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Rebodies: What’s The Big Deal???

JUNE 29, 2012 - Bryan W. Shook - VintageCarLaw.Com

I’ve been getting quite a few calls lately seeking information on re-bodied vehicles.  The term “rebody” is a term of art used throughout our hobby to denote a vehicle whose original factory body has been replaced with another “donor” body.  The donor body is then given the original body’s VIN, serial number, data card, trim tag, cowl tag, etc. and then usually and most unfortunately sold to an unsuspecting buyer as the original, real deal automobile.  This problem is complicated when the rebodied car is an “air car” which did not exist prior to the rebody.  Specifically what happens is someone dreams up a car or has the paperwork from a desirable car and makes it from “thin air” using the donor body as the starting point.  All of a sudden, the car has pedigree, provenance and history if the builder can dream up a good enough story.  This is problematic as you can plainly see.

Photo: Salvage Autos Auction

There are several legal issues when it comes to a rebodied automobile.  The most important issue is whether or not the rebody was disclosed to you when you purchased the vehicle.  If the rebody was not disclosed to you how can it be said you negotiated with the seller on equal footing.  Another issue comes from the fact that rarely are rebodys done properly.  Were the police notified of the body replacement as required under some state laws?  Did the seller give you two Certificates of Titles?  (Remember the best bodies come from good cars and in today’s day and age, good cars get restored … was the body stolen and the subject vehicle the product of a “chop shop”)  Did the seller give you photographs of the original body to evidence the condition of the original body?  Do you have confirmation that the original body has been destroyed? (This is usually where the State Police come in as this is where the stories start about two cars registered under the same VIN)

Without the safeguards outlined above, you can never been shore that the vehicle you purchased truly belongs to you.  Under the law you would have a breach of the warranty of title claim if any third party were to ever come after you claiming you own the body to their car.  The problem is  that if you know the car has been rebodied and you can’t provide the above information to a new purchaser you could be just as liable as the seller who sold the car to you should you not disclose what you know to a prospective purchaser.

If you have a rebodied car or think you do, this is a serious matter.  Rebodied cars can be nearly unsaleable and always have questions.  There was way to rectify the situation and there are ways to unwind the transaction which unknowingly left you with the rebody.  In any event, please call me and we can discuss your options and to what extent your car may have been rebodied.

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@shooklegal.com or by phone at 717-884-9010.  More information can be found at http://www.vintagecarlaw.com.