Jim Smart
December 7, 2005

This leads us to the issue of VINs and codes on the body, warranty plate, body buck tag, or certification sticker. Ever since enthusiasts began restoring Mustangs in the late '70s, they've been making changes to these hot collectible automobiles. Enthusiasts have changed colors, drivelines, axle ratios, interior colors, and more. This begs the question: what's proper and legal, and what isn't?

Restoring a Mustang to deliberately commit fraud is unethical. Fraud is purchasing an A- or K-code '65-'66 Mustang and adding GT components, then selling it as a Mustang GT without telling the buyer. The same thing can be said for someone who buys a '69 Mustang SportsRoof and turns it into a Mach 1, then doesn't tell the buyer. Any way you slice these scenarios, they become fraud when you don't tell the buyer the truth, even if you stand to get a lower offer in the process. You rarely gain anything by selling a vehicle under false pretenses. If the buyer learns of it, you could be sued. You may also face criminal charges if the fraud is outside the law.

Fraud becomes even more involved when you alter a vehicle identification number to make a classic Mustang something it wasn't to begin with. This includes changing anything about the VIN by using a different engine or body serial code. Forexample, taking a '69-'70 SportsRoof and changing the engine code to G to make it a Boss 302 or changing the 02 to 05 to make it a Mach 1. The technology is out there to do these things, but getting caught can get you in hot water.

Cutting the VIN out of the inner fender apron and welding it into the inner-fender of another Mustang is also Federal fraud. This is reassigning the VIN of one Mustang to another Mustang, also known as "rebodying" a restoration. When this happens, you are breaking federal law. It becomes a felony and potential prison time if you're caught. Although we know it happens with some regularity, we strongly discourage this practice.

While we're on this subject, we want to clarify the practice of stamping the VIN into an engine block or other driveline component. If you're restoring a classic Mustang and the factory stamped the vehicle's VIN into the block ('65-'67 289 High Performance and all '68-up), consider this practice only when the block casting date and number match the vehicle's build period prior to the scheduled build date. It should never be practiced with a replacement block that's obviously a replacement. For example, a '69-'70 Boss 302 with a '71 service replacement block isn't an engine you would stamp with the VIN because it's obviously a service replacement. In any case, always tell the buyer it isn't the original block when the engine has been replaced. This enables you to sleep comfortably and keeps your reputation intact.

We're including a complete listing of state motor vehicle bureaus from all 50 states. Before you buy a Mustang and undertake a restoration, play it safe and check the motor vehicle laws in your state. This keeps you in the clear and keeps us all honest.