Our cars!  With all of the love, sweat and dollars we put into them, our greatest reward is driving and enjoying them.  Along with the business of owning them, however, must be considered the necessity of licensing, inspecting, insuring, and, at some point, selling them.  In light of these realities, having the proper documentation is very important.  Creating a file that includes a log or a build book, lists of parts suppliers, paint formulas and photographs from day one to the present, are all extremely valuable when setting a stated value for insurance or resale.

        Our photo files include close-up shots to show the cars overall condition, as well as the condition of the paint, and interior material details including close-ups of the headliner, windlace and carpet.  Show details of the dash, such as the condition of the glass and dials on all gauges.  Don't forget to show the mileage on the odometer.  Get pictures of the windows (with date codes, if applicable), also the rubber around the windows, and the stainless around that.  

        Outside, the finish is very important to the cars value.  Make a note as to whether it is lacquer, enamel, base coat/clear coat, and if it was professionally applied.  Is there over-spray on the door jambs, striker plates, hood hinges, gas cap, etc.?  If so, these can easily be touched up and can add value to the car.  For the overall finish, time spent in color-sanding, buffing, polishing and waxing can make an okay paint job look great!

        When taking your photos, be creative.  Getting down low and shooting up shows the car from an aggressive angle.  Move the car to a spot where shadows can be eliminated.  Get the sun behind you, putting the shadow behind your subject.  Also, be aware of trees!  They can cast reflections into your paint, making it look dark and distorted.  In addition, too much sun can burn out the color, and too little light will change the color entirely.  For example, a car that is bright red in the full sun might photograph as maroon in the shade.  

        Besides the cosmetic shots, take photos of the VIN plate, under-carpet, the engine number, etcall are important.

        Showing the rust, or lack of it, is also relevant in valuing a car.  We always put the car on the lift, getting pictures front to back, showing the suspension, frame, fender wells with the tires removed, and so forth.  Here is where spending some time on painting the exhaust, masking off the shocks, bottom of the engine and transmission and painting the frame and bottom side of the car with a quality coating such as Rust Bullet (800-245-1600) really makes the car come together.  

        The engine compartment, I think really tells if the car has been cared for.  If its neat, you feel that it has been.  Get engine compartment pictures using a drop light to show the overall engine, bottom of the hood, and if details like the latch and springs are nice, show them, too.  If wires are running everywhere, if theres over-spray, non-matching radiator clamps (tower, classic, spring), it devalues the car.  Batteries are important to the look of the engine compartment.  Most OEM ones are available from Antique Auto Battery (800-426-7580).  If you prefer aftermarket batteries, there are decals available from Jim Osborn (770-962-7556) to make them look like Delco, Autolite, Willard, etc.  What really devalues an engine compartment, however, is a square battery in a rectangle battery box!  Recently, I saw an otherwise nice '48 Packard engine compartment, which should have had a long, rectangle battery along the drivers side fender splash pan.  This one had a square battery held in place with straps!  Not only did it look bad, but when it falls, it will fall over onto the distributor, right next to it on the engine!

                Another item to document is the chrome and stainless, showing its condition and that it is all there.

                Finally, the trunk.   Getting up high and shooting downward will show the bottom of the trunk lid, side panels and back panel behind the back seat, as well as the floor.  If the floor is carpeted,  vacuum the nap in one direction, ideally toward the back of the car.  When the nap is pulled in different directions, the carpet  looks stained when it is photographed.

        Having your car documented will help establish and agreed-upon stated value for insurance purposes, and a car history that help a potential buyer to feel comfortable purchasing your car and paying your price.  Its a good way to protect your investment.  Visit our web site at www.southernwheels.com and check out our Archives for related articles.