Motoramic

Classics flooded by Sandy still waiting for salvage lot saviors

Two months ago, I wrote about the first wave of classic cars caught in superstorm Sandy's floods totaled by insurance companies and sent to East Coast salvage yards, for those who believe there's something worth keeping on a forty-year-old machine dunked in brackish waters. A browse through Copart's online listing this week shows that the crowd of Sandy-damaged classics has grown to number in the hundreds, ranging from old Packards to modern Ferraris. The crusher shouldn't be their only destination.

With more than 230,000 vehicles damaged by Sandy, the nation's insurers have been busy for months triaging the damage; many of those vehicles will be crushed, while some will be stripped for salvageable spare parts. A single dip in salt water can provide years of damage to a modern car, sprouting rust throughout the body, mold in all fabrics and corrosion on key electronic parts.

The story's a little different for classics. Take the '60s-era Chevy Corvettes in the New York and New Jersey lots; one 1967 Sting Ray valued at $81,000 before the storm suffered an estimated $60,000 in damage. Even without an engine, bidding for its body has reached $23,000. The 1988 Ferrari Testarossa shown above was valued at $50,000, but rebuilding its engine and hard-to-source electronics may be beyond the willpower of even the most ardent Miami Vice fan.

Sandy's floods didn't discriminate, claiming MGBs and Pontiac GTOs alike. There's enough Ford hot-rods and Chevy BelAirs in these lots to restage "American Graffiti," and of all the cars in the database, the idea of a 1969 Jaguar XKE with little visible water damage getting chopped for parts leaves me sad enough to skim the kids' college fund. (Salvage cars are sold as-is, and can be a hassle to drive legally even if they're mechanically copacetic.)

The oldest car in the mix — the 1928 Packard Six coupe, complete with rusty water sloshing in one of its driving lights — might be the one I'm most certain will be saved by a caring collector. It's simple enough to disassemble and clean; it's engine likely didn't suck in any water, and there's enough Packard enthusiasts across the country to provide the know-how and spare parts to get it running again. There's a reason some cars survive 85 years.