Theseus’ Paradox – Rebodies, Replicas & Tampered Numbers; an Automotive Identity Crisis

November 16, 2016 · Posted in News · Comments Off on Theseus’ Paradox – Rebodies, Replicas & Tampered Numbers; an Automotive Identity Crisis 

Greek historian and writer, Plutarch posed a question, over two thousand years ago, that has continued to confound philosophers.  “If the ship on which Theseus sailed has been so heavily repaired and nearly every part replaced, is it still the same ship — and, if not, at what point did it stop being the same ship?”  This same question can be posed differently and more succinctly; if one has an ax and replaces the handle and the head does he still have the same ax

This parable clearly presents a paradox that we collectors, restorers and enthusiasts of vintage and antique vehicles can well relate to.  At what point do our “restorations” become replicas of what the original is thought to have looked like?

Let us look for a moment at a fairly straightforward restoration of an otherwise solid car.  If a few body panels are replaced and others repaired and the drivetrain and chassis is otherwise original I think we can all agree that we have simply restored or rehabilitated the car; the majority remaining untouched and original.

But take the situation where  you replace the body but not the frame.  What about the situation where the frame and the body have been replaced?  What about just the frame? Does the authenticity of the engine change your opinion?  At some point the original car ceases to exist; its identity is destroyed and the resultant vehicle is a replica of what the original may have looked like.  True, to even the trained eye, a complete replica may well be indistinguishable from the original but it is clearly not the original.

As illustrated above, Theseus’ paradox continues to confound us in our hobby.  Cars today are being restored using many reproduction parts and it is unfortunately not uncommon to find that many of the rare cars have had their bodies, frames or had major components such as engines, transmissions or interiors replaced.    Other concerns regarding rebodied vehicles can be found in the article Rebodied Cars … what to do?.

Additionally, the removal and replacement of VIN and serial numbers can create an equally sticky situation Many laws have been enacted to protect the integrity of the VIN.  Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 511, the alteration of a VIN, could be a federal criminal offense.  Further, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2321 whoever buys, receives, possesses, or obtains control of, with intent to sell or otherwise dispose of, a motor vehicle or motor vehicle part, knowing that an identification number for such motor vehicle or part has been removed, obliterated, tampered with, or altered, could be fined or imprisoned for up to ten years.  Similarly, Pennsylvania’s statutes also address this matter.  Specifically, 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 7703 states that a person who alters, counterfeits, defaces, destroys, disguises, falsifies, forges, obliterates or removes a vehicle identification number with the intent to conceal or misrepresent the identity or prevent the identification of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle part commits a felony of the third degree and, upon conviction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than seven years or a fine of not more than $50,000, or both.  Further, and most concerning is that pursuant to 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 7704  any person who purchases, receives, disposes, sells, transfers or possesses a motor vehicle or motor vehicle part with knowledge that the vehicle identification number of the motor vehicle or motor vehicle part has been altered, counterfeited, defaced, destroyed, disguised, falsified, forged, obliterated or removed with the intent to conceal or misrepresent the identity or prevent the identification of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle part commits a felony of the third degree and, upon conviction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than seven years or a fine of not more than $50,000, or both.  Moreover consider, especially with the case of restamped engines that, in Pennsylvania, it is illegal knowingly buy, or sell an automotive part from which the manufacturer’s name plate, serial number or any other distinguishing number or identification mark has been removed, defaced, covered, altered or destroyed unless instructed or done by the manufacturer.  18 Pa.C.S.A. § 4104.

Often times Bryan W. Shook, Esquire, through his law firm Vintage Car Law, is contacted concerning misrepresentation of vehicles that have been rebodied or otherwise replicated to appear one way when they were not actually produced in that configuration.  There is well-settled Pennsylvania case law which holds that “the deliberate nondisclosure of a material fact is the same as culpable misrepresentation.  Even innocent misrepresentations are actionable if they relate to matters material to the transaction involved; while, if the misrepresentation is made knowingly … materiality is not a requisite to the action…. A misrepresentation is material when it is of such a character that if it had not been made, the agreement would not have been entered into.”  McClellan v. HMO of PA, 604 A.2d 1053, 1060 (citations omitted).

In closing, if the car has been substantially modified during the restoration (i.e. rebuilt using all non-original parts, a new body, frame, engine, etc. )this information must be disclosed prior to the sale of the vehicle to the new owner.  Failure to do so could create legal liability.  The use of half-truths and crafty expressions of terms could create even further liability.

