Classic Car Fraud - Part 2 - Legimate Copies

Garagistry contributor and adviser, David Burroughs, founded three of the leading vehicle evaluation services in the US.  His credentials are well-known among Corvette owners, as well as those seeking to have a vehicle certified as genuine 'Survivor' vehicle.  As such, David has been a leading voice to collectors of historically significant vehicles how they can maintain, repair, refurbish and restore a vehicle without unnecessary risk or damage to the vehicle’s underlying value.

David is also the leading advocate for classic car owners of all makes, models and vintage to permanently document their vehicle as a means to curb the all too frequent falsification of a vehicle's damage history or the fabrication of a false narrative of a vehicle's historic significance.  Today, such documentation might not seem to be critically important to the seller, but tomorrow it could be priceless to a buyer.


Can you tell which Porsche 911 is authentic?
Left: A '93 Porsche 911 RS                                                                                             Right: A '93 Porsche 911
See the answer below
Take most vehicles; add some authentic parts, some elbow grease and an ordinary classic car could be transformed into a rare collector version. After all, it is possible to increase the value of a 911 Porsche more than four-time with the use of authentic replacement parts resulting in a high-performance RS version. Ever wonder if the Boss 302 Mustang next to you in traffic is a real 302. Or questioned whether the marvelous '57 Belair you saw at a recent car show was a "genuine" original? Hard to tell at times, isn't it...

So, what's the difference between a 'legitimate' copy and a 'replica kit' and a counterfeit classic

Some may argue a "copy" of anything is hard to justify as "legitimate".  As the basis of our discussion is fraud and counterfeit presentation of classic vehicles, we're going to consider the fine point of a "legitimate copy".  


Let's take the subject of legitimate replacement parts. This is not a discussion of parts authorized as "genuine replacement" by an auto manufacturer.  Rather, we're discussing the use of replacement parts that could be used to transform a vehicle into something it originally never was.
On the positive side of the issue: "legitimate" replacement parts and their use enable owners of classic vehicles to extend the the usable life and enjoyment of their classic with the the replacement of worn, damaged or faulty body parts.

Steel reproduction body parts have made possible to continuation and growth of the hot rod and classic car marketplace.  They permit the replacement of hard-to-find original sheetmetal components with new, rust-free steel parts with a better fit and finish capability than the originals. These new parts are manufactured as exact duplicates of the originals but may often incorporate modern updates which result in offering parts that are more functional while retaining the appearance of the original.

Therefore, when maintaining the original integrity of a vehicle is the objective and when repair, refurbishment of restoration is needed, the use of legitimate copy/replacement parts is not a question. The use of such parts does not change the vehicle into something it was not prior to the work and clearly has no intent to misrepresent or mislead anyone.

On the negative side: using reproduction parts could enable an owner to convert their vehicle into a "wanna be"...

For example: the very rare 1965 Z16 Chevelle was built in GM's Baltimore plant and represented 200 production units. As of today, approximately 75 of the original Z16's have been accounted for.

Although instances have been recorded where '65 Chevelle owners attempted to present their vehicle as a Z16, it was generally a very difficult task due to the unavailability of a genuine GM Z16's unique trim and equipment.  But, with the availability of reproduction trim and equipment offered in the aftermarket, buyers should be aware of the authenticity documents needed to support the purchase of any "newly found" '65 Z16.


Bryan A. Shook, an attorney with a specialized interest in the Collector Car Market, has excellent credentials concerning classic car fraud and counterfeit vehicles. With much appreciation for his body of work, Mr. Shook defines a vehicle that has been "rebodied" as a vehicle whose original factory body has been replaced with a "donor" body.

He explains the donor body is then given the original body's VIN number, data card, trim tag, cowl tag, etc. Unfortunately, some sellers do not possess the best of ethics and values, and selling a rebodied vehicle to an unsuspecting buyer as the original, "real deal" automobile. One guess who gets left holding the bag when problems arise...

Shook further explains that multiple legal issues are involved with rebodied vehicles. Such as:
  • Was the buyer notified of the rebody work at time of purchase?
  • Were police agencies notified of the rebody work where required by local laws & regulations?
  • Did the seller provide two (2) Certificate of Titles - one from the donor car and one representing the rebodied vehicle?
  • Was evidence the original body was destroyed provided?
Without the safeguards outlined, Shook advises the "owner" of a rebodied vehicle can not be sure the purchased vehicle truly belongs to them.  If you have a rebodied classic vehicle, and do not possess the minimum documentation Shook advises, you may have one or more serious issues to deal with.  That's time to contact expert legal assistance to help resolve your problems.

Answer:  The "Left" vehicle is indeed a Porsche.  But underneath it is a 1993 964 Carrera - it is not a genuine 1991 911 RS.  The Vehicle on the "Right" is a genuine '91 Porsche 911

To read PART 1 of this series, click here