By Bill Crowley, Chubb & Son
Few things say “vintage” like the feel and smell of a collectible car’s luxuriant leather seats—assuming they’re not being eaten away by mold. Even newer vehicles with leather interiors are susceptible to the destructive fungus, which also poses potential health risks to drivers.
Owners of vintage automobiles and expensive sports cars, should note, however, that mold is often not covered under most, if not all, insurance policies. If your vehicle’s interior starts to rot away, it’s on your dime. And as we all know, leather seats, wool carpets and door panels made of leather or other natural fabrics are expensive to buy, tough to find, and bound to become pricier and more elusive.
On the bright side, mold and its fungi cousin, mildew, both of which spring from spores, can be eradicated before they cause harm. The key culprits in their formation are moisture and the passage of time. Fungi thrive in warm, damp environments—hence, keeping storage areas dry and cool is the best ways to reduce the threat of mold. Obviously, a garage with leaking pipes—even those with a dawdling drip, drip, drip—creates more risk than just mold. Painted exteriors can be damaged, and if the moisture enters the vehicle, a wooden dashboard can warp.
A storage facility that is ship-shape today also can develop moisture-related problems down the line. That’s why it is advisable not to leave vehicles unattended for long periods of time. One of the worst claims for moisture damage that I recall came from a collector of several Bentley and Rolls-Royce automobiles from the 1920s and 1930s. This was prior to the insurance industry’s adoption of coverage exclusions for mold. The leased facility’s roof had a minor leak, but because the owner let months slip by before visiting the premises, the mold had proliferated to the point where the damage was irreversible. Had he stopped by on a regular basis, mold remediation would have been possible.
The goal with mold is to kill it early. Even better is to prevent it. If you are getting a phenomenal deal on a garage space, you should question why. Hire a licensed inspector to ferret out possible water leaks and to measure moisture in the air. A building that feels like a New York City subway station in summer is a veritable mold feasting ground. A building that is climate-controlled, on the other hand, will restrict the fungi’s formation. A constant temperature at low humidity is ideal, as is making periodic visits to the storage site to ensure all is well.
A couple other tips—protect a car’s paintjob with high-quality wax, and on those occasions when the vehicle is stored outside, wrap it in a quality car cover to block ultraviolet rays and reduce heat-related damage, in addition to moisture.
About the Author – Bill Crowley has been racing cars since his late teens and has restored several vintage British automobiles. Today, he owns an open-cockpit D Sports Racer and regularly competes at Watkins Glen International and other tracks. For the past 34 years, Bill’s “day job” has been at Chubb & Son, a leading insurer of valuable vintage vehicles and other collectible cars for more than four decades. As its worldwide automobile claim manager, he has seen his share of unusual losses—insured and uninsured. As someone who knows cars inside out, he has unique insight and singular wisdom on how to avoid them. Visit www.chubbcollectorcar.com for more information about classic car insurance.
Great info, but for us collectors and restorers, how do we resolve / remove the mold issue internally?
Please include links or suggestions other than humidity control for storage etc.
A nearby service company treated my car interior with an ozone generator overnight. The mold/mildew has not returned so far for five years.