What an age we live in, never before has so much information been readily available. The internet has provided us enthusiasts many enjoyable hours of banter, motoring help and support. Almost everything is now available online – but this has meant that we are less reliant on paper-based documents.
I’m somewhat old fashioned as I have said many times before, I would always prefer a CD to a downloadable track on my iPhone, I would always prefer as paper statement to an online one. For me, it provides a sense of security and is permanent – things can change, evolve or vanish from online records and data storage facilities; this is not quite so easy when you have a physical and permanent object in your possession. When we take this view into the arena of car history it is reality easy and inexpensive to have the history of a car checked in a matter of minutes; it will provide everything from the number of owners, recorded accident damage or even any previous advisories on MOTs. Further, forums and such allow buyers to avoid cars which have unrecorded damage; a reason why two years ago, I set-up an offline and thorough record of almost all of the 129 Porsche 996 GT2s of which only 105 remain in the UK. Almost 20% of cars have suffered some sort of accident with varying amounts of damage. All this would have been much more difficult or impossible without the use of resources and ease of communication available from what is essentially the double-clicking of an internet icon.
Invoice for £7210: My Porsche Carrera had an engine rebuild, but without this piece of paper, no one would ever know
All this data is rather vague in the grand scheme of things; it can be limited in some instances and only can go into so much detail. For instance, last year one particular customer of mine requested information on a specific 996 GT2 – I was able to send him images of the car from the last few years together with some data showing that the car suffered from minor front, off-side damage. This however could not accurately show how the owner cared for the car.
Porsche GT2 Invoice: Nothing online or offline supplies the level of detail that this 6 page invoice for my old Porsche GT2 provides
A paper-trail of a cars history is often a much better method of gauging this; of the 5 cars I have owned in two years almost all have every invoice available. The service record which often consists of a stamp, date and mileage paints a rather vague image. The invoices are much more detailed; I know for a fact that my Porsche Carrera spent 5 years living on the road in Central London, covering about 500 miles per annum and serviced every year. Another invoice showed that £9,000 or thereabout was spent on an engine overhaul by a respected independent specialist. A note on the invoice stated that despite there being no immediate problem with the car, a bottom end ticking noise was concerning the owner. For me, this portrayed the owner to be a cautious, careful owner who was not afraid of spending money on the upkeep of her car. A car history check or similar has never had the capacity to paint such a picture and for the foreseeable future, I doubt it will.
The classic Ferrari 355 which is the latest addition
It has become apparent though, in my more recent searches for other cars; fewer people are keeping invoices, receipts and old MOTs on the basis that almost all of this information is available online and the majority of non-enthusiasts will never request such material. This new age of technology has ruined the experience of buying a second hand car. A more recent experience for me explains why invoices are so crucial: I was in the process of buying a certain Italian car for a customer, the service book remained largely unstamped, though the car came supplied with a folder of invoices showing a completely different side to the cars history. Without this stack of paper, the car would look like it had been neglected – rather the car was sent to a main dealer on a yearly basis for an inspection and repair to anything that needed it – not necessarily a service.
Ferrari Invoice: More than just a stamp in the service book – the Ferrari was overhauled after some time in a private collection
With this in mind, I wanted to ask you, the Retro and Classic Cars audience what your opinion is on keeping invoices alive.