Mercedes-Benz Ponton
Condition Classifications

Douglas P. Broome / / February 5, 2001

By any definition our Pontons are "collectibles." That does not mean they are necessarily "valuable," however one may define that concept. An important variable is condition, so it is important to have a common understanding of condition description. There are, of course, different systems of establishing and describing condition. A very systematic one commonly used by the old car crowd is the 6-point scale set forth in Cars & Prices, edited by James T. Lenzke and Ken Buttolph and put out by Krause Publications. It follows:

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 a national show judging, a car in no. 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, it is stored in a climate-controlled facility. It is not driven. There are very few no. 1 cars.

2. Fine: Well-restored, or a combination of superior restoration and excellent original. Also, extremely well-maintained original showing very minimal wear.
Except for the very closest inspection, a no. 2 car may appear as a no. 1. The no. 2 vehicle will take the top award in many judged shows, except when squared off against a no. 1 example in its own class. It may also be driven 800-1,000 miles each year to shown, on tours, or simply for pleasure.

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 and/or valuable New Old Stock parts. This is a "20-footer." That is, from 20 feet (about 6 meters) away it may look perfect. But as you approach it, you begin to notice that the paint may be becoming a little thin in spots from frequent washing and polishing. Looking inside you may detect some wear on the driverís seat, foot pedals, and carpeting. The chrome trim, while still quite presentable, has lost the sharp mirror-like reflective quality it had when new. All systems and equipment on the car are in good operating condition. Most of the vehicles seen at many car shown are no. 3s.

4. 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 useable "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. Restorable: Needs complete restoration of body, chassis, and interior. May or may not be running, but it is not weathered, wrecked, or stripped to the point of being useful only for parts. Such a car needs everything. It may or may not be operable, but it is essentially all there and has only minor surface rust, if any. Although it may present a real challenge to the restorer, it will not have him doing a lot of chasing for missing parts.

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. It is an incomplete or greatly deteriorated, perhaps rusty, vehicle that has value only as a parts donor for other restoration projects.

Now, go examine your toy carefully and dispassionately. We are likely to be a bit chagrined at our tendency to overestimate the condition of our cars. That is human nature.

More useful, however, is how the above template allows us to examine a car for prospective purchase or sale or even comparison among enthusiasts. I have found that discussing the above condition system with sellers tends to concentrate minds wonderfully. Sellers and owners sometimes have inflated views of the condition of their cars. 


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