Insist upon viewing the dossier when considering an antique or collector car

April 16, 2014 · Posted in News · Comments Off on Insist upon viewing the dossier when considering an antique or collector car 

Importance of Pedigree, Provenance and Continuous History

In our previous article, The Economics of Car Valuations, we discussed some of the factors, generally, that drive the values of antique and collector vehicles. The present article highlights the importance of establishing, maintaining and proving the pedigree, provenance and continuous history of your collector car and assembling such in the vehicle’s dossier (i.e. file of records concerning the vehicle).

If you look at the cars that sell at the top of the market, they all have one thing in common; a noted history that is clear and transparent. In the collector car market, investors and hobbyists have a choice as to what car they buy. While it is true that they will usually buy the prettiest and most correct example that they can afford, they will also weigh the vehicle’s history. A vehicle’s history has always played a role in the value of the vehicle, but it has only been as of late that the vehicle’s history has played a tremendous role in the value of antique and collector vehicles.

If you are looking to purchase an antique car or expensive collector car insist on viewing the dossier which should include records, names of previous owners and services and restorations that the vehicle received.

If you are looking to sell your antique or collector car then it is incumbent upon you to document your vehicle and create the type of dossier of records that the buyers today are insisting upon.

What should be in the dossier?

At a minimum, the dossier should include a sheet of paper listing all of the important production notes and numbers of the vehicle. Ideally, there would be a binder or computer file containing photographs and narrative decoding of the various components and numbers on the vehicle. The file may also include pre-restoration photographs as well as restoration photographs and photographs of the vehicle with awards it has earned or notable places where it has been invited or displayed. Receipts and notes concerning the service performed on the vehicle should be included as should any affidavits of former owners.

The area in which most dossiers are deficient is with respect to historical documents, previous ownership and service records and notes. Attention to this subject is most important. Every vehicle has a story to tell, it is your job as the vehicle’s current custodian/caretaker to preserve that story for future generations. That is, in a sense what the dossier is, is it not?

Continuous History

The notion of Continuous History was first announced by Mr. Justice Otton in the case of Old Bentley Number One (Hubbard vs. Middlebridge Scimitar Ltd.) in the High Court of Justice – Queen’s Bench Division, Royal Courts of Justice, London in 1990. From that day forth in 1990, it became clear to everyone involved with Bentley Speed Sixes, in order for a car offered for sale to be described as a Speed Six, it was now essential that the vehicle be accompanied by a continuous history.

What is continuous history when it comes to antique and collector vehicles?

Continuous history is, according to the Courts in London, a full, unbroken and authentic set of documents which identify in a reliable manner who has owned the car, the uses that it has been put to and a description of its service history and any restoration, rebuilding or reconstruction work that the car has experienced throughout its life since originally leaving the factory.

The case of Brewer v. Mann ([2010] EWHC 2444 (QB)) demonstrated why continuous history documentation of a Bentley Speed Six is so important, however the importance was transportable to all other antique and collector cars. In Brewer v. Mann, the car had two significant features (or flaws) that made it essential for the description to be more detailed than simply stating that the car was a Speed Six car. These features (or flaws) were that the engine was not a Speed Six engine (i.e. non original engine) and the only surviving part of the original car was a small section of the chassis. There was also a lack of a continuous history for the years between 1930 and 1981 even though, during that period, the car had been completely reconstructed. Thus, there was no way that the car could be authenticated as a Speed Six or, indeed as a vintage Bentley.

In consequence, it was particularly important that the contractual description accurately described all the significant changes that occurred during the car’s lifetime and the seller found some way in which to authenticate those changes or stated in the description that they were not capable of being supported by a continuous history. The need for full documentary evidence of the relevant history of a Speed Six or any other collector vehicle is highlighted by the increased valuation placed upon the vehicle by auction goers and appraisers.

In sum, it is crucial that collector car owners establish dossiers for the cars they own and insist upon reviewing the dossier for cars that they are considering purchasing. Ultimately, the industry and all collectors should strive to have a documented continuous history for every collector car, no matter the importance or perceived value 0f that particular car.

Attorney Bryan W. Shook is not only a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market and protect their automotive investments. Attorney Bryan W. Shook is a seasoned automotive collector and restorer and as such brings real world experience and firsthand knowledge to the table for his clients throughout the world. Although Bryan Shook is headquartered in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania (close proximity to Carlisle and Hershey), Attorney Bryan Shook is available anywhere for consultation, advice, and information, most times, on as short as a day’s notice. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at or by phone at 717-884-9010.  More information can be found at Http://

Collector Car Market Stands to Gain from Latest Economic Meltdown

August 8, 2011 · Posted in News · Comments Off on Collector Car Market Stands to Gain from Latest Economic Meltdown 

Monterey and Beyond: 
A Prediction for the Collector Car Market

(By: Bryan W. Shook, Esquire)


With the Monterey Auctions only two weeks away, the eyes of the Collector Car Market are on Wall Street and other world markets.

Gold has surpassed Platinum, S&P has downgraded the United States credit rating from AAA to AA and the stock market is plummeting.  How could this possibly be beneficial to the collector car market, you ask … it’s simple.  The stock market, the bond market, the futures and other typical investment arenas are subject to the debt crisis.  While the Collector Car Market is, in a sense subject to the debt crisis, but not nearly to the extent that the traditional markets are.

This economy is somewhat of a double-edged sword.  On one hand, the current debt crisis has undoubtedly caused more than a few cars to come to market, but on the other hand as investors seek safe havens from the latest market crash the world of collector cars looks like a better and safer investment market every day.  Collectors invest in automobiles because of emotion, artistic adoration and quite simply, memories.  A tangible investment is much easier to quantify than a stock certificate and the same is not as susceptible to the tumultuous economic climate we live in today.

