Pricing the Model "A" Ford - Determining the Value and Assigning a Grade - Don Crum

(The following article is based on a presentation made to the Northern Ohio Model A Club by Don Crum. Don is currently a certified Model A appraiser for several automobile insurance carriers and is also an experienced contest judge. He has bought, sold, and restored a large number of Model A's and is uniquely qualified to discuss the subject of pricing.)

Tools of the Trade

Pricing a Model A begins with a thorough inspection of the car. The following tools are considered indispensable:

  • Camera with flash - Use the camera to document the car, both inside and out. The photos can be checked later to see if the car you inspected is the same car you're buying. You can also use the photos to compare against the next car you inspect.
  • Pencil and paper - Note the colors, accessories, options, and the final grade given to the car. Also list the engine serial number because it will be required for insurance purposes.
  • Good light source and mechanic's creeper - Use these tools for checking shocks, linkages, exhaust system, and the complete underside of the car.
  • Model A engine crank - Use the crank to see if the engine is free to turn. If it isn't, the car may not be worth buying; engine work can be expensive.

Areas to Inspect

There are four major inspection areas which determine the overall condition of a Model A:

  • Exterior - Stand a little distance away and walk around the car. Check for dents and body lean. Try to assess the overall body condition including the sheet metal, roof, and paint.
  • Interior - Check the upholstery, wood graining, window glass, shades, and hardware. Spend plenty of time in this area; new upholstery alone can represent a $3,000 investment.
  • Drive train - The drive train includes everything underneath the car including drive shaft, transmission, differential, shocks, and linkages. Here's where you need to use your creeper and light source. As part of this inspection, don't forget to check the wheels, tires, and hubcaps. Also take a good look at the bumpers, brackets, and exhaust system.
  • Engine area - Check the cooling system, electrical wiring, generator, starter, steering column, and carburetor. Try to determine the general condition of the engine. Has it been rebuilt? Check the engine serial number. Is it correct for the model year? Use the crank to see if the engine is free to turn.

Assigning a Grade

After a complete inspection, the Model A can be graded from 1 to 6 based on the following criteria:

  • Grade 1 - This car should be in excellent condition. It will have been completely restored with new paint and upholstery or will be a mint condition original which has not been repainted. A Grade 1 car could easily win a 1st place trophy at a National Meet and would generally fall in the 375 to 399 judging point range. The car has probably not been driven on long trips due to the possibility of paint chipping and stone damage.
  • Grade 2 - This car is similar to a Grade 1 but will show some wear, such as stone chips or wrinkled upholstery.
  • Grade 3 - This is basically a good solid car. It may require one, but not all, of the following - new upholstery, new engine, or possibly a paint job. If you can do any of these tasks yourself, this could be the car to buy. Cars in this grade are considered good "drivers."
  • Grade 4 - This car should be in fair condition but might need restoration in two of the areas mentioned in Grade 3. Again, if you can perform the needed work yourself, this might be a worthwhile car to acquire.
  • Grade 5 - This car will need a complete restoration. The amount of work required is reflected in the much lower value listed in the price guide shown in the table below. But be aware, a complete restoration can take 1200 hours or more to accomplish!
  • Grade 6 - This car needs "a lot of help". It may be a complete basket case, most likely disassembled by someone who lost interest in the project. This grade is not completely without merit - the hard, dirty job of taking the car apart has already been done by someone else! Check the parts carefully. If something seems to be missing, take a good look around. The parts may have been packed away in a box or drawer.

The numerical grade assigned to the car can be translated into an approximate dollar value by checking a price guide such as "Car & Prices" published by Krause Publications, Inc., 700 E. State Street, Iola, WI 54990, 715/445-2214. Cost of this guide is $20.00. Since car prices fluctuate, always check the latest available issue.

The typical values listed in the table below represent average prices compiled during the previous year. Price information is generally derived from auctions and other known sales. Obviously, a given car may be valued higher or lower depending on equipment, accessories, and any special factory options. (Editor's note: Prices shown in the table were valid when this article was first published in 1991. Current prices will differ, but the table is still useful for comparison purposes).

No discussion of Model "A" prices would be complete without mentioning the mint condition MARC of Excellence show cars. A car in this category will receive at least 400 judging points at a National Meet and in Don's opinion can be worth an extra $100 for each point over 400. Cars receiving over 450 points frequently command an additional $5,000 or more on top of this amount. The sky is truly the limit, with a few top cars bringing as much as $50,000! (JCY)

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Vehicle Condition Numbers Guide - Author unknown

# 1 Condition - Excellent: Restored to current maximum professional standards of quality in every area, or a perfect original with components operating and appearing as new. A 95-plus point show car that is not driven. In national show judging, a car in No. 1 condition is likely to win top honors in its class. In a sense, it has become an object of art. It is transported to shows in an enclosed trailer and, when not being shown, it is stored in a climate-controlled facility. It is not driven. #1 condition vehicles are very rare.

# 2 Condition - Fine: Well-restored, or a combination of superior restoration and excellent original. Also, an extremely well maintained original showing very minimal wear. Except for the very closest inspection, a #2 vehicle will take the top award in many judged shows, except when squared off against a #1 example in its own class. It may also be driven 800-1,000 miles each year to shows, on tours and simply for pleasure.

# 3 Condition - Very Good: Completely operable original or "older restoration" showing wear. Also, a good amateur restoration, all presentable and serviceable inside and out. Plus, combinations of well-done restoration and good operable components, or a partially restored car with all parts necessary to complete it and/or valuable NOS (New Old Stock) parts. This is a "20-footer." That is, from 20 feet away it may look perfect But as we approach it, we begin to notice that the paint may be getting a little thin in spots from frequent washing and polishing. Looking inside we might detect some wear on the driver's seat, foot pedals and carpeting. The chrome trim, while still quite presentable, may have lost the sharp, mirror-like reflective quality it had when new. All systems and equipment on the car are in good operating order. In general, most of the vehicles seen at car shows are #3s.

#4 Condition - Good: A driveable vehicle needing no, or only minor work to be functional. Also, a deteriorated restoration or a very poor amateur restoration. All components may need restoration to be "excellent, " but the car is mostly usable as is. This is a driver. It may be in the process of restoration or its owner may have big plans, but even from 20 feet away, there is no doubt that it needs a lot of help.

#5 Condition - Restorable: Needs complete restoration of body, chassis and interior. May or may not be running, but isn't weathered, wrecked and/or stripped to the point of being useful only for parts. This car needs everything. It may not be operable, but it is essentially all there and has only minor surface rust, if any rust at all. While presenting a real challenge to the restorer, it won't have him doing a lot of chasing for missing parts.

#6 Condition - Parts Car: May or may not be running, but is weathered, wrecked and/or stripped to the point of being useful primarily for parts only. This is an incomplete or greatly deteriorated, perhaps rusty, vehicle that has value only as a parts donor for other restoration projects.

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