Saturday, October 14, 2006
Well, close, but not exactly. What the purchaser, Tom Shaughnessy, actually bought was a rusted out chassis of a multi-million dollar car, specifically, a 1952 Ferrari 340 America Spyder with body by Vignale. To most people, the '$3 million Ferrari' Mr. Shaughnessy purchased was just a rusted out wreck not even worth a second glance, but to those in the know, it was a valuable piece of history because of four numbers stamped on the chassis: 0202.
Very few Ferrari 340's were ever built, and almost all of them are accounted for, but this car had been lost. It was known that Ferrari stamped all of its racecars with an even serial number, ranging from 0002-0896 and 1002-1050. The fact that the rusted out chassis is stamped with the number 0202 identifies it not only as a rare model, but as a very storied one too.
Mr. Shaugnessy did not find the car by accident. He had been chasing the car for some time and had received a tip (which cost him $20,000) as to the real vehicle hiding beneath the Devin. A qualified Ferrari restorer who has found lost cars before and already has much of what is needed to restore the 340 back to its former glory. He expects it to cost around $600,000 to complete, excluding the engine, body, transmission , rear end, pedal box, radiator and oil cooler which he already has.
It will be exciting to see the car back in its former glory in three years, but for right now, it is certainly one of the finest examples of how valuable a few number stampings can be. So next time you see an old hunk, before writing it off, consider doing some research on the numbers stamped on it, you might be sitting on something very valuable.
Pictures, clockwise from lower left, the Devin body and the actually frame (both from Popular Mechanics), the old Devin body sitting next to another Ferrari barn find (from Ultimate Car Page), and a restored 1952 Ferrari 340 Mexico Spyder by Vignale (from Supercars.net)
Friday, October 13, 2006
Like the broadcast sheet, build plate, and other vehicle information I have covered in the past week, a car's VIN is not just some random compilation of letters and numbers, it is really a detailed statement about manufacturer, where it was built, options, the year it was built, and the sequence in which is was built. All of these things are sourced from a standardized code enforced by the International Organization of Standards. Here is a quick explanation on how to decode VIN's care of Auto insurance Tips:
- 1st character- Identifies the country in which the vehicle was manufactured.
For example: U.S.A.(1or4), Canada(2), Mexico(3), Japan(J), Korea(K), England(S), Germany(W), Italy(Z)
- 2nd character- Identifies the manufacturer. For example; Audi(A),
BMW(B), Buick(4), Cadillac(6), Chevrolet(1), Chrysler(C), Dodge(B),
Ford(F), GM Canada(7), General Motors(G), Honda(H), Jaquar(A), Lincoln(L), Mercedes Benz(D), Mercury(M), Nissan(N), Oldsmobile(3), Pontiac(2or5), Plymouth(P), Saturn(8), Toyota(T), VW(V), Volvo(V).
- 3rd character- Identifies vehicle type or manufacturing division.
- 4th to 8th characters- Identifies vehicle features such as body style, engine type, model, series, etc.
- 9th character- Identifies VIN accuracy as check digit.
- 10th character- Identifies the model year. For example: 1988(J), 1989(K), 1990(L), 1991(M), 1992(N), 1993(P), 1994(R), 1995(S), 1996(T),
1997(V), 1998(W), 1999(X), 2000(Y)------2001(1), 2002(2), 2003(3)
- 11th character- Identifies the assembly plant for the vehicle.
- 12th to 17th characters- Identifies the sequence of the vehicle for production
as it rolled of the manufacturers assembly line.
Next time I will cite one of the most recent and exemplary examples of the importance of numbers to a cars value. I'll just wet your interest for now by saying that you never know what you might find in a barn. Sometimes its nothing, but sometimes its a long lost Ferrari hiding under an Irish camouflage.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Before I do so though, a brief comment on why this is so important. The numbers associated with a vehicle are really its true name and identification. They prove that the vehicle is really what it purports to be. Some might ask, "so what, it is just a car. Who cares?" Well, the car is like any other historical artifact, its importance, relevance, and value is based on its authenticity. Take a quick example:
Which is more valuable? A genuine Vincent van Gogh painting or a print that looks just like the real thing?
