Dig online into the history of your car—you might strike gold

In 1979 we bought a 1932 Buick model 56 from Miss Willie Welch of Talladega, Alabama. We got to know Miss Welch quite well as she was a truly amazing person. We also got to know virtually everything about “Red Mule” which she had purchased new upon being designated as the Alabama State Librarian. Life intervened, we moved to Texas and the promised restoration wasn’t completed until 1996 when it won Senior status with the Buick Club of America.
The following year, we trailered it back to Talledega for a reunion with Miss Welch and a little celebration. That was a distinct highlight of our lives.


Had the same issue on my 55 Belair. Could not get through to the previous owner. Did not return my letters. I had his name, address,state, and some invoices. Not as easy as one thinks.

How does one trace the origin of a car that they have owned for 59 years? I pulled out the 1 page bill of sale from Baldy Motors on Valley Blvd and the vin no is B1LB115750. It is a 1951 Ford Wagon but the web sites won’t accept the no as valid. The car was 10 years old when I bought it and I would like to know if I am the second or the third owner. Does CA keep records of vehicles that were sold back as far as 1951? I have always been curious as to who the first owner was and what dealership sold it.

Provenance is cool even if it isn’t proving you have a celebrity vehicle. Chain of ownership is the compelling part of Earl Swifts’ book “Auto Biography” which tells the true story of a 57 Chevy through the decades. Note: language in book may offend some. image

Odds of any agency giving you info are slim to none due to privacy rules.

Previous owners may stonewall you because they don’t want to be bothered or they fear the litigation age we live in. However, previous owners that will share info are you best bet working backwards to find history.

Sometimes, something like a Marti Report (applies to certain years of Ford) or various historical departments or associations for your specific make could be helpful. The more unusual your vehicle the better this route may be (i.e., if you have the only factory Pink Avanti ever made with ____ it may be remembered in the Avanti club).

My own ride has a broken chain of provenance: I have had it ten years. The person that imported it to Canada had it in their driveway for 7 years. The paperwork says “previously registered in Georgia”. Marti Report tells me the dealership it was sold at in Atlanta… but that still leaves a 35 year gap in history (in which it had a really bad respray paint job but minimal actual wear or signs of abuse). There isn’t a clear lead to bother following here.

Good luck chasing provenance, but really unless you enjoy a possibly fruitless hunt it is wiser to pay for an example with the full history you want. Or just don’t worry about the past and enjoy your ride.

Thank you Goth,

Did you read Jeff Murray’s article above ours? I reached out to him and he may be able to help you with your 55. He responded to me immediately. Sounds like he could help us.



Here is jeff7 email address. I wish Hagerty would help us with these issues. I’ve called them as well. A company like Hagerty should have lists of professionals to help their car-collector-customers.

Joe O’Donnell


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Yes I did. I will get in contact with him after this national emergency is over. I’m an old guy, 73, not the best of health. Right now, I’m just warch and waiting for all this to end. Very upsetting.
Thank you for the information. I really do appreciate you taking the time to provide it to me.


Thank you, Joe


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My memory is not what it once was but I remember that we had a 1948 Buick Roadmaster as a family car.
It was purchased new with a 3 speed on the column, my Father not trusting automatic transmissions of that era. It was subsequently traded for a 1952 Buick Super, with Dynaflow. Well done, Aaron.

@ jodonnell 1575 and @Goth

Guess you didn’t see this comment from @ jeff 7 up above -

I am Jeff Murray. My company is Vintage Car Research LLC here in New Hampshire. I have researched the provenance of rare vintage cars for the past fifteen years. I love the Newspapers site and have promoted it and other online resources in my monthly Vintage Car Research Newsletter. I used it to locate an ad for 1955 alloy Mercedes Benz 300 SL in a 1956 edition of the LA Times.

The site takes some practice to make it sing but once you put a little time in you’ll be astonished at what you can find.

The coming April edition of my Newsletter includes ten tips on buying or selling a vintage car. Lawyer information, “news you can use” you’ll never see anywhere else. A year or so ago I wrote a manual including 140 free or “open source” resources to be used to research the provenance of a vintage car. I printed 50 copies and it sold out in two weeks. I may print more if there is demand. Reach out to me at www.vintagecarresearch.com. I’ll send you a free Newsletter.

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I have a 69 Dodge Charger White Hat Special that I have it’s entire history. I started my career with the original owner back in September of 1970 & I was immediately attracted to his Charger. We did all the servicing & maintenance on it & around 1978 he told me he wanted to sell the Charger & did I know of anyone who wanted to buy it. Well my former Father-in-Law was looking for a used car and I hooked him up with the original owner. The Charger only needed basic servicing, a muffler, and a complete brake job and it was good to go. When my former Father-in-Law passed away in 1989, my former Mother-in-Law gave me the Charger which was left in the street. The transmission was out so I trailered it to work and spent the next two years sympathetically restoring it. I have kept it as original as possible and now drive it every week. It still retains it’s original CA black plates, the original dealer license plate frames & original interior & glass. I did do a respray on it in it’s original F5 medium green metallic. I take the Charger out every week just to exercise it and enjoy a peaceful ride & take it to a few cars & coffee events & vehicle displays.

I love your car it is beautiful! Congratulations! I see you have the original deluxe wheel covers on it. Those are the same ones my car came with and I have a couple of very god sets of those and the original wheels and whitewalls. I mostly run the Magnum 500s, but when we are dressing up for authenticity, I run the original wheels and covers. Thanks for sharing! Mark D. “triple_green” on Dodgecharger.com/forums

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I noticed that you have one original build sheet that is in your document display. I was able to actually find 3 build sheets in my Charger. One was behind the headliner pushed up in the C-pillar. Another was above the glove box and the third one that I found was under the carpet on under the pedal pad on the driver’s side. My Charger was assembled in Hamtramck, MI.

I found this build sheet under the back seat of my car. I have never looked in the pillar/headliner as it has never been apart. The car has its original carpet which I cleaned and redyed in place. So some of those other spots might house more build sheet copies. Interestingly the build sheet I did find does not match the VIN on my car, but is an identically optioned car very close in time to the build time of my car.