We told you a few days ago about the Corvette “owner” who had to surrender his beloved 1964 Sting Ray because unbeknownst to him, it had actually been stolen from the original owner some 40 years earlier.
Now, an attorney/writer from Michigan named Steve Lehto is giving his take on the unfortunate legalities of such situations in a story just posted on roadandtrack.com.
It’s a long article, but the overall lesson boils down to a simple one: Let the buyer beware.
Writes Lehto: “How to avoid such a situation? Easy. Before you buy a collector car of this sort, do your homework. If you are not an expert on the car you are buying, find someone who is and ask them to check the car out for you. It’s called an ‘inspection.’ Some attorneys on the internet mention this from time to time. Most people assume the inspection is for mechanical issues but part of it should always involve checking the VINs under the car against the one under the windshield.”
That didn’t happen in the case of the 1964 Corvette that had been purchased by the purported owner’s wife for him many years ago from a now-defunct dealer. We’d be willing to bet this woman never even thought about the possibility of the car being stolen, being that she was buying it in what she assumed to be a legitimate transaction at the time.
Lehto points out that a thief cannot transfer title to a car he has stolen. “If I stole it, I do not own it. So, if you ‘buy’ a car from a thief, you are not acquiring title to the car even if you gain possession of it,” Lehto writes. “And, even if you get a Certificate of Title to the car, you still do not have ‘legal’ title to the car. This point confuses many people but the Certificate of Title is merely a piece of paper showing you who the state THINKS is the owner of the car.”
Who knows how many other stolen vehicles are still out there with what their owners believe to be legitimate titles? The 1964 Corvette mentioned was only discovered because the “owner” took it to a car show where someone else noticed that the VIN didn’t match the model of the car. It turned out that the VIN had been taken from an Impala and reattached to this Corvette. Because VINs are placed in other locations on the car, authorities were able to determine that the Corvette had actually been reported stolen in 1976. Bad news for the person who thought he had owned the car for decades, but good news for the original victim of the theft.
Again, we repeat, let the lesson for others in the hunt for their dream Corvette be this: Do your due diligence and make sure your car is what it seems and don’t become a victim, too.
[STOLEN] 1964 Corvette Recovered after 40 Years and Returned to Original Owner
[STOLEN] Two People Arrested After 1963 Corvette Sting Ray is Recovered in Montana
[STOLEN] 1976 Corvette Placed on a U-Haul is Recovered in Calgary