View Full Version : Creative help needed with vehicle identification.

The Backward OX
12-05-2011, 04:58 PM
For plot purposes, my MC needs to purchase a car and be unaware of its age. Lack of a VIN seems the obvious solution (the VIN plate could simply be missing). However, later in the story, the licensing authority needs to be able to establish the age of the same car. It seems like Iím damned if I do and damned if I donít. Anyone have any bright ideas on how I might fiddle this? Thanks in advance.

12-05-2011, 05:06 PM
What is the location?

The Backward OX
12-05-2011, 05:12 PM

12-05-2011, 05:14 PM
Maybe the car does have the VIN & everything looks fine to the purchaser. Then later the authorities reaveal that the VIN is a forgery & something etched on the engine block reveals the truth?

12-05-2011, 05:16 PM
Presumably it would need a personalised number plate too - assuming Australian plates denote the year of registration like ours do. Is there a way of retreiving the 'plate history' of a given car to work back to its original number plate, which would give the year?

12-05-2011, 05:18 PM
You could easily arrange for the car to not have a VIN plate (or even for the current owner to not know its age; say, she's an old lady just selling the old car in the barn that belonged to her husband), but the problem is purchasing a car legally without a title (which would have the year).

Would the MC be willing to steal a car, or buy one that is "hot"?

The Backward OX
12-05-2011, 05:38 PM
Would the MC be willing to steal a car, or buy one that is "hot"?

Stealing won't work, buying a "hot" one will. Thanks.

The Lonely One
12-05-2011, 07:07 PM
There is one rather large problem you need to work around--that every car has an exact age based on the year the model came out. A car buff would immediately know certain years of certain cars, as the body style can be very specific (unless we're talking a 911 or something here). Or at least they'd know a range of years it could be. Maybe your character is Jeremy Clarkson. "2001 was the only year the RS model was released, and you can tell because such and such was a special feature..."

12-05-2011, 07:31 PM
The new owner would have the log book too though, and it would state the age. Also, when insuring the car the number plate is run through the system and the age is there - even if the car has custome plates, they are still registered.

You could get past it by having the car imported, or be a restoration job, where the year of manufacture can be a bit more vague as cars are basically given a whole new identity.

12-05-2011, 09:10 PM
Most vehicles have the vin in more than one place. You could play it with different numbers in different places. Or something

Steve Collins
12-05-2011, 09:34 PM
Snick is quite right. When I was a cop and we recovered a vehicle with a VIN removed or tampered with the stolen vehicle squad would look in other places, under the carpet beside the drivers seat was one place manufacturers put it.

12-05-2011, 10:13 PM
Here's a way to get a nice mess on the age of the car. Person acquires two or more cars on salvage titles (vehicle was determined to be 'totaled' by an insurance company, usually either from an accident or water and other weather damage). Cars will be more or less exactly the same, although may be from different years (for example, two or more years on a Ford Focus). Many of the parts will be interchangeable, although some will not.

Salvage guy takes the cars and grabs what is useful and makes them into one vehicle. You might have a front half from a 2011 Ford Focus and the back half from a 2010 Ford Focus, and the engine could be out of a 2009. Salvage guy then sells the car, with one title. Depending upon local law and ethics depends upon how much of this is revealed to the customer.

It will still have a title and the registration and insurance will be happy with a year. Reality is there are many places on a car that have the year of manufacturer, since not only do you need it for title, registration, and insurance, you need it any time you want to get repairs.

Then subsequently, it could be discovered that the wrong title was used, and that would give you the licensing people questioning things.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

12-05-2011, 11:51 PM
Just tossing out, too, that many parts on an older car have a code stamped on them that shows the exact day of manufacture, the location, etc. Some of those places include the engine block and panels.

I am a proud owner of a 1965 Ford Fairlane and all the numbers match.

An off-top but potentially useful aside from what jclarkedawe said about Frankencars, if the body of the car is a year in California, that is the official year. This becomes important as smog laws are very restrictive. You can put a huge engine in a '65, no smogging required. But if you put a '65 engine in a 1978 Camaro, you still have to smog test.

12-06-2011, 12:10 AM
As several well-informed folks have pointed out, it's not going to be easy.

The numbers will always get you...

Serial numbers were standardized /encoded to 17 digits decades ago (early '80s); and they are found in a host of locations (some deliberately hidden) on the vehicle. Component parts have encoded production numbers that can be cross referenced with manufacturers' data to further identify year. make, model, etc. That's why, among collectors, a "numbers matching" vehicle is the most desirable (and valuable).

Jim's idea of a "salvage title" car cobbled together (from what may later be learned to be stolen parts) may have merit for your story.


The Backward OX
12-06-2011, 02:26 AM
Salvage cars, Frankencars, wow. I'd forgotten all about them. Down here, we call them cut'n'shuts. That'll work too.

Karen Junker
12-06-2011, 02:47 AM
I was thinking of a way to not know the age of a car -- like the Mercedes body that didn't change for years and years. Could a clever chop shop eradicate all the i.d. numbers? Or a kit car, like a Lotus.

12-06-2011, 06:31 AM
There was a case around here where someone bought one of those kits where you can build a replica of a classic car. This person was an associate of a government official with access to the department of motor vehicles. His friend had a new title issued for the car that said it was original! Eventually they were found out, but only because of other investigations against the government official.

12-06-2011, 06:52 AM
Would a one off car work for you? What about an old car? Something mostly unknown? Example: Over the years there have been, literally, thousands of auto makers in the US, hundreds in Australia (like Pioneer, back in 1898.) One of the reasons I'm asking is that I know that once you got into mass production, like the Chryslers and the Holden (GM) folks, you get into the more regimented identifications -- the Series listings. Even then, there were independent makers who only produced a few of these, a few of those. Sometimes they were cars that looked, at first glance, like a mass production model, but would have internal or detail differences. But older makes it easier to go with something that looks anonymous or unknown.

The Backward OX
12-06-2011, 07:04 AM
Thanks, everyone, for all the offbeat suggestions. Some of them might work, some won’t. Thing is, the car this guy wants to purchase has to be put into use as a taxi. As such, it needs to be a very ordinary, run-of-the-mill, and reasonably late-model car.

12-06-2011, 02:10 PM
Salvage is a big thing here too, most scrap cars get broken down for parts, so you can have an engine from one car in another car etc. It's a pretty big industry.

The Backward OX
12-06-2011, 02:23 PM
There has to be a joke there somewhere. Just look at the raw material. Four half-cars, an Irish welder, the mind boggles.