration brings the car back to original status using original parts and not opting for anything other than original.  This isn’t just an engine tune up.  Even paint choices and true paint numbers are criticized.  Sometimes the original paint codes aren’t available or too difficult to match so similar production era vehicles paint codes are “borrowed.”  If the antique car is considered a “restomod” then it does not possess the original equipment and has parts that are not considered original.  There are a lot of terms used in this part of antique car valuation such as “Ground up” and even “Over restoration”

Muscle Cars

Antique car values – The Muscle Car

Most antique car hobbyists believe the first production muscle car was a 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88.  The Rocket featured a high compression overhead valve V8 motor in what was then considered a lighter weight car.  Doesn’t sound far off from present times does it?  Big motors, light weight cars = tons of fun.  It wasn’t long before the Chrysler Hemi was being produced and enthusiasts were tearing up the asphalt.

How does replacing my motor effect the Antique Car Value?

That’s simple really.  It will drastically effect the value of the car.  As we mentioned in our number matching post, replacing the motor removes the original equipment.  It doesn’t matter if you’re replacing a rivet with a stainless steel bolt, once you change it, it’s not original.  That being said, it’s important to remember that value lies within the eye of the purchaser (well that’s not the exact phrase but it fits here).  Your potential buyer may be looking for something more reliable or that antique car that has a hotrod feel when they stomp the gas.  It’s also safe to say you would enjoy the performance and reliability of a new motor, not to mention the savings you could expect by working on something that actually had parts readily available.  Take your time, draw out your intentions and make your decision based on what you expect to get out of the car in return for your labor of love.

Replacing the Antique motor

  • Are you doing it for yourself or because it’s easier to work on?
  • Do you expect to make a profit off the antique?  How much profit?
  • Do you want bragging rights that your antique car is 100% original?
  • How will effect your insurance?  Upgrading a v6 to a v8 can effect insurance.
  • Can you preserve the original equipment to reinstall later down the road?

A few minutes of answering your own questions will help you decide what’s best. Hey, it’s your car and you spent all that time looking for it.  You might be in it for peanuts on the dollar and enjoying some additional horsepower will still afford you a profit in the end.  If you’re tight on the budget, just ask the questions and consider the results.  It’s better to decide these things now than after you’ve cut that harness or twisted out those irreplaceable bolts!

Understanding Number Matching

Number matching is a critical component to the overall value of an antique car

We briefly touched on what Number matching involves and now we’ll take a closer look at why you should concern yourself with the process. Note: remember that number matching isn’t always directly associated to the vin number.  Unique identification plates can be found on any and all components but similarities can carry throughout.

List of components on an antique car to number match your value

  1. Engine – You can find numbers typically stamped into the motor or on a plate.  These usually signify important facts such as horsepower and critical dating information
  2. Data Plates – Data plates can provide you with an idea of what number ranges you should find.  Data plates are like the gold mine at the end of a long tunnel.  Often times these are located on the firewall.  Sometimes they are located on the interior side of the firewall
  3. Intake Manifolds – Intake manifold matching can help you determine if not only the intake manifold is a matching original piece but also if some of the components attached to it would be the original equipment.  Occasionally these are on plates but the majority of the antiques will have this stamped right into the casings
  4. Carbs – Carburetors are tough because they are often times replaced for more favorable performance or because the tune up components are so shot that it makes it impossible to restore.  The right mechanic can fabricate what’s needed to preserve the original carbs and you should always look for authentic factory stamped carburetors when valuing your classic car.
  5. Transmission – Your first instinct is to climb under the antique car and have a look around.  Don’t forget this can be on the top side of the transmission and often is.  Transmissions typically have a plate with their born on dates and information that leads back to the antique’s gearing.  You may have to spend some time translating the faded information but knowing it’s authentic will put your mind at ease
  6. Rear Axles & Rear Ends – Pressed or embossed into the casings you can find matching numbers (hopefully) which again will let you know the authenticity level of the antique car but also provide other useful information about the car’s performance
  7. Air Cleaners – That’s right, air cleaners are easily duplicated but never replicated if you have the proper numbers in the proper place solidifying your authenticity.
  8. Nuts & Bolts – Yes, even down to the very nuts and bolts of your antique car, valuation can be placed on how many original parts make up your ride.

What you should do to place value on your antique

You should always contact a professional when you are in doubt.  You can often times find these “gurus” in local or national clubs that revolve around the antique you are considering buying or selling.

If you are a prospective buyer of a so-called “Number Matching” antique then you really need to know what parts are truly displaying the matching numbers.  This goes back to the loose translation of the term Number Matched Antique.  Having more parts with matching numbers will only increase the true value of the antique.