“Let the buyer beware” is no more important than when someone is buying a classic car like, say, a C2 Corvette.
That’s the takeaway from a recent story in the New York Post detailing how counterfeit carmakers are scamming enthusiasts of all brands of collector cars.
The story cites the example of Mike Craig, who suffered the ultimate embarrassment for a Corvette enthusiast when he was told by NCRS officials at the Midwest meet in Missouri in 2013 that his beloved 1967 Corvette 427 was a fake.
“They told me to take the car off the show floor,” the 76-year-old Craig recalled. “I had to load it onto the trailer and leave like a thief in the night. It was embarrassing.”
Craig wound up losing $100 grand on the car, counting the costs of a failed lawsuit. He eventually sold the Corvette, in which he had invested $117,000, for just $55,000 to a buyer who knew what he was getting.
Not everyone knows they’re being hoodwinked, however.
Legendary Corvette restorer Kevin Mackay of Corvette Repair in Valley Stream, N.Y., says it’s easy for unscrupulous shops to get the parts to turn an ordinary car into what appears to be a much more valuable classic.
“This is big business,” Mackay said. “You start with, say, a low-end 1967 Corvette and buy it for $30,000. Put in a big-block motor that was built a couple of months before the car’s body and restamp the serial number on the engine [so it matches the car]. You put the hood-stripe on, change some of the suspension pieces, the rear end, the tachometer, the oil-pressure gauge.”
Even what appears to be a well-documented car can sometimes turn out to be a fake, the Post reports.
Vintage car attorney Bryan W. Shook of Pennsylvania recalls the case of a very rare 1960s Chevelle SS. His client paid $100,000 for the car, then sought to determine the rarity of the car. “He hired an expert who (said), ‘The paperwork is real. The car is fake.'”
Apparently the documentation for another Chevelle that had been totaled had been purchased by the seller, who then made up a car to match that paperwork.
Such scams even happen to wealthy car enthusiasts like comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Last month, he was sued over the 2016 sale of a 1958 Porsche Carrera GT for $1.54 million that was apparently not the real deal. Seinfeld has, in turn, sued the dealer who originally sold him the car.
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