By on September 3, 2012

9:15 A.M. Labor Day.

I get a surprise message on Facebook this morning from a guy who bought an old Volvo 940 wagon from me nearly six years ago.

That BMW? What did it go for?”

A month ago, I posted this article regarding the grey market Bimmer.  It had sold on the block for a mere $2,300 due in part to a broken odometer. I clicked on the Ebay listing hoping for a fair disclosure. Instead I got…

No disclosure of the fact that Carmax had sold it earlier as, “Not Actual Miles” and “Odometer Inop”.

A 16 digit VIN listed instead of the actual VIN number on the vehicle.

From my side of the fence, it’s the dealer that bears the responsibility of telling their audience about any title and mileage issues. It can be a tricky line in our professional world.

Some folks are not willing to hear out anything that someone else may have done in error. The 16 digit VIN listed on this vehicle’s title is obviously not correct. Go to the last picture, and you’ll see that the 10th digit of the VIN is without an ‘H’ that signifies a 1987 model and that the title lists this vehicle as having 6 cylinders, which is also incorrect.

However these were just two small ingredients in the recipe of mistakes and omissions. When I checked for the databases I use for vehicle histories, nothing popped up. I did find out through this decoder that the vehicle was actually produced in September 1986. But inserting a ‘G’ as the 10th digit generations nothing.

As someone who has traveled the country liquidating 10,000 vehicles a year, and even bought grey market cars, I can’t say I have ever seen anything quite like this. 16 digits on the title? A close-up of the VIN on the vehicle would add wonders to this seller’s audience, and perhaps their ability to verify the miles.

Mileage issues are nothing new in the world that is older used cars. Dealer auctions sometimes have to deal with sellers who think that an exempt car, a car that is 10 years or older, doesn’t have to have known mileage issues disclosed.

They do. It’s required by law.  Though I don’t believe the folks at Bring A Trailer have anything but the best of intentions for classic car enthusiasts, at least now they have an extra incentive to verify VIN numbers when the opportunity to do so is there.

They have been contacted and hopefully their article and the Ebay listing will be amended.

This saga brings on a more personal question. What was the most misrepresented vehicle you ever saw in your life? Sometimes auctions will get the details wrong as we witnessed in the earlier post about this car. Some of them will go through thousands of cars over the course of the year, so that’s understandable.

But a guy who bought and kept a car like this with ‘True Miles Unknown’ announced on the block, and written on the bill of sale? So many unusual coincidences in one listing? What says you?

Special thanks to John Dillingham, a long-time fellow brick enthusiast and all around good guy, for tracking down the listing. 



Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

26 Comments on “Hammer Time: The Return Of The 1967 Arabs!...”

  • avatar

    I’m not sure if the word “promote” is appropriate in this case. Bring A Trailer has two kinds of posts, cars being sold that are exclusives to BaT and cars they find for sale on other sites. I presume there’s some kind of commission being paid to the sit on the BaT exclusives. On those listings, BaT, to my eyes, does a good faith effort to get the provenance correctly. Since they’re getting paid, you could say that they’re indeed promoting those sales.

    Other posts, like this one on eBay, are just reporting other sales. No real different than Jalopnik or other sites doing a “found on Craigslist” type post. My impression as a reader is that BaT stays on top of cars that have appeared before on their site and do a pretty good job at that, keeping track of recent sales history or signs of buyers flipping cars.

    Still, as you point out, there’s always room for improvement and maybe BaT will listen to your recommendations.

    This is some kind of grey market car so it’s not surprising that the provenance and paperwork is a bit iffy.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Ronnie, the car is displayed in front of a substantial audience that may be interested in buying it.

    That’s called promoting.

    It’s not an ‘evil’ thing, and nobody is saying that BaT is complicit.

    I sent an email to them several hours ago, and provided them with the real VIN# along with the information given on the date of sale.

    I’m sure they will take the right action.

    Just an FYI, one of the absolute basics of selling any motor vehicle is providing an accurate VIN# along with disclosing any and all known issues related to the mileage and the title.

    It’s required by law.

    The vehicle was sold on July 30th 2012 in Kennesaw, GA as ‘Not Actual Miles, Odometer Inop, Grey Market Vehicle’.

    As it stands, grey market cars are one of many unique niches in the auction business. However the standards of disclosure don’t change just because it happens to be a unique vehicle. You either say yes, no, or I don’t know but here is the information I have for it.

    This isn’t rocket science. If you can’t disclose properly, then don’t sell the car.

  • avatar

    In the late 80`s my ex-father in law went to a Ford dealer with a bunch of ex-lease/rental Taurus`s (Tauri ?). There were at least 10 of them and they were all white with blue interiors. After a drive, he picked one out and we headed inside to do the deal. I was curious how they kept them straight from one another since the salesman didn`t take the keys, which had the vin on them. I made a mental note of the last four digits and sure enough the contract had a car with a different vin on it. Turns out THAT car had much higher mileage and more scratches and wear and cost less than the cantract stated. I was rewarded by dirty looks from the salesman and the sales manager and the proper car was sold.

  • avatar


    The guy says its an 87 at least twice in the listing, and its a grey-market import which means it would have had its metic instruments replaced by imperial ones – so saying true milage unknown is hardly a big surprise.

    True, the seller says the odo displays 69k miles, but any remotely serious buyer knows that its not the original odo.

    Indeed, a non standard/matching VIN and unknown miles are pretty much par for the course for any grey market car.

    I get where this article is going, but there must be better examples out there of mis-represented vehicles – and more important ones like non-disclosed ex-flood SUVs going to families, rather than an oddball BMW (in the USA) that will be going to some enthusiast who knows what he’s getting into (and just the euro features along are almost worth the current bid price even if the car is a non-op).

