Collector Car Loans – Why Most Lenders Won’t Touch Them!

May 16th, 2010

Most conventional lenders are reluctant to make collector car loans, even though buying an antique or collector vehicle is a smarter financial decision than buying a new vehicle.  The biggest reason many lenders do not offer collector car financing is that a collectible vehicle is very difficult to place an accurate and reliable value on.  With a new vehicle or one that is less than 20 years old, it is much easier to nail down an accurate market value.  With an antique or collector vehicle, there are way too many variables for many lenders to deal with.

For instance, is the vehicle all original or has it been restored?  If it has been restored, what is the quality of the restoration like?  Is it unique or rare in any way?  Is it a popular car with a wide fan base such as a first generation Camaro, early Mustang, or Mopar E-Body, or is it a more obscure (but rare) model that would only be worth a considerable amount of money to a relatively small group of collectors?

Has it been modified, and if so, how do the modifications affect the value of the vehicle?  Is it really a Chevelle Super Sport, or a mundane Malibu that someone has swapped engines in and added emblems to?  Did the vehicle once belong to a celebrity, or is it a vintage race car that won some famous races?  These kinds of questions will make a normal loan officer’s head spin, but all of these factors will come into play when you are applying for a collector car loan.

The bottom line for the lender is, “If the borrower defaults on the loan, how easy will it be for us to sell the vehicle and get our money back for it?”  With a new (or late model used) vehicle, there are enough “data points’ for a lender to get a relatively accurate and reliable picture of what they are up against if the borrower defaults on the loan.

With a 1957 Desoto Adventurer coupe, there aren’t a lot of data points to compare to.  Even for a more common classic such as the ubiquitous 1969 Camaro, the values vary so greatly due to the options, condition, and modifications that a typical lender just isn’t well-enough informed to make a good decision.  So they bump up the interest rates to cover their losses in case they overestimate the value of the vehicle, or they just don’t offer collector car financing at all.

When looking for collector car financing, it is best to seek out lenders that specialize in these types of loans, or at least have an antique car loan program.  These lenders will most likely be able to give you a better interest rate and/or a longer loan term than you will get with lenders who concentrate on newer vehicle loans.  These lenders are familiar with the collector vehicle market, and will understand why a 50 year old vehicle could be worth $50,000 or even much more.

To learn more about collector car loans, go to my page on Classic Car Financing. To get more information on the “nuts and bolts” of getting an antique car loan, take a look at Classic Car Loans.

Muscle Car Insurance Companies – Top 4 Points to Consider

April 5th, 2010

Owning and driving a classic muscle car can be a very enjoyable (although expensive!) hobby.  If you own and drive a muscle car, then you really ought to take a look at a few of the muscle car insurance companies.  If you are insuring your collector vehicle with the same company that provides you with the insurance for your “everyday driver”, you may be paying too much for coverage that is woefully inadequate should you need to file a claim.  It is best to get your vintage car insurance from a specialty provider.  They can offer insurance that is tailored to your needs and most likely save you a considerable amount of money, too.

Most standard car insurance policies are written for “Stated Amount” or “Stated Value”.  These policies don’t take into account the value of your car as a collector vehicle, and actually will assume that the vehicle depreciates with time.  If you own a muscle car, you need to make sure you get an “Agreed Value” policy.  With an Agreed Value policy, you and your insurance provider come to an agreement on your car’s value when you begin the policy.  The insurance company will then reimburse you the Agreed Value of your vehicle in the event of a complete loss, and give you much more reasonable options in the event of repairable damage.

When choosing a specialty insurance provider, you also want to make sure they are underwritten by a company that is financially solid.  A.M. Best is the leading provider of ratings for insurance companies, and assigns each company a “grade”.  You want to use a muscle car insurance company that has an A.M. Best rating of “A-” or higher.  Ask who the underwriter will be for your policy, and then look up their rating on the A.M. Best website.

Many insurance policies don’t allow for the cost of OEM parts for collision repair.  Using aftermarket replacement parts could detract from the value of your classic vehicle.  Most specialty insurance providers cover the cost of using OE (or OE-licensed) repair parts.  Make sure that the insurance policy you choose will cover this cost.

If your 1964 Impala Super Sport gets damaged, do you want “El-Cheap-O Paint and Body” to do the repairs, or do you want to take your vehicle to a shop that specializes in antique car restoration?  A “normal” insurance policy may only cover the cost that “El-Cheap-O Paint and Body” charges, and you would be responsible for the cost difference if you choose to use a specialist that charges more.  Find out if the insurance policy you are considering allows you to take your vehicle to the repair shop of your choice.

