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Discussion Starter #1
I could use some advice from you guys. I never restored a car before, am not rich and like many of you, have a love for vintage muscle cars.

Recently, I bought a Verdoro green '68 GTO (white-topped) convertible online for 10K. It needs a lot of work, but has many original GTO parts like a #'s matching engine, trans, carb (possibly rear) so I had it delivered and started a frame-off restore. The specific details are involved, so to make a long story short it turns out the car body (and possibly everything else) is not the one the vin plate and seller say it should be.

Cliff (my restoration guy who has 35 years experience) and I noticed the original paint is yellow, different than the PHS document states. The original firewall is not for a/c like the seller and PHS say (he said he took the a/c out, but it obviously never came with that car). The vin plate has been riveted to the cowl from the bottom up with newer rivets, rather than from the top down like they did from the factory. The vin plate is from a '68 GTO convertible, but considering the circumstances including a missing trim tag, it is definitely not from this car.

Now the dilemma. The GTO is completely disassembled in the restorer's garage. I have 14K invested (including the initial 10K) into the car, with an estimate of 25K or more to restore it (frame shot, car needs a ton of work, and the restorer is charging $50 hr). Going into this, I was comfortable with spending the money to restore it even though it's all I have, because I knew that car finished is beautiful and easily worth 40k. But now I'm having second thoughts about how to proceed because authenticity and honesty are important to me. I made my concerns known to the seller, who the first day I contacted him got scared and agreed in an email to refund my money. But being the scoundrel he is, soon reverted to his scumbag ways and denied everything, saying the car came to him that way.

My choices are 1.) Go through with the restore and realize my dream car, but know the vin # is not for that GTO and the body could even be from a Lemans. 2.) Go to another state where the seller is located and file in civil court to try to get my money back. To do that, I may lose the car's body as it is currently braced on horses and I would need to move everything from the restorer's garage to mine. Or 3.) Quit now, try civil court and if I don't succeed, take a 10k loss and sell as parts. I would eventually get my authentic GTO as I learned a lot from this. Any suggestions or opinions out there will be appreciated. Thanks!
 

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64-67 Expert
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I would try legal action. The car was mis-represented. Also, no matter how much more $$ you sink into it, it will never be worth the 40k due to its highly suspect pedigree. It could even be a stolen car.....you could restore it, and then have it seized by law enforcement. It makes me sick to hear stories like this....good luck.
 

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If you aren't gonna be satisfied with a minted out "clone"...I would see what the parts are worth and might sell to regain lost money. It might pay a guy with little experience in the old car game, to bring a knowledgeable mech/bodyman with you to check out future purchases. This is a great-fun-expensive-easy to get screwed on hobby. You will find people at both ends of the honesty scale in it. That said, I bet most of the members here have had problems along these lines. Check your legal solutions first...car was probably sold as is. THE PARTS may help recoupe your losses. GOOD LUCK, Eric:willy: In N.Y. it is not legal to "tag" an auto. Again, Check with your State legal bureau......
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Re:

Thanks for the replies. I think I will take him to court for the 14k. He had the audacity to say that 'people like me' are everything that's wrong with this hobby. Imagine that. Can't wait to see him in court.
 

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Even tho in most states a used car sale, "as is" is implied even if it is not written on the contract and is enforceable. Which in most cases the buyer has no recourse. However, in this case where the vehicle was completely misrepresented, you definitely have a case. It is so important to do your homework b/4 purchasing a vehicle. Knowing how to decode everything is a must so you know exacty what you're getting. Seeing the vehicle b/4 purchase is an absolute must. That's why I would "almost" never buy a car online. $10K for the initial purchase is not chump change. That's alot of money for most of us. You may want to talk to the guy and tell him what your plans are. Although, even if he agree's to reimburse you the $10k, your're still out the xtra $4k. The only way to get that back would be thru the courts. If you do win the case, and we're all pulling for ya, I'm sure the courts will make you put the car back in the condition in which you bought it. What is that going to cost you to reassemble it? I would halt any restoration and try to recover as much money as you can. Even if you kept it and did a full restore, when it came time to sell, would you really want to go thru the hassle of telling the potential buyer of all the misrepresented data. You would be hard pressed to sell it unless you practically gave it away. What was done is down right illegal. It wouldn't even be considered a clone. In this hobby, crap like this happens everyday. Unfortunately, you just happened to get caught up in it. Good luck. We all back you 100% If you want, let us know how it all turns out.........
 

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That really stinks...you put your hard earned money into something that you thought would bring you joy and some guy screws it up.
 

