Fake classic cars: How criminals make millions with manipulated cars

hace 3 semanas, 2 días - 26 abril 2024, AutoBild
This Porsche 911 RS 2.7 is not real
This Porsche 911 RS 2.7 is not real
Two apparently counterfeit Mercedes 300 SLs recently excited the classic scene because there were two pairs of vehicles with the same chassis number! How can you fake classics? A look at the secret tricks of vintage car counterfeiters!

Two apparently counterfeit Mercedes 300 SLs recently excited the classic scene because there were two pairs of vehicles with the same chassis number! How can you fake classics? A look at the secret tricks of vintage car counterfeiters!

The company is now in liquidation. Mercedes-Benz Heritage, Daimler's classic car division, has now taken over parts of the company, the extensive spare parts inventory and part of the workforce. It is currently unclear how the vintage car counterfeit will be legally processed. And the question of how duplicate chassis numbers can even occur has not yet been clarified. The methods used by vintage car forgers remain unclear, here's a closer look at them.

How vintage car forgers can make millions

High sums are paid for original vehicles with verifiable history, and this was no different in the case of the two 300 SLs . This explains why counterfeits are worthwhile when it comes to such exclusive classics.

The Bizarre Case Of The Fantastic 300 SL - Two Mercedes 300 SLs, but only one chassis number

In the center is a Mecedes 300 SL that was once painted in the color “Phantasiegelb”. The buyer of the original is said to have paid 1.6 million euros for the reimported dream Benz. The suspicion: The car was copied and given the same chassis number: 198 042 10 002 786. The original was registered abroad. The question remained open for a long time as to which of the two SLs in question was the real one? The forgery became apparent due to an embarrassing mistake: the original owner had bought the car in 1961 in the original paint color "Phantasiegelb", but had it repainted a bright red a few years later. The counterfeiters apparently didn't know that, and so the suspected fake twin wore the original color "Phantasiegellb".

Cases keep coming to light. A trial for Porsche fakes on a very large scale was opened in 2019 against Uwe N., then head of the now liquidated Scuderia M66 company in Aachen. He was arrested in a raid and taken into custody.

How did the Porsche fake Scuderia M66 work?

The Scuderia M66 is probably worth around 100 million euros. The accusation: gang and commercial fraud. A whole group of people are said to have transformed scrappy Porsche sports and racing cars into alleged collector's items .
To do this, according to the Aachen public prosecutor's office, they built up the cars and, for example, gave them false chassis numbers. According to the allegations, the former Porsche man Uwe N. helped to create fake vehicle documents using typewriters from the respective eras.

The case was discovered after a tip-off to the Düren road traffic office near Aachen: the same employee is said to have always registered the cars there. Without such a paid informant, the scam cannot work. The verdict is still pending.

These are the most popular tricks used by vintage car forgers

The new construction scam

A gang of counterfeiters builds a new car from scratch using existing old and/or new parts. And the papers? Either you take real vehicle registration documents and put the chassis number in the car - there are lots of real registration documents, many scrap dealers collect them, and a lot of money is paid for some letters. Or you can also forge the papers.

The factory car scam

A variant of the new construction scam: imposing a factory identity on the car. Almost every manufacturer has chassis numbers that were never assigned, for example for prototypes. Crooks take such numbers from cars that the factory could theoretically have built and claim that their car is such an original.

The replica stitch

The option for lazy people: buy a high-quality replica, i.e. a legal replica, and dress it up to make it the supposed original with brand logos, false engine and chassis numbers and fake or newly issued documents.

The Frankenstein scam

The most common method is make two out of one. I have a very expensive car, I dismantle it, for example install a different engine into the original frame and body - and around the original engine and original gearbox I build a second car that looks identical. Some even make three cars this way. Expert Norbert Schroeder from TÜV Süd Auto Service tells of a pre-war Mercedes 540 K that was cut lengthwise. The missing page was rebuilt. Duplicate the chassis number and documents, done. If I sell both cars on different continents, this may never be noticed.

