Saturday, August 17, 2013

What is it worth?

Insurance companies want to know what they are insuring you for. In the case of an elderly car, some understanding of the worth of the thing must be established, so that in the case of a loss guidelines are already in place.

My policy offers to pay an agreed value. This means that an approved appraiser (the insurer has a list of these) says it's worth X dollars, plus tax, and that's what the insurance company should fork over in the event of a total loss. The tax part is important where I live, because it's 15%, which is a solid chunk of change on the price of a car. Once you have agreed on a value - and paid a premium to match - you cannot argue that since then you have had the car gold-plated and it is now worth 100 times the agreed value. Sorry, but no.  

The other day I was contacted by my insurance broker, and told that my insurance company required a new evaluation of my Porsche 911 before it would issue a new policy, due to begin next month. It's been four years (already!) since the previous appraiser's evaluation, and in the mean time I have a new insurance company. This new company takes a stance whereby it demands evaluations, for special older cars, every three years, but they respected the prior four year term because it was agreed upon. It's hard to imagine values changing that rapidly since my car will soon celebrate its 40th birthday in several months, but there you have it.

So I washed the car in anticipation. 

In the last four years plenty has happened to my car, but you can't see it by looking at the thing. My engine and transmission have been taken out and put back into the car a couple of times. First because the transmission needed a general overhaul, but also an important functional repair - a new main shaft got installed, which is the biggest chunk of metal in there. Then the whole affair came out again because the ring and pinion gears were not aligned by the transmission rebuilder (why not?) and they needed to be set straight. Then there was the 'triangle of death', an area on the top rear of the engine, where you can't reach when the engine is in the car, where multiple oil leaks tend to occur. I had some leakage there and so I preemptively changed all the usual suspects. The list goes on and there was some money involved. New CV joints, new Bilstein shocks, all manners of hoses, filters, dribblers (for real), wires, etc. I put in new firewall insulation, a fuel pump; I can't remember it all. Oh yes, I totally redid the trunk, and redid the undercoating of the body.

The next major project saw the entire interior of the car stripped out, down to the bare metal. I gutted it. Even the old-school sound deadening material was tediously removed from the floor. I had planned to modernize the sound deadening with today's exotic materials, but before I got to that I found some rust, partly due to water leaking in around the windshield. Two years after my car was built Porsche began to use galvanized metal for the entire body, but not on my car. 

That's not me
Some rust I could clean and isolate, but a half-dozen areas had to be cut out. They were little, but still. Not having the requisite tools, nor expertise, I hired a self-described Porsche restorer who was willing to make house calls. He, with my feeble help, formed galvanized sheet metal into pieces with compound curves so that they would fit into the corners of the floor, a typical rust location. I didn't know that you can both expand and shrink metal into complex shapes, now I do. The new sound-proofing went in with plenty onerous work, and each piece was glued in place with the seams then sealed using lead tape, which was then covered with vinyl tape. It sounds vaguely like building a medieval cathedral.

The carpeting was refurbished and looks good. All 17 pieces of it get glued in like a jig-saw puzzle. I had the steering wheel covered, in Texas, with leather to match the upholstery in sort of a cork color. Yada, yada, but in the end it looks pretty nice and people go "Aaaah!" in appreciation. There are actually parts in there recycled from at least six other cars.

Now the appraiser, not remembering this car from four years ago, did not have an idea of all the work that was done, because much of it is hidden, underneath, and invisible. So I brought along a memory stick with photos of the process (I made him look at them), as well as a PDF of the evaluation that he had done four years previously and forgotten. I brought along a stack of receipts, too, and I showed him the biggest ones. However, the evaluation will reflect the market price, considering the work completed, but not my fantasy notion of what the car is worth.

Installing speedo with a custom dial
So, I got a copy of the twelve page long evaluation when it was done. There are some glaring factual errors. For example, the report says that the car has four-wheel drum brakes. 356's had drum brakes, but not this vintage of car. Then I disagreed on the estimation of the condition of various bits and pieces. The guy crawled all around on the ground looking under the car and the underside of the engine. He peered closely at everything, but we didn't always see eye-to-eye. If I would challenge the evaluation, then I would have to find another appraiser and pay all over again for a second opinion and that would involve a trip of hundreds of miles. I didn't challenge it.

Finished inside, at least for now. . .
In the end the new appraisal increased the agreed value by $4,500, plus tax = $5175. Actually, I haven't heard from the insurance company yet as to what they think of this. With my labor worth nothing, that would cover a good part of my out-of-pocket spending, so I figure it didn't come out too badly. However, bringing along all those photographs and other documentation really paid off. Had I not been thorough, I would not have seen an acceptable adjustment to the car's value. Be prepared. It's worth it in the end.