How do you document the history of your classic?


Documentation of a classic vehicle can be a deciding factor for the next owner, whether it is exhaustive maintenance records or the ability to trace ownership history to the original purchase. It is also great for the current caretaker of a vehicle to have a timeline of the work done or the memories created.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/04/24/document-the-history-of-your-classic


I have a large 3-ring binder with those clear plastic sleeves that hold receipts in rough chronological order. There are also a few pictures. I’ve had the cars a long time, so the binders are getting thick. Handy if anything is warranted, but I don’t like to look at them too often. It causes a sharp pain in my lower back where my wallet sits.


@Jim-R - Keeping receipts is one thing, but totaling them up is a whole different thing. One I don’t personally recommend at that.


Seeing the other responses, I would agree.

I too keep a 3 ring binder of all receipts since I bought my car (2010) and also have a “preferred” vendor list in the front. The one thing I did when I bought the car was to keep an EXCEL spreadsheet for all expenses - I do the same for my daily cars - I’m a numbers geek so it fits my personality. IF! I ever sell it, I know what I have in it and I’m sure the new buyer (which will never happen) would like to see the receipts.

As to the history of he car, I was told by the seller - a reputable individual in the hobby - the car was originally from California. I’m going through the DMV there to try to obtain the original paperwork; next would be Michigan where I bought it, then any other possible owners in between. If nothing else, it will be an interesting ancestry log.



I use a website called collectorcarcompanion.com. It lets you store photos and history of work done. Also lets you share your history with others and transfer it to the next owner when you sell it.


I’ve kept a “Project Binder” on all my cars over the years. My current project car came with a huge box of receipts from the original owners. It’s been invaluable in tracing the car’s work done and history.

And I agree about NOT adding up all the receipts. I did that once, on my first project car, and I doubt if I’ll ever do it again!

Reminds me of a vanity plate I saw on a killer car in Hot Rod…“OVRDRWN”!


In 2009 I bought a 1990 Range Rover Vogue, It had some history, but I used a Form V888 and a covering letter to the DVLA (in UK) for a list of previous owners, MOTs, and any other information they could supply. I received a thick dossier containing the owners’ names and addresses, the dates of transfer of ownership, and a complete MOT record of the car. They also informed me that it had, for the first part of its life, carried a different Registration Mark to that which it carried when I bought it, and that was because, early in its life, one of its owners had transferred their Cherished Registration Mark to it, and when they sold the car, they transferred that Mark to their next car. The Mark it carried when I bought it was a re-issue, and was then replaced with my own Cherished Mark. It was a rolling renovation, which took me seven years, and when I sold it I passed all the documentation on to the new owner and put my Cherished Mark on a Retention Certificate, ready to go onto the next rolling restoration. Unfortunately, the DVLA will no longer supply chapter and verse due to the upcoming GDPR regulations, so the car I am now restoring, a 1995 MY Range Rover LSE Soft dash, has only the limited amount of history that I can glean from the Service Record and few recent MOTs that came with it. I did find out from an internet search that it had also carried a Cherished Mark at some time during its life, but I cannot find out when that was.


Searched and found all the additional detailed info through the internet, based on a few data of the original owners service book that was still present in my convertible. Read its history at: http://www.fiat124spider.com/2017/12/my-spiders-history.html


@ICPurvis - That is impressive the DVLA gave you so much information on the previous owners. Here in the states the DMV is quite tight lipped with any personal information. I have heard stories about owners getting names of previous owners, but that’s about it.


@kq6ea - That is an awesome vanity plate!


I find it helpful to keep a “History book” where I keep my personal papers. So that if anything happens to me the details about the vehicle can be found. Items such as:where I keep the title, insurance policy numbers, where I keep the keys and spare keys, where the car may be stored if off site, who of my friends may be helpful that have knowledge about the car, who worked on it last (mechanics name), who if anybody has expressed interest in the car, any quirks or details about starting the car (such as kill switches, electric fuel pump switches, press the throttle three times etc), What repairs may be needed next, where extra parts such as extra wheels and tires may be stored, If parts have been sent out for repairs where they are located (such as chrome plating shops, transmission rebuilder etc.). There is a handy booklet available online at www.autoestateplan.com to do this, a fill in the blanks type book that asks all these type questions.


I too keep records. It started with a full blown restoration of my early '65 Mustang CVT in the 90s. I have it divided into sections pertaining to the various systems of the restoration. Body, interior, engine, transmission etc. with each having their own invoices. I kept rack of my major tool purchases too. I, also, keep ongoing maintenance records for all of the 4 and 2 wheelers.
A few years after the restoration of the mustang, I sat down and totaled all of the receipts. I had spent $2K for tools alone. It is a “wow” factor learning what one spends chasing their passion.


I use a combination of tools. First off and most thoroughly, I use a website called MG Experience (MGExp.com) in which I have my own home page and Journal.

The Journal is done by phase (such as engine, suspension, interior, body, etc). Each phase allows me to put in multiple photographs and to use text to describe exactly what I did.