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67 Basket Case Restorer
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Switching VIN tags on a car is a FEDERAL CRIME. Doesn't matter what state the car came from or is in now, it is a federal case. As a heads up, ANY civil case is NOT enforceable. You may win the case and have a judgment against him but he is NOT required to pay you!! Isn't that a load of [email protected] !! You would still need to put liens against everything he owns and IF and WHEN he decides to sell them, you may get your money. This is a lose-lose situation for you. Some states, namely Texas, do still allow a "re-body" that lets the owner of 2 cars build 1 out of them and use the tags from either, especially if one is a "lost title" car. The owner must keep all documentation to show what he did for future reference. It doesn't sound like he has that to go with your car. If it were me (and it was once), I would retain a lawyer in the sellers hometown to pay him a visit and bring up the Federal crime issue and see what he can get for you. Beyond that, you are pretty much screwed. If you sell the car or body knowing what you know, you become part of the crime trail. If you do decide to sell the parts to recoup what you can, don't sell that body unless it can be verified as a re-body, with the proper documentation to prove it.
My heart goes out to you. I bought a 67 Camaro on eBay that had the VINs switched in TX and even thou the National Insurance registry and my state reluctantly admitted they had to honor the TX title and license the car, it was too much for me to live with and I resold it at a significant loss.
 

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Feds

Personally, I would just call the Feds in on this one and let them sort through the legalities of where the number plate was changed and whether it was a legal job or not. If they find it is illegal then you have pretty good evidence to win a case against them for your money. I doubt that any judge will side with them after they have been prosecuted for changing id plates.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Differential numbers

Well, I was able to find a lawyer/consumer advocate in the seller's area who specializes in this type of case.

New Jersey Consumer Fraud Lawyer - Monmouth County, NJ Lemon Law Attorney - Red Bank, New Jersey Consumer Lawyer

The car was bought from New Jersey and their laws allow for triple damages, as well as lawyers fees paid by the defendant, if I'm successful in getting that judgement. I'm pretty sure the seller owns his own home and has a business, so if a lien is needed I'm willing to wait. You may also be reimbursed through the state attorney general's office, if fraud is found to have occured.

I also have a call in to my state's special investigator for this type of crime. His supervisor called it a "salvage switch" and said he will call me on Monday to investigate. The state special investigator can have jurisdiction in other states and I can even subpoena an officer to testify in a civil case located in another state. The Colorado State Patrol supervisor said by practice, they honor all subpoenas from other states.

One code I haven't been able to decipher is on the front differential cover. There are two numbers: 3959038 as well as CM2D(?)N. The question mark is for a character that isn't legible. Is anyone able to translate what those numbers mean?

The seller also included the #'s matching trans in the car's trunk when he found out I would check that. The car had another trans installed with the 400 engine, and the only #'s on it are 6260036-2. Again, just wondering if anyone is familiar with those numbers.

Thanks!
 

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67 Basket Case Restorer
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Well, you have started down a road of no return. If the investigator feels the body may be stolen, everything could be confiscated for inspection. You may never see it again, which may not break your heart either. The difficult part is trying to determine the original VIN of the body. That may not be possible and you could get everything back with a state issued VIN to replace the one on the body now. That would kill the resale value and probably render it not worth the restoration costs.
Either way this turns, I wish you way more luck than I and 2 others I know had in dealing with this situation.
 

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Alternative?

I know what you are saying TMP, but does he really have any other alternative? He could carry on like nothing happened and be liable for the illegal actions himself and lose his investment and possibly face jail-time if and when when the feces hits the ventilator. He has most likely lost a good deal of his original investment due to the vehicle being priced as original and it is not, therefore never getting back his investment in resale. I think he has already lost a major portion of his investment and his only recourse at this point is to turn it over to the proper legal authorities and then take legal action in court over his losses. Besides if he was to act like nothing happened wouldn't there just be another scam vehicle out there on the road being sold and resold on the market?
 

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67 Basket Case Restorer
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I didn't mean to sound like he was doing the wrong thing. It is the ethical road to take. I was just mentioning what the consequences could be from this point on. It could a long, frustrating road ahead. I wish him all the positive energy he needs to endure.
 

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Make sure you have a signed bill of sale...tell the Seller that trouble might be on the way....sugest he take the car back for a full refund.....The bill of sale should protect you from "knowingly receiving stolen property", if the car has been stolen or "tagged"....Thae call the authorities and see what they want to do about it.:willy:
 

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Wow. Shame. Any updates here? I'm not sure I could add anything that hasn't already been stated. Perhaps we could try the decode he's looking for. Although, I'm not sure what help that would be. Seems like the case is pretty solid already.
 
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