Noble House Classics

Two months ago, I went to visit Noble House Classics in Almere, in the Netherlands. It’s a 35 minute Go Train ride from Amsterdam Central Station. I recommend a visit the next time you’re passing through Amsterdam. I first met Kees Huis in ‘t Veld in 1991 when he came to Toronto to purchase a beautiful collection of restored classic Jaguars for one of his clients. I discovered that Kees has extremely high standards in regards to any vehicle that he is associated with.

The collection that he purchased back then was destined for a young multi-millionaire who built a glass walled garage in his backyard so that he could illuminate them at night and see them from his living room. I have been sourcing vehicles in Canada ever since for Kees to purchase. About 10 years ago, he decided to focus his restoration work on the Aston Martin Marque only. He is currently the Aston Martin factory appointed classic restoration shop in the EU.

To visit his shop is like entering an aircraft factory. He has 29 craftsmen restoring classic Aston Martin cars from the ‘50s through the ‘80s. Each car is assigned a room in which it is mounted on an aircraft style jig to maintain its dimensional integrity. Each body part that requires restoration is created by a local supplier who laser cuts it from new metal. All mechanical components are restored or replaced in their assigned area, which reminded me of the original factory methodology which I had witnessed at the factory at Newport Pagnell in the early ‘90s when I was there. To say the least, the finished project is as close to a work of art that a classic car can become.

There is obviously great pleasure in witnessing each project being built and I’m sure also in the subsequent ownership. The cost of commissioning any one of these projects is considerable but the integrity and value of the vehicle at the end must be very satisfying. Getting to see the Noble House facility is very easy by train or by car, but you must call first. You will not be disappointed.


Lipstick on a PigLIPSTICK ON A PIG
Avoiding Life’s Lemons

Lipstick on a Pig features excerpts from the vast library of Maurice Bramhall’s experiences.

Cars Go Down with the Ship Edition

It’s everywhere in the news this week, “boat adrift in the Atlantic with a thousand Porsches on board”. Back in 1955, the Andrea Doria went down with a famous Chrysler prototype on board called the Norseman. We also understand that on that same boat was a custom built Ghia limousine destined for the Eaton organization. I’m currently selling a 1937 Rolls-Royce that was actually built in 1987. My client who was a Rolls-Royce expert all his adult life decided to build a Sedanca style vehicle on a chassis that was originally a hearse. To reduce the risk of losing it on the sinking of a boat, he had the coach-built body flown from England to Toronto in the hold of a Boeing 747. The finished vehicle went on to be a concours show winner many times. Is there a lesson from this? Buy the correct insurance to cover your vehicle for all eventualities when it is being shipped.


Lipstick on a PigLIPSTICK ON A PIG
Avoiding Life’s Lemons

Lipstick on a Pig features excerpts from the vast library of Maurice Bramhall’s experiences.

Do you remember your first car ride?

I was five or six years old in 1951. My father’s friend took us to London for the Great Exhibition. I don’t remember the Exhibition but I do remember my father complaining because I couldn’t handle all the walking. On our way back to Sheffield, I think it must have been a Sunday, we needed oil for the engine. The garage we found was closed and we had to steal the bottle of oil from the rack on the forecourt. I don’t know why but I don’t think we made an effort to leave money for it.

When I was around ten, my parents started working for my Uncle and Aunt on the weekends in their pub. My Uncle had a weakness for cars, the first one was a Standard Vanguard, then there was an Armstrong Siddley Saphire, and for a short period an old Rolls-Royce that he never took me in. Even better than my Uncle’s cars was that of his friend, the scrap merchant. He had a 1954 Buick, I have never forgotten the fascia of the car, it was so garish compared to British ones. After that his friend had a Bentley Continental, 120 MPH top speed, which became my “wish for” car after I get my E Type Roadster and my Aston Martin DB5.

The first car I drove was a Ford Anglia van, (circa 1960) 3 speed, no comfort features. It was a big deal for me because my employer required all staff to be licensed drivers. My father never drove, my brothers learnt in the compulsory armed forces service.

In Canada my first car was a 1958 Ford Fairlane, it cost $250.00 in 1966 at a dealer on the Danforth when the Danforth was full of dealers. It was a “Lemon” of lemons. Canadian Tire were the big beneficiary of that car for the next year until I bought a 1964 Plymouth Valiant Signet 100. The insurance cost was insane in Montreal and the dealer forgot to mention that the insurance policy was to cover the car and not my liability. What we learn when we are young!!


Lipstick on a PigLIPSTICK ON A PIG
Avoiding Life’s Lemons

Lipstick on a Pig features excerpts from the vast library of Maurice Bramhall’s experiences.

Is the Insurance Company Valuing Your Write-off Fairly?

What To Do when your car is written off in an accident/theft and you are not sure the insurance company is being fair in their compensation offer:

For most of us, this set of circumstances is a once in a lifetime event so we feel at sea amongst the whirlwind of events. The insurance company knows all the rules, you are very new at it.

