The Dirty Side of the Hobby – Fake Pedigree & Provenance

Forgeries and fakes have long been the scourge of the collector car hobby. This practice has continued thanks to many “entrepreneurs” who have established businesses selling “reproduction” tags and paperwork for older vehicles. Reproduction however would imply that it is a replica of the original but actually the term “reproduction” in this sense usually means counterfeit.

In the Corvette, Chevelle and Camaro market “aged” build sheets or tank sheets, made to order, to your specifications, have long been available. The number of counterfeiters who forge historical vehicle documents and paperwork is very concerning. Sham documents have been openly advertised for nearly two decades in Hemmings Motor News, eBay, Craigslist and on the internet. Some of this fake paperwork is so doctored that it actually smells old or in the case of Corvette tank sheets like gasoline. Of course if you interview any of the outfits that create these items you would quickly be told that they are novelty items. All too often, however, people are deceived by the very existence of this fake paperwork and lulled into a sense of security when viewing such a vehicle which may be for sale under the mistaken guise that it has pedigree and provenance, to wit, the counterfeit documentation.

An additional problem is that of “air cars” (cars created from “thin air” with nothing more than a VIN). With counterfeit documents, air cars are immediately given credence and pedigree. In additional to fake window stickers, build sheets, FMVSS stickers, Corvette Order Copy (“Tank Sticker”) there are also forgers out there that make new VIN tags, cowl tags, trim tags and others that offer the proper rivets or screws to affix the fake tags.

One method of outing some of the fakes in the hobby has been recently introduced.  A service of the National Corvette Restorer’s Society (NCRS) which tells owners when their cars were built and where they were delivered new has the potential for exposing several fraudulently presented classic Chevys. With the information provided by the NCRS, hobbyists will be able to verify their car’s paperwork, VIN number and cowl/trim tag to make sure that it all connects properly.

With the “birthday” of a car known, you can make sure that the VIN is consistent with that month of production and that the engine production stamping precedes the cars build date. Also with this information, you can determine if the assembly week code on the trim tag is consistent with the date given by the NCRS. Finally, if the vehicle has “paperwork” or a window sticker (or build sheet) the dealership should match that or be reasonably close in vicinity (e.g. same zone — dealer trades) to the dealership provided by the NCRS. If any of this information does not match or if the birthday of the car does not correlate to the VIN, engine stamping or cowl tag, then you have major problems. If the information does not match, it is wise to investigate the car carefully and, if necessary, hire and expert to examine the vehicle for signs of further molestation and restamping.

If you find that the vehicle you own is a clone or has doctored paperwork, a tampered VIN, restamped engine, transmission or replacement VIN tag, cowl tag or trim tag, you should immediately contact an attorney to learn about your legal rights and what recourse and options you may have.

 Attorney Bryan W. Shook is not only a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market and protect their automotive investments. Attorney Bryan W. Shook is a seasoned automotive collector and restorer and as such brings real world experience and firsthand knowledge to the table for his clients throughout the world. Although Bryan Shook is headquartered in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania (close proximity to Carlisle and Hershey), Attorney Bryan Shook is available anywhere for consultation, advice, and information, most times, on as short as a day’s notice. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at BShook@dplglaw.com or by phone at 717-975-9446.  More information can be found at Http://www.vintagecarlaw.com.

-by Brian W. Shook, Esq - Vintage Automotive, LLC or Vintage Car Law.Com

-May 1, 2014