Should classic car buyers rely on logbooks for authenticity?
A former AC Cobra owner is suing the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency over his car’s apparent loss of value, after it was deemed to be built in 2002 (using old and new parts) rather than in 1964 as originally stated on the logbook. But does he have a valid case?
Julian Seddon claims the change in status on the DVLA’s documents slashed the car’s value from £250,000 to £100,000. His barrister John Black said that his client ‘would not have purchased the vehicle’ had he known that its status as a historic vehicle was ‘liable to investigation’. He explained that the purchase of the Cobra was made in good faith, partly relying on the integrity of its V5C logbook.
The DVLA’s case is that it does not owe a duty of care to buyers, and that the car’s logbook cannot be taken as proof of its age and provenance. The DVLA refused to comment further.
Black also claimed that the DVLA ‘made a conscious decision’ to delay its investigation into the car’s history until after the vehicle had been sold to Seddon. Two months before Seddon purchased the Cobra, the DVLA already ‘had reason to suspect that the integrity was in doubt’, Black said.
Whatever the rights and wrongs, this is not be the first time that a row over the provenance and value of a classic car has ended in court. But this case is unusual in that it is against the DVLA rather than a former owner.
With the values of period road and racing cars heading into millions of pounds, the potential for dispute is growing. Little wonder, then, that prudent buyers go to strenuous lengths to prove a car’s history, sometimes using period drivers, designers and mechanics to verify the car.
The High Court will make a ruling on the case at a later date.