Attorney Bryan W. Shook is not only a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market and protect their automotive investments. Attorney Bryan W. Shook is a seasoned automotive collector and restorer and as such brings real world experience and firsthand knowledge to the table for his clients throughout the world. Although Bryan Shook is headquartered in  central Pennsylvania (close proximity to Carlisle and Hershey), Attorney Bryan Shook is available anywhere for consultation, advice, and information, most times, on as short as a day’s notice. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at BShook@shooklegal or by phone at 717-884-9010.  More information can be found at Http://www.vintagecarlaw.com.

 

Judge Rules that disgruntled ex-wife can sell husband’s rare 1968 Camaro

October 26, 2015 · Posted in News, Uncategorized · Comments Off on Judge Rules that disgruntled ex-wife can sell husband’s rare 1968 Camaro 

Pottsville, Pennsylvania – Vintage Car Law and Bryan W. Shook, Esquire where recently successful in defending and proving the title to a rare 1968 Chevrolet Camaro Rally Sport.  Bryan W. Shook, Esquire acted as lead trial counsel to the buyer of the rare 1968 Camaro.  The buyer purchased the Camaro from the ex-wife of the last titled owner.  When the husband found out his Camaro had been sold he sought to get the car back.  Attorney Shook petitioned the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County for an order declaring that his client was the sole lawful owner of the Camaro and to extinguish any claim the husband may have to the car.  The court ruled that the wife had the power to sell the car even though she did not have the Certificate of Title in her name.  The Court’s Opinion can be found here – Judge Rules that disgruntled ex-wife can sell husband’s 1968 Camaro.

Bryan W. Shook, Esquire is the principal of Vintage Car Law  Attorney Bryan Shook has helped hundreds of Pennsylvania residents properly title their antique and collector cars through petitioning the Courts.  If you would like information on how Attorney Shook can help you get a title to your antique or collector car please email him at bshook@shooklegal.com.

Forensic Vehicle Fraud Investigations Available by Bryan W. Shook, Esquire

July 8, 2014 · Posted in News · Comments Off on Forensic Vehicle Fraud Investigations Available by Bryan W. Shook, Esquire 

Forensic Vehicle Fraud Investigations conducted by Bryan W. Shook, Esquire

  • VIN Research (Numbers Matching, Rebodies, VIN swap, etc.)
  • Fraud/Misrepresentation
  • Breach of Contract
  • Auction Misrepresentation
  • Prior Owner Research
  • Title History
  • Acid Etching (macro-etching) to raise obliterated stampings
    • Engine Numbers
    • Confidential Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN)
    • VIN derivatives
    • Serial Numbers
    • Chassis Numbers
  • Body Panel Date Codes/Run Numbers
  • Data Plate and Trim Tag/Cowl Tag Decoding
  • Pedigree/Provenance
  • Race History
  • Restoration Quality
  • Production Characteristics

Often times the true identity, authenticity, original options, RPO, VIN, production date, or assembly manner of a vehicle is unknown or perhaps it is called into question. Bryan W. Shook’s methodology and extensive network of resources assists with the accurate identification and authentication of vehicles. This same approach also aids in the identification of questionable vehicles and vehicle’s attributes, provenance, pedigree, options or characteristics.

To find the fakes and answer the questions raised by the vehicle takes time, diligence and most of all an extensive exploration of the vehicle itself and the supporting documentation, if any. Bryan Shook painstakingly researches the pedigree and provenance of the vehicles for which he is contracted to investigate or authenticate. If something is amiss, he will likely find it. Bryan Shook is available on short notice to forensically investigate or document your single car or entire collection. Many times Mr. Shook insists upon an in-person evaluation of the vehicle so that the nuances of the vehicle can be studied and recorded.

Authentication is proving (or disproving) what that the classic car is what the owner or seller says it is. To a layperson, the car’s body and presentation is what makes it recognizable. To successfully authenticate a vehicle the minutia must be evaluated such as aberrations in the font used to stamp vehicle identification numbers.

As a practicing licensed trial attorney and award winning vehicle restorer, Bryan W. Shook, relies upon his unique training in evaluating and weighing evidence when scrutinizing and interviewing locatable past owners. The final product and opinion of Bryan W. Shook is presented to the owner with all supporting documentation which can be merged into the vehicle’s dossier. If necessary and requested all communications and discoveries will be held with the strictest confidence.

Bryan W. Shook has also assembled what is believed to be the most complete database of information surrounding Pennsylvania Certificates of Title and historical title information. This knowledge base has proven invaluable in the research of historically important Pennsylvania vehicles.

