Classic Car Fraud and Scams

Classic Car Fraud

The main frauds and classic car scams come with the high value and rare models. One specific classic car scam to look out for is with the Ford Cortina Mk1. Unscrupulous dealers and individuals have been known to ‘convert’ ordinary Mk1 Cortinas into the GT or Lotus versions.

For the GT, check the VIP (vehicle identification plate). If it hasn’t been tampered with, somewhere you should find the code 118E (or 119E if you are looking at a left hand drive model). For pre-1965 models, the actual vehicle number should begin with a Z which indicates it was built at Dagenham. This is followed by either 77 or 78, depending on whether it is a two or four door Cortina GT Mk1.

From Jan 1965 the system changed. I am not so sure of the full story here but the start letters for Dagenham became BA and the subsequent numbers are 96 and 97, although they were used for the Mk2 1600 models.

With the Lotus Cortina, if someone offers you a 4 door, then it is a fake. Only 2 door versions were produced. On the VIP you should find 125E (Mk1, built at Cheshunt)or 3020E for a Dagenham built vehicle. Mk1 Lotus Cortinas will have the body type number of 74 and 91 if a MkII. For a MkII, the engine type will be identified with either H or P/Y. There are other small clues such as the modifications made to the rear suspension and boot floor to accommodate the changes and of course the battery location. In the Lotus Cortina it was in the boot so look for signs of removal of the battery tray from the engine compartment.

Either way. if you are buying a Ford Cortina GT or Lotus, you would be best to take and expert with you … unless of course you are an expert yourself!

The ‘overpayment scam’ isn’t just limited to classic cars. This one works agains you if you are a seller. The prospective buyer sends you a cheque with the amount for shipping, which is far too much. You are then asked to cash the cheque and refund the overpayment, which you do as soon as you see the cheque ‘clear’ into your account after a few days. The problem is that a cheque doesn’t really clear that quickly, it can take several weeks for it to be discovered to be a dud. So if you receive a cheque as payment for your classic car, make sure that the cheque is not a fraud by staying in close contact with your bank until it is confirmed that it is genuine.

Information on a similar classic car buying scam through PayPal at

An informative article about how you can avoid classic car fraud by Tom E Doyle, a classic car inspector and valuer

As the value of classic cars increase the classic car fraud and fraudsters have become more sophisticated.

My business is inspecting and valuing classic and rare vehicles on behalf of prospective buyers. Scams and fraud are an every day pain we have to put up with. Most are seen a mile off as they tend to repeat themselves, and as I see them most days they become easier to spot.

During the last year due to the increase in the value of classic cars the fraudsters have upped their game and some have become very sophisticated. The internet is helping their cause with very impressive web sites.

Below is one I encountered in December 2011. By doing the correct checks and applying common sense you will not be caught.

I was recently approached by a prospective client in Germany to look at a car on his behalf. The car in question was a left hand drive jaguar XK140 roadster in pristine condition. The asking price was 24,500 euros, very cheap was my first thought.

The seller contacted my client informing him the shipping was inclusive in the asking price. The car was in Co Durham on the shipping companies premises. He was given the shipping companies details including their website, which was very impressive. They offered many services including the storage and shipping of classic and rare vehicles. The most interesting service they offered was as a broker for the buyer, the buyer paid the money to the shipping company who held it for seven days after the vehicle delivered to the buyer. If within the seven days the buyer was not satisfied the vehicle was not as advertised all money refunded and the car shipped back to at the sellers expense. Once the buyer expressed their satisfaction the money is paid to the seller. Sounds very reassuring.

The shipping companies corporate headquarters main telephone number was a mobile. When I checked companies house there was no record of their existence. I contacted both the seller and the shipping company via email. The shipping company never replied to request to see the car, however the seller informed me the shipping company had in house appraisal facilities and it was not possible to view the car. My client in the meantime was being urged by the seller to conclude the deal as there was another interested party. I had the shipping companies website hosting checked, it originated in Latvia, the sellers email source also originated in an Eastern European time zone, despite telling my client he was in Scotland. A clear case of classic car fraud. The moral of this tale is that you should check carefully the origin of any email or other communication that you receive and most importantly, always make sure that you see the classic car for yourself, wherever it may be, before parting with a single penny.

We think we would never fall for such a scam, but I have no doubt some have. Bear in mind the car was advertised in Germany, both the car, the seller and the shipping company are in the UK, immediately there is a language barrier, and the price it is offered at looks such a bargain. The shipping company offering the brokerage service would appeal to an unsuspecting honest person.

This scam has not gone away, it will appear again, who is to say they will not advertise in a UK publication a car in Spain, or any other European country at a very attractive price with a similar brokerage facility, I believe they will catch unsuspecting people.Their set up costs are low and the rewards are very high. Five people caught equals one hundred thousand pounds. The difficulty the police have with this type of crime is which country was the crime committed and how are these people tracked down?

