Trial by Fire for a 3.2 Carrera

It’s been a steady year for insurance claims: I’ve helped in several claims via agreed valuations I supplied on various classic Porsche models. Some of these claims are still ongoing, so I won’t go into specifics, but a write-off claim for one client with a 1988 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 G50 Coupe recently settled and he’s given me the OK to share details.

The car was a high mileage example that had been fully restored over time, with bodywork refinished in original Baltic Blue, rebuilt engine with a LSD in the G50 transmission, full suspension rebuild with Centre Gravity setup and front seats re-trimmed in correct linen leather. The car had certainly lived a life and the owner had toured extensively in it, clocking up 75k miles over ten years together, including a long road trip with mum as the navigator.

In a Danish ferry queue en route to Iceland this summer, the Carrera’s engine was started to move through check-in, then the engine cut out and smoke began to waft from the engine compartment. This was quickly followed by the stomach-churning woof of flame, as petrol from what is thought to have been a failed fuel hose ignited. Small flames became big flames and there was suddenly lots of activity, with fire extinguishers rushing in from cars all around. Here’s a video that no one wants to live through:

Engine fires catch quickly and can be difficult to extinguish. The owner disconnected the battery sharpish when the starter began to engage of its own accord, but fuel pressure kept the fire going. By the time the fire trucks arrived, the damage was done.

The car was insured with Classicline in the UK, with European breakdown cover by ADAC. Part of my insurance valuation service is to make myself available in an advisory capacity if something goes wrong while the valuation is valid, so the owner got in touch immediately after the incident.

A quick look at the pics told me the car would end up as a write-off (an uneconomic repair). ADAC inspectors decided the same and declined to repatriate the car to the UK, in line with their terms and conditions. The owner was then left to sort things out via his insurers.

Classicline was very sympathetic following the traumatic event and the loss of a treasured 911: the firm gets a huge thumbs up from the owner in every respect. The car was brought back to the UK and inspected by an experienced assessor. The cost to repair using all new Porsche parts was put at £34k including VAT and the additional costs of repatriation and moving the car around the UK – including to the owner’s preferred specialist for a detailed inspection on site – put the total claim value into the write-off zone.

Insurers usually hold agreed valuation certificates as valid for two years at a time, but given the up-and-down nature of the market in recent years, the owner had been careful to update his agreed valuation annually. My most recent insurance valuation was at similar money to a car with half the mileage, but this car had been cherished and kept in superb condition.

History has taught me to prepare for the worst case scenario, so my policy is to set agreed valuations in line with recent data and independent market observations at as high a level as I would feel comfortable later justifying in court. This honours my professional responsibility and is fair to both sides. Classicline did not dispute the agreed valuation I had supplied, so it all came down to the final settlement offer.

The offer to retain the salvage came in at around the level expected. The final decision to repair or to take the full payout was not made lightly: there were some lengthy late-night phone calls discussing other options, especially considering current market conditions. After ten years and many miles, the owner decided to let the car go and move on to the next chapter. I’m not sure what might arrive in the garage next: a very nice Saab 900 Turbo is currently filling the hole.

Total Loss: nightmare vs opportunity

I have regular conversations with valuation clients who are thinking of selling their cars, or whose cars are subject to a total loss or write-off claim, so thoughts of what I would do with an insurance payout or sale proceeds are never far from my mind. I don’t drive my classics all that often, but losing any one of them would be a heartbreak and the last thing I want in the middle of that is to be battling with an insurer, so I use agreed valuations on all of my cars and motorcycles for maximum peace of mind.

As someone who has been working with owners and insurers and valuing cars professionally for almost twenty years, it never ceases to amaze me just how many classic cars are insured on market valuation rather than agreed valuation policies and how many owners recommend market valuation. This is madness.

If this car had been agreed on a market valuation, the owner would now be in the middle of a battle to get the best settlement and the final number would likely fall well short of what was achieved. Market valuation may save a few pounds at policy start, but these pictures of the damage, the repair estimate and the swift, no-hassle resolution put the one advantage of going with a market valuation (saving a small sum of money) into perspective.

I cannot stress strongly enough that people should agree their insurance valuations from the start. Get an agreed valuation from a trusted, independent source and don’t add to the misery of total loss. Contact me via porschevaluations.com or use the links below if you need any help or advice.


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support my work or engage with me in other ways, you can:

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