Selected Projects to Date:

  • 1905 Thomas Model 27 60-horsepower (1st known U.S. produced 6cyl automobile)
  • 1912 Packard
  • 1913 Alco
  • 1913 Pierce Arrow
  • 1924 Rolls-Royce
  • 1929 Packard
  • 1930 duPont Model G (only known duPont with the optional aluminum cylinder head)
  • 1931 Chrysler
  • 1953 Corvette (sold for near world record price after research was completed)
  • 1961 Corvette
  • 1967 Camaro Z28 (proved early ownership history by Pennsylvania Title records)
  • 1967 Chevelle SS L78
  • 1967 Jaguar E-Type
  • 1967 Shelby GT500
  • 1969 Corvette L88
  • 1970 Chevelle LS6 convertible
  • 1972 El Camino
  • 1976 Corvette Stingray

For more information on how Bryan W. Shook, Esquire can assist you with your vehicle or collection, please call him at 717-884-9010 or email him bshook@shooklegal.com for more information on Bryan W. Shook’s collector car practice, please visit http://www.vintagecarlaw.com.

 

Importance of Choosing The Right Restoration Shop

May 7, 2014 · Posted in News · Comments Off on Importance of Choosing The Right Restoration Shop 

Recently we were reminded, by an Ohio Court of Appeals, of the importance of selecting the proper restoration shop when it comes time to have repairs made to your classic car. The case reminded us that restoration facilities are not always as they seem and not all are ethical, forthright and honest in their practices and actions.

The case of State of Ohio v. Keith Shellhouse, 2014-Ohio-1823 which was decided on April 23, 2014 is very illustrative of the need to vet the restoration shop you are considering before dropping off your car, parts and most importantly, money. In the aforementioned case, Keith Shellhouse owner of Independent Autobody and Pro Restorations in Richland County, Ohio, was found guilty by a jury and the Court of Appeals affirmed the jury’s verdict. The case reports that in one instance a 1967 Ford Mustang was brought to Shellhouse’s restoration shop in Richland County, Ohio for repair. Mr. Shellhouse, it was alleged, then sold the vehicle without the owner’s authorization to do so. Mr. Shellhouse sent notice of the sale to an address in Michigan when he knew that the owner resided in Florida. The appellate court also noted that multiple witnesses testified as to Mr. Shellhouses’s pattern of conduct of accepting cars for repair with their owners’ money and then failed to do the working, sometimes failing to even return the cars. Mr. Shellhouse was also found guilty of tampering with motor vehicle records, a felony of the third degree. Keith Shellhouse was sentenced to four years in jail for his actions.

When you are in searching for a restoration shop, do not go by advertisements and discussions with the shop alone. If you are considering sending your vehicle to a restoration shop the following items (at a minimum) should be considered:

  •  Visit the shop, in person (then visit another shop (or several) for comparisons)
  • Speak with customers of the shop (current and past) (if the shop won’t give out customer’s names to speak with that is an immediate red flag)
  • Demand a written restoration contract including a detailed scope of work, payment terms, set price or hourly estimates not to be exceeded without prior written change order authorizations signed by both the shop and you the owner. The contract should have a start date and a completion date. The contract should also require that the shop document the restoration with photographs (time-stamped, preferably) and provide them to you with written updates on a specific interval basis.

In the end having your car restored should be an enjoyable experience, not one wrought with fear that you will never see your car or money again. Most restoration shops are on the up and up and you will have nothing to worry about. Your best insurance however is a firm written car restoration contract.

Bryan W. Shook, Esquire is an attorney in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania who is not only a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping collectors and hobbyists protect their automotive investments. Bryan Shook represents some of the most notable automotive restorers in the world and has been responsible for litigating and resolving some of the leading antique automobile cases in the United States. Attorney Shook is available to consult with you or your restoration shop concerning any aspect of automotive or Pennsylvania business law. If you own an old car restoration shop, are you in compliance with all of the consumer protection statutes, including the Pennsylvania Auto Industry Trade Regulations, the Lanham Act and the FTC regulations? If you have any questions regarding compliance or wish to have a restoration contract drafted or reviewed, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Bryan W. Shook. Bryan Shook can be reached at his Office at 717-884-9010 or by email at bshook@shooklegal.com.

