For some, muscle car restoration is a labor of love, a way to re-create that first car from high school or act as caretakers of Dad's/Grandpa's/Uncle Bill's pride-and-joy. In these cases, sentimental value outweighs any intrinsic value the car might have.
For others, intrinsic value is the primary motivate for buying, restoring, collecting, or selling muscle cars. These folks need to know that they've made a good financial decision to spend big money on a restoration before turning a single wrench on a project car.
Intrinsic value doesn't necessarily refer to a car's condition. Instead, we're talking provenance, a car's origin story: How many of this particular model were built, how it was equipped when it came off the assembly line, and what (if anything) has been done to it since then.
If you are considering a muscle car purchase and provenance matters to you, it is essential that you determine that the car is what it claims to be. A counterfeit car is bad for the hobby, as it devalues the real cars and causes good people to lose a lot of money. Hiring an experienced collector, broker, or restorer to come with you to look at a car is money well spent.
A car's value must be based on facts, not opinions. Documentation—build sheets, trim tags, window stickers, and the like—is just part of what a smart buyer will need to authenticate a muscle car. Stefano Bimbi, owner of Nickey Chicago, explained that although documentation is important, identification plates and documentation can be manipulated to the point of convincing even the most scrutinizing expert. (See the "Buyer Beware" sidebar.) Numbers must match, but numbers can be restamped. Major components can be correct for a car, but if the car is not sporting its "born-with" drivetrain, pricing should reflect that.
Major components are just the starting point of determining authenticity. There were numerous differences in the ways various plants built the same model of car, and even differences between cars as they came down the line of the same plant. Chalk marks, crayon markings, shim markings, and paint dabs will be different from car to car.
VIN plates, fender tags, and other stampings can reveal a lot about a car's "born-with" equipment, provided the tags are authentic.
That's why Bimbi goes beyond documentation when seaking to authenticate a car. He looks for cars that can be tied to some form of historical context. Pictures, names of people who know about the car, and previous owners play very strongly into establishing a car as a collectible.
Let's say you're considering the purchase of an immaculate Fathom Blue '70 LS6 four-speed Chevelle. With a price in the six-figure range, it is imperative to tie the documentation to verifiable owner history as well as awareness of the car among other collectors and even local car guys. Play detective. Attend a car show or cruise night, and ask, "Hey, do you know anything about this Fathom Blue LS6 Chevelle that's for sale in your area?" A '70 LS6 that shows up out of nowhere, even with all the correct documentation, should be considered suspect. A known car with a good reputation is a smarter buy, even if the price is higher.
If your examination raises questions as to a car's claimed originality, walk away from the deal. Even if the current owner seems like an honest guy, it could be because he is unaware of the car's bogus status. There are plenty of cars available. It's a buyer's market, so if you're going to spend big money, be smart and buy the right car.
What You Need From Previous Owner
- Window sticker, dealer invoice, dealer plate, build sheet, billing cards, Protect-O-Plate, Certi-Card, owner's manual
- Purchase documents, maintenance records
- Previous owner history, stories about the car, old pictures
- Any original spare parts, brochures, shop manuals
To give you an idea of how faithfully documentation can be reproduced—or forged, depending on your point of view—check out www.oldchevydocumentation.com. This vendor can supply broadcast sheets, trim tags, Protect-O-Plates, and more, "using the most advanced aging techniques together with dead on correct fonts, type, texture, matched completely to the original GM document," says the website. There's a disclaimer on the site that says these items "are made solely with the intent for personal display and novelty use only and are not sold for the purpose of reselling or misrepresenting of cars in any way, shape or form" and says that the company "assumes no liability whatsoever after sale is completed of what buyer does with said items." It makes us wonder: If this company is making these documents so publically, how much more of this is going on underground? Scary, huh?
A Marti Report, available for Ford and Mercury muscle cars, is the kind of authentication every muscle car owner wishes was available for his or her car.
Below are some helpful resources for authenticating a muscle car. What we've labeled "Best" is information gleaned from factory records and is most reliable. "Better" items are based on an individual, vendor, or club that offers widely acknowledged expertise. The "Good" resources are make-centric websites. Keep in mind that any Internet forum will be a mixed bag when it comes to expertise. We have purposely left books off this list, as there are just too many to mention. But experts at the websites and forums listed below can direct you to the best printed resources.
American Motors Forum
American Motors Owners Assoc.
