Have we been assessing car values incorrectly?
As with any historical artefact be it porcelain, watches, or cars we seem to place the most value on that which is preserved to such a degree it could be considered new. Understandably this is something which captures a moment in time, and becomes a piece of documented history.
But is that the right criteria with which we should be assessing an object’s worth?
It takes designers, engineers, and other specialists months or years to create objects with a purpose, and in the case of vehicles that purpose is to transport occupants across a landscape, sometimes to entertain, while providing a differentiated experience.
When a vehicle is not used as intended, or indeed at all, it hasn’t fulfilled its intended purpose, and therefore is essentially ‘incomplete’.
What value does an object have if it isn’t used as intended? Do vehicles simply become expensive ornaments? How will they be perceived in the future when we have so much uncertainty with laws regarding internal combustion engines cars?
Let me borrow a leaf out of the race car value book. Which is more valuable?
A. A WEC prototype which never actually got to race.
B. A WEC prototype which was crashed, repaired, and won Le Mans.
I would wager that the second is the more significant simply for the story it tells. Battle scars, circuits it’s traveled to, the way it made people feel, the love poured into making it operate, the smiles it was able to give. It created history, it created stories.
This would also be amplified by the plethora of press photos and articles written about it in turn building its profile and mystique. It’s the story which adds significant value to the car.
Perhaps we need to start documenting the life that each car has lived, the owners which have bestowed love upon it, and the places it’s traveled to.
Imagine for a moment buying a used classic, being handed the keys and along with it a document or book of where the car has been and previous owners who have taken care of it. You are now the custodian in charge of continuing that story, and what a story it would be to the next owner.
When you purchase a special car from someone, ask for some photos and perhaps some stories to build a profile, to tell those who take the reigns from you the journey the car has been on. This is the true value of a used car, that it’s taken many people to different places across a land or perhaps countries, brought immense joy and satisfaction, pride of ownership, and through patina real stories to tell.
Documentation of repairs, maintenance, improvements etc are one part of providing a background. The other documentation should be the story it tells and let museum pieces be museum pieces.