Classic cars have been on the road for decades, so it's not uncommon to find one that was in an accident at some point. If the damage was so severe that repairing it would cost more than the car was worth, the car was written off as totaled.
However, since classic cars are so rare, a lot of people are willing to put the work in to get them back on the road regardless of the damages. In that case, the car is issued a salvage title. While you should be wary of purchasing a classic car that was totaled, a salvage title doesn't necessary mean the car is a lemon. With some due diligence, you can inspect the car and ensure that it was properly repaired. The best part is you can use the salvage title as a bargaining chip to get the car for much cheaper than one with a clean title.
Study the Car's VIN History Report
Before you waste time checking the car out in person, get a VIN history report. The report will tell you what sort of damage occurred to merit a salvage title. That will give you a good idea of what to look out for when you inspect the car. Some history reports also include information about where and how the car was repaired. Ideally, it will have been repaired by a shop that specializes in classic cars and restoration.
Check the Quality of the Paint
Check the car out in person on a sunny day. Bright sunlight will help you examine the quality of the paint job. If the paint has a rough texture resembling an orange peel, it's likely cheap paint that will need to be sanded and repainted in the future. Look for bubbles forming under the paint, which is a telltale sign of rust. Carefully compare body panels to ensure the color of the paint matches perfectly.
Scrutinize the Body Panels
Check the fitment of the body panels and ensure there are no excessive gaps. Pay especially close attention to the portion of the body that was damaged in the accident. Check for signs of shoddy workmanship such as loose panels and missing bolts. Plastic cable ties are commonly used as a band-aid solution to hold ill-fitting panels together, so be wary of the car if you find any plastic ties.
Finally, walk around the car while firmly tapping the body panels with your finger tip. Classic car bodies are made entirely of metal, so your finger should make a metallic thump every time you tap the car. A common tactic for hiding rust and body damage is to cover the affected area with body filler and paint over it. Body filler doesn't eliminate the underlying rust, nor does it add to the structural integrity of the body. Any portions of the exterior that have been treated with body filler will produce a plasticky thud when you tap them.
Take It for a Test Drive
Even if the car looks perfect from the outside, it may have underlying structural issues that make it unsafe to drive. Take it out on the road and open up the throttle to make sure the engine and transmission properly accelerate to the rpm redline. While you're cruising, gently hold the wheel with a few fingers to make sure the car drives straight. If the chassis was bent from the accident and not properly repaired, the car will tend to wander sideways instead of cruising in a straight line. After your test drive, pop the hood and examine the drive train for leaking fluids and burning smells.
Take It to a Collision Repair Shop
No matter how closely you examine the car, there are a myriad of issues that may be hidden beneath the surface. Before you commit to purchasing it, have the car checked out by a collision repair shop like Black Horse Auto Body Shop Inc. They'll be able to quickly identify any hidden issues with the body and chassis. However, if they tell you the car is safe and sound, you can rest assured that the damages were properly repaired. That way you can drive your new classic car home without worrying about when it's going to fall apart.Share