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Written-Off Classics:Are they Worth Rebuilding?

Written Approval Published: 31st May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Written-Off Classics:Are they Worth Rebuilding?
Written-Off Classics:Are they Worth Rebuilding? Reshell or rebuild? You need to be judge damage expertly
Written-Off Classics:Are they Worth Rebuilding? Bargain E-Type? Well, a new bonnet alone costs £3000 alone so don’t assume that you’ll make money out of the deal
Written-Off Classics:Are they Worth Rebuilding? MGAs are worth good money so always ask why was it written off - is damage more severe than it looks?
Written-Off Classics:Are they Worth Rebuilding? On low value cars, take care repairs don’t exceed worth
Written-Off Classics:Are they Worth Rebuilding? Looks grim but this MK2 still sold for over £2000 at auction
Written-Off Classics:Are they Worth Rebuilding? Fancy a Rolls? Second-hand bits are plentiful
Written-Off Classics:Are they Worth Rebuilding? Fire damage can be a nightmare to right
Written-Off Classics:Are they Worth Rebuilding? Bargain Morris Minor went for under £100
Written-Off Classics:Are they Worth Rebuilding?
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Contrary to popular belief, write-offs needn't be written-off and they can make classic car bargains - as we hope to discover!

If you like rebuilding your classic cars, then what’s the difference between cutting out rusty panels or bent metalwork to replace with new? Exactly… which is why buying a crashed classic can make a lot of sense and save you a packet - so long as you know what you are getting yourself into. Believe it or not, an awful lot of classic cars are written off every year and sold to the public, either by salvage experts or at specialist auction. Crashed cars may not be your cup of tea, but with some five million prangs reported a year there’s a real likelihood that the next car you purchase (classic or modern) will have seen the inside of a bodyshop… According to trade classifiers HPI (01722 422422), one in eight cars on our roads have been involved in an accident! But it’s not quite such a worry on an old car that may need extensive restoration; after all if a body has to be rebuilt from virtual scratch, does it matter how it got into that state? So welcome to Project Porsche, our latest venture in classic car ownership with a difference. Putting our money where our mouth is, we’ve bought a late reg, written-off 924 (from Universal Vehicle Services auction) that we hope to make good again at a bargain price. More on this later, but first let’s look at the pleasures and perils of buying a written-off classic.

Know your alphabet

There are various classifications of what constitutes a write-off. The term describes a vehicle that in the eyes in the insurance company does not warrant repairing, either due to age, value or administrative hassle. Traditionally insurers write off cars if the estimated cost of repair exceeds 65 per cent of a vehicle’s market value. Category A & B vehicles are deemed by the insurers to be dangerous and should never make it onto the road again, although Cat B cars can be used to donate parts. Other ‘total loss’ situations fall into categories C & D. Category C are vehicles that are safely repairable, even if the insurers have decided it is uneconomic to do so. They can legally be repaired and used on the road, although a fresh V5 document has to be obtained directly from the DVLA stating that the car has been repaired. This will also be shown if any computer data check - such as an HPI check - is carried out. As Cat C vehicles carry some ‘previous’, their resale values are affected as a result - around 15 per cent typically, although with a classic car which has no set market value this isn’t such a worry. Category D cars tend to be the more valuable vehicles and often suffer from nothing more serious than trivial damage. Their V5s can remain unsullied - however these are still recorded on computer data checks. Category D cars can also be stolen and recovered vehicles which although okay (maybe just a smashed window and broken steering lock) aren’t wanted by owners after the theft.

VIC to the rescue

The majority of damaged cars that fall into Category C are sold without their original V5 logbooks as these, by law, are returned by the insurance companies to the DVLA and the new owner must apply for a replacement. However, before this can be issued the vehicle must be checked to confirm its identity. Although it is carried out at local Government Goods Vehicle Testing Stations, it is not a roadworthiness check like the MOT, but rather one that verifies a vehicle’s age and whether or not it’s a potential ‘ringer’ (stolen and given a new identity). The test, which you are not allowed to see carried out, is strict and secret. Every car carries certain ‘date stamps’ on it and examiners check these datum points against the vehicle’s original build date plus confirm the damage as described by the insurance company. These tests cost £36 and it’s up to you to transport the car to a check station; they won’t come to you and can be few and far between. Because there are not enough VIC test stations nationally and it can take weeks to get a test booking, this has had dramatic effects on the value of category C salvage – often making them real bargains (something we reckon to have discovered -ed!).

Damage limitation

A car doesn’t have to be smashed up to be ‘written-off’. There are occasions when vehicles are stolen and recovered by the insurance companies with little or no damage. These can make excellent buys. Usually the biggest worry is whether the car was abused and thrashed mercilessly (especiallythe sporty stuff) and what’s now missing, such as wheels, seats, stereo, interior fittings and so on, all of which can cost as much as body panels to replace. Flood damage vehicles can be fantastic value, but should always be viewed with caution - they may look fine outwardly yet hide a host of latent problems. Much depends on the type of water and the severity of the flood. Generally it is only fresh water flood damage that can be repaired - sewage contaminated or salt (sea) water will render the car suitable only for destruction (category A or B). Similarly, fire damage can have far reaching effects, weakening the bodyshell if really bad and certainly ruining anything the flames come near. However, the vast majority of firedamaged cars are categorised as category A by the insurers and thus destroyed.

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