Additionally, for major things (such as a high performance engine rebuild), I keep the receipts in the master folder in my file cabinet.

I also keep various mini binders with schematics for such categories as altered electrical systems, engine performance changes, altered engine compartment, etc. either in the garage or in the car itself. This is particularly important and helpful since my classic is a bit of a daily driver and if I have road problems on one of the altered circuits I’ve done.

Despite what some others have said, I do keep tallies by general work area (such as engine internals, engine externals, engine compartment, interior, body, suspension, etc.) on an Excel spreadsheet. That way I can see the total investment by exact item and category for everything I’ve done as well as crossfoot totals in each area by vendor for the life of the automobile.

Yes, the results of those totals can be shocking but it helps me appreciate the totality of what I’ve done and brings back some pleasant memories of doing the work itself.


Yeah, the first time I saw the article I was laughing so hard my wife came out to see if everything was OK…


It is also a LOT of work to do that! When I first got my Classic I was very dilligent - and also on a tight budget, having blown the budget buying the car to begin with. As finances have loosened up, I’ve become more lax in bookkeeping on my classic car. Coincidence? Maybe.


Something to consider that wasn’t really mentioned is the role that Registries play in the documenting and history of a vehicle.
I help track and document Mercury Cougar Eliminators for the Cougar Club of America and the Eliminator Registry. In many cases we have extensive ownership and sales history on Eliminators. We also strive to record history handed down by owners - whether that is who they bought from, or sold to, how they maintained the originality or modified the car during their ownership, photos of restoration work, or car show displays.
We also try to get pictures of original documentation, door / dash / buck tags, etc, as these can help other owners who are trying to research the configuration details of their own cars. Our copies can also serve as a backup to future owners if for some reason the documentation gets seperated from the vehicle (cuz that never happens, right?).

I guess what I’m trying to say is: Don’t forget to look up the Registry for your particular marque, and send them information on your car. They will thank you, and far-future owners may thank you as well.

Mike Banks
CCOA Member # 9553


I’ve got a 64 Mercury Comet I’ve owned for 31 years. I have the original owners manual with the name of the original owner now long gone. I’m the second owner so the history is pretty solid. I also own a 1950 FL Harley that I have also owned for over 30 years and would like to know the previous history of it. I live in a small town and know the people in the courthouse well. I got them to check there records and it only went back to the person I bought it from and myself. Wish Harley would be gracious enough to divulge the original purchaser but I doubt they have the records? I guess this info will go unknown. Anyone ever contacted Harley for this info?


I have a 1966 427/425 Corvette that I have owned since 2001. I am the four owner of the car. The third owner of the car performed an extensive 2 year restoration of the vehicle. The vehicle has achieved multiple NCRS and Bloomington Gold awards. When I purchased the vehicle I received an extensive photo library which documents the restoration process. I also received all the NCRS and Bloomington Gold award certificates and judging sheets. I wanted to organize and preserve all this historic information in a book. I choose a company by the name of Best of Legacy to do this for me. They offer a great service to capture all historical documentation, photos, etc. in a tasteful, high end leather bound book. They also offer an option to include an integral video screen within the inside book cover which enables a short video (created by the vehicle owner) to be included as part of vehicle documentation. Additionally, they also offer an optional display case that is used to store and display the book. I am extreamly please with the way my book turned out and with the services that they provide.


The frame off restoration of my 1957 Pontiac Chieftain was written up in the May 1997 issue of ‘Classic Auto Restorer.’ An article I wrote about buying the car from the original owner was published in the Oct., 2015 issue of the magazine, now named just ‘Auto Restorer.’ I also have a copy of the ‘Name That Car!’ article I submitted to ‘Reminisce’ magazine. I have those, and some other information, in clear plastic sleeves in a binder. I also have several invoices of parts purchases/repairs from the original owner and, of course, I keep copies of all maintenance and parts purchases/repairs. The only thing I don’t have, bur wish I did, is all the invoices from the restoration. The former owner has never unpacked several boxes since his move here several years ago and he doesn’t know which box they are packed in. Having the article, though, is useful as it lists the names and addresses of the shot that did the work and all the vendors that supplied parts, etc. BTW, the car has only 6,400 miles on it since the restoration. Besides local car shows, my wife and I take it out and drive it around a while.


I’ve been in the habit of keeping a log book on all my vehicles. My dad started that with our 1956 Ford Customline in 1967. We kept that car until 1992. My current classic, a 1969 Olds 98 holiday Coupe has service records going back to 1975. I cataloged them in an Excel spreadsheet along with current expenses. I bought the car out of the estate of the original owners so that’s how I was able to have such good documentation on it. Not only is the record-keeping helpful to know the Cars Repair history, it’s also a good indicator as to when something is going to need attention. As an example, the exhaust system on the car was last replaced in 1982 and it’s looking a bit weathered even though there aren’t any holes in it yet.