The 1981 Camaro and the Insurance Woes It Came With

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I have always had a thing for cars; classic cars, muscle cars, or racecars, you name it. Growing up as an only child in a house where cars were a big thing, it has a tendency to happen. My dad took me to drag races, small circle tracks and car shows all over Northeast Ohio from as far back as I can remember. I even remember meeting Shirley Muldowney many, many years ago when big races were held at Dragway 42 in West Salem, Ohio. My dad to this day still has a sports car, a 1996 Corvette that he purchased new, and only drives in nice weather, which can sometimes be minimal in Ohio. I spent quite a few years working in the auto industry, from working in a body shop, to managing a small used car lot, running a used car rental company, to even repossessing them and selling them at local car auctions. After the economy took a hit after 9/11, I was laid off, and decided to take a career change and go into the medical field. I was still into cars, just no longer around them every day.

I met my mechanic fiancé three years ago. After putting my interest in cars aside for quite a few years because my significant others were not as interested as me, it was nice to be able to have something in common that I really enjoyed.  Being about ten years younger than I am, most of his car interest was in tuners. Tuners are ok, but I would rather take a 1969 Chevelle SS over anything in a “Fast and Furious” movie any day. His group of 20 something friends were also part of the tuner crowd, so him owning a Honda Civic made sense. This all seemed to change once one of his friends decided to go the muscle car route and get a 1969 Nova.

From the moment my fiancé saw the Nova, I had a feeling he was hooked on muscle cars. He started spending a lot of time on Craigslist searching for a car that he could restore. After quite a few months with no success, either due to the condition of the car or the price, he came across a 1981 Camaro not far from where we lived. It looked pretty good in the pictures, and the price of $1,800 for a car that ran was a big plus. We arranged to go look at it. We found out it was the typical story, his wife did not like the car and wanted him to get rid of it, so his loss was our gain.  The car looked good from the start, besides a flat tire and a battery that needed help starting the car.  For being an Ohio car, it only had a small amount of rust, not something you normally see on a car of that vintage. Whoever had owned the vehicle prior to the seller was turning it into a racecar, and did not do the greatest job I might add. The entire dash was gutted out besides the fuel gauge and speedometer, including all the vents, glove box, climate control s and the radio. The original floor mats in good condition made up for this however. The rest of the interior was in very good shape, so the prospect of having to replace the dash was not a problem.

Under the hood, the prior owner had replaced the original motor with what we thought and were told was a 350 small block. There were quite a few modifications including the addition of an electric fan and a nitrous oxide system, which became the beginning of the thorn in my butt. They replaced the air cleaner with an intake, which looked ok until you realized it was a little crooked and had a horrible rattle. They had replaced the hood to include a scoop to allow room for the intake, but the bodywork was done very poorly, so it needed to be fixed or replaced. Overall the car ran good, the transmission worked and there did not appear to be any major leaks. After a test drive and more inspection of the car, we decided it was a good deal and decided to buy it. My fiancé drove it home and around the neighborhood and aside from the air shocks being low, it looked like we had a good start to having a nice car to cruise in and show off in the warm months.

We decided to transfer the title into my name, as insurance companies are usually not so forgiving to 29-year-old single men that are buying muscle cars. I called the insurance company to get a quote and they advised me it qualified for classic car coverage.  With a cost of $53 a year, it sounded like a great deal, so I had her send out all the paperwork to complete to get it put on my policy. Little did I know that this would be the start of an enormous pain in the neck I still have not completely taken care of. Filling out the application, it seemed basic, until I reached the modifications section, with bold letters underneath it of the pictures required for the policy. I drove out to the insurance company with the completed application, emailed photos and $55 in cash to pay for the policy for a year. I walked out the door not thinking anything of it, just that I had one less worry. Wow, was I wrong.

A week or so later my insurance agent emailed me to inform me that they were cancelling my policy for “too many modifications”. No one could tell me what that meant, but the policy was being cancelled and my premium was being returned. I got online and started searching for insurance companies, and found it unusually easy to find another company that would insure the Camaro. It was only until they received pictures that all was well. I was finally told by one of the customer service people at one of the companies that I should call a company that specializes in classic car insurance. I changed directions and started searching for these types of companies, and was denied by every one of them. I did not understand the problem, I had no points on my license, and I was contacting the right type of insurance company for what I needed.

After almost two months of trying to get insurance, someone finally filled me in on the problem, the nitrous oxide system. I did not realize that the reason they wanted pictures was to look for that bright blue NOS control under the hood, among other things. At this point, I was given two choices, remove the NOS system and prove that I did through an invoice from a certified mechanic, or get drag racing insurance. Living with a mechanic I assumed that he could take the system out and it would then qualify for insurance, again, I was wrong. Without an invoice from a certified shop, not involved with my fiancé, or myself it still would not qualify. I checked into drag racing insurance, which would run somewhere around $1,000 a year, which was more than I pay for homeowner’s insurance, so that was out of the question as well.

As the Camaro is now somewhat dismantled in the garage, and coming to find out that it actually a 400 small block, the whole insurance fiasco has been put on hold. I spoke to my insurance company a few weeks ago, and they have offered to come out and actually inspect the vehicle once it is put back together minus the nitrous oxide system and they will issue me a policy on the spot.

If you are in the market for a classic or muscle car, whether it is restored or not, talk to your insurance company BEFORE you decide to make a purchase. Make sure that you are clear on what makes a vehicle uninsurable by a normal insurance company, and if you are buying a racecar, make sure that you have contacted the right kind of insurance company that will meet your needs. The internet is a great place to start to find an insurance company that will help you out and get you on the right track, and do not be afraid to ask questions. Being educated about car insurance can help no matter what kind of car you own, doing some research into auto insurance is definitely the way to make sure that you will not end up in my situation. I hope that I have been able to help you out and start you off on the right direction to easily insure everything you own.

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