Falsifying a vehicle’s VIN can cause problems for years and years to come. Unfortunately, this Chevrolet Corvette owner has had to deal with this exact scenario for years. Worse still, it cost him over $50,000 just to keep his car.
Can you swap VIN numbers on a car?
Exchange a VIN plate to another car is a federal crime. However, removing the VIN plate from the vehicle is legal in most states, as long as it comes back to the same car. There are a few states where tampering with the VIN plate is completely illegal. One such state is Kansas, where this unfortunate story takes place.
According to CarscoopsKansas resident Richard Martinez bought his dream car, a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette, from an Indiana dealership in 2016. He spent $50,000 on it and had no idea it was going to cost much more .
Upon arriving in Kansas, a state trooper performing an inspection of the vehicle noted that the Corvette’s VIN plate had screws instead of rivets. This is because the restorer of this Corvette removed the VIN during the restoration process. Of course, they put the plate back on the car. However, even that is illegal under Kansas law. Thus, Kansas acknowledged that Martinez was not responsible for the removal of the VIN and was therefore innocent of any crime. However, the state has always dictated that, by law, the the car must be destroyed.
Martinez took this matter to court. The entire process was stalled until five years later in the summer of 2021. The Kansas Justice Institute urged the court to protect Martinez’s property rights, especially given his proven innocence. .
On March 22, 2022, Governor Laura Kelly signed into law House Bill 2594. The law exempts some older vehicles seizures and VIN violations. This way, the next time someone who has a fully restored classic whose VIN has been removed and replaced will not encounter this problem.
Unfortunately, Martinez and the Corvette suffered from this legal battle.
Due to legal verbiage, Martinez was not in possession of the vehicle throughout the battle. Instead, it was in various tow yards and a storage shed in Topeka, Kansas. As a result of its storage and relocation, the Corvette suffered over $28,000 in damage. Unfortunately, this once beautifully restored classic is susceptible to need another restoration.
Martinez also took another hit. According to the Carscoops article, the legal battle cost him more than $30,000 throughout his time in court. So, considering the original cost of the car, the legal battle, and the estimated damages, Martinez is in this Corvette for around $108,000. He hopes that he will be able to recover part of his financial losses from the State. Unfortunately, that likely involves another legal battle.
In the end, it’s an unfortunate situation. Knowing what you’re getting into is essential when buying a restored classic like this. You should always check your state’s laws and make sure you know the ins and outs of what has been done to the vehicle before purchasing it. Without a doubt, the way the state handled this case and the car was both unforgivable. However, Martinez’s experience and battle can now help others classic car buyers in the future.