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Motor Vehicle Appraisal Service

Your Passion has Value

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.

1949 Studebaker 2R5 pickup truck

11/15/2015 – Earlier this past week I received an inspection order from One Guard / Road Ready inspections to take a look at this Studebaker truck for a client out in Minnesota. The inspection order stated that the truck was a, “1949 Studebaker M5 pickup.” I did some research before going out to take a look at the truck and discovered that the model designation for this truck is a 2R5, not a M5. 1948 was the last year for the M5 and it had a very late 1930’s look about it. The ’49 to ’53 Studebaker pickups had in my opinion a much more rounded and aerodynamic look about them.

I met with Larry Mathews at Old Boyz Toys in Arundel, Maine where the truck was located. Even though it was dark by the time I got there I could see that there were many classic vehicles, mostly old trucks, on the premises.

Like anything different that you see for the first time, that first impression becomes the benchmark for how the rest of the inspection is going to go. The truck didn’t look too bad from about 20 feet away. As I approached the truck, evidence of previous bodywork could be seen under the paint job. Usually what I do in cases like this is to get as many photos of the problem areas as I can. The next thing I’m looking at is rust. There were obvious areas of rust repair with body filler on the outside and inside of the cab and on the inner sides of the truck bed.

From a mechanical aspect the truck was almost all there. The only things I noticed that were missing was the drivers vent window post and window channel, the spare tire, and jack. The spare and jack might have been factory options and not necessary to drive the truck.

The motor was a little reluctant to start and required the use of a jump pack to spin the 6 volt starter. Once it started it ran smoothly and didn’t seem to smoke. The transmission and clutch engaged both first and reverse quietly and there were no unusual noises while moving it back and forth in the garage.

A road test is one of the most important parts of the pre-purchase inspection. Unfortunately in my opinion, this truck was not ready to be road tested. The headlights were dim and it did not appear that the charging system was operating properly. The turn signals were not all working and a taillight was out. The tires were badly dry rotted and the rear tires were bald. I was told the truck wasn’t registered. Not a good combination for an evening drive on a cold fall night.

Overall this truck is a great candidate for a complete restoration or street rod. It still needs work just to be an occaisional driver. Despite areas of rust under the cab it is still a relatively solid truck. I love the body lines on this thing.  I would give this a condition rating of 4-.

Pre-purchase inspection on a 1967 Ford Fairlane 500

I inspected this car yesterday at Carroll Street Autos in Dunbarton, NH. The inspection was done for One Guard / Road Ready Inspections for a client located in Texas. The inspection was completed within 48 hours of the request.
The car is a nice original example of Ford’s mid size car line, The car appears to have been well maintained and cared for and looks great as a “20 footer”. A closer look at the body reveals what I would consider ‘garage dings’ on several locations on the body. These are small dents that probably occurred as a result of interactions with lawn tools and kids bicycles. There had been previous attempts to cover scratches with touch up paint, The body is rock solid and does not show any signs of collision damage. There is a very small hint of surface rust that is on the bottom of the doors, other than that no other rust inside or outside of the body was observed.
The interior is in remarkably nice condition for a 48 year old car. Some mold is on the rear carpeting that needs to be cleaned. The front seat shows some wear on the drivers side but it’s not terrible. The front seat foam on the drivers side is wearing down and could stand to be replaced. I couldn’t get the radios or clock to work. The original AM radio sounded like it wanted to work but I couldn’t pick up a station in the dealers garage.
There was an attempt to revive the condition of the engine bay with some fresh Ford blue engine paint. The inner fenders and shock towers have been painted black. One of the things that I did notice was that the lower half of the motor is painted orange. This makes me wonder if this is the original motor or a re-built replacement. I was not able to observe engine numbers to verify this or not. Parts in the trunk suggest that the water pump and spark plugs have been replaced. A carburetor rebuild kit was also in the trunk and I believe that I was told that the radiator was also replaced.
In the trunk, the original mat and jack are in place. The finish inside the trunk looks to be original with sound deadener  and white paint sprayed somewhat carelessly around. No signs of rust anywhere in trunk. There is a homemade prop rod included for the trunk lid that does not want to stay up by itself.
The under carriage and suspension appeared to be in great original condition. There is undercoating on the floorpan and it is thick in some spots in the front wheel wells. It has been on there probably since the car was new as a dealer installed option. The metal underneath appears to be solid with no signs of rust. The only surface rust that was observed was on the rear leaf springs, nothing unusual there.
The engine starts right up and initially idled smoothly. After the road test as I pulled the car back into the building the engine started to idle rough. It seemed to occur just after I turned into the driveway, almost like it was starved for fuel. Assuming the carburetor was recently rebuilt, was the float level properly set? Other than that the road test was great. The suspension feels compliant and firm. The steering is predictable. The transmission shifts properly and firmly. The car accelerated well up to 60 mph and cruised nicely. Manual drum brakes – think before you brake!
Overall – Condition Grade 3

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