After determining the condition of the Bel Air under the guidelines of the two pricing guides, it’s now time to put a number on the car.

Let’s first take a look at the NADA Guide.

According to NADA, the High Retail Value of a 1957 Bel Air convertible is $96,000.  The car is equipped with the “Power-Pack” option, which adds ten percent,  for a total of $105,600.  For future reference, the Average Value of the Bel Air is $66,600 according to NADA.

Now, looking at the “Old  Cars Report Price Guide” a 1957 Bel Air convertible in Number 2 conditiion is priced at $71,050.  This price guide adds fifteen percent for the “Power-Pack” option for a total of $81,700.  A Number 3 car is priced at $52,530.  

Summarizing, based on the condition of the car as previously determined, the maximum value of the Bel Air ranges between $81,700 and $105,600.  Since an honest appraisal puts the car somewhere within the chosen condition range but not necessarily at the top in all criteria, it is worthwhile to look at the next lower category which ranges from $52,530 to $66,600.  So, stepping back and realistically looking  at the numbers in the reference sources and a less biased opinion of the car, the actual market price is probably best seen as the average of the two condition values or $67,115 to $86,100.

We are closing in on a value for the car, but some additional information will be needed to arrive at an accurate final market price.  Next we’ll research reputable classic car websites and auction results to see if our range is realistic.

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.

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | February 8, 2012

HEMMINGS Tells the Story of 1931 and 1932 Chevys

HEMMINGS MOTOR NEWS has long been a source of collector cars and parts.  Many consider it the Bible of the hobby.  The current on-line edition has an excellent article about the 1931 and 1932 Chevys.

Link to Article – Click Here!

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | February 5, 2012

A Chevy Truck Brings Memories (and Tears)

As collectors, we appreciate the passion and sentiment attached to the vehicles we own.  Here’s the story of a ’59 Chevy Apache with a very special meaning.

Link to Video – Click Here!

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | February 3, 2012

Making the Split Window a Tourer

The Split Window Corvette is equipped with the original 4.11 geared rear end as verified by the casting numbers on the case.  Having gotten the car in the early fall, I have had little chance to drive it on the highway.  My brief encounter of about ten miles in the Interstate was a fairly high revving, noisy, and, I’m guessing, fuel sucking experience.  I am considering changing the rear end to a mid 3 ratio to make it a little more enjoyable for touring.  If I do, I plan to save the original gears, so as to not affect originality for someone who may later want to replace the originals.

I have received mixed comments from knowledgeable friends as to whether it’s worth it.  I would appreciate any comments or suggestions from anyone who has experience with the touring benefits (or not) of changing out the rear gears.

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | October 21, 2011

A Word of Mouth Split Window

The vehicles in the collection have been found in Michigan, Kentucky, and Wisconsin.  They have been located through internet ads and previewed through phone calls, emails, and photos.  And, after purchase, the cars have been shipped home by truck.  The 1963 Sting Ray is an exception.

In August of 2011 my nephew casually mentioned that a fellow who worked with a friend of his had a Split Window that he was thinking about selling.  He thought the car had been modified, but that it still may be worth looking at.  It took a few weeks to finally get the name and phone number of the seller.

A phone call revealed that the car was a restored, numbers matching car that was located a few minutes from home.  The owner was a very friendly individual who was at a point where opportunities to drive and enjoy the car were probably minimal.  He preferred selling it to someone who could.

Before going to look at the car, I recruited a good friend who had owned and was very familiar with the C2 (1963-1967 ) Corvettes. As we approached the car it was clear that it was a beautiful restoration of a classic Split Window coupe.  A discussion with the forthcoming owner and a look at the paint, chrome, interior, and engine compartment along with a check of the basic casting numbers and dates indicated a car definitely worth considering.

Having been surprised in the past, we asked to look at the undercarriage on a lift and the opportunity to drive the car to check for engine and transmission performance, evidence of overheating and other mechanical problems.  The owner provided a lift and our examination showed a clean undercarriage and frame the result of a 2000 restoration.  Checking all the drive train casting numbers while under the car showed a true numbers matching vehicle.  In addition the owner provided photos from the restoration.  The restorer was also available and explained everything he had done during restoration.  As we were previously informed by the owner, the car color had been changed from ermine white to riverside red.  The red paint was nearly flawless.