When the insurance company makes their offer, ask them to send you the report that explains how they came to the amount. This report is normally prepared for the insurance company by JD Power or AutoDatasource.

Read this report, it contains a lot of detail:

The description of your car/truck, all its options and its trim level.
It describes its condition, previous damage etc., and the mileage.
It lists comparable vehicles to yours in your geographic area.
It calculates asking prices, less a negotiating discount (normally 5%).
It calculates a positive or negative factor for the mileage showing on your vehicle.

Questions to ask yourself:

Is the vehicle that the insurance company is describing a correct version of your car?
Do they have the correct trim level, and the correct options?
Is their description of your car appropriate?
If they indicate that there was previous accident damage, is that appropriate?
Did the insurance company compare your vehicle to ones that have a similar amount of mileage? It’s not uncommon for the insurance company to use comparables that have much higher mileage.
If you believe they have used inappropriate comparables, there may be a phone number that you can call to check with the dealer that was advertising the vehicle, by calling them you may be able to clarify the situation.
If your vehicle is under 5 years old and you purchased it new, are they comparing your vehicle to ones being sold by a franchise dealer?
Is the type of transmission (manual or automatic) a factor in the market value of your car?
Did you purchase an extended warranty from the dealer or from a warranty specialty company when you purchased your car? Have you claimed a credit for the outstanding balance of the warranty remaining? Some franchise dealers do not offer this possibility, but it is worth asking. Some dealers offer credits in this regard if you purchased another vehicle from them.

Many people who contact us in regards to an insurance claim dispute misunderstand the process that is mandated by law. Once the insurance company makes you an offer, unless the amount is egregiously inappropriate, or they have made a factual error, the ball is now in your court to give them a second opinion on your behalf from a company like ours.

If a settlement cannot be accomplished after submitting a second opinion report, the next stage is to submit the two competing opinions to an umpire. The umpire is chosen from individuals submitted by you (the owner) and those preferred by the insurance company. We normally advise you on names of umpires prepared to undertake the case which will depend on if they have a conflict of interest.

Lipstick on a PigLIPSTICK ON A PIG
Avoiding Life’s Lemons

Lipstick on a Pig features excerpts from the vast library of Maurice Bramhall’s experiences.

A Pre-Purchase Inspection is a Great Investment

I got a phone call from a prospective client this week looking for a pre-purchase inspection on a 1968 Mustang Fastback being sold by a dealer. One interesting aspect was that the caller was a lady and her husband was in the background.

To get the ground rules clear on what they wanted, I asked them all the questions that I would ask if I was the prospective buyer. Was the price realistic for the model and year? Was there a Marti report? Was there any history of previous ownership and restoration? Does the car have its original power train? What was it that they wanted from me in the way of a pre-purchase inspection?

I always explain that we do no mechanical inspection of the vehicle of any type. Mechanical components are normally cheap to repair, but poor body work is very expensive to restore and can undermine the integrity of the vehicle. This questionnaire that I normally go through with every person who wants a pre-purchase inspection usually narrows down their field of concern, and is also likely to take them back to the drawing board if they don’t have a clear idea of the vehicle that they want to buy.

A pre-purchase inspection is a great investment when the outlay on the vehicle is many thousands of dollars and the buyer needs a set of clear eyes to give them a professional perspective on it.

Lipstick on a PigLIPSTICK ON A PIG
Avoiding Life’s Lemons

Lipstick on a Pig features excerpts from the vast library of Maurice Bramhall’s experiences.

The Professor’s Mustang Boss 302

I’m currently working on an island in the Pacific Ocean but the car I’m selling is stored in Vaughan.

I had a client very interested in a Mustang Boss 302 that’s being sold on the Internet and which is currently stored in Washington State. The seller was working out of the country and had arranged for the storer to collect the funds of the sale. The so-called seller had also arranged to steal the identity of a university professor as being the seller.

When we went online to check on the professor and her status, she existed and had a wonderful bio. The problem was that she didn’t own the car and there was a complicated arrangement where you had a limited time to see the car and hand over the money before you lost it for good.

The price wasn’t outstanding but it was a desirable model and had a good history. Obviously, we advised our client not to take the bait. This scheme wasn’t as outlandish as the tow truck driver in Texas who had found an Aston Martin in someone’s backyard and who said we could buy it if we sent $500.00 for him to secure the car, but it was convincing enough that a well educated professional would want to hire us to check the deal out.

Lipstick on a PigLIPSTICK ON A PIG
Avoiding Life’s Lemons

Lipstick on a Pig features excerpts from the vast library of Maurice Bramhall’s experiences.

Look Under the Car

Nothing replaces looking under a car to get a sense of its desirability.

When buying a car, you or your representative should look at the underside for corrosion, leaks or damage. Everything on the underside is expensive to fix and do you want a car that has been allowed to deteriorate in this manner?

My favourite story here is the one where a young guy was sold an old original Mustang convertible. He omitted to look under it to see the tin cans with their labels still on them that were used to fix the floor.