Last year’s $172,000,000.00 in sales will likely be eclipsed this year as investors clamor for the many of the blue chip collectible automobiles that the several major auction houses are going to parade across the block.

Don’t be surprised to see a plethora of domestic and foreign collectors alike flock to Monterey, cash in hand to buy up the consigned cars.  Monterey has, for years been THE PLACE to sell your high-dollar, blue chip car … this year the money will be there more than ever.

Thank you to Standard and Poor and all of the world’s economies responsible for this latest turmoil.

Attorney Bryan W. Shook is a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market. Attorney Bryan Shook is available throughout the United States for consultation, advice, and information. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at

Bid with Knowledge; Buy with Confidence – Vintage Car Law

Economics of Car Valuations

June 8, 2011 · Posted in News · Comments Off on Economics of Car Valuations 


The Economics of Vehicle Values


The value of an antique car or a collector vehicle is driven by three key factors: desirability, pedigree/provenance and condition.  These three factors fit into an equation which eventually leads to the value of the vehicle.  The weight to be assigned to any of the factors is subjectively based upon the influence any one factor has over another.


Let’s take a look at these three factors:


Desirability: Although this is a subjective measure, it is fairly easy to quantify.  A desirable vehicle is one that nearly anyone would love to own.  Also vehicles that were produced in limited quantities or with attributes or options not commonly found on contemporaneous models are desirable.  Exotic vehicles are usually desirable on their name alone.  Finally, some vehicles are desirable simply because they are cool.  While every vehicle is desirable to a collector on some level (yes, even the Yugo is desirable if you can find a complete and somewhat running example), it is the level of desirability which drives the value.  The more people who like the vehicle; the more desirable the vehicle is.  Specific years, specific models, or specific options can make an otherwise undesirable or not so desirable vehicle desirable for the purpose of valuation.   Keep in mind however, that although desirability drives just one aspect of the pricing structure it can sway the equation completely.  A fitting example is a Duesenberg.  In any condition, and even without any pedigree or provenance, a Duesenberg will ALWAYS command a relatively high value based purely upon its highly regarded desirability and relatively low production figures.  The weight to assign to desirability can also be dependent upon the year, model, options or scarcity of a model.


Pedigree/Provenance: This is where most vehicles are lacking.  Time has a way of erasing memories.  By and large, information about a vehicle’s origins was not something that was discussed when the vehicles were sold, “back in the day.”  Most vehicle owners do not have much information about the vehicle before they acquired it. Therefore, when you come across a vehicle with paperwork or history, dating from new, you are looking at a vehicle with pedigree.  Merriam-Webster defines “pedigree” as the origin or history of something.  Items that add pedigree are copies of old titles, registration paperwork, original sales forms, window stickers, build sheets, factory documentation, certification, etc.


Provenance is the history of ownership of the vehicle.  Vehicles that were once owned by movie stars or other public figures tend to be worth more than other similar vehicles.  These same vehicles also tend to have more options or unique features which make them more desirable (see above).  Vehicles that have a known, uninterrupted chain of ownership, from new can also be said to have provenance. Nevertheless, the weight assigned to this form of provenance is obviously not the same as the weight assigned to a chain of celebrity ownership or ownership within a large nationally recognized vehicle collection or museum.  For provenance to be given appropriate weight, it must be substantiated with documentation.


A vehicle with either pedigree or provenance is worth more than a similar vehicle without.  A vehicle with these attributes is sometimes referred to as a “no stories” vehicle.


Condition: This third and final factor is the “make it or break it” for most vehicles.  Even if a vehicle has good desirability and pedigree and/or provenance, it likely won’t influence the value of the vehicle as much as condition.  A vehicle with in superb original condition (i.e. extremely well-kept since new) or a vehicle which has been restored or built/rebuilt to an extremely high level is worth more than a similar vehicle needing restoration or a similar vehicle in a deteriorated condition.  In recent years we have seen a push for original vehicles.  As the appreciation for these examples has risen, so has the weight assigned to originality with respect to valuation.  (Note: An overwhelming public appreciation for a particular vehicle or vehicle trait tends to also weigh heavily on desirability).  The more original a vehicle or the better the restoration of the vehicle, the more the vehicle is worth; period.


Although the equation into which these three areas are plugged is somewhat objective on its face, the weight assigned to any one area is subjectively based upon the knowledge, expertise, and experience of the person assigning the value.


Any attempt to confidently assign a fixed weight to any of these three areas would be illogical.  There are far too many vehicles with far too many options, characteristics, stories, and degrees of condition to allow for such a rigid valuation method.  Each vehicle must be evaluated first on its own merits and then against similar vehicles with known sales to find a comparable sale.  Then the comparable sales must be evaluated to see how closely they match the subject vehicle.  The closer the comparable sale, the closer your estimate of value will be to the actual value of the subject vehicle.  You must however, keep in mind some principles of economics such as, market saturation versus scarcity, preferences, and rationality (i.e. marginal cost versus marginal benefit).


This theoretical approach to the economics of car valuation should provide you with an understanding of why one vehicle is worth so much more than another. The equation described here should be view as a template which along with the expertise of a seasoned professional will likely allow you to confidently arrive at a value for your particular automobile given the economics discussed herein.


Attorney Bryan W. Shook is a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market. Attorney Bryan Shook is available throughout the United States for consultation, advice, and information. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at


Bid with Knowledge; Buy with Confidence – Vintage Automotive, LLC