Motor Vehicle Appraisal Service

Your Passion has Value



A Choo Choo El Camino SS with a rare IROC Pace Truck package

Skip Black was the original owner of this truck and he special ordered it through Jerry Nuzum Chevrolet in Uniontown, PA in early 1984. Based on the vehicle’s build sheet, the truck was completed 4/25/84 and scheduled to be at Choo Choo Customs on 5/3/84 for a Super Sport facelift. The customization process was completed and Choo Choo attached a re-certification label dated May 1984 on the door jam and invoiced the work to Jerry Nuzum Chevrolet on 6/16/84. Skip must have gotten anxious to get the truck because someone from the Chevy dealership picked it up and drove it instead of trailering it from Chattanooga to Uniontown.

According to a letter Mr. Black wrote about the truck, he states that he is the original owner and that he, “… drove it for a short time”. At some point after owning the SS Mr. Black saw a picture of the IROC-S trucks that Choo Choo Customs were building for the 1985 model year and decided he had to have one. He made an arrangement through the Chevy dealer to have the truck he bought upgraded to an IROC-S model.

Terry Rutherford a Choo Choo employee at the time recalls that Chevrolet projected that they could sell 25 IROC-S special editions yet, only received orders for 14. He also recalled a truck coming back to the custom shop for an upgrade to the IROC-S version. That truck belonged to Mr. Black. Each of the fourteen IROC-S trucks

received a brass dash plaque stating the number of completion and owners name.

According to the website 15 dash plaques were issued. The first one went to the original pace truck and the remaining fourteen were issued to eleven 1985 models and three 1986 models. Plaque number 15 was issued to Hubert Benson’s 1986 model from North Carolina. This is in conflict with the #15 dash plaque that ended up on Mr. Black’s IROC-S.

Choo Choo Customs issued Mr. Blacks second re-certification tag for the truck in March of 1986. This was probably fairly close to the end of the production run for the IROC-S conversions. Due to the fact that Mr. Blacks IROC-S was a redo of a previous SS conversion, it did not receive a dash plaque from Choo Choo Customs when the job was completed. So, this poses the question, Where did the #15 dash plaque come from on Mr. Black’s IROC-S.

If you read between the lines in Mr. Black’s letter about the truck, he was probably a really good customer of Jerry Nuzum Chevrolet and Mr. Black had the dealer handle all the details of the IROC-S conversion. There was probably an expectation that when the truck came back from Choo Choo it would have a dash plaque on it, but it didn’t. I am going to speculate that when the truck came back to the dealer without the dash plaque the dealer went to the local trophy shop and had one made and glued it on to the dash.

Why is this plausible? If you look closely at the dash plaque you will notice that the word ‘Camino’ is mis-spelled. The engraver left out the ‘N’ and spelled the word “Camio”. This is a detail that would not have been overlooked at Choo Choo Customs, it was a detail overlooked at the dealer and apparently not noticed by Mr. Black.

It is somewhat humorous but doesn’t lesson the vehicle’s value. It is after all the only 1984 El Camino SS to receive the IROC-S conversion from Choo Choo Customs, which makes this particular truck, ‘One of One’.

Impressions from a pre-purchase inspection

How to acquire instant automotive respect:

1) Look Bad Ass

2) Have a 244 cubic inch Twin Turbo Charged V8 engine

3) Set the mode selector knob on the console to “RACE”

This 2018 Mercedes Benz AMG GTC Edition 50 Roadster is absolutely all of that and more. It is a low mileage pampered example of the best in German engineering.

Except for some Fall puddle splash spots below the beltline and some dead leaves that stuck to the inner fenders, the exterior of this car is perfect. The satin black paint is uniform in its application and luster. There are no dents, dings, chips or scratches on the body. The door, hood, and trunk gaps are all perfectly even. A light soapy water wash and dry will make this car look brand new.

The interior is absolutely as new in appearance as well. There are buttons and  knobs for anything that you could possibly control electronically including driving mode, suspension settings, traction control, and even exhaust tone to name a few. When you sit in this car for the first time and realize how many things there are to control, it is a little overwhelming. But, every switch and button is clearly marked and it is fairly easy to figure out without the need to open up the owners manual. The leather covered race seats are comfortably snug. When you put your seat belt on the belt tightens slightly when you start the engine. Now you’re ready to race or just cruise.

The driveline and suspension are equally amazing. AMG did a really nice job squeezing 577 horsepower out of a 244 c.i. engine. You start this car up and you instantly know that you’ve got alot of power to play with. In normal ‘Drive’ mode the seven speed rear transaxle shifts quietly and smoothly. There are also the paddle shifters on the steering wheel that allow you to be fully in command of your shift points. The suspension is set up to keep the car planted in the corners of your favorite twisty road. The only drawback to this is that there is a little bit of a harsh ride at slow speeds on rough pavement. If you are not planning to use the car for track days you might want to see a suspension specialist to lighten up the compression and rebound settings on the shocks if that is possible.