Those are the first four things to consider when choosing a muscle car insurance company:  1) Agreed Value policy,  2) A.M Best rating of A- or better,  3). Coverage for cost of OE parts, and  4) Coverage for repair shop of choice.  There are a number of companies out there vying for your insurance business.  Using these four criteria will help you narrow down the list of possible providers for your vintage car insurance policy.

Once you have the four criteria above covered, it is time to get into the details!  Take a look at my page on Classic Car Insurance for a complete list of all the points you need to consider when getting quotes from muscle car insurance companies.  For a directory of the most popular classic car insurance providers, go to Classic Car Insurance Companies.

Classic Car Museum Guide – South Carolina

March 29th, 2010

There are several classic car museums in South Carolina that cater to very different genres of the classic car enthusiast. The Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum in Darlington, SC pays tribute to historic NASCAR race cars and drivers. The BMW Zentrum near Spartanburg SC features BMW vehicles from the past and gives a glimpse into the future. The Wheels Of Yesteryear Museum in Myrtle Beach showcases classic American muscle cars.

 
The Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum started life as the Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum in memory of the famous driver that won there in 1960 and 1963, and was killed in an accident at Riverside speedway in 1964. The museum was dedicated in May of 1965, and the name was changed following a major renovation and expansion in 2003.

The museum of course features many cars with NASCAR historical significance, including the “winningest car in stock car history”, a 1956 Ford Convertible that won a total of twenty-five races that year; Richard Petty’s 1967 Plymouth that won ten races in the 1967 season; and the 1991 Lumina that Darrell Waltrip rolled eight times in one of the worst crashes in NASCAR history.

The NASCAR museum has a number of engines on display, including an example of the famous Chrysler Hemi that dominated many races in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There are many interactive displays, and even an impression of Dale Earnhardt’s hands in concrete. The Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum is a must-see for any NASCAR fan. (843) 395 – 8821

 
The BMW Zentrum has a very different focus. It is a snapshot of BMW history, from the very beginning of the company to where they are today. Located beside the only BMW manufacturing plant in the United States, the museum is 20,000 square feet of historic cars and motorcycles, aircraft engines, and interactive displays.

It features the BMW Isetta “Bubble Car”, BMW race cars, a James Bond movie car, a virtual plant tour in the state-of-the-art video-production theater with surround sound, and a café. You can view an example of one of the first BMW automobiles ever produced, the BMW Dixie, as well as a display of the company’s work with hydrogen fueled cars. Guided tours of the manufacturing plant are available by reservation only. (864) 989-5297

 
The Wheels Of Yesteryear Museum just opened in September 2009 and features over 45 fully restored automobiles from the collection of Paul Cummings. The cars are displayed on a rotating basis from his 100-plus car collection of primarily Mopar muscle cars, with a few classic GM, Ford and AMC vehicles thrown in to the mix just for fun. The muscle car museum displays examples of the famous Mopar winged cars and nostalgia drag racers, too. (843) 903 – 4774

 
No matter what type of classic automobiles you are interested in, South Carolina has a museum for you. Be sure to call ahead for operating hours and holiday schedules before making the trip.

1970 Monte Carlo – The First Year

March 22nd, 2010

Chevrolet introduced the 1970 Monte Carlo as an answer to the restyled 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix, and to compete with the Ford Thunderbird. Both cars were based on the mid-size GM A-Body platform, and rode on the same 116 inch wheelbase as the four-door Chevelle and the El Camino. The Monte Carlo was only available as a two-door coupe, and it holds the distinction of having the longest hood ever installed on a Chevrolet! It was billed as a “personal luxury” car, or a “gentleman’s performance” car.

The standard engine was a 250 HP 2-barrel version of the ubiquitous small block 350 CID V8. It could be ordered with a 300 HP 4-barrel 350 small block, a 265 HP 2-barrel 400 CID small block V8, or a 330 HP 4-barrel 402 big block V8 that Chevrolet for some reason marketed as a 400.

There was also a Monte Carlo SS version available that came with a 360 HP version of Chevrolet’s brand new big block 454 V8 engine with a stiffer suspension, front disc brakes, and some discreet badging. The SS-454 was a lively performer, with a zero to sixty time of 7.5 seconds. There were reportedly ten cars that year special ordered with the 450HP LS-6 454 engine. The small block equipped cars generally came with the Turbo-Hydramatic 350 transmission, while the big block cars typically had the heavier-duty Turbo-Hydramatic 400.