A road test displayed the robust sound of the solid lifter 327 V8 and the smooth shifting expected from the Borg-Warner four speed.  A few initial  pings from the engine smoothed out as more and more fresh gasoline made its way through the carburetor.  All the gages, along with the heater, wipers, radio and even the clock worked as originally installed 48 years before.  The car was as represented and definitely worth pursuing,

After some negotiating of price with the owner, we agreed on a fair number and the purchase was made.  The whole experience took about six weeks and resulted in a beautiful addition to the collection.  The previous owner was an especially nice person whose emotional attachment to the car was clear as we exchanged documents.  Since I’m always looking for someone to drive the cars to shows, I promised him a call for next summer’s events.

The Sting Ray represented the first car in the collection that was obtained locally.  It was the most extensively examined, and, as a result, the only one with no surprises after purchase.  Another plus it that it did not require shipping.  The previous owner’s dealings were fair and honest making the experience a truly enjoyable one. If only future purchases could be as rewarding as the one obtained by word of mouth.

1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | January 24, 2011

An eBay Experience

My experience with eBay began a number of years ago and has generally been a very satisfying one. I have spent many enjoyable hours looking for cars and car parts, or interesting things for the garage. My purchases have been as advertised and at very fair prices.

I have never been successful at buying a vintage car on eBay, although I was the high bidder on a couple. Unfortunately my bids did not exceed the seller’s reserves so the transaction never occurred.

My philosophy with a car purchase has always been that a vehicle should be seen before entering a bid. I know there are appraisers and other experts that can be retained to look at out of town cars, but I always felt most comfortable when I could see a vehicle myself. On two occasions I bid on cars after long discussions with the owners and numerous photos but no personal inspection. The bids were conservative, though, and eventually fell below the high bidder. My bids were made to leave room for unexpected costs should the vehicle not be exactly as represented.

I think to many, searching eBay for an old car may be the modern electronic version of looking for a “barn find.” The hope is to find a collectible car tucked away in an eBay listing that is sold at a price significantly lower than market value. Just like barn finds, such an ideal situation is difficult to discover. The old adage that says a car priced well below market value is probably not what it is represented to be is advice worth following.

With my own philosophy and old adages firmly implanted over years of looking on eBay and other sites, I decided to throw away any semblance of reason on a 1932 Chevy roadster. The photos of the roadster were beautiful and the bidding was low with no reserve.

I emailed the seller to get more detailed information and more photos. In the return email I was told by the seller that I could purchase the car now through eBay’s Buyer Protection Plan at its current bid. The email included a heart wrenching story about the seller and her son having been in an automobile accident that had taken her son’s life two years earlier. The mother was still upset by her loss, and since this was her son’s car, she wanted to sell it quickly to erase the memory. The price was way below market and my greed began exceeding reason.

In the meantime, having the owner’s last name and location from the email, my daughter and I began searching newspapers in her area for articles describing an automotible accident and the death of a young man. After looking at newspapers within a 150 mile radius of her home, we found nothing directly relating to what she had described.

I also checked out eBay’s Buyer Protection Plan and found it to sound very credible. In spite of some doubts, it was time to go back to the listing and get things rolling. Unfortunately, upon returning, I found the listing had been removed. Not knowing why, I emailed the seller again. Although not given a reason for the delisting, I was told that the seller was in an out-of-state physical rehabilitation facility recovering from the accident, but could be at the car’s location in tweny four hours to make it available for inspection and help load it up for shipping home. The roadster was over a thousand miles away so any trip would need a lot more assurance of success before I would make a visit.

Even in my state of greed, red flags were going up. So, I contacted eBay to ask about the circumstances of the delisting. I was told that the seller had violated eBay policies and that they would not recomment purchasing the car. I emailed the seller again to share my latest information. I was told there was a mix up with eBay and that the car could still be had by sending money to a third party “escrow” agent. Red flags now blocked the horizon. I was done with this electronic barn find.

Within a week of my eBay experience, I was looking through one of the sites I frequent that offers vintage cars for sale throughout the country. While scanning the Chevy section, I ran across the same listing that had appeared on eBay. The photos and the description (including a spelling error) were exactly the same as the eBay listing for the ’32 roadster. The car was offered by a dealer in Maryland at a price representing something much closer to its real value. I decided to give the dealer a call and tell him about the eBay listing.

