Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Buyer beware of classic car conundrum

Pat King of Lanesboro, Mass., bought a 1967 Chevelle Super Sport from Golden Classics in Clearwater in 2006. An investigation revealed that the car was stolen in Tennessee.

Pat King of Lanesboro, Mass., bought a 1967 Chevelle Super Sport from Golden Classics in Clearwater in 2006. An investigation revealed that the car was stolen in Tennessee.

It seemed just a fateful incident: Canadian man buys a 1970 Shelby Mustang from Golden Classics of Clearwater in late 2004, but it turns out to be stolen.

Now investigators sifting through documents at the classic car dealership have found that it wasn't just the Shelby.

Last week, state troopers in Massachusetts impounded a 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle that Patrick King bought from Golden Classics in 2006.

Officers matched the vehicle identification number to a car reported stolen more than two years ago in Tennessee.

"That stuff was supposed to be checked out," King lamented. "I still owe $22,000 on the car."

How, in just more than a year, did the same classic car dealership sell two stolen cars?

Daniel Newcombe, owner of Golden Classics, which describes itself as "one of the world's leading dealerships'' in collector and antique cars, calls it an unusual sequence of events — but one of the risks in the classic used car business.

And he warns consumers: Get insurance when you buy classic cars, because dealers often land hot vehicles.

"It happens to dealers all over the country all the time," Newcombe said.

He said dealers rely on state motor vehicle departments to ensure that a title is clean, which he said happened with both the Mustang and the Chevelle.

"We did nothing wrong," he said. "There's nothing that we're doing wrong in this business."

Ann Nucatola, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, agreed that much of the onus falls on the consumer. The buyer must vet the vehicle before purchase or rely on his insurance companies or the bond that the dealer is required to carry.

The bond is insurance for the dealer that helps cover such costs as reimbursement for a customer that received a stolen car.

Nucatola said the motor vehicle department does not have the manpower to run all titles for dealerships before cars are sold.

Stolen cars can get chopped and shopped from state to state without any uniform, national way of tracking the cars' titles.

Matthew Fafard, a Massachusetts state trooper who handled the Chevelle case, said law enforcement has been pushing for a national car titling system to track the life of all vehicles.

"The difficulty sometimes is that every state operates differently," Fafard said. "That can be an advantage to the criminal."

Some states allow a person to bring a bill of sale to the motor vehicle agency and receive a "tag certificate,'' which can be taken to another state to receive a title.

That happened with the Chevelle. The man who sold the car to Golden Classics got a certificate in Georgia; the dealership got a so-called "fast title" from Florida.

At the time, Florida did not run a history check on vehicle identification numbers when it issued fast titles. That has since changed; now identification numbers are run at the same time that a fast title is issued.

So "these kinds of things should happen a lot less frequently," Nucatola said.

But it has been part of the way thieves have laundered stolen cars.

Classic models that are 30 years old can make it impossible to find answers: Are the body and frame original parts? Are they the parts for that particular car?

Finding the answer can require removing the body from the frame to see if the identification numbers on the parts match. That's costly to the dealer and an improbable task for a consumer.

"You have to take the car apart," said Newcombe. "We're not going to do that. They're hidden to where we can't get to them.

"I can't tell if it's stolen or not. I don't know what to do in these situations.''

Authorities say that car theft rings stole both cars that Golden Classics ended up selling.

The 1970 Shelby Mustang was laundered through a New York ring that stole cars and parts, ran chop shops and produced fraudulent vehicle titles for almost 20 years, including a fraudulent title for the VIN-altered Mustang.

The customer who bought the Mustang was compensated for being sold a stolen car, but not until after he filed a lawsuit and the St. Petersburg Times reported his case. "I would not characterize him as happy,'' said his lawyer, Carter Anderson. "He would rather have the Mustang."

Police have not disclosed details about the ring that stole the Chevelle.

Paris Keck, a 50-year-old electrician from New Tazewell, Tenn., reported that it disappeared from his yard about 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2006. He said his neighbor saw a white Chevy pickup pulling the car down the road.

Keck bought the $30,000 Chevelle for his daughter as a college graduation present. It was a Super Sport model, metallic blue.

Now it's red. It has been upgraded with at least $8,000 worth of improvements, so he'll get a better car when he picks it up from Massachusetts.

But King, who found Golden Classics over the Internet, now has an empty parking space at his home.

Golden Classics says when it receives formal evidence that the car was stolen, King will be compensated — but not for any improvements.

King sees it differently: "I'm going to get refunded for this car plus expenses. The vehicle wasn't what was described to be. That was not my fault."

Ivan Penn can be reached at or (727) 892-2332.


Before you buy

If you're looking for a used car, classic or otherwise, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles recommends:

• View the car's history at

• Check with your local law enforcement agency to see if the vehicle shows up in the national auto theft database.

• If the dealer is offering a deal that seems too good to be true, ask why.

Buyer beware of classic car conundrum 05/26/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 10:46am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show


    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.