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The area in which most dossiers are deficient is with respect to historical documents, previous ownership and service records and notes.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://