See my point? One is worth tens of millions of dollars, the other is worth tens of dollars (maybe). This is why a car with the right numbers, even if it is identical to another car, can be worth so much more. Race history, ownership history, rarity, and historical importance all can add value to a specific vehicle.
With that out of the way, time to do some detective work! As I mentioned yesterday, a Broadcast Sheet Decoder (or Build Sheet Decoder) can make sense of the madness. Take note of the two build plates (or fender tags) and the broadcast sheet, both at right. All three are from the same car (pictured above). The build plates are affixed the to left front fender, just inside the hood. The options decoded from the two fender tags:
E74- 426 Hemi Engine 2 X 4 (two separate four barrel carburetors)
D32- 727 Automatic Transmission
A01- Light package
A21- Front rubber bumper
A36- 3.55 Axel Package, 8 3/4 rear (final drive ration and rear axel housing size)
A62- Rally Dash Cluster (woodgrain)
B51- Power disc brakes
C16- Console floor mount
C55- Bucket Seats
G31- Both chrome racing mirrors
J45- Hood pins (notice front hood clips)
L31- Fender mounted turn signals
M21- Drip rail moldings
M31- Wheel lip moldings
M88- Rear deck moldings
M91- Luggage rack
N41- Dual exhaust
N42- Chrome tips (on the exhaust pipes)
N96- Shaker hood (air clean that is attached to the engine sticks out through a hole in the hood)
R22- AM 8 Track stereo, 10 Watts with rear speaker
YO5- Build to US Specs
26- 26" radiator max cooling
Whew. There it all is, every option of the plates converted into plain English. This car is worth significantly more than many other 'Cudas because it came so well equipped from the factory and with many rare options, namely the Hemi engine, which was a hugely expensive option at the time.
Next time, I'll go into modern VIN decoding and after that provide one of the most striking examples of the value of numbers to a car's importance.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
After WWII, as cars became more standardized, companies began using a series of numbers to identify a specific vehicle. This became known as a Vehicle Identification Number, or a VIN, and was eventually standardized to a 17 digit alpha-numeric code. All cars today come with a VIN tag, usually found somewhere in the lower corner of the windshield, on the driver's side (it is also stamped elsewhere on the car and in various hidden locations). In addition to this VIN, car makers would also affix their own built plates for factory use. These built plates would usually have a series of alpha-numeric codes on them and would detail what options the car was originally equipped with. These build plates would directly correlate to the options and information specified on the build sheet.
The build sheet is quite possibly a vehicle's most valuable asset. An intact build sheet with verifiable information on it can mean the difference between a run of the mill $10,000 car and a $2 million stunner. Car companies recognized the importance of having a paper record of the vehicle available, in case the car was ever altered and then passed off as having items that it did not. Copies of the build sheet were often hidden in the car, usually above the gas tank or behind the rear seat.
The build sheet is, in a manner of speaking, a complete profile on the car. It details where and when the car was built, what dealer ordered it and what customer it was being delivered to, and most importantly, what options (engine, comfort features, etc) the car was originally equipped with. The number of different possible combinations was very complex usually require a Build Sheet decoder (check the link the left!) to understand. Once translated though, you can learn a lot about a car.
For simple understand purposes, I've included a quick decoding document on the numbers on a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro L-78 SS396 Convertible along with a few shots of the car, the VIN plate, and the chassis plate (not covered on the decoder).
Next, I'll translate the build sheet and built plate for a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda Hardtop. Hopefully this will help further your understanding of what makes a build sheet and matching build plate important and how they figure into this whole 'numbers matching' equation.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Numbers Matching: A definition and explanation (Part I); even you seasoned car guys might learn something!
