January is definitely a high profile month for car auctions.


TV paved the way years ago when Barrett-Jackson started broadcasting prime time shows from Scottsdale, Arizona.


They started a cult with these TV events and a number of viewers became classic car auction fans overnight because people bought into the excitement of frenzied bidding under the hot lights.


Newcomers to this world ask a lot of questions but one of the most frequent questions is how do I get my car ready for an auction?




Don Streeper is currently the Peace Country Territorial Representative for Michener Allen Auctioneering Ltd. and a certified appraiser. He was a fountain of information on the vehicle preparation for a collector car auction. He offered a few suggestions for novice sellers.




Don gave some very basic advice, “Make it as good as you can”. Don was cautionary on this because “make it as good as you can” doesn’t involve a complicated process. He said, “Get it clean, it doesn’t have to be perfect  but get it awfully close even if there are flaws or rust in the paint because buyers will know what they’re up against”.




He recommended a lot of work on the interior and under the hood and he said to focus on any leaks like radiator hoses and oil leaks because potential buyers automatically focus on things that spell trouble.  If the seats are worn Don recommended, “Invest in seat covers if they’re bad”.




Don definitely advised against a new paint job before a sale because he didn’t see a huge return on your investment: “If you put a 10,000 dollar paint job on a 5000 dollar car you’re down 5000 bucks before it hits the block”.




Don’s advice focused on more practical items. He highly recommended buying a new battery if your old battery is suspect because there’s nothing worse than a car that won’t start before it hits the stage.  He also recommended “at least a ¼ tank of gas because guys will want to start it and yard drive it so you don’t want it running out of gas and dying on the block”.




Tires are another issue. If you have a slow leak before the auction Don says “get it fixed because you don’t need a flat tire when your car hits the block”. 


Don did recommend one big ticket investment—a new windshield.  He said “a chip isn’t bad but spend the money if your glass is cracked” because potential buyers automatically factor the cost into a bid.




Loose ends are another concern for Don. For example, he said, “If you have an empty cigarette lighter hole in the dash make sure you put another cigarette lighter in there because the empty hole looks bad—same with any switches on the dash—if there’s a switch there leave it in—don’t leave a hole in the dash”.


Don recommended a few other things like wheel covers. If they don’t match make sure they match and don’t leave even one hubcap off the car before the sale.




Don’t overlook the fluids—Don highly recommended “topping up all the fluids under the hood and if the master cylinder weeps a little from sitting make sure you clean up the area around it”. 


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Don summed up the process this way: “You cannot make a sow look like a princess but you can’t have it smelling like a sow”.


Paper work is a huge factor. Don recommended buyers, “Keep every invoice, every record you have and if you have a current appraisal bring it along, but it typically isn’t transferable to the new owner for insurance”.  Paper work matters because Don said, “A lot of classics are a labor of love but selling love does not pay”.  





Any part of the restoration process behind the car and the actual owner history is extremely important but Don had some advice there: “If you have any photo books on your project be prepared to make a copy for the new owner and if you won trophies try to include a picture of the car with the trophies”.   




Auction sales are a relatively simple concept but they can get complicated without a game plan but thanks to this advice from Don at Michener Allen the pre-sale preparation for old iron is less of a mystery.


Jerry Sutherland