Strange Connection 84908

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Tom Tate
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Strange Connection 84908

#1 Post by Tom Tate » Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:15 am

Strange Connection
I have seen some strange things happen with cars over the years but none stranger than the story that you’re about to hear. Settle back with an adult beverage and listen to this tale.
Because I’ve been playing with these old Tubs since college, I have a lot of connections in the restoration area and have used many craftsmen over the years. I have a guy that punches out perfect louvers in engine covers. I know another that can make (from scratch) a 356 Carrera 2 oil tank. I work with shops that can install floors and battery boxes in 50 year old cars and make them look correct and original. Because of those resources I have folks that call me looking for someone to work on their rides that they can have confidence in. I don’t have any problem making connections for people, keeps good shops in business and keeps old cars on the road. It’s what I call my hobby.
One such call came from a well-known shop back in 2011 that wanted some metal work done on a customer’s car before they painted it. They could have done it in house but were backed up and didn’t want to delay the restoration. The owner had driven the Speedster for 52 years having bought it in California for the princely sum of $850. He was told that the car had been in an accident and that the front of the car had been replaced, hence the low selling price. Back in those days nobody cared.
I sent the shop to a master metal worker in Bridgewater who had done a few Tubs for me and really knew these cars well. After a couple of weeks I got a call from him asking if I could stop by the shop because he had a few questions and some concerns about the earlier repairs. The front had been clipped with the nose from another Speedster. It had been braised onto the car which is how it was done before TIG and MIG welding was invented. Remember, this was back in the early ‘60’s and the cars weren’t worth much. The VIN number didn’t match since the nose is where the Factory stamped the chassis number and that was from another car. The VIN plate attached by the fuel tank said 83401 and the number stamped in the nose said 84908.Photo attached below.
I went home and checked my Speedster book to discover that the replaced nose was from a Carrera Speedster, a car that is worth about three times the normal engine pushrod Speedster it was attached to. It was easy to tell because the book gave 84908 an engine number that was for a four cam engine. Back in the day they held no greater value than a car with a pushrod engine, if anything they were worth less because few mechanics could keep a four cam engine running smoothly. Someone had sacrificed a Carrera Speedster, one of 151 built, to repair a pushrod car which numbered over 4200. I would assume that 84908 was either hit hard in the rear or suffered an engine fire leaving only the portion forward of the windshield posts usable. After a few phone calls, the instructions from the owner, through the original shop, were to leave it alone, he had bought the car as 83401, it was registered as 83401 all these years and considered it to just be part of the story of the car. The metal work continued.
Repairs were done, paint and assembly completed and the owner joined the local club and showed the car with great success. Red Speedsters are always a big hit and 83401 won the first time out at a TYP356NE show last year. The VIN number situation lay dormant under the front trunk mat. Just last month he took another first place in the 356 class at the Patrick Dempsey Porsche Show in Maine.
Last year the classic car world was shaken by news of lawsuits filed against and by Jerry Seinfeld over a Carrera Speedster that he had sold to an investment group in England, Fica Frio Limited. They claimed the car was not “authentic”. Jerry in turn sued the company he bought the car from, European Collectibles, since they had sold the car to him and had completed the restoration after their purchase from a shop in Florida when the owner had passed away.
In car circles the real question that everyone wanted to know was what made the car “fake”. Many of us had seen the car up close, including myself, in Scottsdale a few years ago. The car had won numerous awards and had been inspected by world experts for years with never a word of concern. The panels all fit perfectly, the engine was correct, alloy panels were present and the color, Auratium Green was reported to be the only example done in that color.
The media reported that the car was sold at a Gooding & Co auction in 2016. As Fica Frio Limited prepared to resell the car in 2017 an inspection was done and it was determined that the car was not as represented. When contacted, Jerry Seinfeld was reported to have said that he would take the car back and refund their money. However, the money was never returned and so in the fall of 2018 the lawsuit was filed in a New York court. In the belief that he could pass the car back to European Collectibles, Seinfeld’s lawyers then filed their suit against the original seller in California. Neither lawsuit described in detail what it was about the car that made it fake or counterfeit. That left the classic car community buzzing about what the problem could be. I followed these cases closely as a Speedster owner because I couldn’t imagine what we had missed.
A couple of months ago an article appeared in the 356 Registry club magazine that recapped the litigation and for the first time, that I saw, posted the VIN of the car in question. It was 84908.
What? Wait, wasn’t that the same number that was stamped into the clip on the front of 83401 that I had found back in 2011? I went back and dug through the files in the computer looking for the shop pictures. Yes, it was and I still had the photos to prove it. Don’t you just love computers? They never lose anything. All I had to do was connect the numbers and with an engineering background that was easy.
The car that everyone was fighting over was clearly not 84908 because I knew where that was. Well, at least I knew where most of it had been for the last 52 years. I put a call into the attorneys for Fica Frio Limited overseas. After a chat that included the original appraiser that waved the “fake” flag they determined that my information had no value to them and the conversation was over. The lawyers would not allow the appraiser to tell me what tipped him off but I did tell him he was correct. I would’ve thought that the case could be resolved pretty quickly if there was more information than just two guys arguing their opinion about a restoration on a 61 year old car. Maybe not.
I got the same reaction from the lawyers that had filed the second suit. I told them that I would appear as an expert witness who could attest and actually provide access to the front half of 84908 but after some missed conference calls and unreturned voice mails that path went cold. I guess I just don’t understand the law.
I did reach out to the owner of European Collectibles who couldn’t have been nicer and more interested. While he had completed the restoration before the sale to Seinfeld in 2012, it had been started by a shop that had closed years ago. As a dealer in CA with records of purchase and a trail back to that FL shop I believe that EC is not the guilty party but the hobby itself is really the biggest loser. He’ll be contacting the current owner to see how many of the empty spaces that they can fill in together.
Now vintage Porsches will be looked upon with a degree of suspicion that wasn’t there before these lawsuits started flying. We have all read about the two Ferraris that showed up on the show field with the same VIN. I guess we’ll have to look a little closer at the numbers on Porsches from here on.
KTF
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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#2 Post by Alan Hall » Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:55 am

