The Collector Car Hobby Rating System

The standard of the automobile hobby for rating cars is the 1 to 5 rating
used by the Old Cars Price Guide. Just what is meant by the ratings is not so
easy to determine and quite subjective. Of course, seller and buyer will always
differ in opinion as to just what kind of horse they are dickering over.
However, like the American government, the rating system isn’t perfect but it
sure beats the next best thing. The Old Cars Price Guide gives a good
run-down of the class structure in abbreviated form but is a bit unclear. The
following should provide a better understanding with the points delineated.

Class 0
This is the one that OCPG left out simply because there ain’t no such animal.
This is the “perfect” car, the one of a kind, the national show winner. To
rate a car, there must be a basis of comparison and this car would set the
Since class 0 cars change hands at prices that have no relation to reality.,
there is no purpose to their inclusion here other than to say there is
something above class 1.

Class 1
Class 1 is the easiest to define and the hardest to determine. The car must
be 95 points or better (preferably better). A class 1 car can go to a national
meet and win or at least tie for the Best of Class if a class 0 is not there.
This means that not only are the correct parts used, they are installed
correctly, just as the factory did it – including mistakes.
To simply determine what it would take to restore a car to correct class 1
condition would take a non-expert six months to a year of research alone.

A car in class 1 condition will appear as or better than new. It may be a
virgin, untouched original car with very low mileage that has remained in an
"as-built" condition over the years or it may be a car that has been
professionally restored. To hold a class 1 status, a restored car must retain all correct
original matching-numbers equipment with all date codes corresponding to the
build date of the car. Any replacement parts must be from the original vendor
and carry the correct Chrysler Corporation factory markings. #1 cars are seldom,
if ever, driven and are considered to be strictly show, or museum pieces.
Only a handful of true #1 cars actually exist.

An expert would spend several hours to properly assess the elements required
to make a class 1 car and would probably have to take some things apart.
Non-obvious criteria would be option mix (some options required or prohibited other
options), radio/instrument markings and color and style filters.

At this level, you have to be concerned with what the assembly plant was
doing that week and be able to document it.


Class 2
This is what many people think of as a class 1 car. To anyone other than a
fanatic, it looks great. It will win at a local show and place well in popular
vote at a national meet, but is not 100 percent right. This is the red
convertible that sometimes beats a correct tan four door.
A car in class 2 condition will often be a low mileage, well preserved
original or a restored car. It will be representative of the way the car was built
but will show some minor signs of wear and tear. A class 2 car may be an older
or less professional restoration, or it may be a car that has survived the
ravages of time through either diligent care or very little use. #2 cars are much
more common than #1 cars and are usually the receipient of "Best of Show"
honors at smaller local shows as well as major national events. Only an
experienced judge or a discriminating expert can usually determine the difference
between a class 1 and a class 2 car from any distance.

A class 2 car might have a maintenance free battery or even a 459 tar top
battery instead of the correct 558. The radio might be a correct year but have
chrome push-buttons instead of black ones.

Date codes for added options may be wrong an non-factory wiring harnesses may
be present under the dash. An ‘RT’ optioned car may have the stripes
improperly painted. Seen on the road, you probably could not tell a class 1 from a
class 2 car. Of course, you won’t see a class 1 on the road.


Class 3
This is what most hobbyists keep garaged and waxed. A class 3 car looks good
and makes up 90 percent of the local car shows. A class 2 that is driven on
the street for 6 months without detailing will become a class 3. Additionally,a
class 3 car will show the effects of non-fanatical maintenance. Decals may be
deteriorated or missing. A Carter carb may have been replaced by a Holley. The
radio may have been upgraded with one from a different year or a ’64 model
may sport a 440 engine.This car still looks good but the finish is no longer
perfect, some chrome or non-stock wheels may have been added and the drivers seat
upholstery has acquired some creases.
A class 3 car will be in good condition. It will appear mostly as an all
original car or as an older restoration that is just starting to show aome signs
of wear due to being driven. To the untrained eye a #3 car will appear a very
nice car from any angle, and from a relatively short distance. To the expert
eye, a class 3 car will fall under the category of "average" condition. A car in
#3 condition will usually require a full restoration to bring it up to a
class 2 or class 1 level.


