At a car show you may overhear somebody describing a vehicle as a “90 point car.” Perhaps a collectable car ad in Hemmings says the vehicle is “Condition 5”. E-Bay Motors may have a car listed as “Category 3”. If you are confused, you're beginning to understand the complexity of classic car rating systems.
The two common rating systems for car collectors are the 100 point scale and the 6 category rating system. In the 100 point system, 100 is a perfect car, decreasing in points for lesser condition cars. The 6 point system goes in the opposite direction with 1 being near perfect and 6 being something you would probably mentally assess how strong your marriage is before dragging it home. I recently reviewed rating descriptions from Old Car Price Guide, NADA Collector Car Prices, Auto Trader Classics, E-Bay Motors and even Wikipedia. The numbers used as cut points to go from one category to another isn't consistent between sources, neither are the terms to describe categories. "Condition" and "category" are used by different entities but mean the same thing. Pulling from all of these sources, I'll attempt to add a little clarity to both the 6 category/condition and the 100 point rating systems.
Condition 1, 90+ points : Excellent
A car in this category rarely moves. It sits in a museum or a temperature and humidity controlled ‘garage.’ When it does move, it goes into an enclosed trailer to a national car show, where it has a good chance of taking 1st place. Vehicles in this category are trailer queens and have the trophies to prove it. Unless you attend national car shows, you probably haven’t seen that many Category 1 cars.
Condition 2, 80+ points: Fine
This is a near flawless car. Only a trained, experienced and somewhat anal judge can tell you what’s wrong with this car, with most of us mistaking it for a Category 1. NADA Special Interest Price Guide uses the term “High Class” when rating a car in condition 1 or 2.
Condition 3, 70+ points: Very Good
This is still a show quality vehicle, perhaps an original car with minimal wear or an older professional restoration. This is the car most hobbyist collectors own. It’s not perfect but it's close enough for the car enthusiasts and owner. It might have some non-original parts and upgrades but nothing that would keep it from being a #2 with some time and money invested.
Condition 4, 60+ points: Good
This is either a good amateur restoration or a seldom used, well-preserved but unrestored car, often the stereotypical car “owned by little old lady that only drove it to church on Sundays.” The body will have some imperfections, noticeable on a walk around. Most of us would describe it as “a nice old car” that drives and looks nice, while recognizing it’s not perfect with minor mechanical and cosmetic flaws. It might have a little rust on it (“little” as in Western car rust, not Midwest or East Coast rust!). The upholstery may show some signs of wear and age. This is a “20 foot car”, looking good from 20 feet away! Most special interest cars sold on E-Bay are in this category. Out of all of these categories, the most likely cost-effective expenditure of both time and money is moving a #4 car to a #3 car.
Condition 5, 50+ points: Driver
This is a functioning car in fair condition that you could use as a daily driver. It’s flawed but nothing that can’t be fixed, which you will be doing on a routine basis. It’s got potential and it’s not too far gone. You’d never leave home in it without your cell phone, jumper cables and tool kit. If someone else were to drive it, you would need to explain its quirks in order for them to start and use it.
Condition 5, 40+ points: Restorable
This car is more or less complete but most everything needs redone, including major mechanicals, body and interior. If it does happen to run, you wouldn’t risk going very far in it. It needs a complete body off restoration. If I were considering buying a car in this condition, I would first let my wife see it and only after first buying her a new piece of jewelry. Think of the ads that read ”$30,000 invested, will sacrifice for $15,000”. Most cases where somebody gets “upside-down” in a car, they started with a restorable Category 5 car and spent more restoring it than they can possibly get out of it. Without the talent to do a lot of the work yourself, buying a car in this category is a risk, unless you're not worried about spending more on it than it's worth at the end.
Condition 6, 39 and fewer points: Partial car
Think of your last trip to the junkyard to get a mental image of cars in this category. As the name implies, only part of the car is there. The best use of this condition vehicle is to help restore another one like it that is more complete. Only rat rodders and other far-out but talented do-it yourselfers would look at a car in this category and envision it ever being back on the road again.
sub-Condition 6, 20 points or less: Parts down to Shell
This category ranges from a parts car with some remaining useful parts, down to the hulk that has been picked completely clean. Remaining sheet metal left may be wrecked or pretty much rusted away. Car guys may even have a hard time telling what make and year it is. Only metal recyclers and car people that identify with Big Daddy Roth creatures can visualize what could be done with these remains. A tree may be growing from it's engine compartment.
A professional appraisal of your classic car will help zero in on your car’s correct rating, which I’ll be covering more in a future articles.
This week’s Trivia Question: What was the first car to have a speedometer?
Answer to last week’s Trivia Question: The numbers in the Oldsmobile 4-4-2 stand for four barrel, four speed and dual exhaust.
Subscribe above (it’s free!) and receive e-mail notices of each new classic car article. Answer the trivia question or follow me on Twitter at: email@example.com.