The Dirty Side of the Hobby – Fake Pedigree & Provenance

May 1, 2014 · Posted in News · Comments Off on The Dirty Side of the Hobby – Fake Pedigree & Provenance 

Forgeries and fakes have long been the scourge of the collector car hobby. This practice has continued thanks to many “entrepreneurs” who have established businesses selling “reproduction” tags and paperwork for older vehicles. Reproduction however would imply that it is a replica of the original but actually the term “reproduction” in this sense usually means counterfeit.

In the Corvette, Chevelle and Camaro market “aged” build sheets or tank sheets, made to order, to your specifications, have long been available. The number of counterfeiters who forge historical vehicle documents and paperwork is very concerning. Sham documents have been openly advertised for nearly two decades in Hemmings Motor News, eBay, Craigslist and on the internet. Some of this fake paperwork is so doctored that it actually smells old or in the case of Corvette tank sheets like gasoline. Of course if you interview any of the outfits that create these items you would quickly be told that they are novelty items. All too often, however, people are deceived by the very existence of this fake paperwork and lulled into a sense of security when viewing such a vehicle which may be for sale under the mistaken guise that it has pedigree and provenance, to wit, the counterfeit documentation.

An additional problem is that of “air cars” (cars created from “thin air” with nothing more than a VIN). With counterfeit documents, air cars are immediately given credence and pedigree. In additional to fake window stickers, build sheets, FMVSS stickers, Corvette Order Copy (“Tank Sticker”) there are also forgers out there that make new VIN tags, cowl tags, trim tags and others that offer the proper rivets or screws to affix the fake tags.

One method of outing some of the fakes in the hobby has been recently introduced.  A service of the National Corvette Restorer’s Society (NCRS) which tells owners when their cars were built and where they were delivered new has the potential for exposing several fraudulently presented classic Chevys. With the information provided by the NCRS, hobbyists will be able to verify their car’s paperwork, VIN number and cowl/trim tag to make sure that it all connects properly.

With the “birthday” of a car known, you can make sure that the VIN is consistent with that month of production and that the engine production stamping precedes the cars build date. Also with this information, you can determine if the assembly week code on the trim tag is consistent with the date given by the NCRS. Finally, if the vehicle has “paperwork” or a window sticker (or build sheet) the dealership should match that or be reasonably close in vicinity (e.g. same zone — dealer trades) to the dealership provided by the NCRS. If any of this information does not match or if the birthday of the car does not correlate to the VIN, engine stamping or cowl tag, then you have major problems. If the information does not match, it is wise to investigate the car carefully and, if necessary, hire and expert to examine the vehicle for signs of further molestation and restamping.

If you find that the vehicle you own is a clone or has doctored paperwork, a tampered VIN, restamped engine, transmission or replacement VIN tag, cowl tag or trim tag, you should immediately contact an attorney to learn about your legal rights and what recourse and options you may have.

 Attorney Bryan W. Shook is not only a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market and protect their automotive investments. Attorney Bryan W. Shook is a seasoned automotive collector and restorer and as such brings real world experience and firsthand knowledge to the table for his clients throughout the world. Although Bryan Shook is headquartered in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania (close proximity to Carlisle and Hershey), Attorney Bryan Shook is available anywhere for consultation, advice, and information, most times, on as short as a day’s notice. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at BShook@shooklegal.com or by phone at 717-884-9010.  More information can be found at Http://www.vintagecarlaw.com.

 

Original Dealer Data Availible from NCRS

May 1, 2014 · Posted in News · Comments Off on Original Dealer Data Availible from NCRS 

http://www.chevymuscledocs.com is now live.  With permission granted by the General Motors Heritage Center, the National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) is now offering owners of 1965 through 1972 Chevrolet Camaro, Nova and Chevelle the opportunity to discover the exact date that their car was built (i.e. the cars birthday) and the dealer to which it was originally delivered.   This is not necessarily the selling dealer as dealer trades were common in the 1960s.  The NCRS is hopeful that the release of this information will lead to owners discovering new information and history regarding their cars.  This is a great thing for the hobby. The NCRS and the GM Heritage Center should be applauded for their efforts in presenting and opening this information to the hobby.

Attorney Bryan W. Shook is not only a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market and protect their automotive investments. Attorney Bryan W. Shook is a seasoned automotive collector and restorer and as such brings real world experience and firsthand knowledge to the table for his clients throughout the world. Although Bryan Shook is headquartered in central Pennsylvania (close proximity to Carlisle and Hershey), Attorney Bryan Shook is available anywhere for consultation, advice, and information, most times, on as short as a day’s notice. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at BShook@shooklegal.com or by phone at 717-884-9010.  More information can be found at Http://www.vintagecarlaw.com.

