Answer: Determining if a car is a “survivor” is more of an art than a science. There is no scale of 1-10 in which anything above an 8 would be a “survivor” although it would be nice if there was one. Many factors have to be taken into consideration, and the two most important are the condition and the collectability of the individual car. To illustrate this, let’s look at two cars in identical condition.
Both cars have 45,000 original miles and have been sitting outdoors for twenty years, but they are in good condition. They are entirely original with the exception of consumables such as tires, battery, belts, hoses, etc. Both cars still have their original paint in good condition, but both have rust in the lower quarter panels. Both cars retain their original interiors which show ordinary wear and tear but are usable. Both cars run and drive and have their original matching numbers drivetrains, but the engines and transmissions need to be rebuilt.
The first car is a 1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger which in the condition described above would be considered a “survivor” and would likely be worth at least $100,000. The second car is a 1970 Dodge Dart and would be considered a “parts car” and would likely have no value at all.
As illustrated above, “survivor” is a subjective term. Most cars considered “survivors” retain at minimum the original paint, interior, and drivetrain. The condition is good at the very least, and usually very good to excellent. However, as is also illustrated above, as the collectability of the car increases, flaws in the condition are likely to be forgiven. This is what makes identifying a “survivor” an art.