|A beautiful dropped Bentley like this would be a fine addition to any collection|
|Interior of a Rolls-Royce Corniche S (c) J E Robison|
- Evaluate paint and body condition, including paint thickness; and the originality and completeness of trim
- Evaluate the interior condition, particularly with respect to the need for and cost of leather and wood repairs.
- Evaluate the structural integrity of the car, including the frame and body. This requires familiarity with the use of wood in coach-built bodies, and the structural weak points of the car under consideration.
- Evaluate the mechanical condition of the car with respect to things that don’t work, are worn, or possibly unsafe. This requires familiarity with all the equipment on the subject car and how it should work. Knowledge of what fails and why is brand and model specific and valuable.
- If you're looking at a pre-1990s car, you should expect a compression test and possibly a leak down test. Compression is seldom checked on newer cars because compression is monitored by the engine ECU and a compression loss in a post-1997 car will result in a check engine code.
- Expect a physical check of suspension, brakes, hoses, and undercarriage. This will typically require a lift, and it’s one reason we only do these inspections in our shop (as opposed to wherever the car happens to be.)
- Check the age of the battery, its condition, and the condition of charging and starting systems. On a collector car look for a battery tender and possibly a cutoff switch.
- Review the service records for the car and look for exceptionalities. Also look to see if the car was cared for properly and what services may be due now. Compare the written record to the observable evidence of the vehicle.
- If you are looking at something exotic and fairly new a well-connected inspector may be able to access manufacturer service records. They may also access the as-built record and compare that to the car’s appearance now.
- The inspector should drive the car and evaluate its function on the road. Does it feel right? Is it free of rattles and annoyances? Does it perform as it should, without overheating or showing other signs of trouble?
- Look for the manuals, tools, and other little bits that came with the car when new. The more of that you have, the better in the collector world. The inspection report should tell you what's there and what's not, and if there are any additional materials (car cover, sales literature, etc) that should be mentioned. On a car like the Corniche S Rolls in the photos below you would spend several thousand dollars to replace missing manuals, tools, and key fobs. So be sure the inspector pays attention to that.
- If the car being evaluated is newer than mid-90s, you should expect a scan of electronics and a report on issues that the scan reveals. This would include fault codes, odometer discrepancies, changed modules and anything else unusual. Note that a manufacturer specific scan tool is needed for this level of inquiry; the inexpensive generic OBD scanners won’t give this detail.
- Compare the car to others of its kind – is the vehicle under study better than 90%, or just average? Why? This requires extensive knowledge of the car line and model under study.
|Don't forget the little things - owners manuals and tool kits for example|
When we inspect complex cars like Rolls Royce I tell potential buyers that I might reject an obviously unsuitable or problem-filled car in an hour's time but a thorough evaluation of where to go next on a promising car might take be 4-5 hours more as we check hydraulics and do other time consuming tests.
This process is often complicated when the car is in an auction environment. At a Kruse or R-M style live auction you can usually arrange to inspect the car at the auction facility in the days before the sale, but the inspector will have to go to the vehicle and that may limit what they can check in the absence of a workshop and lifts. When the car is on eBay there is no telling what the inspection environment may be. Some cars will be at dealerships while others are at homes. Sellers may or may not be responsive to your request to bring a car to a shop for inspection in an auction environment.
Depending on the complexity of the inspection and the detail of the report, an inspection like I describe may cost anywhere from $150 to $1,000+. If the inspector has to travel to the car or the car must be brought to the inspector those costs will accrue too. Expensive as that may sound, it's a lot smarter to spend the money in due diligence than it is to pay top dollar for a piece of eye candy that falls apart as soon as it lands in your driveway.