Buyer beware: There are more rebodied cars out there than you think


It was the eBay auction title that got me: “1969 Ford Mustang SHELBY GT350.” That attention-grabbing ALL CAPS was likely no accident. This was indeed a 1969 GT350, parked behind a barn, with a large tree that had grown up and around the rear bumper. Other photos showed the GT350 relocated to a parking lot and sitting on logs. It had no front clip and little front suspension, the result of the 1973 crash described in the write-up. Living outside ever since hasn’t helped matters.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/10/08/buyer-beware-rebodied-cars-are-out-there


Interesting article. I never imagined there was this type of scam going on. Of course, I would only watch others collect these types of cars. That’s for the high rollers.


By now there are many possibilities to check a car with scientific methods. In germany there is the Institute for automotive forensics, called IfaF. They are specialists in checking these cars via X-ray or by dating the material with mobile spectral analysis. They are well experienced with f.e. Porsches like the Carrera 2,7 RS or early Bugatti and Alfa Romeo.
If there was manipulation on a car or it’s VIN they can find out.

Link www.ifaf.eu


Unfortunately there is a lot of rebodied chrysler Hemi cuda or other rare 440 six pack with unaware owner …and if for a shelby it’s not so hard to find out (for the guys knowing them) , on a challenger it s a lot harder , when buying an e-body always take off the grill on the cowl and check inside with a little mirror , to see if the vin number is been welded on or if it’s intact .


The 4 words I live by are these…“It’s only original ONCE!!!”



First off, this is a great article. I’m glad someone is trying to get the word out on this subject. I recently purchased a Volkswagen Type-2 that was advertised as a 1963 23 Window Sunroof Deluxe on eBay, only for the vehicle to arrive after shipping as a re-bodied 1973 from Brazil made to look like an authentic German 1963.

From what I’ve learned, the Volkswagen Type-2 bus is regularly modified to add additional windows and panels to make newer models appear like the older more desirable versions. In the case of buying vehicles on eBay, I’ve learned their Vehicle Purchase Protection program and consumer protection claims are nothing more than lip service. In the event you’re lucky enough to figure out that fraud actually took place and how it was done, expect an uphill battle when you try to unwind the deal. The thieves have figured out how to make it so difficult for a buyer to correct title problems that it’s impossible to comply with the short deadlines. Even legal action is a challenge since it’s expensive to prove in court and fraudsters will change accounts and move frequently to avoid getting caught.

Buyer beware… indeed… and stay away from eBay.


I own a 1969 Shelby GT350 similar to the photos in this article; except that mine has white stripes and a white interior. It’s in the Shelby registry; and I have a nice thick folder of receipts, Shelby documents and even a letter to the past owner on Shelby stationery signed by Carroll himself.
I clearly understand that more than a few Shelby cars exist that were pieced together from more than on one Mustang fastback or convertible. What disturbs me more are all the folks with “clone” cars trying to pass them off as real Shelbys to the gullible - as well as the inflated prices they want as well! I see them periodically are larger car shows - where they are often entered with a “for sale” sign someplace on the vehicle.


I totally agree that the reuse of VIN numbers and other items goes on much more than we know. Even down to the simple things as adding Pony Interior to early 65-66 mustangs. You see them all the time, and know not that many cars came equipped with it, or they do not do a true redo, including the door panels, and dash if it is a 65. But they will advertise it as an original. My late father spend many years doing Car Appraisals, and when he found a ‘replica’ as he would call them. It made many buyers and sellers upset. But I am glad he helped keep the originals known and the rebodies exposed.


The article leaves me a bit confused about one thing: what if you don’t much care about originality? If, say, I wanted to drive a Shelby Mustang and knew the one I was offered was rebodied and got it at a good price, is the result a legally titleable car that you can register and drive?


The only way to protect yourself is knowledge, if you don’t have it, find someone who is well recommended to help you. If you are spending $10K have fun, if you are spending $100K make sure you know what you are buying, almost anything can be falsified in today’s world.


Something you neglected to mention are the many various Registries for specific marque’s and models that exist. In the pre-internet days a buyer could be excused for not know of the existance of a Registry for the car that they are considering purchasing. Today that is not the case. A quick internet search reveals that the Shelby GT350’s are documented / recorded by several groups that may or may not be related (SAAC, TeamShelby, and ShelbyRegistry are near the top).

My particular obsessio…err… hobby! happens to be the '69 & '70 Cougar Eliminator. I am constantly amazed by people who first buy a car and then start to research what they just bought.

Buyers need to do their due-diligence. We do not live in the dark ages. Before you buy, Google the make and model. Go to the forums and social media groups where people discuss that make and model. Consult with the people who live and breath these cars - chances are there are one or two devotees in the crowd (like me) who save all the images, links and webpages, recording details and VINs every time one of their specific marques appears on the internet. At the very least, Google the VIN! You would be amazed what you can find just by doing that.


And now a little salty food for thought.