The only thing I don’t like is the Start / Stop feature that shuts the motor off when you are stopped at a light or in traffic. Personally, I like hearing my motor when my vehicle is stopped. It gives me an opportunity to evaluate its sound. Now that we are in the 21st century that is no longer socially acceptable I guess.

Overall this Mercedes is an awesome car that is about as new as a low mileage two year old car can be


A Vet’s ‘Vette

I recently did a pre-purchase inspection on a 2017 Corvette and was honored to meet it’s owner.

Dave is a Vietnam War veteran and is my kind of hero. His tour of duty ended when a North Vietnamese AK47 round landed next to his spine and remains there to this day. After recuperating from the gunshot wound Dave came back to the states, bought himself a new Corvette and went to college in pursuit of a degree in engineering. A family developed and Dave integrated himself into various engineering jobs eventually retiring from the Saginaw Division of General Motors.

Dave mentioned that he’s had many Corvettes over the past 45 years. Sadly, this 2017 LT1 with only 5000 miles on it was going to be his last. Dave said the pain medication he needs to take these days doesn’t make him feel confident to continue to drive anymore.

Dave’s Corvette is nearly immaculate top to bottom. Even though the car is a base model by Corvette standards, it’s well equipped, comfortable, handles precisely, and very fast. The 455 hp 6.2L motor moves the car effortlessly and at one point in the road test pushed us from 35 to 90 mph in just a few seconds.

What a pleasure it was to inspect this car and meet the patriot that owns it. Thank you for your service Dave. Good luck selling the ‘Vette.

The Station Wagon

If you are old enough to join AARP then you probably remember a time when every family in the neighborhood that you grew up in had a station wagon.  From the mid 1950’s to the early 1980’s the station wagon was the boxy version of the auto manufacturers standard sedan. Those wagons were the vehicles of choice for grocery getting moms, often became the neighborhood school shuttle, and were packed to capacity for the annual family vacation.

Manufacturing the station wagon during this time period was fairly straightforward.  They were built on the same production lines that the hardtops, sedans, and convertibles were built on and annual production rates for most auto makers were in the ten’s of thousands for station wagons. In the final days of the wagon, most of them didn’t look too much different than their sedan counterparts.

This past week I had an opportunity to appraise a true station wagon. It was built back in a time when craftsman carpenters worked side by side with mechanical assemblers to build a work of art that most families back in the day could not afford. These cars (also called estate wagons) were usually purchased by the well to do and used as shuttles to the local train station for family and guests.

You really have to get close to a pre-1950’s station wagon to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into building one of these cars. Unlike steel bodied cars, the station wagon from the windshield back was built in hardwood and bolted down to the vehicles frame. The bodies of these cars were built with a level of precision and skill that most people just don’t have today. It is a lost art.

The vehicle pictured above is a 1933 Ford Model 40 Deluxe Station Wagon that still wears almost all of its original wood. The car was restored with most of its original parts in the late 1990’s. It’s powered by a 75hp, 221ci flathead V8 that is believed to be original as well. The stock interior has been reupholstered and the rest of the steelwork on the car has been refinished in its standard colors.

When this car was new it was the most expensive vehicle that Ford made. That is easy to understand given the assembly process it went through to make it. In todays world of cookie cutter SUV’s and cars that are robotically built, there is really no comparison. The real ‘soul’ here is not made by KIA.

The next El Camino?

This past weekend I attended an El Camino event in North Andover, Massachusetts. It was sponsored by the National El Camino Owners Association and open to anyone with an El Camino or its GMC cousin the Caballero. It was held at Jimmy’s Pizza Bar on Rt. 125. I don’t know what their pizza is like but the breakfast we had there was huge and delicious.

El Caminos are unusual. They are a combination of a car and a pickup truck (a trar). General Motors built El Caminos and the Caballeros here in the USA off and on from 1959 to 1987.

GM’s Australian subsiderary Holden has been building El Camino style vehicles since the early 1960’s and continues to build them today as a Ute model. Ute being an abbreviated term for ‘utility’. Holden builds really cool cars and GM USA has built the latest renditions of Pontiac’s GTO, G8, and Chevy’s SS on the Holden platform. The new Holden Utes are available with either a V6 in two basic models or an LS3 V8 in their version of an SS. All models are rear wheel drive.

A few years ago some of the automotive magazines speculated that the Holden Ute was going to be the next rendition of Chevy’s El Camino, but it never happened. So the Holden remains in Australia and is not allowed to be brought over here because it does not meet Federal DOT motor vehicle regulations. The most obvious difference between it and an American version would be the steering position, the Ute’s steering column is on the right. There may also be differences in the lighting and emissions systems between the Holden and a theoretical American version.

