Oklahoma-based Classic Recreations — the company behind the Shelby GT500CR and other continuation series Mustangs — was raided today by the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigations over suspected VIN-plate swapping. It sure feels like Unique Performance all over again. UPDATE.
Classic Recreations is under investigation for VIN plate swapping — i.e. taking the Vehicle Identification Number off of a junked car and attaching it to whatever you like — by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations (OSBI). Though no charges have yet been filed, cars have been seized over what the OSBI is calling an ongoing investigation.
According to local local news reports, the shop's owner Jason Engel told authorities he "knew what was going on, but claimed not to know it was illegal."
Having recently visited the shop I'm convinced this statement is almost certainly false. When I visited Classic Recreations last month it was clear they were doing a steady business converting reconditioned Mustang bodies into new continuation series Shelbys and Eleanor replicas. After Dallas-based Unique Performance was accused of swapping VIN plates there was a stink around the entire authorized recreations world and Engel did his best to distance himself from them.
When we first arrived they showed off a few untouched cars in pre-restoration condition on the lot, indicating they were about to undergo a great deal of work to be made worthy of their steep $120K+ price. He also proudly demonstrated the VIN plates on the finished cars.
In a long conversation covering numerous topics we touched on the issue of Unique Performance and Engel expressed disdain for the company and their practices, albeit never singling out a specific crime. He was upset that Carroll Shelby was a victim of what Engel believed was Unique Performance owner Doug Hasty's bad practices.
Most damning, when asked directly if the VINs on a few Eleanor recreations on his lot were the original ones Engel told us they were. Now it appears the police are skeptical of this claim.
It was convincing, and I even added this tidbit in my review of their car:
After the company's bad experience with Unique Performance, it seems that ol' Shel is being more selective about who uses his name.
Given all this, I find his claim that he somehow could hold a company accused of similar transgressions in contempt and yet not understand what they were accused of highly dubious. It's possible there's another explanation and I've reached out to the business and his media representatives for comment.
This isn't to say the cars were bad for what they were, but at this point we have no clue what they were.
Update: A statement from a spokesperson for Classic Recreations indicates the charges are false and he was misquoted by an investigator who said he was aware of the wrongdoing but unaware it was illegal:
"The quote attributed to Jason Engel in a single local Oklahoma news report is second hand information that was misquoted by the local media outlet. Classic Recreations denies any and all wrongdoing. Like thousands of other restoration shops and hobbyists across the country, Classic Recreations builds vintage cars with original and aftermarket parts - the restoration marketplace should pay attention to what is happening here. The shop has built a reputation for building the highest quality vehicles and delivering unrivaled customer satisfaction and will continue to do so in the future."
Photo Credit: Zerin Dube/Speed:Sport:Life