Agreed Value?

Hopefully you will share my view concerning my experiences with "classic car agreed-value motor insurance" and will pass on via your letters page the quite outrageous situation I find myself in.

In the early Sixties I purchased, from a well-known racing driver, a HWM fitted with a Jaguar Type C. engine. In 1983 this car was comprehensively rebuilt over a ten-month period by a professional racing engineer. A fully detailed receipt for all the works carried out was produced by him and clearly, upon examination of the car, all that was listed had been done.

Shortly afterwards, the car was insured on an "agreed-value" policy with a "reputable" insurance company. This value was established thus: I read through all the magazines in which similar cars had been sold, and established an average sale price. I then proposed this average figure to the insurers, who had the car examined and then agreed it.

Five months later, whilst in transit to a show, the car and its transporter were stolen. Months of enquiry followed, including investigations by three police forces, loss adjusters and even the Department of Health and Social Security. Without my knowledge, even my private bank accounts were examined, and extensive enquiries made regarding me. My claim was rejected by the insurers.

Solicitors were therefore instructed to pursue my claim through the High Court. It transpired that the insurers are not prepared to honour the contract for two reasons: 1. That the car was not worth its agreed value. 2. That I had failed in my duty to supply all material facts known to me.

During the car's rebuild, its engine had been totally rebuilt using the serviceable parts from its old engine, together with some from another Jaguar engine of the same vintage and some brand new parts. All this was listed on the receipt from the builder, but the insurers claim this rebuilt engine is now non-original, and the car has a lower value because of it. They also claim the receipt did not reach them. An inter-office memo discovered by the police in one of their files, however, clearly indicates that the insurers had recieved from me, together with the proposal form and the required photographs of the car, a bill from a restoration company. The insurers cannot now, for some reason, produce this, but only a photocopy which they claim is fraudulent.

Over the past two years this matter had been listed for a hearing in the High Court on four occasions. On the first the papers submitted by my counsel were "lost" by the court. On the last three listings the hearing has been cancelled "by the courts" days before the matter was due to be heard. The costs involved are huge, and furthermore there is always the considerable possibility in civil law that even the strongest case can fail on a mere technicality—should a judge, for example, consider that my rebuilt engine is not original. Sadly then a precedent would be set, and every old car I know of would become uninsured overnight.

If on the other hand my explanation were accepted by the courts, the insurers would still only have to pay the agreed value plus the interest on same. Since my car was stolen, car values have escalated, one similar to mine recently being offered at two-and-a-half times the insured value. Should I have won my claim today, then what the insurers would have to pay to me would only be a deposit on a replacement.

I believe we have a duty to inform all owners of this dreadful business, just to let them know what they could be up against in the sad event of them damaging or losing their car.

T Wright, Great Moulton, Norfolk