Virtually every car ever built in some form of series production has been identified by some alpha-numeric sequence. This sequence of numbers and letters has been used by different companies to indicate different things. In the 1920's and 1930's, when coachbuilt cars were popular, vehicles often had three different identification plates: a body number, an engine number, and a chassis number. Duesenberg's, for example, had a three digit engine number (such as J-446), which would identify when the engine was made in the sequence of all Model J engines (starting with J-101 and ending with J-588). The chassis was marked with a four digit number, which, like the engine, identified when the chassis was made in the total sequence of all Model J chassis (starting with 2125 and ending with 2614). You're probably thinking that this meant that the engine and chassis sequences would match, right? Well they didn't because engines and cars were built on separate assembly lines, but there are records of which engine went with which chassis and not all engines or chassis stayed together.
As such, in its most basic form, 'numbers matching' simply means the car (or chassis) has the same engine block that it left the factory with initially. Pictured are an example of a numbers matching Ferrari, in this case, a 1967 Ferrari P412 Mark 3-4. This very important and rare sports-racing car features two separate stampings, one for the engine and one for the chassis. Unlike Duesenberg, the chassis and engine stampings were meant to go together as a pair for this series of vehicles. As you can plainly see, both numbers are identical, indicating that the engine block is the same one that the car left the factory with.
But that is the most basic definition, the meaning of 'numbers matching' for a muscle car is much more complex. As they say on television, "tune in next time for the conclusion of this exciting mystery!"
Pictures, clockwise from lower left, the Chassis Plate for a 1925 Diana Light Eight Sedan the 1967 Ferrari P412 Mk 3-4 Chassis Plate, Ferrari Engine Plate (notice that they are the same number), the whole Ferrari, a 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Sedan (Chassis No. 2284, Engine No. J262, Murphy Body No. 923), Body plate for the Diana, the entire Diana, the Diana's engine plate.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the auction, which took place in St. Charles, IL was conducted by Mecum Collector Car Auctioneers. The auction featured over 750 cars, almost all of which were American muscle cars built between 1960 and 1971. There was a smattering of cars from the 1950's as well as a few hotrod from the 1930's and a half a dozen or so cars built somewhere other than the US. There were many good buys to be had, but the unrealistic reserves on many of the cars left a number of vehicles as 'no sales.'
The major sales of the auctions included a number of Plymouth Hemi 'Cudas, some COPO Camaros (and a few COPO Chevelles), and some Plymouth Superbirds. The biggest specials were a collection of Super Duty Pontiacs from the Randy Williams collection and a 1965 Dodge Coronet drag car known as "The Yankee Peddler."
The Cuda's were all stuck by a case of unrealistic reserves and unmotivated sellers, unfortunately, with none of them selling, despite bidding reaching as $700,000 for one of them. The Yankee Peddler did sell, however, at a high bid of $750,000. The Super Duty collection was handled a bit differently. Initially offered as a five car collection to be had at a single bid, the $1.55 million high bid for the collection was not deemed sufficient. As such, the five cars in the collection were sold individuals. The cars sold were a 1961 Pontiac Ventura 389 Super Duty drag racer (sold for $135,000), a 1962 Pontiac Catalina 421 Super Duty Dual-Quad Factory Lightweight (sold for $235,000), a 1963 Pontiac Catalina 421 Super Duty 2-door sedan(sold for $285,000), a 1963 Pontiac Swiss Cheese Catalina drag car (sold for $440,000), and a 1963 Pontiac Super Duty Tempest Union Park Wagon (sold for $625,000).
All of the above sales are shown without buyer's premium of 5%. Overall, an impressive showing and loads of fun to see.
Pictures, clockwise from lower left, the Super Duty Collection being sold, a 1970 Plymouth Superbird, the Yankee Peddler being sold, a series of Corvette Convertibles (1963-1967), the 1963 Pontiac Super Duty Tempest Union Park Wagon, the Yankee Peddler, and the last 1971 Hemi 'Cuda ever built.