Classic car lovers are being warned to do their homework after comedian Jerry Seinfeld was slapped with a lawsuit last month for allegedly auctioning off a fake vintage Porsche.
According to multiple reports, Seinfeld bought the car from European Collectables in 2013 for US$1.2 million (AU$1.6 million). In 2016, the comedian sold the car to the Brazilian-based automotive-related company. The car in question is a 1958 Porsche 356 1500 GS/GT Carrera Speedster.
The trouble came however when the new owner had a UK-based Porsche expert prepare the car for resale in 2017 and recognised the car as a fake.
Seinfeld has now hit back with his own court filing — claiming the European Collectables dealership tricked him into buying the fake sports car and should be the one held responsible.
Considering it took years before the car was declared a phoney, Starts at 60 spoke to Ben Finnis, owner and managing director at Collectable Classics, to find out how difficult it is to identify a fake classic car.
“Oh you can’t, that’s the problem. Some of them have been done so well that you just can’t tell,” he says.
Finnis said it’s not uncommon for classic car lovers to unknowingly purchase a fake, and sometimes the seller doesn’t even know they’re in possession of a counterfeit in the first place. So just how are these fakes getting past eagle-eyed car enthusiasts? Finnis said most of the time it’s the bodies of the vehicle that are fake. The dodgy dealer has transported the running gear under the hood from an original car into a fake body and then sold the vehicle at full price.
“You’ve got to be very mindful when you are buying a classic car to make sure it is what it is,” he adds.
If you’re unsure about a car’s authenticity, Finnis strongly recommends speaking to a car expert before purchase.
“Speak to professionals like myself because we do the homework to make sure they are what they are and make sure owners are getting exactly what they are paying for. I always say do your checks, do your homework, speak to people and join a car club.”
While the number of Australians who own a classic car is low (just 0.5 per cent of Aussies drive cars manufactured between 1950 and 1979), the profit they can generate from them is huge. The value of classic cars in Australia has shot up 467 per cent in the past 10 years, meaning many who got their hands on a slick ride over the past decade are sitting on a tidy sum.
In June, 2018, a Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III sold for a record $1 million at auction, and according to Money Magazine, it would have been worth just $300,000 two years ago. There are similar examples across the country with many retirees in particular using their hard-earned cash to indulge in their car fantasies now they’ve got the time to enjoy them.
Finnis said that while the temptation to dive in and purchase a dream car may be hard to resist, it pays to go through a thorough authentification process first – especially if you’re not too well-versed in the ins and outs of the vehicle.
“There’s a lot more people over the age of 60 retiring and buying a classic car and getting into the market for the first time. They have to be very very weary obviously of what they’re buying,” he said.