When people are selling a car and I ask them about the underside and can they send me pics of it, it comes as a big surprise. I tell them, get an iPhone or similar, turn on the flash, stick their arm under the car and shoot twenty or thirty pics, out of those there will normally be some useful ones.

An experience I had this week was of being offered a car that was described as very special. Inside it was pristine, same with the engine compartment, great wheels, beautiful colour. The seller didn’t seem to understand the drawbacks, two body panels with hard to repair corrosion that would probably give problems matching the paint and they were surprised at my request for underside pictures as the car was “perfect”. Perfect included an undercoat application which for many collectors is the kiss of death, “what is it hiding”?

Lipstick on a PigLIPSTICK ON A PIG
Avoiding Life’s Lemons

Lipstick on a Pig features excerpts from the vast library of Maurice Bramhall’s experiences.

Billion Dollar Smog Hoax

Jensen Interceptor S

I was searching in the Cambridge Antique Market for small items of automotive ephemera and I saw the headline on a Motor Trend magazine which said “The Billion Dollar Smog Hoax”. I was fascinated to hopefully read what they thought of the beginning of the clean-up of exhaust pollution, but what I got was a rant about Ralph Nader, even down to his origins and education. They were not pleased, but a wonderful article in the magazine was contributed by my childhood hero, Stirling Moss, in which he described all the benefits of the 4 wheel drive system invented by Ferguson, installed in a regular street vehicle.

This was very interesting because we recently sold a Jensen Interceptor which was the first car to offer the option of the Ferguson 4 wheel drive system. Reading his description of all the advantages was just amazing considering that in Canada now so many vehicles are fitted with it.

The test car of the month was the Firebreathing Pontiac Firebird, the lead editorial was a rant about Senator Muskie and his crusade for clean air and all the safety features that were being legislated, to quote the editor: “which holds that Americans should be given a kind of all-forgiving, padded confessional to drive around in”. How far we have come!

Lipstick on a PigLIPSTICK ON A PIG
Avoiding Life’s Lemons

Lipstick on a Pig features excerpts from the vast library of Maurice Bramhall’s experiences.

Claims People Make When Selling a Classic Car (Part 2)

I have seen it all when it comes to claims owners make on their classic car. Sometimes they are erroneous claims that could be considered honest mistakes. Other times, a more nefarious plot is underway. As a prospective buyer it really pays to do the due diligence and verify each claim a seller makes about their car. Here are some of the claims I have heard over the years… along with the reality behind each claim.

CLAIM: “This car was in the Queen’s household service.”

REALITY: The Queen Mother was driven in it once to a horse racing meet and there are no photographs to confirm it.

CLAIM: “I bought it at an auction and they announced that it had a matching numbers engine.”

REALITY: Auction houses make no effort to verify claims made by vehicle owners, buyer beware.

CLAIM: “Dealer sold the car as an “Executive Driven Head Office Vehicle” clean Carfax report.”

REALITY: Entire back lower components replaced with parts from wrecking yard. Vehicle had three body colours and many panels didn’t line up properly.

CLAIM: “Van has passed franchise dealer Platinum Used Vehicle programme inspection. Clean Carfax report.”

REALITY: Entire nose section rebuilt using body parts made in Vietnam.

As you can see, there are different ways that a classic car can turn out to have a story that is quite different than what is originally reported. Take your time to find out the verifiable facts when purchasing – or hire a professional to conduct a professional pre-purchase inspection. It can save you a fortune.

Lipstick on a PigLIPSTICK ON A PIG
Avoiding Life’s Lemons

Lipstick on a Pig features excerpts from the vast library of Maurice Bramhall’s experiences.

The Day I Met my Hero, Stirling Moss

Today I read that Sir Stirling Moss has died at the age of 90. He was my teenage hero.

I met him at the Shannonville Race track in 1979 at a VRAC event. I had never been to one of these events before, I don’t remember if I knew he was going to be there. Suddenly he is on the field and people gathered around him to talk about cars and racing. I had a history with him because I’d grown up reading about his exploits in the newspapers, in Sheffield, Yorks. My family took two papers every week day and three on Saturday and Sunday.

He was famous because of his F1 exploits but also because he was famous for his exploits in everyday life. As I remember he couldn’t keep his driving license for very long because he was a terrible driver on the street. His sister was a famous equestrian rider/rally driver who was married to a famous Monte Carlo Rally driver, Eric Carlsson.

As we crowded around him, someone brought a picture of the cars at the Monte Carlo F1, I’m guessing, from the ‘60s. He was able to give the name and the team of every car, it was extraordinary. I asked him what had happened with his sister, Pat, he said she was as fat as ever! And that was it. As he walked away, it was amazing to see how his body functioned after that major surgery where they had stitched him back together, not one aspect of his body was in a straight line.


Lipstick on a PigLIPSTICK ON A PIG
Avoiding Life’s Lemons

Lipstick on a Pig features excerpts from the vast library of Maurice Bramhall’s experiences.