Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | February 9, 2012

Determining the Value of the 1957 Bel Air Convertible, Part One – Condition of the Car

A common question that I’m often asked is, “What do you think your car is worth?”  It’s not a question with an easy answer.  I think the best way to show how I would determine the value of any of the cars is to walk through the process using the 1957 Bel Air Convertible as an example.  To emphasize, this is an approach that I use.  There are certainly others that are just as reasonable.

The 1957 Chevy

The 1957 Bel Air

The first step is to judge, as objectively as possible, the condition of the car.  This can be challenging as most people have a natural inclination to see their vehicle in a better light than its actual condition.  I traditionally have used two sources to determine vehicle condition and then to estimate market value.  They are, “NADA Classic Car Values” and “Old Car Reports Price Guide.”   The NADA information is available on line.  “Old Cars Price Guide” is published quarterly and requires a subscription.

Let’s start with the NADA guide.  This service divides condition into three categories; Low, Average, and High.

Low is described as a vehicle in mechanically functional condition, needing only minor reconditioning.   The exterior paint, trim, and interior show normal wear, needing only minor reconditioning.  May also be a deteriorated restoration or a very poor amateur restoration.  Mostly usable  “as-is”.  This vehicle could be considered a daily driver and may not be valued as a classic vehicle.  The Bel Air is clearly not at the low end of the condition scale.

Average is a vehicle in good condition overall.  It could be an older restoration or a well maintained original vehicle that is completely operable.  The exterior paint, trim, and mechanics are presentable and serviceable inside and out.  A “20-footer”.  ( A 20-footer is a car that looks good at 20 feet, but starts to show flaws upon closer observation.)   The Bel Air is better than average condition when using this description.

High condition describes a vehicle in excellent condition overall. It could be a completely restored or an extremely well maintained original vehicle showing very minimal wear.  The exterior paint, trim, and mechaanicals are not in need of reconditioning.  The interior would be in excellent condition.  This is not a “100 pointer” or a number 1 vehicle.  A number 1 vehicle is trailered and stored in a climate controlled facility.  The Bel Air probably fits somewhere in the High condition.

Now, let’s take a look at the condition ratings in the “Old Cars Report Price Guide.”

This publication uses a six tier system ranging from 1 (best) to 6 (parts car).

A Number 6 (Parts Car) is a car that may or may not be running, and is weathered, wrecked and/or stripped to the point of being useful primarily for parts. This is certainly not the condition of the Bel Air.

A Number 5 (Restorable) car needs complete restoration of body, chassis and interior.  It may or may not be running, but isn’t weathered, wrecked and/or stripped to the point of being useful only for parts. Still not the Bel Air

A Number 4 (Good) vehicle is drivable needing no or only minor work to be functional.  Also, a deteriorated restoration or a poor amateur restoration.  All components may need restoration to be “excellent”  but is mostly usable ‘as-is.”  The Bel Air is still better than this.

A Number 3 (Very Good) car is a completely operable original or ‘older restoration” showing wear.  Also a good amateur restoration, all presentable and serviceable inside and out.  Plus, combinations of well-done restoration and good operable components; or a partially restored car with all parts necessary to complete it and/or valuable new old stock (NOS) parts. This is a 20-footer and represents most of the cars seen at local car shows.  Getting closer, but the Bel Air is still considerably better than a 20-footer.

A Number 2 (Fine) vehicle is well restored, or a combination of superior restoration and excellent original.  Also, an extremely well maintained original showing minimal wear.  A Number 2 car will take top awards at shows except when competing against a Number 1 car.  Although not totally accurate, this is probably the closest description of the condition of the Bel Air.

A Number 1 (Excellent) car is restored to maximum current professional standards of quality in every area, or perfect original with components operating and appearing as new.  A 95-point show car that is not driven.  This car will win top honors in national shows and is transported to shows in an enclosed trailer and stored in a climate controlled facility.  There are few Number 1 vehicles.  This level is beyond the quality of the Bel Air.

So, as objectively as a biased car owner can be, I have rated the Bel Air as somewhere in the High range on the NADA scale and somewhere in the Number 2 range in the Old Cars Price Guide.  Next we’ll try to establish preliminary current market values for the car.

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