Class 4
At class 4 we have a two-way split between the ”original unrestored” and the
”hot rod”. On the one hand is the “little old lady” who bought a ’66
Coronet new, had it serviced regularly at the local gas station and drives 4,000
miles a year, mostly on weekends. The tires are wrong, the battery is wrong, the
belts are wrong, the alternator is rebuilt and has a paper tag, a little rust
(I mean Texas little, not Ohio little) may be present, and there are a few
dings here and there, but nothing a good paint job wouldn’t fix. The front end is
loose but driveable. This is your typical California or Southern car as seen
in Hemmings. It is what you call a 20/20 car; at 20 mph and 20 feet away it
looks good.
A car in class 4 condition is one that, quite frankly shows its age. Rust and
corrosion are to be expected and missing original parts are a common
occurrence. A car in #4 condition is what is commonly refferred to as a daily driver
and will usually show the ravages of being a road warrior, regardless of
whether it is regularly driven or not. Most #4 cars are restorable but expect to
have to sink more money into the restoration than the actual value of the car
when completed.

On the other hand is the Road Runner with the aftermarket fuel line and a
Holley, headers, traction bars and turbo mufflers, plus a few decals for good
measure. Somewhere along the way the 383 engine with 4 speed was replaced by a
360 and automatic. There is a Dixco tach on the hood and a Grant wheel on the
column. He probably spent five grand on accessories and the Imron paint job. It
looks okay at the drive-in but it is going to take big bucks to make a
showable car out of it, mostly for stuff the kid threw away. Remember, ignorance is


Class 5
This is not a junker despite what many people think. Rather, you see these at
curbsides and in the classified ads all over America. It may need a trunk lid
and some body work, the seats probably show their stuffing, it burns oil and
the lights may work ramdomly, but it is still licensed and inspectable. Unless
there is some overriding reason to rescue it, it will probably not be in a
collector’s stable even as a “future work”, since the cost of a restoration to
even a class 3 is probably greater than the value of a class 2. Most of our
“beaters” fall between class 4 and class 5.
Call the class 5 a rust bucket, a derelict or a basket case - any or all may
apply. A #5 car will usually be little more than a parts donor to be used for
restoring or repairing a like or similar car in better condition. But expect a
#5 car to be missing significant and critical parts and/or pieces. Except in
very rare instances where a very rare car is found in this condition,
restoration is considered to be out of the question and if undertaken, will require
the skills of only the most experienced restorer. More often than not, a Hemi
car in #5 condition will be considered as a restorable by most
collectors/restorers. Not so for non-Hemi models.

For most of us, our first restoration project is a class 5 and teaches us not
to do it again.


Class 6
This is the junker, the kind of car you pay $100 for if you take it away and
$200 if you can leave what you don't want. More marriages have been broken
over bringing home class 6 cars than any other cause in the hobby. It might make
a good planter but isn't good for much else.
As a rule of thumb, the cost of upgrading a car from one class to another is
usually twice the price difference between the two classes, and the interclass
relationship is exponential. In other words, to go from a class 4 to a class
3 is not too bad cost wise. Going from a class 2 to a class 1 is astronomical.
As far as class 0 is concerned, figure what it would cost to manufacturer the
car by hand. Then triple it.

Also, there are four axioms about restorations:
No.1; The maximum increase in value after restoration equals one half of the
money invested.
No 2; Labor invested is worth zero at selling time.
No 3; Maintenance/repair is also worth zero.
And finally,
axiom No. 4; The only way to make a profit in restoration is to restore other
people’s cars.


The article above is a compilation of information from:
Old Cars Price Guide
Year One's Dodge and Plymouth Catalog
High Performance Mopar 3/99