Insist upon viewing the dossier when considering an antique or collector car

April 16, 2014 · Posted in News · Comments Off on Insist upon viewing the dossier when considering an antique or collector car 

Importance of Pedigree, Provenance and Continuous History

In our previous article, The Economics of Car Valuations, we discussed some of the factors, generally, that drive the values of antique and collector vehicles. The present article highlights the importance of establishing, maintaining and proving the pedigree, provenance and continuous history of your collector car and assembling such in the vehicle’s dossier (i.e. file of records concerning the vehicle).

If you look at the cars that sell at the top of the market, they all have one thing in common; a noted history that is clear and transparent. In the collector car market, investors and hobbyists have a choice as to what car they buy. While it is true that they will usually buy the prettiest and most correct example that they can afford, they will also weigh the vehicle’s history. A vehicle’s history has always played a role in the value of the vehicle, but it has only been as of late that the vehicle’s history has played a tremendous role in the value of antique and collector vehicles.

If you are looking to purchase an antique car or expensive collector car insist on viewing the dossier which should include records, names of previous owners and services and restorations that the vehicle received.

If you are looking to sell your antique or collector car then it is incumbent upon you to document your vehicle and create the type of dossier of records that the buyers today are insisting upon.

What should be in the dossier?

At a minimum, the dossier should include a sheet of paper listing all of the important production notes and numbers of the vehicle. Ideally, there would be a binder or computer file containing photographs and narrative decoding of the various components and numbers on the vehicle. The file may also include pre-restoration photographs as well as restoration photographs and photographs of the vehicle with awards it has earned or notable places where it has been invited or displayed. Receipts and notes concerning the service performed on the vehicle should be included as should any affidavits of former owners.

The area in which most dossiers are deficient is with respect to historical documents, previous ownership and service records and notes. Attention to this subject is most important. Every vehicle has a story to tell, it is your job as the vehicle’s current custodian/caretaker to preserve that story for future generations. That is, in a sense what the dossier is, is it not?

Continuous History

The notion of Continuous History was first announced by Mr. Justice Otton in the case of Old Bentley Number One (Hubbard vs. Middlebridge Scimitar Ltd.) in the High Court of Justice – Queen’s Bench Division, Royal Courts of Justice, London in 1990. From that day forth in 1990, it became clear to everyone involved with Bentley Speed Sixes, in order for a car offered for sale to be described as a Speed Six, it was now essential that the vehicle be accompanied by a continuous history.

What is continuous history when it comes to antique and collector vehicles?

Continuous history is, according to the Courts in London, a full, unbroken and authentic set of documents which identify in a reliable manner who has owned the car, the uses that it has been put to and a description of its service history and any restoration, rebuilding or reconstruction work that the car has experienced throughout its life since originally leaving the factory.

The case of Brewer v. Mann ([2010] EWHC 2444 (QB)) demonstrated why continuous history documentation of a Bentley Speed Six is so important, however the importance was transportable to all other antique and collector cars. In Brewer v. Mann, the car had two significant features (or flaws) that made it essential for the description to be more detailed than simply stating that the car was a Speed Six car. These features (or flaws) were that the engine was not a Speed Six engine (i.e. non original engine) and the only surviving part of the original car was a small section of the chassis. There was also a lack of a continuous history for the years between 1930 and 1981 even though, during that period, the car had been completely reconstructed. Thus, there was no way that the car could be authenticated as a Speed Six or, indeed as a vintage Bentley.

In consequence, it was particularly important that the contractual description accurately described all the significant changes that occurred during the car’s lifetime and the seller found some way in which to authenticate those changes or stated in the description that they were not capable of being supported by a continuous history. The need for full documentary evidence of the relevant history of a Speed Six or any other collector vehicle is highlighted by the increased valuation placed upon the vehicle by auction goers and appraisers.

In sum, it is crucial that collector car owners establish dossiers for the cars they own and insist upon reviewing the dossier for cars that they are considering purchasing. Ultimately, the industry and all collectors should strive to have a documented continuous history for every collector car, no matter the importance or perceived value 0f that particular car.

Attorney Bryan W. Shook is not only a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market and protect their automotive investments. Attorney Bryan W. Shook is a seasoned automotive collector and restorer and as such brings real world experience and firsthand knowledge to the table for his clients throughout the world. Although Bryan Shook is headquartered in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania (close proximity to Carlisle and Hershey), Attorney Bryan Shook is available anywhere for consultation, advice, and information, most times, on as short as a day’s notice. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at BShook@shooklegal.com or by phone at 717-884-9010.  More information can be found at Http://www.vintagecarlaw.com.