So it was surprising to see a custom example of a Holden Ute at the gathering at Jimmy’s Pizza Bar. According to the owner, he had the Holden shipped from Australia dismantled and got it through customs without issue. The car was then sent to a friends shop where the nose, running gear, and interior from a late model GTO was grafted onto and into the Ute creating a Pontiac version of an El Camino. The parts swap was very professional and the car looked great.

I noticed there was a Massachusetts plate on the car. I wonder how long it took him to get it registered through the DMV? I’m sure that’s another story.


This is why I love my job.

I did a Pre-accident Appraisal on a clients 2006 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic motorcycle today. I went back to the office to figure it all out and then emailed the completed appraisal to the client. This is the response that was emailed back to me:

“Thank you so much Tom. This is certainly more than I had expected. I am sure it will be very useful in dealing with the insurance company. Thank you for your excellent service. You will be very highly recommended should I hear of someone in need of your services. Again thank you so much. – Don”

Of course, I don’t get an email response like this everyday, but this is the level of customer satisfaction that I strive for. Life is good.

7/5/2016 – We now perform inspections at public auction facilities.

Motor Vehicle Appraisal Service now performs condition inspections at select Copart public auction locations. MVAS uses a 130+ point evaluation form to verify vehicle condition as stated by the auction facility. You do not need to be present for the inspection. Inspection results are emailed to you on the same day the inspection order is recieved*. Check the ‘Services Available’ page of our website for inspection pricing at specific locations and other information you need to know.

*NOTE: Inspection orders must be received by 9 AM in order to receive the inspection report by 5 PM. Inspection orders must be received no later than 24 hours before the vehicle is scheduled to be auctioned off.

DISCLAIMER: MVAS will not be held responsible for auction vehicles sold before the inspection is performed. Partial refunds will be remitted if we arrive at the facility and are told the vehicle has been sold prior to performing the inspection. Motor Vehicle Inspection Service will not make a recommendation to buy (or not to buy) a vehicle that has been inspected. Keep in mind that all auction vehicles are sold “as is – as shown” with no warranties expressed or implied. The decision to buy an auction vehicle is the sole responsibility of the person requesting the inspection.

1971 Datsun 240Z

I usually don’t get overly excited about stuff from offshore manufacturers but this 1971 Datsun 240Z brought back some nice memories of the days when most automotive brands had some form of affordable sports car. This car fell into that category along with the MGBGT, the Mercury Capri, Buick’s Opel GT and others of similar size, slightly smaller than the mid-sixty ponycars.

In my opinion the 240Z was the best looking out of all of them. It was such a vast improvement over Datsun’s earlier 1600 and 2000 sportscars in both appearance and function. The ’70 through ’72 models came with the slimmer bumpers that grew significantly larger and less attractive as seen on the ’73 and later Z’s. When you sat in the early 240Z cars you felt like you were sitting in a true two seater sportscar.

This particular car is a very nice representation of everything that was great about the first 240Z’s. The cosmetic restoration that it received years ago is still holding up very nicely. It runs well with its 2.4L inline OHC six. It’s not overly powerful but the powerband works well within the gearing of the four speed manual transmission and IRS rearend. The rack and pinion steering directs the car precisely through the corners, and remarkably, with no bumpsteer while travelling over the last of New Hampshire’s frost heaves.

As I told the owner of this particular car, “I worked on these things when they were new.” This car was everything that I remembered them to be in terms of being really fun to drive. A true sports car should make you feel good about (and while) driving it. This one does.

1968 Ford Torino GT

12/22/2015 – Those of you that are old enough to remember the great NASCAR racing of the late sixties would appreciate this 1968 Ford Torino GT that I inspected at the Turkey Run over Thanksgiving weekend. Back in those days the cars that you saw on the track were actually modified versions of the same cars that you could purchase at your local dealer. This example was very similar to the cars driven by David Pearson, Bobby Allison, and Mario Andretti. In fact, David Pearson drove his 1968 Torino to the 1968 NASCAR championship, sponsored by Holman-Moody.

This car has the initial appearance of being a stock sleeper. The body was wearing its original paint and striping. There were some dings and panel scratches here and there on the body. Evidence of some rust beginning to pop out was seen at the bottom of the front fenders. It really would not take a lot of bodywork to restore this car to its original appearance.

The interior was in very good condition. The owner replaced the carpeting, installed some additional gauges and a Hurst floorshifter. Everything else in the interior was in very good condition with the exception of the front seat which needs to be recovered.

Here’s where the ‘sleeper’ part of this kicks in. Under the hood is a professionally built 460 big block backed up with a C6 automatic and a new Currie rear end with 4:11 gears. The underside of the car was set up for drag racing by Holman-Moody as claimed by the owner. The quality of work that went into the frame connectors, both the front and rear suspension was clearly evident.

I remember when these cars were new and I was such a huge Ford fan at the time. I had the model kit version of this car and spent a lot of time fantasizing what it would be like to be in this thing on the high banks of Daytona. Overall this car is a 3- on the condition scale.

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