Q: Hello Greg and I just read your column on clones, replicas, recreations, tributes, and fakes. I don’t disagree with any of your points regarding what constitutes a fake car.
I’d like to add something, however, as in my opinion there is a much larger and more hobby damaging issue regarding the use of phrases like “numbers matching,” “factory installed,” “born with,” or “original” when describing Fords. The truth is that, except for the Mustang Boss 302’s, there is no such thing as a matching numbers Ford.
To explain, Ford did not stamp a number on any part that relates to the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the car. They only had a date code cast into the part. So, the only thing that can be determined as true is if the engine has a casting date that is after the build date of the car, then for certain the engine could not be original to the car. If the date code is before the build date of the car, then it MIGHT be original.
But since there is no Ford documentation that exists to prove an engine, transmission, etc. is original to the car, any such claim is a false, misleading and fraudulent claim made by unscrupulous sellers to inflate the perceived value of the car they are trying to sell.
From repeated years of TV programs, both auction and restoration type shows, magazine articles, private listings on many websites like eBay, Hemmings and so forth, car folks have taken this myth as fact. I think that’s the definition of propaganda — a statement that is repeated so often that it is accepted as fact without benefit of proof. See this link from the Vintage Thunderbird Club of America for more on the Ford numbers matching issue. http://www.vintagethunderbirdclub.net/Tech%20Articles/matching_numbers.htm
Further, I have been in contact with Barrett-Jackson as well as the folks from Mecum, and they claim the information is provided by the seller and they won’t alter it. However, Barrett-Jackson employs certain professionals to verify authenticity of cars. Even without this expertise, a listing of the type to which I refer should not require this involvement at all. It is much more difficult to determine if a ‘69 or later Chevy is a real SS car unless there is supporting documentation since Chevy stopped using the 138 prefix in the VIN of these cars.
This “matching numbers” dilemma damages the hobby because a beginning collector who has heard the hype for years on TV auction and collector car broadcasts as well as in print will believe these falsehoods because of the assumption of the credibility of the source.
I am a seasoned collector, but my pursuits have been Chevrolets. I bought a 1965 Thunderbird convertible at the Mecum auction in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 2015. The car was not listed as a numbers matching car so I didn’t do any research on the subject before the purchase. It wasn’t until I got the car home and tried to find a number on the engine to see if the car I bought was numbers matching or not. When I could find no number I did the research only to discover there is no such thing as a matching numbers Ford. I, too, had believed the repeated reference to number status that I had heard and read so many times. A car can be advertised as “date code correct” or “period correct,” but not “numbers matching” or any of the other phrases conveying the same message. While I don’t dispute the idea that a car with its original drivetrain is probably worth more to a collector than a car with replacement parts, the idea that the various auction companies continue to accept consignments with these questionable quotes and possible lies (from the owner of the cars) is disturbing.
Have a great day and thanks for helping get the word out about these matching numbers untruths.
— Ralph Mahtar, Richmond, Virginia
A: Ralph, thanks much for your very interesting letter. First and foremost, I was totally unaware of the issue you have brought forward concerning “numbers matching” Fords. So first and foremost, thank you for your letter informing my readers of this and also for the link to the Vintage Thunderbird Club that goes even deeper into the issue.
Although I certainly feel your pain, everything I’ve dug up since your letter pretty much comes down to the truthfulness of the owner. Now with this said, many collector car owners don’t know about this Ford reality either, as there is a segment of the hobby where so called “enthusiasts” buy and sell for profit more so than for the love of owning a classic or muscle car. I’ll admit most are true-blue car lovers, but I hear you loud and clear as to overuse of the words “numbers matching,” etc. when it comes to Ford vehicles, the televised auctions and car collector magazines. I thank you very much for your impressive input on this situation in our hobby.
I dug up some information from Barrett-Jackson TV, and have found that as you mention in your letter, they indeed do employ certain classic car professionals to make sure the cars they put into their auctions are indeed authentic as to what the owner says the car is. These “verification pros” personally inspect each car to make sure that the seller does not make exaggerated claims. To get further input, I contacted Mike Joy, he the lead race announcer for FOX TV’s NASCAR television coverage and also a highly respected host and lead analyst of the Barrett-Jackson televised auctions. Joy was quick to admit your letter raises several interesting points and he told me that Barrett-Jackson indeed employs certain individuals who inspect Fords, Pontiacs, MOPARS, Corvettes, Camaros, and so on for authenticity. Additionally, both Barrett-Jackson and Mecum always go with the information supplied on the owner-card and only make a change if one of the professional verifiers finds a conflict between what they find on the car and what the owner supplied on the information card. I then asked Joy what “numbers matching” means to him:
“To me, ‘numbers-matching’ is shorthand for ‘this car still has its original engine.’ The best way to prove such a claim is with factory or dealer paperwork tying this engine to this car or chassis. There are alternate ways, such as a verifiable unbroken chain of ownership, with statements from each owner that the engine was never replaced. A similar problem exists with claims of ‘actual miles.’ Here again, paperwork is the key to establishing provenance,” Joy explained.
In ending, thanks Ralph Mahtar and Mike Joy for your expert enlightenment on what is a very interesting subject.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications.