How Many More?
I was very interested to read the article in the December MOTOR SPORT entitled “How Many More?”. It outlines a concern which many associated with historic motor sport have been voicing for some time. The problem of authenticating cars has been with us for many years. From the F1SA Historic Commision, with considerable help from the RAC Historic Committee, there has evolved a documentation process whereby the details of a car are recorded on a form called
the FIA Vehicle Identity Form. Whilst the intent of this form is excellent, it has the failing that much of the information must be taken on trust by the Registrar authenticating it.
This documentation process is intended to apply to cars which are raced or rallied abroad and the requirements which govern the standards of the issue of the form are laid down in Appendix K of the FIA Yearbook.
The process itself is also only applicable to cars which are able to prove an international competition history for the car or model and for which a continuous history of the particular car is available. This in itself is fraught with problems as although someone will know where, for example, an ERA, has been for every minute of its life, an Elva Formula Junior car, of which perhaps 100 examples were built, will not feature in any documentation unless driven by a driver of note. Hence the chances of there being a continuous history of any but the most prestigious of cars is very slim. The Registrar has therefore to make a value judgement as to whether the car is genuine. If it has been around for a number of years, preferably before it began to be worth large sums of money then it is probably genuine. If it has only recently appeared and happens to be something for which there is a ready market then let the registrar beware. There is a very ready market in racing cars and many are not what they seem, having suffered all of the “bitza” and “one becomes infinity” syndromes of other vintage and historic cars. There have been moves on a number of occasions to legislate for “reconstructions” of historic cars built to the original specification and registered as non-original. Coupled with this would be the need to register all cars which cannot be shown to be original as
reconstructions”. This would allow them to be used, but not passed off, as genuine — a case of guilty until proved innocent. Neither F1SA nor anyone else felt inclined to go down this path.
There was a similar attempt to record formally collections of parts of a car. It is quite common for someone to import the remnants of a car and then to reconstruct it completely. The problem arises after the car is accepted in ensuring that the scrap is either destroyed or remains with the car, otherwise the bits may then recirculate and result in another car being built. A procedure of recording these collections of bits was devised allowing some control on them when they changed hands — many are sold in an unrestored state many times over before they are completed. Only one club to my knowledge makes a practice of recording these and monitoring the car up to the issue of a FIA Vehicle Identity Form. The problems of fakes, clones and
replicas is complex. Whilst one has no objection to someone building a full scale working model of a D Type Jaguar provided it is claimed to be such and selling it for whatever the market is prepared to pay, none of us wants to see a car that was built last week advertised as “ex Hawthorn”. Whilst one can understand that a totally fake Bugatti may escape any comeback from the manufacturer as Bugatti are no longer in business, one may have thought it not in the best interest of Jaguar, for example, when cars built a long way from Coventry are passed off as original C and D Types.
The solution is equally difficult but the following suggestions may help.
1. Extend the FIA Vehicle Form to all historic cars which will all be categorised as “reconstructions” unless cast iron proof can be found for them being re-categorised as “genuine”.
2. In order to do this, form a central organisation or network of Registrars who can exchange information and know where such information may be obtained.
3. Gather together information of components, for example casting codes, metallurgical information, compositions of welding materials, drawings and production records etc., which may be used to authenticate genuine components.
Such solutions would require investment and the Motor Industry, whose heritage this would protect, may care to fund such a move.
The problem must be tackled soon, for in twenty or so years many of the fakes already around will have insinuated themselves as genuine and there will be total confusion as to which cars are real and which are not. ALAN PUTT Dartford, Kent