Collector Car Market Experiences Billion Dollar Growth over last 10 years

April 16, 2014 · Posted in News · Comments Off on Collector Car Market Experiences Billion Dollar Growth over last 10 years 

Choosing the Right Legal Counsel Makes All the Difference

The collector car insurance company Hagerty Insurance is reporting that the collector car auction business in the United States is now a billion dollar business.  Reports suggest that the total gross auction sales in 2013 eclipsed $1,300,000,000.00 ($1.3 Billion) according to Hagerty.  Hagerty comparatively notes that in 2004 the figure was around $282,000,000.00 ($282 Million).  This is a billion dollar growth in the United States collector car auction market in ten short years! As Hagerty and other news outlets note, this growth is not simply confined to the United States, but the world-wide collector car market has soared similarly over the same time-period.

With this type of unprecedented growth within the collector car market, hobbyists, collectors and car investors need to be more vigilant than ever to protect their investments and their collections.  The market is ripe for fraud, misrepresentations and other nefarious actions, including ownership disputes and estate or probate litigation.  If you, unfortunately, find yourself on the cusp of a dispute or hauled into court or other legal tribunal over the title, ownership, pedigree, provenance or history of an antique or classic car or collectible, you must be prepared to present your side of the story in an intelligible, persuasive and cogent manner.  You would be best served by employing an attorney who fully understands the issues you face and the collector car market and car auction industry.

The handling of a legal matter concerning an antique or collector car is markedly different than other types of legal matters.  In the collector car hobby there are “terms of art” (i.e. trim tag, restamp, NOS, NOM, matching numbers, etc.) that must be defined for the Court in order for your position to be argued effectively.  Furthermore, many times it will not simply be enough to define the term, but rather the term itself and its application to the facts of the case are what the case’s ultimate determination may turn upon.  This is where it pays to hire an attorney who not only “speaks your language” but also knows how the frauds are perpetrated and how to persuasively represent your position to the Court or Jury.

Ultimately, collectors must be hypervigilant in the current market and careful to employ the right legal counsel and other professionals with respect to their dealings, collections, and businesses.  The market is constantly changing, not only in its growth but also in its technicalities and breadth, a collector’s diligence is of paramount importance.

Bryan W. Shook, Esquire is an attorney in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania whose practice areas include vehicle fraud, dealership fraud, VIN matters, title fraud, VIN error, estate ownership questions and general collector car problem resolution.  Attorney Bryan W. Shook is not only a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market and protect their automotive investments.

Attorney Bryan W. Shook is not only a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market and protect their automotive investments. Attorney Bryan W. Shook is a seasoned automotive collector and restorer and as such brings real world experience and firsthand knowledge to the table for his clients throughout the world. Although Bryan Shook is headquartered in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania (close proximity to Carlisle and Hershey), Attorney Bryan Shook is available anywhere for consultation, advice, and information, most times, on as short as a day’s notice. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at BShook@shooklegal.com or by phone at 717-884-9010.  More information can be found at Http://www.vintagecarlaw.com.

Vehicle Identification Numbers

October 2, 2013 · Posted in News · Comments Off on Vehicle Identification Numbers 

Vehicle Identification Numbers

(What are they; where are they found and why are they important?)

 What is a Vehicle Identification Number?

A Vehicle Identification Number also commonly known by its acronym “VIN” is the unique identifying serial number of a motor vehicle.  Manufacturers of vehicle have assigned unique identifying numbers to their vehicles since the dawn of the automobiles however early forms of vehicle identification numbers were usually very short (three of four numbers) and usually found stamped in the engine block or on a small brass plate on the frame of body of the vehicle.  The process of identifying vehicles by their engine numbers started early on but a problem quickly arose when an engine had to be replaced.  This problem however was not rectified until approximately 1954.  Starting in approximately 1955 US auto manufacturers began using unique Vehicle Identification Numbers to uniquely identify all US built automobiles.  The compelling force behind this change in practice was a desire to work with law enforcement and state’s DMVs to reduce the amount and opportunity for VIN fraud and stolen vehicle trafficking.   Prior to 1954, vehicles were identified by body number, chassis number, serial number or engine number.  One can imagine how confusing this would have been and how great the potential for fraud would have been.