Super Stock/AMX Pictorial Registry
Information from original microfiche for '70 and '72-'76 Buicks.
Roberts has microfiche for the second half of the '70 model year (Flint plant only, with "H" in the VIN).
A multimillion-dollar Hemi ’Cuda or a more pedestrian Barracuda? Authenticating a muscle car, especially a potentially valuable one, is a must before undertaking a high-dollar restoration.
Buick GS Club of America
Buick Club of America
Factory Stage 1 Registry
Vintage Vehicle Services Inc.
Production information, colors, and engine size for cars built in Canada (or the U.S. and sold in Canada) from 1945 to 1963. '64 cars and newer include transmission and option codes. (Note that there is no such resource of factory records for Chevrolets sold in the U.S. Records are rumored to exist, but they have not been released for distribution.)
Some forged documents are tough to spot; others aren’t. Nickey Chicago’s Stefano Bimbi was recently asked to confirm that a Chevelle came from Nickey Chevrolet. This was among the documents offered to support the car’s “authenticity.”
Kevin Marti provides an incredible amount of information in his highly regarded reports. In many ways his reports are the gold standard for what any owner would wish for in documenting his muscle car. They are available for '67-'79 Ford and Mercury vehicles.
Fairlane Club of America
Int'l Mercury Owners Assoc.
Mustang Club of America
Vintage Mustang Forums
A Protect-O-Plate, which was issued to the original owner, is among the documents that can help trace a GM car’s provenance.
Galen's Tag Service LLC
Galen Govier is the Mopar authority. Space does not allow us to go into the complexities of Mopar authentication, but Govier has been at this business longer than most and is still the best choice for authenticating your Dodge or Plymouth muscle car.
For B-Bodies Only
Moparts on the Web
Mondello Performance Products Inc.
Owner Joe Mondello
Oldsmobile Performance Club
Vintage photos can help determine how a car was equipped, or modified, by previous owners.
'65 Oldsmobile 442
Classic Oldsmobile Forum
Real Olds Power Forum
Pontiac Historic Services
A goldmine of Pontiac records headed up by Jim Mattison.
Former Pontiac marketing genius Jim Wangers is a walking treasure trove of information.
Pontiac-Oakland Club Int'l
GTO Assoc. of America
Performance Years Pontiac
Ultimate Pontiac GTO Picture Site
Families practically live in their cars during the summer. From quick excursions to the pool or softball practice to long road trips, the family car is constantly being loaded and unloaded with people, pets, and just about everything else. But when it is scorching hot outside, your car interior can become an oven, literally baking everything inside. With an outside temperature of just 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the interior temperature of your car can quickly reach close to 140 degrees in only 90 minutes, making it unsafe for living things.
While most people already know not to leave children or pets in a hot car, they often forget about the every day items that are stored in their vehicle. When left in the sizzling summer sun, some of these items become dangerous, while others leave behind a big mess or an awful lingering smell.
A recent poll narrowed the items not to be left in cars into 12 categories. Read on to find out if your most memorable mess made the list.
1. Sunscreen and Medications
Between summer vacations, pool visits,and other outdoor activities, one item commonly left in the car is sunscreen.
Facebook fan Colleen Snow told us she "had a tube of it and the heat caused it to explode. Yuck."
Michelle Cloutier left spray sunscreen in her car, and the metal can blew up from the heat and pressure. "My car smelled like sunscreen for a year," she said.
Not only does sunscreen heat up in the car and could potentially burn your skin from the high temperature, but oftentimes storing items in hot places can change the composition. Most medications and personal care items are meant to be stored at room temperature and should never been allowed to get too hot, as heat can degrade the potency and stability of many medications.
If you are uncertain whether an item is safe to leave in the car, check the warning label, which should suggest the ideal temperature to store items.
2. Disposable Lighters
Disposable lighters are small but dangerous items to leave in the car during hot weather.
Sharon Gates Flora told us her "husband left a lighter on the front seat of his car. It got so hot that it exploded and hit the windshield, leaving a deep long crack." The damage was so bad they had to replace the windshield.
Arik Esqulin said that when he left his lighter in the car, not only did it explode, but "there were little pieces of plastic everywhere and a small burn hole on the seat."
Warning labels on these little fire starters instruct users to never expose them to heat above 120 degrees or prolonged sunlight. The temperature inside cars during the summer can easily get up to 140 degrees, making the car a very unstable environment to store lighters.
