The Chrome Strategies Blog

Chrome Tip : Biting Off More Than One Can Chew- Classic Car Retrofit Gone Bad.

He was retired, and he enjoyed attending major collector car auctions. He was in a financial position to buy an occasional car when it struck his fancy, and he knew enough to be able to identify a “good car” when he saw one.

His taste predominantly included American cars of the 50s, 60s, and early 70s, and he had a collection of about twenty such cars.

By “good car,” we mean cars that were rust-free and had never had any rust, cars that were predominantly original or restored to original, and cars that had documentation to one degree or another. None of his cars were “concours” quality. Rather, they were “high end driver quality” cars that could be driven and enjoyed without fear of reducing their value should they get a stone chip or small scratch. But, like many of us, he felt the need to improve on things that are sometimes best left alone. And that is what he did. Or attempted to do.

Most people would agree that if your car is 100% original, has been restored to original, or will be judged at the highest levels, it is best not to make any modifications. But, if your car does not fall into any of those categories, minor modifications to improve convenience, safety, or performance are often acceptable.

For example, the installation of a modern stereo system, a disc brake conversion, or a dual exhaust system will have little, if any, effect on value. Nor will it make the car more difficult to sell, in most cases. In fact, it might make it easier to sell.

But what happens when you decide that each one of your cars is going to have the radio replaced with a modern stereo, the gauges replaced with digital units, a wood-rim steering wheel installed, the brakes converted to discs, dual exhaust added, the wheels replaced with the biggest chrome wheels that will fit, a Corvette style “Stinger” hood fitted, and an Edelbrock intake manifold and carburetor installed.

This particular owner decided to make these modifications to all of his cars. He began with one car, and while waiting for the parts, he started disassembling the next car. Some of the parts arrived for the first car, so he installed those parts, and then began disassembling the third car. More parts arrived for the first car, along with some for the second car. He installed some of those parts and continued disassembling the rest of the cars. Some people questioned why he didn’t finish one car before starting another, but this did not concern him.

Eventually it got to a point where not one single car was complete. Some cars had wires or radios hanging out of the dash. Other cars didn’t even have dashes. Most cars had no steering wheel. Engines, suspensions, and exhausts were disassembled to one degree or another, and hoods lined the walls waiting to be replaced with “Stinger” hoods. Parts were everywhere, or nowhere. And then, the unthinkable happened. He was suddenly killed while off-roading in the desert.

Our team was brought in to perform appraisals and to offer advice as to what to do with the cars.

Most of the cars had been purchased at major auctions, so they appeared in our databases, which included the purchase prices, as well as photos of the vehicles at the auctions. The photos and auction descriptions revealed that the cars were in excellent condition at the time of purchase, and the total was just over $1 million.

The accountants and the family wanted to know how much value had been added by the $200,000 that the owner had spent on parts, as well as the work that he had done. It was very difficult to explain to them that the cars were now worth only a fraction of what he had paid, and even worse, they would be very difficult to sell. Buyers would want a substantial discount knowing that parts would likely be missing, that the cars would have to be re-assembled, and that transportation would be expensive because none of the cars were operable. Buyers wouldn’t even be able to tell if the engines ran. Since no one in the family knew anything about these cars, a third party would have to be retained to dispose of the cars and parts.

Perhaps this gentleman had a little too much time and money, and a bit too little knowledge about what he was getting into. But who amongst us has not thought that we could do something that we couldn’t, or try to improve something that we shouldn’t. Food for thought before one takes on new projects and begins disassembly.

© Chrome Strategies Management. February 1, 2021

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