When I called, the business owner answered and patiently listened while I explained what had happened. He proceeded to tell me that my sitiuation was not unusual. Scammers apparently take photos and descriptions from his web site and offer the cars as their own. He thanked me for calling, and further told me this normally happened a couple of times a month.

After I hung up, I had to laugh. How could a normally savy, reasonably intelligent person be caught up in such a scam? The answer, I suppose, is that I still aspire to the nearly impossible; the barn find.

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | January 24, 2011

What Goes Around Comes Around


(Jan. 21,2011)

The annual Barrett-Jackson Auction is underway this week in Scottsdale, Arizona. During last night’s televised portion, (It’s on Speed Channel) Chevrolet announced that a Camaro will pace this year’s Indianapolis 500. They then unveiled the new pace car with a ’69 Pace Car in the background for good reason. The new pace car is a 2011 convertible that is a replication of the original ’69 version.

This year’s car is Summit White (original was Dover White), with orange stripes and lettering (original was Hugger Orange), and orange leather (original orange hounds tooth fabric) interior. There’s mention of them planning on building 50 of them. I don’t know if that’s the sum total of available cars to the public or cars for the Indy 500 Race and festival activities.

What do you think about the car?

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Notice changes to the grille.


Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | January 24, 2011

Barret-Jackson Scottsdale Auction


(Jan. 21, 2011)

From the most avid to the casual car collector, the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction every January has become must see TV. Speed Channel covers a large portion of the event and has excellent commentators who do a good job of talking about specific details of the vehicles they show crossing the auction block. I’ve found it to be not only a source of knowledge about classic Chevys, but also a way to learn about very nice non-Chevys. The auction also helps set the market values for well restored collector or special interest cars.

My ritual for Barrett-Jackson is a bit obsessive. Before the auction begins, I print out the list of cars with their respective lot numbers. I then check out the daily schedules, and, based on lot numbers, try to judge about when during the day cars of interest will cross the block. I note each one and convince my wife to watch our regular TV shows on another TV to avoid the frequent interruptions.

As each of the selected cars (most of which represent the five older vehicles on this blog) approaches auction time, a sense of excitement builds. I wish I could say the excitement is rewarded by viewing vigorous bidding that climaxes with a winning bid that shows a growing car investment portfolio. This year, like the last few, excitement has been replaced with frustration.

As I watch the car before one of my selected ones roll off stage, six out of eight times so far this year Speed Channel decided to go to a commercial or a promotion. When they come back to the auction, the car of interest and one or two others have been sold. Even the dog doesn’t want to be around me when this continually happens.

The only alternative is to then wait a while and go to the Barrett-Jackson website to see what the car sold for. While doing this gives the required information, it lacks the excitement of watching the bidding grow.

By the way, the listed selling cost on the website includes a buyer’s premium of ten per-cent. The seller also pays an eight per-cent consignment fee. So, for a car that is auctioned for $100,000, the buyer pays $110,000 and the seller receives $92,000. The difference apparently goes to Barrett-Jackson. I’m not saying that the fees (which are clearly disclosed) are not deserved, it’s obviously a first class event. But, things are not always what they seem. Also, vehicles are sold at no reserve, which means a seller needs to be pretty confident of the value of any vehicle to be sold at Barrett-Jackson.

Regardless of any past frustrations, I will continue to watch with anticipation. However, it’s probably best that both my wife and the dog leave the room when I tune in.

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | January 4, 2011


Most people who enjoy collectible vehicles have had a love of cars for many years.  My own enjoyment of automobiles began in my early teens growing up in Ohio.    My dad was a loyal Chevrolet owner and he unwittingly passed his devotion to the brand on to me.  I have owned numerous GM and Chevrolet vehicles over the years, and I started looking for memorable Chevys a few years ago.  I currently own seven of them.

Included in my small collection are a 1931 Sport Coupe, a 1955 Series 3100 Pickup, a 1957 Corvette, a 1957 Bel Air Convertible, a 1969 Camaro Indy 500 Pace Car Convertible, a 1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe, and a 2006 Corvette Convertible.  All the cars are original or restored to at least number two condition, and each has a story.

Please enjoy the site and feel free to leave a post.  I always enjoy talking about the cars and sharing them with others who have the same passion.


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