A VIN is the DNA of a vehicle, that is to say it is the unique identifier of every vehicle.  The VIN is the number by which s vehicle is registered and titled.  Decoding a VIN can tell you many things including when the vehicle was built, the model of the vehicle, the assembly plant and possibly even the original engine displacement.  Since a VIN plays such an important role in the identity of a vehicle, much fraud has arisen over the years surrounding VINs.

Where are VINs located and how can I tell if the VIN on my car is the correct VIN?

Since the beginnings of automotive production the engines, bodies and usually the frames of vehicles have been assigned identification numbers usually in a serialized fashion.  Beginning with the 1970 model year, nearly all vehicles produced for sale in the United States have had the VIN placed in at least three distinct locations.

  • Public VIN (since January 1, 1968 visible through the windshield)

In the United States, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 (effective January 1, 1968) mandated certain safety requirements on vehicles to be sold in the USA such as side marker lights, safety belts and Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) visible on the dash through the windshield.  This is VIN location has come to be known as the “public VIN” and is probably the VIN that you are most familiar with.

  • Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards Certification Sticker (since August 31, 1969 found in the door jamb or on the door)

Starting with all vehicles manufactured after August 31, 1969, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (“FMVSS”) certification sticker was required to be affixed to the vehicle which also included the VIN of the vehicle.  Effective January 1, 1972, the sticker also had to include gross vehicle weight (“GVWR”) information on the certification label.  On Chevrolet models from the 1970s, this sticker is blue and is found on the driver’s door.

  • Hidden or Confidential VIN

VINs have been stamped into frames of vehicles for many years, however the process became more uniform starting approximately during the 1968 model year. The VIN was stamped into various metal objects on the vehicle, including the frame, the body, the engine, transmission and other places.  The VIN on the frame or the body became known as the Hidden VIN, the Confidential VIN or the Federal VIN.  This number is usually not a full, complete VIN but a derivative thereof.  The sequential production number of the hidden VIN should match the sequential production number (the last five or six digits) of the Public VIN and if the vehicle was produced after August 31, 1969, the FMVSS certification sticker.  The VIN on the engine and transmission would have also been a derivative of the VIN and it too should match the Public VIN provided that the engine and/or transmission is original.

Why are VINs so important?

A vehicle’s identification number is very important as it is the only unique identifier a vehicle possesses and accordingly its integrity and validity must be established and preserved.  This is especially true with collectible vehicles given their inherent and actual values.  When you look a vehicle for potential purchase, you must view the VIN in as many of the locations as you reasonable are able to view it.  Start with the public VIN and see if it is consistent with other examples of the year, make and model; ensure that it has not been tampered with or affixed in such a way as to make it not appear as original.  If the public VIN is missing, loose or appears tampered with in any way, contact a marque specialist and attempt to locate the hidden or confidential VIN for the vehicle to ensure the public VIN is the proper VIN.

What if the Confidential VIN and the Public VIN do not match?

If the confidential VIN and the public VIN do not match, you have a major problem which needs to be addressed professionally and legally.  In short, if the public and confidential VINs contradict one another, you have an unsalable vehicle with a title defect; specifically you have a vehicle which purports to have two identities.  Common reasons for the two not to match are that the vehicle itself is stolen or was stolen or salvaged in the past and another VIN (a good clean VIN) was affixed in the public location to make the vehicle appear as though it was “clean” when in reality it was not.  Another reason for the two VINs not to match is that the vehicle was rebuilt from several other vehicles.  If a vehicle has been rebuilt and bears two VINs that can be a problem as this is the usual excuse that is given when a vehicle has been “re-tagged” to disguise a title problem or a former theft; much scrutiny must be employed in this instance.   When the Confidential VIN and the Public VIN do not match it may also be an instance of a “rebody”.  A “rebody” is a vehicle which has had the body replaced and the VIN of the original vehicle affixed to the “donor” body.  The legal issues surrounding rebodied vehicles are explored in another article.

Many laws have been enacted to protect the integrity of the VIN.  Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 511, the alteration of a VIN, could be a federal criminal offense.  Further, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2321 whoever buys, receives, possesses, or obtains control of, with intent to sell or otherwise dispose of, a motor vehicle or motor vehicle part, knowing that an identification number for such motor vehicle or part has been removed, obliterated, tampered with, or altered, could be fined or imprisoned for up to ten years.  Similarly, Pennsylvania’s statutes also address this matter.  Specifically, 18 P.S. § 1.4(a) states that a person who alters, counterfeits, defaces, destroys, disguises, falsifies, forges, obliterates or removes a vehicle identification number with the intent to conceal or misrepresent the identity or prevent the identification of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle part commits a felony of the third degree and, upon conviction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than seven years or a fine of not more than $50,000.  Further, and most concerning is that pursuant to 18 P.S. § 1.4(b) any person who purchases, receives, disposes, sells, transfers or possesses a motor vehicle or motor vehicle part with knowledge that the vehicle identification number of the motor vehicle or motor vehicle part has been altered, counterfeited, defaced, destroyed, disguised, falsified, forged, obliterated or removed with the intent to conceal or misrepresent the identity or prevent the identification of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle part commits a felony of the third degree and, upon conviction, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than seven years or a fine of not more than $50,000, or both.

