While some people may look at a VIN as a mere number that doesn’t mean much, it can mean everything to a serious collector. After all, numbers-matching cars go for a pretty penny these days and without an original VIN to reference, there’s no telling a car’s monetary worth. Just the same, a different VIN from original can lead to confusion or misrepresentation of a car’s factory options, and even an instant decline in value which could mean a ton of money dumped into a car that won’t necessarily bring any kind of return. As uncommon as it is, that’s exactly what a New York man is dealing with, having purchased a 1966 Sting Ray that he says has a forged Vehicle Identification Number, according to BuffaloNews.com.
Just a couple months ago, we told you about two separate 1967 Corvettes that shared the same VIN in Ohio, and as rare as that is, we’ve come across yet another second-gen with an identity crisis.
Robert Ernst of Tonawanda, New York purchased his 1966 Corvette back in 2008 for $49,700 and spent two years and $75,000 restoring it to its original condition, but it wasn’t until last year that he discovered a problem with the VIN. After taking his car to a National Corvette Restorers Society event in London, Ontario, Canada, Ernst says he was informed that he had been disqualified because the VIN plate on his car had been forged. Apparently the numbers matched the vehicle but the font of the letters and die marks didn’t match those used for the 1966 model run.
Ernst, and avid collector and restorer of six other Corvettes responded to the situation by telling his friend Paul Schultz, who works for the Niagara County District Attorney’s Office about the situation. This lead to criminal charges being filed against the car’s previous owner, Wilson, New York resident Ronald Ellis, who sold the car to Ernst.
An investigation into the forged VIN brought a theft of the Corvette in Georgia early in its life to light.
After the car was recovered, the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles placed a sticker reading “GA7558” on the car because the original VIN tag was missing. Ernst alleges that Ellis bought the car with this tag and then removed it, making his own to replace the original VIN plate.
As a result, Ellis has been charged with nine felonies, including second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, third-degree grand larceny, illegal possession of a VIN, forgery of a VIN and five counts of offering a false instrument for filing. Ellis’ attorney, Herbert Greenman, maintains Ellis’ innocence, telling reporters that his client had nothing to do with the forged tag. Ellis has plead not guilty.
Being such an odd situation, the VIN forgery brings up plenty of questions. How much research should be done on a classic Corvette before it’s purchased? Should Corvette collectors be even more diligent about finding out a car’s history because of the car’s reputation for theft? You tell us what the proper precautions for buying a collector Corvette should be!