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All’s well that ends well: Marc’s classic Cadillac crash

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Marc Gassmann has owned more than 40 cars, and he’s an expert at restoring old classics, but he panicked when his Cadillac was damaged. He thought to himself, “What if the insurance company has no idea about classics?” 

As a child, Marc thought the cars in his parents’ garage were amazing. He didn’t just grow up loving cars, he was also a naturally gifted mechanic. After trying his hand with bicycles in his youth, he started working on mopeds and later moved to cars. “I had my driving test done and dusted less than three weeks after my 18th birthday,” he recalls with a cheeky grin. 

The accident and the big worry

However, even skilled mechanics like Marc face a major challenge when it comes to accident damage, and that’s why May 19, 2020 is a date he won’t forget in a hurry. He was sitting comfortably behind the wheel of his beloved ’94 Cadillac Fleetwood (stock specification with rear-wheel drive and a Corvette engine), when all of a sudden another car drove into the right-hand side. Luckily, neither driver was injured, but the impact shifted the bumper of Marc’s treasured classic 5 cm to the right and bent it out of shape. It also damaged the fenders, wheels, and chrome trim. 

This caused a bit of a panic as spare parts for an American car from the ’90s are very hard to come by. What’s more, Marc wasn’t to blame for the accident, so the other driver’s liability insurance had to sort out the damage. He thought to himself, “What if the other insurance company has no idea about classics?” He didn’t want his car fixed with any old parts, only ones that fit the Cadillac’s unique style perfectly would do. 

By a stroke of luck, like Marc, the driver who caused the crash was also insured with AXA, and vehicle expert Mario Wälty also restores classics in his spare time. “We’re all classic car enthusiasts in our department, and it’s important for us to understand exactly how our customers think,” he explains. 

“AXA finds an individual repair solution for every classic car because each claim is different.”

Mario Wälty, AXA vehicle expert

Claims handling and most common causes

Whenever a claim is made on vintage motor vehicle insurance, an AXA vehicle specialist inspects the car at the repair shop and then discusses how to proceed with the customer. Personal contact and advice are extremely important.

The most common causes of claims among classic car owners are: 

  • Bodywork damage – just as for normal cars. The big difference is that getting hold of spare parts and fitting them is a much more complex task that requires specialist know-how. 
  • Water damage – a risk that’s often underestimated: an underground garage is flooded, damaging a classic that’s parked there. It’s vital here to avoid compounding the damage – on no account should you try to start the engine. 
  • Fire damage – rare, lovingly restored classics are valuable, so they’re usually kept inside a building. If that building catches fire, the car could be damaged or even destroyed.

Turning a passion into a career

So how does a young tinkerer become an expert at restoring classic cars? After studying economics at high school, Marc dreamed of making a living out of car restoration. He soon got a job at the renowned firm Lukas Hüni AG, which specializes in selling and servicing classics. Over 20 years later, aged 40, he still works there and loves it as much as ever, but he also runs werkstatt 8133 in Egg (canton of Zurich) together with some friends, and he spends all his free time working on his own cars there. 

“After months of tinkering, when the car looks exactly how I imagined, it’s the best feeling.”

Marc Gassmann on “tinkering” at werkstatt 8133

But what happened to the Cadillac?

Despite the accident, it was still roadworthy. It’s taking longer than usual to get the spare parts from the US because of the coronavirus crisis, but they should all arrive by the end of the year. “We didn’t need to provide much expert advice for this claim because Marc Gassmann knew exactly where to go for each specific part,” says Mario Wälty. Other customers, meanwhile, are very grateful for his advice because finding and fitting spare parts can be such a complicated process. 

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