How to spot a classic car clone
Although this Cobra spotted at Mecum's Spring Classic at Indy has correct identifiers like matching badges, it's a replica.
With the value of classic cars continually increasing, it has become very popular for some people to build clones or replicas of popular classic cars like the Shelby Cobra and the Chevelle Z16.
While clone builds may look great and closely replicate a rare classic car down to some of the finest detail - and even be considered desirable by some collectors - unscrupulous sellers may try to pass them off as originals.
Use the following tips, to help discern if your dream car is fake or the real deal:
The first thing you need to do to identify a cloned classic is research - thoroughly. Looking for a '66 Mustang GT? Find out how many Ford made in '66 and what were the VIN codes indicate the model used on those cars.
Get to know more intimate details like specifically which motors, transmissions and suspensions were used and what those parts look like. Figure what special badging or markings indicate a limited-run series and exactly where those identifiers should be on the vehicle.
Finally, figure out how many models were built for the entire production run and how rare or common they are, as well what typical values are.
2. Know the pedigree
Now that you have the basics on your dream car, it's time to get to check the bloodlines. Find out if there are any manufacturer registries for the vehicle type that you are looking to purchase.
Domestic manufacturers and foreign manufacturers alike maintain archives, registries or card files that list exact build specifications for the vehicles they produced (Chrysler and Porsche, for example). Vehicle owners can usually contact these sources to request and purchase certificates of authenticity.
However, if an automaker is no longer in business, you may have to rely on voluntary or third-party registries available with certain models, such as this AMC Trans-Am Javelin registry. If you already have a prospective purchase in mind, check its VIN against a registry, if available.
3. Talk to the real experts
Even if you're not quite expert on your model yet, you can easily find one by asking around at model-specific online forums and local car clubs. In most cases, you can probably find multiple online forums devoted to the make and model you're researching.
Forum posters and local club members are often more than happy to help a fellow enthusiast by drawing on their own experience and knowledge of particular models. It never hurts to ask an expert first; getting their expert opinion before you buy is far better than falling victim to an overpriced replica or clone.
4. Get close-up
Examining and comparing photos of a verified original against your prospective purchase is another way to avoid buying a fake or clone. The differences may be major or subtle, but if you find that original components like the engine, transmission or drivetrain don't match up with the factory specs, it could indicate a clone.
If you can't spot the differences on your own, try submitting the photos to experts in at clubs and online forums to verify their authenticity.