Expensive electronics should never be stored in the car, but items like MP3 players, GPSs and cameras often get left behind for the sake of convenience. Not only can the heat ruin expensive electronics, but in some cases it can also be dangerous.
Facebook fan Estupendo Lanzarote lamented that he left his camera in his car. "It cooked the lens and memory card," he said, which made them unusable. After forgetting her digital camera in the car, Tina Borden said it won't stay on longer than a few seconds.
Batteries are a dangerous item to keep in the car, as harmful acid can leak out and cause respiratory, eye and skin irritation. Sandi Bradburry left a battery operated pump for an airbed in her car and discovered "battery acid everywhere!"
Heat can warp both the shape of the frames and lenses of your glasses. Sunglasses are often kept within easy reach in the car, but unless they come from the bargain bin, it is not worth the risk. Take it from Facebook fan Barbara Helley, who left her glasses on the dashboard: "I thought I lost them only to find them melting in the rubber dash."
When traveling, remember which items are being stored in your luggage, and remove anything that can be damaged by the heat. Michael Rolintis said, "I left my luggage in the back hatch of my '89 Corvette on a 95-degree day with the windows up, and it melted the plastic lenses in my prescription glasses."
Jessica Marie Arend has seen her fair share of heat frazzled frames. "I'm an optician, and every year I see what heat damage can do to a pair of glasses." She warned: "plastic frames will melt, and metal frames and lenses will warp." Jessica stressed, "Never leave your eyewear in the car!"
Always take your prescription glasses and designer shades with you, and save yourself the trouble and expense of replacement.
5. CDs and DVDs ... and Records and VHS Tapes?
Most cars today include CD players, and others have DVD and Blu-ray players as well. CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays are made mostly from polycarbonate plastic, which can easily warp and melt if left in the car.
While CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays are the current technology, we received stories from Facebook fans about damaged records and VHS tapes.
Dawn Linde O'Keefe confesses that she left her mother's 45 rpm records in her car. Among the damaged records were Buddy Holly and Fats Domino. "She was really, really angry; 20 years later and I still hear about it," O'Keefe said.
Margaret Hughes Quaid made a similar mistake while living in Texas. "My sister had approximately 50 to 76 33 1/3 rpm records. I borrowed them for a party and brought them home the next day and forgot to bring them in. Two days later I remembered, and knew I was in trouble," Quaid said. "They were so warped, they had to be thrown away. Most of them could not be replaced because they were so old. She never recovered from that or let me forget!"
Plastics can easily melt in the car from the summer heat. You should never drink from a plastic water bottle that has been left in the car, as the chemicals used to make the bottles could leach into your drink and introduce toxins to your system.
Several mothers like Dawn Cannon Ray have found children's sippy cups in the car with milk or juice still in them. "Stinks!" she exclaimed.
Elizabeth Lucas-Madsen "had a bottle of hand sanitizer that melted into a curved bottle." She was happy to report that at least there was no leakage from her warped bottle.
Nicole Jaranson left her debit card in her car and it warped from the heat: "It got so hot that my card is no longer flat." Talk about money burning a hole in the wallet!
Made up of pigments, oils, waxes, and emollients, lipstick melts in environments just slightly above room temperature. Even after it cools, heat can have a lasting effect on lipstick, as the composition changes, creating a different color result than before. Not only does heat ruin lipstick itself, but the rich pigments found in the beauty staple leave resistant stains on automotive upholstery.
Crayons and coloring books are a great way to keep children entertained during road trips, but sometimes a Majestic Purple or Sky Blue or Burnt Orange will slip out of the box and roll down the floorboard to become lost and forgotten. That is, of course, until a melted wax rainbow is found baked into the upholstery.
Several parents weighed in on our poll, saying that crayons were some of the worst things to find melted in the car. Others offered cleaning tips.
Becky Sanger Brodie offered an excellent tip to clean up melted crayons: "Anything with wax that gets melted can come out of carpeting. All you need is a brown paper bag and an iron. Place the bag over the wax and run the iron over the bag. It will release the wax."
Sarah Strickler Mitzi had another solution: "I've found that rubbing an ice cube on it helps. Rub the wax with the ice, then scrape off."
9. Chocolates, Gum, and Candy
A well-wrapped but melted candy bar can be put in the freezer to re-harden, but other kinds of candy will melt beyond repair, creating a sticky situation.