The upgrade scam

Also common: supercharging a car. Like turning a comparatively cheap Porsche 911 T into a Carrera RS 2.7. In this way, Mini 850 becomes Mini Cooper S, Fiat 600 becomes Abarth, BMW 1602 becomes 2002 turbo, VW Golf L becomes Pirelli GTI. More recent example: Mercedes 190 E 2.5-16 Evo II. But it's not just about sports models: VW T1s have already been converted into Samba buses in large numbers. So be careful with such sought-after models!

The history falsification scam

Falsifying the year of manufacture or history: A Brezelkäfer is worth more than an Ovali (built later and in larger numbers), a Willys MB from the Second World War more than a post-war Jeep. Both can be easily converted. And according to Schroeder, a racing car can quickly be worth five to eight times as much if it appears to be the exact model in which a famous driver competed in a legendary race. Or when a sports coupe turns out to be the former private car of a legendary Hollywood star...

The disappearance scam

There are crooks who fake cars only temporarily. You borrow a car, put a fake chassis number over the real one, register the car, order a valuation, then remove the sheet metal with the fake VIN again - and report the car as stolen. The insurance pays. Journalist and author Helmut Horn reports on such a case involving a manipulated Porsche 964.

The virtual net

The virtual car scam requires the least amount of effort: I present the bank with papers for a car that doesn't even exist, for example as security for a loan. At least no bona fide buyer will be deceived here.

Are only expensive classic cars counterfeited?

Sure: Typical candidates are racing cars from the Bentley Blower to the Porsche 917 and “icons” such as the Mercedes Gullwing and 911 Carrera RS 2.7 . But it's not just millionaires who are at risk of being scammed. Beetles, Enten, minis and small Fiats are also criminally modified - potentially all models where it is worthwhile. Because the effort is often lower than many laypeople realize.

For stolen cars, it is often enough to enter a new chassis number. Or a Mercedes/8 owner doesn't feel like retrofitting belts and therefore falsifies the year of manufacture. This doesn't make the car more expensive, but the unsuspecting next owner will have a problem if the fake is discovered.

How is a vintage car fake discovered?

Mostly by chance, as was the case with the red or fantastically sealed 300 SL Roadster. Or because someone is suspicious and calls in a good expert. Counterfeiters often feel safe when the original of their fake is considered destroyed or missing. Some classics that stood east of the Iron Curtain in the post-war period were rebuilt in the west. Bad luck for the owners if the originals reappeared after the fall of communism.

Is every classic replica a fake?

No. Manufacturers are allowed to reissue their own models. Bentley, for example, is currently doing this again - and is anxiously keeping the construction instructions for its mechanics under lock and key. Whether external parties are allowed to recreate a car true to the original , even if they disclose it, depends on the respective legal situation: A company that manufactured gullwing replicas with plastic bodies was dragged to court by Daimler - according to the Stuttgart regional court, Daimler has the design patent protection on the body shape - and was defeated (ref. 17 O 304/10).

After the verdict, Daimler publicly destroyed a confiscated fiberglass body in 2012. Things are different now at Jaguar : The manufacturer sued a couple from Sweden who had built a replica of the C-Type for themselves on a non-commercial basis - and just lost (at the Svea Court of Appeal in Stockholm).

Whether it is legal to take part in a rally or a beauty contest with a replica, for example, depends, among other things, on the conditions of participation. Many a rich collector and also some car manufacturers have an original and use a replica for historical motorsport. The Mercedes-Benz Museum is said to have ordered a double-digit number of frames of the SSK model from Thyssen in the original alloy in the 1990s in order to "not allow the original SSKs to be wrecked in the Mille Miglia". The question is whether each of the Thyssen frames was used legally and whether each original frame that was removed was destroyed.

How do you protect yourself from fraud by vintage car counterfeiters?

Ideally, owners can find out whether the same chassis number has been assigned multiple times with the help of the manufacturer, an appraisal organization, the registration office or the club. When researching in the USA, companies such as Carfax, AutoCheck, Classic Car Database and Hagerty can help you in exchange for money. And the sheet metal? Classic car appraisers and type representatives from clubs can expose clumsily modified cars - you can probably only find out about a professional fake with professional forensic experts.

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