Tom,
As some of these cars become insanely valuable there seems to be some folks that want to cash in by creating "fake" cars. Witness the story I posted a week ago or so regarding 550A-0126. While I don't know for sure if that car was created from scratch, I suspect a lot of it was, if not all. I am sure that in many cases these "forgeries" are not detected, but in some cases we old time enthusiasts say wait a minute I know something about a car that is being offered for sale that is contrary to the story being told about the car. We are entering an area on some of these cars that sounds more like the world of fine art and less like car enthusiasts. It is kind of sad really.

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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#3 Post by George Hussey » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:13 am

and of course because of this, Porsche is clamping down on giving out ANY information on these cars. Was the carrera speedster with aluminum fenders or just doors? If aluminum fenders would the front clip on the speedster not now have aluminum fenders?

I am now trying to find the original id number for a 70 911t I bought that was a theft recovery in the early 70s and Porsche here is MOST uncooperative! I (with the help of David Pateman) have eliminated all possibilities to five numbers and Porsche will not give me ANY information. Too bad, this original car I have needs its history back.

Tom do the numbers on the front clip look like they could have been altered at any time?

We have a roadster up at our body shop that Kirk is restoring and it has had the numbers changed, OBVIOUSLY, long ago and the owner has been trying to determine from the numbers on the doors and hinges what the original car's number was, but has had no luck as well.

So the conclusion as so well stated previously, is that these cars have become so valuable, people will go to great lengths legitimately or illegitimately, to fool with the numbers, and I do not blame Porsche for clamping down. Too bad for all of us.
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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#4 Post by Mike Wilson » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:40 am

Phenomenal story, Tom. Let's see where the lawsuit goes from here.