"We did leave a chocolate bar in the car," said Glyn Furgurson Pogue. "When we took it inside, it was totally liquid – you could feel it sloshing back and forth." Luckily with some quick thinking, the candy bar was able to be saved. "The amazing thing was, I put it in the freezer and when I unwrapped it, it looked perfect!
Sometimes the mess can turn into a happy mistake. Heidi Warren left gummy worms on the dash which then melted into the vent. She said they were "messy to clean, but made the truck smell fruity!"
Destiny Campbell shared her expert advice on cleaning up these types of messes: "As a house cleaner, I can say from experience that liquid dish detergent will take out sticky messes like candy, gum, etc. Windex will take out soda, chocolate, and other messes that tend to soak into your carpets and car seats." She added, "When in doubt, soapy water and a soft bristle brush work wonders."
10. Canned Soda
One of the most popular answers in our survey was canned sodas. Small enough to roll under a car seat, or perhaps simply forgotten in the trunk of the car, these sugary drinks can turn into a not-so-sweet mess.
Aaron Miller told us about the time he left a soda on the front seat of his Firebird in Bettendorf, Iowa: "I came back to find it had exploded all over the inside. What a sticky mess!"
While heat is a contributing factor, the buildup of pressure is what makes soda cans explode. Carbonated beverages are compressed to keep the air inside and the soda bubbly. Since soda cans are made from aluminum, and metal conducts heat, an increase in temperature on the outside of the can will result in the increased temperature of the liquid inside. As the can heats up, the liquid molecules expand, increasing the pressure inside the can. Finally, the turbulence caused by a moving car is similar to shaking the soda. All of these factors put together turn your favorite beverage into a 12 -ounce soda bomb.
Adam Gerwin shared, "When I lived in Ohio, we called soda 'pop'. Now I know why."
"There's always that lost can of soda that explodes and gets all over the windows and seats," said Lauren Tisci. "We used Windex for the windows and fabric cleaner for the seats." While those efforts may have gotten the sticky out, Lauren added that there were some lasting effects: "The seats were still stained. It gave us something to giggle over."
Themost popular answer for the worst thing that has been left in a hot car was groceries. Several of our Facebook fans shared stories of their blunders.
"My husband left three tomatoes in his car that he had picked from our garden in the morning before he went to work," said Shanie Heger. "By the time he was done with work, we had stewed tomatoes."
Facebook fans agreed that the absolute worst grocery items to leave in the hot car are meats and milk, which create some of the most terrible smells.
Priscilla Ross-Fox told us, "After shopping one day, two expensive steaks slipped out of a bag and were under my car seat." Lost and allowed to bake in the hot car, the steaks created quite a stench. "I kept telling my husband there must be dead mice in the car. He went out and found the meat." Smell identified, mystery solved.
Miranda Lash shared another's mistake: "A friend of mine left a gallon of milk in her car...it exploded. Yuck!"
Candice Edwards Richey had a problem with poultry. "A pack of chicken fell out of a grocery bag in my trunk one time. We thought we had accidentally left it at the store, but about two days later we started smelling something terrible in the car." Not only was the chicken ruined, but the smell was unbearable. To solve the problem, Candice said she "finally got rid of the car about two months later." Talk about an expensive mistake!
Some make the best of the situation and use the heat to their advantage.
Scott Todd shared an inventive use of his car to make a delicious cooking ingredient: "I have found that the heat inside my car is enough to make the perfect sundried tomatoes here in North Carolina." Fanbook fan Dick Henthorn employs a similar technique: "During the summer, I stop to buy a roll of cookie dough on the way to work. Before I get out of the car at work, I put the cookies on a baking sheet and set it on the dash. When I get off work, I open the doors on both sides and eat a couple of cookies while I wait for the car to cool down." Now that's what we call multi-tasking.
12. Miscellaneous Items
We received several stories of random items that were left in the car, so we decided to group them into a miscellaneous category.
Kris Holmes, who is trained in first aid, left a pair of latex gloves in the glove compartment in case she encountered a roadside accident. According to her, the gloves "turned into a gooey brown mess!"
Flip flops are a popular summer fashion, and several people keep them in the car to have a comfortable pair of shoes handys. But for Valerie Hatcher, this plan didn't turn out so well: "I left them on the floorboard and the bottoms melted to the floor!"
Lois Cody Keesey shared that her son left some industrial glue on the floor in the back of his vehicle. She told us that the cap popped off of the glue, and the heat caused it to ooze out of the tube: "It looked like some alien goo on the floor rug."