Buying a classic car can be difficult, especially if you’ve never bought one before. There are so many counterfeit versions and replicas on the market that telling the difference between a real classic, and a fake one seems like it would take a professional eye.
But fortunately, that’s not the case. At least, if you know what to look for, it won’t be. Several reliable ways exist to spot a counterfeit among the classics and make the most informed and legitimate purchase possible.
Take a look at a list of different things to look out for when going classic car shopping to ensure that the vehicle you buy is original.
With the market for quality classics increasing all the time, knowing this kind of information is useful for just about everyone. Let’s put the pedal to the metal.
5 Ways To Identify A Counterfeit Classic Car Like A Pro
There’s no denying that classic cars are amongst the coolest vehicles around. Their history, design, and authentic feel make them truly unique and remarkable machines.
Who wouldn’t want to drive downtown in a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT like Ferris Bueller or zoom down a high in a 1973 Ford Falcon GT like the characters from Mad Max? Perhaps you dream of winding round curved French mountains in a Citroën DS.
These are all great aspirations, but chances are you’re a few steps away from making them a reality, and the first one is learning how to distinguish a real classic from a fake one.
Sadly, the counterfeit car market is big, but through educating people about what makes a real classic unique, shady manufacturing and sales can be averted. Here are five top tips and tricks for identifying counterfeit classics.
1. Find out the car’s VIN number or RPO code
Knowing a car’s VIN (Vehicle Identity Number) is a great way to verify its authenticity and learn important information about its history, condition, and buying potential. An RPO (Regular Production Option) code helps you understand vehicle options and modifications.
However, it’s the VIN you really want to pay attention to when it comes to sorting the counterfeits from the classics.
It can tell you when and where the car was manufactured, which are both primary pieces of information to know when determining if the vehicle is a fake.
You can also use the VIN to track its history and find out other insights that could alter the validity of the car. So make sure to ask your seller for it before making any purchase decisions.
2. The car is claimed as “never restored”
Older classics that have never been restored in any way are extremely rare—almost unheard of. This becomes more true the older it gets. If a seller claims that a classic older than 20 years is 100% original and has never seen a replacement or restoration process, chances are it’s a fake.
Classic cars that have lived a lifetime are likely to have seen some restoration or fixes, especially if they are being resold in a current setting, and that’s completely fine.
3. Ask for the paperwork
Similarly to a vehicle’s VIN, its paperwork will be able to provide you with a lot of information about its history, place of origin, sales transactions, and any modifications that may have happened along the way.
Unfortunately, fake paperwork is not very difficult to fabricate, but the seller would have to be extremely thorough in order to get all the details right.
If you’re serious about buying, always ask for the paperwork and use what you find to inform your purchase decision.
4. Do your research
All of the above tips are great for navigating the twisty path of counterfeit classic car sales, but all of them will be much more useful to you with a bit of background info. Doing intensive research on the model you are looking at or interested in is a great start.
It is also useful to know what kind of classic car models are most frequently counterfeited, so you can know to be extra careful when inspecting one. Some of the most common fakes are:
- 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 – as one of the most popular classics in the world, it’s no wonder that the Shelby Cobra is also one of the most replicated.
- 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder – as the car that James Dean drove to his death, many people have tried to replicate this classic beauty.
- 250 GT Ferrari California Spyder – AKA the Ferris Bueller car, this Ferrari exploded with popularity in 1986, a phenomenon that led to a boom in cheap replicas.
5. The seller claims the car has celebrity provenance
While the notion of buying a classic that was owned or driven by someone like Led Zeppelin or Pierce Brosnan may be exciting, it’s the kind of thing a seller who’s trying to shift a counterfeit model might say to speed up the buying process.
Classic cars with real connections to famous people are not likely to wind up in a random garage. So remember to stay grounded and not get carried away by glamorous stories.
When it comes down to it, knowing how to spot a counterfeit classic car is about understanding a bit of car history, knowing your history, and using common sense. Plus, learning about cars is fun, and if it saves you from buying a counterfeit classic, even better.
Ride Off In An Original
Buying a classic car is a milestone moment for anyone who loves cars.
The abundance of counterfeit classics in the automobile industry is a sad reality, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to avoid them.
Buying a fake isn’t just a financial rip-off, it can also mean needing to buy fake parts, which puts both your car and its passengers at risk of an accident.
When going classic car shopping (even if it’s just window shopping), use the tips and tricks you learned here today to guide you. You’ll be wiser, safer, and better off when you hand over your cash and get behind the wheel.