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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#5 Post by Norm Miller » Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:49 pm

Tom,

Does the front clip 84908 which is on 83401 have rolled arches and lower valance?
If so it was from a GT which confirms it's authenticity.
Since it is clipped forward of the fuel tank the aluminum # plate would or could have been left intact on it's remains.
This could have legitimately created two cars bearing the same # without intent to deceive.
If this "trickery" took place 30 - 50 years ago it wouldn't come as a surprise.
Some states licensed by engine # plus no one gave a hoot about matching #'s so did it matter?

George Aluminum fenders? I think not!

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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#6 Post by Vic Skirmants » Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:52 pm

George; NO 356 had aluminum fenders. We won't go into the 2000GS/GT, which was all aluminum; on a 356 chassis.

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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#7 Post by Tom Tate » Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:05 pm

A few things to consider :
1. The front chassis clip was braised onto 83401 over 50 years ago. (nobody cared)
2. It appears that the sheet metal nose & fenders on 83401 are original (no wire on the lower valence)
3. Nobody would cut the nose off a car to use unless the rear was junk (crash, fire)
4. How could the engine have survived if the rear suffered such destruction?
5. Hood, doors, engine lid on 83401 are all steel
6. Engine in 83401 is not original to the car
7. 83401 is a T1 with a T2 nose
8. 84908 is a converted T1 car with a T2 nose (per Fica Frio inspector)
Now consider, what is to be done with these cars now? If you had them in the same room would you cut the nose off 83401 and put it onto 84908? What would you do with the nose taken off 84908? Put it on 83401? You couldn't do that because they would still share the same vin. When it was all done what would you have? How does that swap establish any value to either car? Lots of questions but no answers.
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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#8 Post by Joris Koning » Wed Aug 07, 2019 5:07 pm

Tom Tate wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 2:05 pm

4. How could the engine have survived if the rear suffered such destruction?
Tom, I have questions marks around the engine. The car today is set-up with front coolers while the car originally had a roller engine. Could be a later refit but strange none the less. Given the tempering which has happened to this car a re-stamped engine or stamped blank case would certainly not be a surprise
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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#9 Post by Tim Berardelli » Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:16 am

Tom,

Great story, great detective work! You've earned your Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat. Your story reminds me of an other Speedster that I looked at many years ago. The car had one T1 high striker door and lock post and one T2 low striker door and lock post-making it the Uber rare T1.5 model that is believed to be one of one.

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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#10 Post by Tom Tate » Thu Aug 08, 2019 9:56 am

Tim,
I saw that car with different door latches being sold years ago by a woman (Diane Meade) in CT. It was 84408, she bought it in 1970 and the repair was done before she got it. Claimed that she didn't notice it before I pointed it out in 2014. It must've been a great story but I passed on the car. I was told that it went to someone in NY. Boy, if these cars could just talk ....
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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#11 Post by William Block » Thu Aug 08, 2019 10:14 am

From previous post: "more like fine art." Beating my favorite drum -- provenance is everything. A Rembrandt is just a pretty painting without the historical trail. The Registry should return to functioning like a registry. Several make clubs now keep a very tight reign on serial numbers. History knowledge is much preferred to ignorance, especially self inflicted ignorance.
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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#12 Post by George Hussey » Thu Aug 08, 2019 11:09 am

I once owned a speedster with a t5 nose clipped on, and a carrera steering wheel. I still have the steering wheel (thanks bruce crawford for restoring it) sold the car, back then, thinking that it was worth nothing.
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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#13 Post by Dick Weiss » Thu Aug 08, 2019 11:54 am

Tom,

According to my listings, 83401 was never a Carrera Speedster.

Dick

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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#14 Post by Tom Tate » Thu Aug 08, 2019 12:13 pm

Dick Weiss wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 11:54 am
Tom,

According to my listings, 83401 was never a Carrera Speedster.

Dick
Dick, your information is correct

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Re: Strange Connection 84908

#15 Post by Jacques Lefriant » Mon Aug 12, 2019 11:46 am

Hi Joris
Do you know when (chassis nos) the first oil-coolers were installed on production cars did GT cars get them that had roller engines even if they did not need them since the production line was installing them for PB cranks engines or if like 84908 to be used as a race car?
j
 

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