In laymen’s terms the VIN of a vehicle must be preserved and protected and if you are in possession of a vehicle with a VIN or VIN tag or VIN plate which has been altered, removed and replaced or otherwise tampered with you could face serious civil and criminal offenses.  The best advice is to contact an attorney at once who can analyze your situation and assist you with identifying your legal options.

Attorney Bryan W. Shook is not only a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market and protect their automotive investments. Attorney Bryan W. Shook is a seasoned automotive collector and restorer and as such brings real world experience and firsthand knowledge to the table for his clients throughout the world. Although Bryan Shook is headquartered in  central Pennsylvania (close proximity to Carlisle and Hershey), Attorney Bryan Shook is available anywhere for consultation, advice, and information, most times, on as short as a day’s notice. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at BShook@shooklegal or by phone at 717-884-9010.  More information can be found at Http://www.vintagecarlaw.com.

Benefits of Using an Attorney as an Escrow Agent to Protect Yourself in a Collector Car Sale or Transaction

January 28, 2013 · Posted in News · Comments Off on Benefits of Using an Attorney as an Escrow Agent to Protect Yourself in a Collector Car Sale or Transaction 

Benefits of using an attorney as an escrow agent to protect yourself in a collector car transaction

By: Bryan W. Shook, Esquire

Email: bshook@shooklegal.com

Using an attorney to act as an escrow agent is one of the most effective ways to safeguard yourself from the pitfalls of buying vehicles sight unseen from far away locations.  In a perfect world collector car transactions would all be “above board” and transparent however as we all know this, unfortunately is not always the case.  That screaming deal on eBay or Craigslist may be a great deal, but it may also be the biggest mistake you make this year.  There are many hazards upon which a prospective buyer may happen, although most happen with the consummation of the sale, especially if the vehicle is not viewed, in person, by the buyer. 

How can using an attorney as an escrow agent help protect you in a collector car transaction?

An attorney as an escrow agent has more inherent safeties as opposed to using a broker.   Attorneys are regulated by their state’s bar association or their state’s supreme court.  Brokers are usually not regulated at all and only subject to their state’s vehicle board, if regulated at all.  Money placed into an attorney’s escrow account is subject to strict accounting oversight and may only be paid out with the client’s consent and agreement. 

As an attorney familiar with the nuances and pitfalls of collector car transactions I can offer many safeguarding services, professionally, discreetly and unobtrusively to preserve the transaction and yet protect you the client throughout the sale.

I offer the following services:

  • Pre-Purchase Inspection Review
  • In-person auction assistance to both bidders and sellers
  • Escrow Agent
  • Sales Contract Drafting/Review
  • Private Treaty Sales (start to finish)
  • Independent evaluation of title documents prior to consummation of sale
  • Vehicle research, including verification of provenance and pedigree
  • Forensic investigatory services (number & stamp investigation, make and model investigation, production anomalies, etc.) 
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Import/Export
  • Competing Claims of Ownership
  • Title Defense
  • Help safeguard against misrepresentations and fraud

By utilizing my services, you are not only protecting yourself in the transaction, but you are also making a further investment in the value of your purchase. 

Bid with knowledge. Buy with confidence.

Attorney Bryan W. Shook is not only a devoted automotive enthusiast, but is also an experience litigator who devotes a large portion of his law practice to helping other collectors and hobbyists understand today’s market and protect their automotive investments. Attorney Bryan W. Shook is a seasoned automotive collector and restorer and as such brings real world experience and firsthand knowledge to the table for his clients throughout the world. Although Bryan Shook is headquartered in central Pennsylvania (close proximity to Carlisle and Hershey), Attorney Bryan Shook is available anywhere for consultation, advice, and information, most times, on as short as a day’s notice. If you’d like more information about this topic or would like to speak with Attorney Bryan W. Shook please email him at BShook@shooklegal.com or by phone at 717-884-9010  More information can be found at Http://www.vintagecarlaw.com.

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