How many times do we allow our hearts to rule our head when our dream car comes on the market at a price we can afford? The desire to own such a vehicle often dictates all common sense is ignored. It is advisable to get a second opinion from a professional who has no emotional or financial interest in your purchase.


Take a minute of your time and look at my website,


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Here is a second article on the subject of classic car scams with a lot more useful advice for the would-be purchaser of a classic car.

Classic cars for sale are big business these days. There is no shortage of unscrupulous people who will take your money and vanish!

To be a knowledgeable buyer, the biggest chunk of your time will be spent in what I call the homework or prep stage. Probably 70 percent of your time will be spent studying classic car sale information, researching, and consulting with trusted friends or experts as to the authenticity and details of the car. After you have done your homework, the rest is a simple buying transaction. The more prepared a buyer, the smoother and faster the transaction.

What this means is you will need to invest the necessary time and money to thoroughly research what you are buying. It is all about the preparation. The one thing that rings true is either you are going to spend the time or money to investigate your potential purchase or you hire an expert to handle the transaction for start to finish.

Three Tips to Prevent Classic Car Scams

1. Know What You Want to Purchase
The top details for clarity are knowing what you are looking for, how much you have to spend, and how far you are willing to travel. Buying a vintage classic or muscle car is an exercise in search and process of elimination. Think of yourself as a modern day Sherlock Holmes. There is no use in looking at a show car if you can realistically only afford a project car or a weekend cruiser. Because the internet has made our world smaller, do not waste time if the buyer lives halfway across the country and you are only willing to buy locally.

Check the NADA price guide so you have a ballpark of what the car will cost depending on condition. If the deal is too good to be true, (Are you really going to buy a 1969 Camaro in great condition for $5000?) then it could be scam. If you contact the seller and they insist on wiring a deposit, then you will know for sure it is a scam. Guaranteed you will never see the cash again!

2. Research Your Vehicle

Buying a classic car has become serious business. Classic cars for sale are now selling for what I paid for my first house. Would you buy a house with out having a house inspection? Probably not. The same goes with buying a muscle car for sale. Do your research. Get as much information as you can about the make, model, and year, and options of the car. The more educated you are about the car, the better you can negotiate if needed. And it also indicates to the seller that you know what you are talking about.

The internet makes it easy to do research. Join a forum that is focused on the type of car you are looking to buy. I know serious car collectors who will not buy a car unless they bring in an expert or guru to look at it first. If it is good enough for them, it is probably an idea you may want to consider. There nothing wrong about not knowing everything about a car. You definitely want to avoid paying for what looks like a highly desirable car only to find out that it is a clone.

Many people have saved themselves thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars just by paying an expert to inspect and document a car. If the car is extremely desirable and rare, the old adage of you can pay me now, or you can pay me later applies. Either hire an expert, or talk with someone you trust who can help you look at the car. Online car forums and clubs are great resources for this type of information.

3) Make Sure All Your Questions Get Answered

Do not be afraid to ask questions. Having clarity gives you the confidence to make a buying decision. This serves many purposes. Before you physically look at the car, contact the seller and ask the important questions. Here are a number of key questions to ask the seller even if the details are not mentioned in the ad (This can double check seller credibility if they really do know the details about their car). I find asking questions in categories is useful in organizing the information.

Engine, Drive Train, Options
* What is original to the car? (Engine, transmission, differential)
* Drive train specs (hp, engine size, rear axle ratio, transmission type)
* Options – A/C PS, PB, Vinyl roof, trim packages
* How does it run?

Body and Interior
* Interior color and condition?
* Body panels original, any accidents, frame damage, paint and body panel condition?
* Currently inspected and roadworthy or project restoration car?
* Mileage and any known mechanical problems?

Title and Price
* Does the car have a clean title?
* What is the asking price or at least a ballpark figure

How does it look?
* Can you get detailed digital pictures? If so, get A LOT so you can see every detail.
* Send to experts or post on a forum for opinions. The seller may think the car is all original, but may not know. An expert can spot the obvious.

* Will they allow you to bring in an expert, or independent third party to inspect and verify the car (If not, RUN from the deal. Do not walk)
* Is there a place locally where you could arrange to put the car up on a lift and do a visual and physical inspection?

This may sound like a lot of work, but it is fundamental for a solid transaction where you get exactly what you want.

The best piece of advice I can offer is to remember you are in control of the transaction. If there is something that does not feel right about the car or the seller or anything related to the transaction, let it go. This includes being pressured by a seller to make a quick decision. If a deal is going to work, it needs to be natural and a win-win situation for both parties. There is normally something fishy going on, if a seller starts to hard close a deal. There is no use in trying to force a deal to work from either party.

Your Dream Car Finder makes finding, authenticating and delivering your dream car easy!

Tim Leary is a freelance writer and management consultant that helps individuals and companies exceed their goals. Tim can be reached at

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