Corvette Serial Number Plates
I found the following post by Noland Adams on an email list and thought it was valuable information to have here for our members:
Since there seems to be some discussion about 1953 to 1962 serial number plates, I'm going to jump in here.
First, any vehicle driven on public streets must be properly documented. This means being registered, with a proper serial number plate in place. Any vehicle without a serial number plate may be impounded on the spot. It is not unusual for a serial number plate to become misplaced while a Corvette is under restoration. If the car is ever stolen, that's the first thing the thief removes and destroys. In the case of a missing s/n plate, traffic authorities may install a state-issued replacement plate. After an
examination of the serial number on the documentation and the frame number, the new state-issued plate may contain the original serial number. If there is any doubt, the vehicle will be issued a new (unrelated) number.
If your Corvette has a state-issued serial number plate, and the documentation (ownership papers and registration) are in order, you have a legal vehicle. The only reason you might want to change it back to an original type of plate is to enter it in NCRS judging. If the state-issued s/n plate contains the original number, check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles and get a form to replace the plate with an original looking replacement.
If the Corvette does not have a s/n plate, you need to check into its history. Have a friend in law enforcement check the serial number quietly. If the car was stolen, you may have a big problem. If it is still reported as stolen, it may be impounded and returned to the proper owner. Proceed carefully in this area.
Let's say that the serial number plate is just lost, and the documentation and frame number match. Just get a replacement plate and install it before having the car inspected. Be sure the plate looks original and is mounted in its original location.
Obtaining an original looking serial number plate takes some time to have made, and it is expensive. If you have a nice looking street driven Corvette, the cost may not be worth it. The characters on the replacement plate must have the proper size and spacing. Each character requires a male and female
die, which must be stamped into the plate correctly. Expect to pay $400.00 to $1,000.00 for a duplicate of the original serial number plate: I call that expensive.
There's more to this subject, but I tried to stick to basic information. I recently wrote an article about replacement serial number plates for a magazine. Contact me if you need this information.
Good Luck, Noland Adams
Interesting reading and dead on the money (as usual for Noland).
A couple years ago, I dealt with a matter where a man tried to register a Harley Davidson motorcycle he'd purchased in pieces and restored. He did an excellent job on the resto but he should have done his homework first because as soon as he tried to register the bike, bells & whistles went off and the police (me) were called because the bike was stolen.
I ended up seizing the bike and turning it over to it's legal owner who was, of course, delighted since he's lost a bike that was in rough shape and got back a bike that was better than new.
The unlucky restorer was able to recoup some of the money he'd spent in fixing the bike up. The original owner figured he would be sued if he didn't reach some kind of arrangement, so they negotiated a fair price. The money the unlucky restorer spent to buy the bike was, of course, lost.
Here is a couple good followups to this thread:
NCRS has revised their requirements; it now states in the NCRS Judging Reference Manual that "The car must have the correct attached, Chevrolet factory Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) plate, or attached valid state-approved replacement ID plate which matches title and/or registration."
A state-issued serial number plate no longer affects a
Corvette's eligibility for judging, nor does it result in any point deductions; it may well, however, have significant effect on the car's resale value, as knowledgeable buyers want to see the original VIN plate on a Corvette and don't like cars with "stories".
I would caution you not to have someone run a vin number just to see if a vehicle was reported stolen. A positive hit (or "locate") is a record in the computer system. It identifies the requesting person and agency. The reporting law enforcement agency may respond with a request for the location of the "recovered vehicle". This was a lot easier in the old days, not so today.
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