In the case of most American muscle cars, when you talk rebody, we’re not talking about recreating a hand-built Hispano Suiza body of which only 3 were built. We’re talking about identical bodies that numbered in the tens to hundreds of thousands. With few exceptions, all were production cars built on the same assembly line having the identical body, frame and most of the mechanical parts in common with grandma’s 6 banger with the addition of a few special parts bolted, welded, sprayed, screwed or glued on. In other words, our blessed Holy Grail muscle cars now going for 6 to 7 figures, are a set of options and nothing more. There are many “VIN Swapped” cars out there that are done so well, not even the best expert could tell the difference from the original. Other than the swapping of the VIN stamping, The process is identical to restoring a car with it’s original parts. Think about it. No car that has had a nut and bolt, rotisserie resto is original as it rolled off the assembly line. I mean, is that Tonawanda 396 you just completely tore down really still a Tonawanda motor anymore? In the case of the American muscle car, sure there are things like torque boxes, brackets, gussets etc. whoopee. You have undone everything that made the car original and unique, which was its hand assembly. For all intents, a carefully built VIN swapped car using a pile of numbers-matching OEM parts is every bit as authentic as a completely and correctly restored hemicuda other than the set of stamps the guy at the factory smacked your core support and drip rail with. But oh! There’s something magic about it coming from the factory with that stamp and bolted together that way that makes it twice as valuable as a “rebody”, right?

But alas, I jerk your chain. I agree whole heartedly with the article. Rebodying for any reason is really risky business and in many cases, illegal or at the very least unethical. It hurts our hobby. Don’t do it and buyer beware.


The 64 & 65 GTO’s were an upgrade package
for the Le Mans and not identifiable by the VIN.
I believe in 66 they had a code in the VIN.


No one has answered my question: Is it LEGAL to register and drive a rebodied car? On many of these, the VIN number has been moved from the old body to the new one.


Good article. When I was a teen the car model mentioned was new and lots of those cars got wrecked. Many a car owner in their early life would find another body and swap out the parts, repaint it and drive on. Some of those cars got halfed. Example a rear ended corvette and the damaged section replaced. Many years later pops passes on and the kids sell off pops junk. ( maybe Ebay). They may have no idea what pop did to his beloved collector car and just want it gone. I suspect there are lots of rebodied cars for sale out there. An innocent seller I know got burned when selling a Corvette and ended up with lots of legal expenses. He no longer has anything to do with classic cars and left the hobby completely.


@70Superbee - You make a couple of excellent points! I enjoy a good debate with someone that looks at things from the odd angle and makes me think of things in a way that I hadn’t thought of myself. I’m proud of the fact that I am one of those thinkers too, and I enjoy the odd looks that I get from people when I bring something to light that they hadn’t thought of before.
I used to work for one of the bigger parts suppliers of used Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth parts in the Midwest, and I couldn’t tell you how many times that I fielded requests for the “torque boxes” that only the Hemi and convertible Mopars received for the front leaf spring mount because their “Hemi car” had “rusty” versions, or for VIN tags for their E-body because they had sent the dashpad off to be re-covered and the shop “lost” their VIN tag (eventually most of the shops advertised that “any VIN tag sent to them would be DESTROYED” since it was a violation of federal law to remove it / replace it.) There were companies selling the unique “rosette” VIN tag rivets for a while, and others advertising “replacement” Broadcast Sheets and “replacement” Data Plates… How reputable they were I don’t know.
One example I like to recall is when the president of one of the local Mopar clubs when I lived in the midwest proudly showed off his “build book” with photos and details of his (rather unique / odd color combination) AAR 'Cuda restoration. Problem was that he had replaced damn near EVERY body part on the car except for the roof and the transmission tunnel, and when he had the interior redone, they used another car’s seats, console, door panels, etc. But of course he always called it a “restored” car.
Fortunately - while I worked there, I also got to hang out a lot with “the guru” (you may know who I mean) at shows and when he’d stop in at our shop and he taught me a LOT about where the VINs were stamped into hidden places onto the cars (after about 1970 anyway) and how certain high performance cars had odd things like different brake lines going across the firewall to clear the bigger engines, etc. “Cloning” a post-1970 Mopar is pretty tough if you know where to look for all of the clues that give away the car’s real origin.
Conversely, I’d have no problem buying and/or re-selling a “clone” car BUT ONLY if the sellers and future buyers made it VERY clear that it was a clone / rebodied car. (Of course I probably wouldn’t be able to tolerate the “experts” at the car shows who would feel that it was their duty to tell me, not too politely, all what was “wrong” with my car.)
I’m pretty much disinterested in the “100 point” cars anyway. I want something that I can drive the wheels off of, drive it in the rain, let other people & young kids sit in it… My Bluesmobile replica was perfect for that (man, I miss that car!).


I also used to laugh when my business partner or I would get a call when we were running our little restoration parts supply store and the caller would ask “How can I tell if my Chevelle / Nova / Camaro SS is a “real SS” car?” and my partner would ask “Does it have SS badges on it?” and if they said “Yes” then he’d say “Well then, it MUST BE a real SS!!!” because at the time there was no way to tell for certain. No VIN number difference, no data plate code… (this was back in the early 90’s, so maybe someone HAS discovered a way…).