The base 1970 Monte Carlo weighed in at 3460 lbs, about 200 lbs. more than a comparably-equipped 2-door Chevelle with the shorter 112-inch wheelbase. Many Monte Carlos however, were equipped with more luxury options than the typical Chevelle, such as air conditioning (yes, in 1970, air conditioning was considered a luxury option, unlike today!), power windows, and other items that increased the vehicle weight. Fender skirts were also a popular option.

There were somewhere between 130,000 and 146,000 Monte Carlos produced in 1970, depending on what resource you reference. Only 3,823 of those had the SS-454 package, and those cars are highly sought after today by enthusiasts. The early cars (1970-1972) have an active following, with several clubs and online forums dedicated to them.

Since it shared the same platform as the Chevelle, many aftermarket high-performance parts that were designed for the Chevelle will fit the Monte Carlo. Even though it was marketed primarily on the basis of luxury, it became a popular model for stock car racing. Several big names in NASCAR drove Monte Carlos, such as Bobby Allison and Neil Bonnett.

The 1970 Monte Carlo succeeded very well in its original purpose: to compete with the Pontiac Grand Prix and the Ford Thunderbird. There were more 1970 Monte Carlos sold than the Pontiac Grand Prix and the Ford Thunderbird combined! The sculpted body, long front fenders and slight “Coke Bottle” shape made it a muscular-looking, classy car, and to me it is much better looking than the Chevelle. It is one of my favorite body styles; I just wish they had made a 9/10 size version of the car!

Antique Car Financing – 3 Benefits of Using a Specialty Lender

March 16th, 2010

Antique cars can be good investments if you choose wisely.  If restoring or driving antique cars is your hobby, you can get a return on your investment and enjoy yourself doing it!  There aren’t very many other “toys” out there that can earn their keep; most hobbies require you to invest in depreciating assets (Jet skis? Pleasure boats? ATVs or other off-road vehicles? Hunting, fishing…you get the picture).  Antique cars in general will hold their value at the very least, and in most cases will appreciate as time goes by, instead of depreciating in value or getting “used up”.

If you are thinking about purchasing an antique vehicle, using cash is the safest way to do it.  However, an argument can be made for antique car financing when you look at the “opportunity cost” of having all that cash tied up and unavailable for other investments.  You may be able to get an antique car loan and pay less interest than your money could be earning elsewhere.  Most likely though, you would need to get that financing from a company that specializes in antique car loans for it to work.  There are several different benefits to using a company that specializes in collector car financing.

 
Benefit #1 – Less time/Less hassle: You could spend a lot of time trying to find a conventional lender that will provide an antique car loan.  Most normal lenders will not provide antique car financing for several different reasons. It mainly boils down to them not knowing the antique and collector vehicle market well enough to make a wise decision on how much a particular antique vehicle is worth.  There are just too many variables for them to analyze, and the time they would have to spend to make an informed decision just isn’t worth the return they would get from the loan.

 
Benefit #2 – Lower Interest Rate: If you do find a conventional lender that is willing to give you an antique car loan, they likely will have a higher interest rate than a company that specializes in classic car finance.  The conventional lender will likely quote you an interest rate that they give to the typical used vehicle buyer.  They will classify your antique as just another old used vehicle, which assumes that it will be worth less in the future than it is now.  Companies that specialize in classic auto financing realize that your collector vehicle will likely hold its value or increase in value, and they lower the interest rates accordingly.

 
Benefit #3: Longer Terms: Most used vehicle loans have terms of 3-5 years.   A company that specializes in classic car finance understands that an antique car purchase is an investment, and they can offer you up to twelve year terms!  That will lower your monthly payment significantly, and can allow you to purchase a much higher priced vehicle than you could with a conventional lender.

 
Those are the top three benefits to using a company that specializes in antique car financing.  You can save a lot of time and hassle, get a better interest rate, and spread out your payments over a much longer time period.  Just being able to talk to a person that understands what you are doing and why you are doing it goes a long way also.  Search out lenders that specialize in antique car loans, and you will find they have a lot to offer.

To learn more about the benefits of antique car financing, visit my page on Classic Car Financing.  For more details on what to expect when applying for an antique car loan, take a look at Classic Car Loans.

1970 Pontiac Firebird Review

March 10th, 2010

Pontiac’s second-generation ponycar was a little late for the party in 1970, but it was worth the wait! The 1970 Pontiac Firebird was a completely new design from the ground up, not sharing any major suspension or body components with the previous model. The car was praised by the car magazines for its bold new styling, sports-car like handling, and excellent acceleration abilities when equipped with the right engine. It had been improved immensely over the first generation cars in almost every way.

