The 1-6 Collector Car Rating System demystified

If you have been around classic cars it is a sure bet you have heard those in the know refer to cars in 1-6 condition. What are they talking about?
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If you have been around classic cars it is a sure bet you have heard those in the know refer to cars in 1-6 condition. What are they talking about?

The often-copied 1-6 rating scale was the brainchild of Old Cars founder Chet Krause back in the 1970s. As vehicles began to age, their conditions varied widely, and without creating benchmark standards the values of the cars were, to put it kindly, quite arbitrary. Chet devised a ranking system based on certain conditional criteria. This ranking scale has become the definitive standard across the collector car hobby.

In fact, our Old Cars Report Price Guide book utilizes this 1-6 scale in order to give accurate valuation reports on collector cars based off of numerous collector-car auctions, verified reports of private sales and input from esteemed collector car experts.

Here is a handy explanation of the 1-6 scale and how it applies to collector cars.

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1) EXCELLENT: Restored to current maximum professional standards of quality in every area, or perfect original with components operating and appearing as new. A 95-plus point show car that is not driven.

In national show judging, a vehicle in number 1 condition is likely to win top honors in its class. In a sense, it has ceased to be an automobile and has become an object of art. It is transported to shows in an enclosed trailer, and, when not being shown, is stored in a climate-controlled facility. It is not driven. There are few number 1 vehicles.

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2) FINE: Well-restored, or a combination of superior restoration and excellent original. Also, an extremely well-maintained original showing minimal wear.

Except for the closest inspection, a number 2 vehicle may appear as a number 1. The number 2 vehicle will take the top award in many judged shows, except when competing against a number 1 example in its own class. It may also be driven 800-1,000 miles each year to shows, on tours or simply for pleasure.

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3) 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 new old stock (NOS) parts.

This is a “20 footer.” That is, from 20 feet away it may appear perfect. But as we approach it, we begin to notice that the paint may be getting thin in spots from frequent washing and polishing. Looking inside, we might detect wear on the driver’s seat, foot pedals and carpeting. The chrome trim, while still quite presentable, may have lost its 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 in number 3 condition.

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4) GOOD: A drivable vehicle needing no, or only minor work to be functional. Also, a deteriorated restoration or a poor amateur restoration. All components may need restoration to be “excellent,” but the vehicle 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.

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5) 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.

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6) PARTS CAR: May or may not be running, but is weathered, wrecked and/or stripped to the point of being useful primarily for parts.

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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