The 1970 Firebird rode on a 108″ wheelbase, the same as the new Camaro. It was only available as a two door coupe; the convertible had been dropped from the lineup, and would not return as a factory option until 24 years later. The 70 Firebird came with bucket seats, front disc brakes, and a front stabilizer bar. There were four trim levels available: the base Firebird, the Esprit, the Formula, and the Trans Am.

The base car came with a 250 CID inline six cylinder engine and a three-speed manual transmission, but a 255 horsepower Pontiac 350 V8 and an automatic transmission were available options. The Esprit came standard with the same 350 V8 and three speed manual transmission, and an optional automatic transmission was also available. It had stiffer spring rates than the base car

The 1970 Firebird Formula can be easily identified by the dual forward-facing hood scoops, and it came with a 330 horsepower Pontiac 400 V8 (NOW we’re talking!) and a three speed manual transmission. A four speed manual or an automatic transmission were available options. The Formula came with the same springs as the base car, but with heavier duty shocks, a larger diameter front stabilizer bar, and a rear stabilizer bar. It could also be special ordered with the same suspension as the Trans Am, and you could even get a Ram Air III (also called Ram Air HO) 335 HP 400 V8 in it.

The 1970 Trans Am was all about performance. It came with the Ram Air III engine above, but an optional Ram Air IV engine was available that produced 345 (370 according to some sources) horsepower. The base transmission in the Trans Am was a wide ratio Muncie four speed with a Hurst shifter. It came with 15″ wheels, larger front and rear stabilizer bars than the Formula, the stiffer springs from the Esprit, and the heavier-duty shocks from the Formula.

The 1970 Trans Am also had a shaker hood, which means that there was a rear-facing air intake scoop mounted atop the carburetor, and that scoop protruded through an opening in the hood to draw fresh, cool air into the engine. It had front and rear spoilers, and air extractors on both front fenders to allow hot air to escape from the engine compartment. The 70 Trans Am was only available in two color schemes, either white with blue stripes or blue with white stripes.

There were a total of 48,739 Pontiac Firebirds produced in 1970, including only 7,708 Formulas and 3,196 Trans Ams. The Formulas and Trans Ams were excellent performers due to the 400 cubic inch engine, with 0-60 MPH times in the six second range. When you combine the improved handling characteristics of the new platform with the power of the Pontiac 400 engine, the 1970 Pontiac Firebird was one of the best all around musclecars of the era. It is one of my favorite cars of all time.

Antique Car Museum Guide for Tennessee

March 4th, 2010

Tennessee has several antique car museums that cater to the automotive enthusiast. If you are interested in visiting a classic car museum and live in or are passing through Tennessee, these are worth taking a look at.

Lane Motor Museum, Nashville – The largest collection of European vehicles in the United States. They have over 150 vehicles on display from all parts of the world, and most of them are rarely seen in the US. They have amphibious, alternative fuel, and military vehicles, race cars, micro-cars, three-wheelers and motorcycles. Anything rare, strange, odd, or extreme can be found there! I have personally visited this one, and would love to go back and spend an entire day. If you are interested in unusual vehicles, it is a must-see if you are ever in the Nashville area. (615) 742-7445.

Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum, Sevierville – A collection of 90 American muscle cars from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, plus retired stock-car based race cars. All the cars are in showroom condition. The collection has been featured in several TV shows and car enthusiast magazines. (865) 908-0882.

Hollywood Star Cars Museum, Gatlinburg – Features 40 actual cars that were used in movie and TV productions or owned by celebrities. The movie and TV cars are shown in recreated settings from the movie or TV show that they were in. They have recently added several motorcycles to their collection. (865) 430-2200.

Smoky Mountain Car Museum, Pigeon Forge – Open since 1956, they have electric, gas, and steam powered vehicles on display. They also have historic gas pumps, vintage Burma Shave signs, and other memorabilia displayed. (865) 453-3433.

International Towing and Recovery Museum, Chattanooga – Antique tow trucks, wreckers and equipment dating from the earliest days of the automobile. (423) 267-3132

Dixie Gun Works and Old Car Museum, Union City – 36 antique vehicles displayed, along with thousands of antique mechanical devices and a number of historic firearms. (731) 885-0700.

Elvis Presley Automobile Museum at Graceland, Nashville – A collection of Elvis Presley’s personal cars, motorcycles, and motorized toys. (901) 332-3322

Bewley’s City Garage Car Museum, Greeneville – A variety of antique cars and gas station memorabilia, only open on Fridays and Saturdays. (423) 638-6971

There are bound to be other antique car museums I have missed, but this should be enough for several weekend trips! If you are visiting the Smoky Mountains, you have four different ones to choose from that are in the vicinity. Be sure to call for information on their hours of operation before making the trip.