    I have no affiliation with the car, but I read it on BAT, and then read this here.

    • 0 avatar

      Seller doesn’t state that the odo has 69k miles. He states that the CAR has 69k miles, with no admission in the ad of “true miles unknown”. That said, if the car was imported and converted when new (as claimed), there’s no reason to think it accumulated any significant mileage before the gauges were replaced. IOW, notwithstanding the title branding, it may be true mileage. But given the “odo broken” status at the auction Steven attended, I personally wouldn’t take it at face value unless there’s a service history to back it up. I also wouldn’t take at face value the statement that the odo is broken.

      The year/VIN issue is caused by ebay’s listing code, which does not acknowledge the existance of grey-market cars in the US, and forces sellers to list the car as from a year before 17-digit VIN’s became mandatory in order to enter a VIN of a different format. The seller should explain this in the listing. I have no idea if a 16-digit VIN is valid for a 1987 BMW in any market. Steven, you’re claiming that the VIN is false. Do you have the true VIN? Do you know that a 16-digit VIN must be wrong for this car?

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        The VIN for that vehicle was listed as 17 digits on the run list.

        The car ran on the July 30th dealer sale with the following announcements:

        Announcements: Not Actual Miles, Odometer Inop, Grey Market Vehicle.

        I sent this and other information to the folks at BaT about 9 hours ago. Today is Labor Day and most everyone I know took the time to enjoy life a bit.

        So I would give them time to sort this out.

      • 0 avatar

        I just took a closer look at the ebay listing. It includes a photo of the Georgia title, and the VIN on it matches the 16-digit VIN in the listing. I suspect the original title doc is wrong, but short of physically comparing it to the VIN plate on the car I can’t think of any way to verify which is correct.

        Somebody somewhere has clearly got it wrong, but I have to repeat that just because the auction listing claimed a 17-digit VIN and inop odo doesn’t mean it’s true.

        edit: just noticed that the title also says it’s a 6-cylinder car, so it appears that the title was created without much attention to accuracy. Irrespective of any other issues, I’m thinking that would be a nightmare to get corrected at this point. Especially if you tried to register it somewhere like California, where the DMV pitches a fit if your pen sticks and you have to double trace a number on the paperwork somewhere.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        Interesting. It apparently comes down to the 10th digit.


        The 10th digit should be a G if it is a 1986 or an H if it is a 1987. When I decoded the last seven of the VIN, I discovered that this car was actually produced in September 1986.

        Neither one, G or H, is showing as having a registration history. In fact no code number for any model with this combination of digits is showing to be active according to Carfax.

        I have seen one title with too many digits. I have never seen one with too few. All VIN listings are required to have 17 digits since 1981.

      • 0 avatar

        Seems likely that the VIN has been wrong in the paperwork since the car was originally federalized. It’s a good reminder to ALWAYS verify the documentation against the VIN plate when you’re buying a car. Any car, from anybody. Dealers, importers and converters aren’t magically immune from error.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Sorry. But I don’t agree with you at all.

    He uses an inaccurate VIN and states that the mileage is a bit more than 69,000 miles.

    Also, assuming that everyone interested in buying a grey market vehicle is an ‘expert’ is way off the mark.

    Some folks look at the brand, the low mileage, and a low Ebay bid price, and start making the strangest of assumptions. When I sold a grey market 1977 Mercedes 350SE a few years ago, I had several emails from folks who asked me whether it was a diesel.

    Buyers on Ebay run the gamut. Some are experts, others not so much.

    I’ve also sold other older vehicles on Ebay where, to be frank, the buyer didn’t know anything about the car. Here was one interesting experience I endured not too long ago.

    If the seller wishes to correct his listing, he can do so. Everyone makes mistakes, and hopefully the vehicle can be re-posted with the correct information in the near future.

    • 0 avatar

      – The seller lists the actual year of the car (you said the wrong year is listed – not true)

      – Steve65 notes that he can read that the paper VIN is the same as the one inputed on eBay – so the guy is not a crook on these grounds.

      – I conceed he does say the milage is 69k which is not accurate, but someone giving misleading information on the milage of a 25 year old grey market import is hardly article worthy.

      – I’d bet $10 bucks that this goes to a BMW enthusiast – the e28 community is pretty strong, and any dry Euro e28 is worth more to someone into these cars than some random buyer.

      Sorry – I hope this stays on Bring A Trailer – its a cool Euro e28 with what appears to be a solid body.

  • avatar

    1. 1990 Plymouth Horizon, the owner told me nothing about the mis matched tires nor the bad alignment.

    2. 1970’s Convertible VW Beetle, runs and drives but it turns out that it had been sitting for years and couldn’t even start up.

    3. 1990 Mercury Grand Marqius, the ad said “80k miles” but it turned out to have 115k miles and hadn’t been plated for at least a year.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    I looked at a Volvo once which was advertised as one year newer than it actually was. I tought something was wrong and checked the year of manufacture, a letter in the VIN code. When I told the seller this he yelled “Get the h** out of my car!”. I took this as a hint the inspection was over.

  • avatar

    Still.. a nice looking older Bimmer and it cant be slower than a VW Bug!

  • avatar

    Unfortunately, the most misrepresented car I have encountered is one that I bought — and it was a grey market German car, with a busted odometer, to boot. It was a 1985 Mercedes-Benz 280TE wagon, i.e. a gasser version of the W123 wagons sold officially in the US only as diesels. I specifically asked about several of the expensive problem areas, and was assured the cruise control worked, the insanely complex rear suspension was fine, and the climate control was hunky-dory. And that the odometer was fine.

    OK, shame on me for buying a car on eBay sight unseen, but this seller had a lot of feedback (not from obvious shills as far as I can tell) saying his cars were better than expected. So the car that got dropped off at my door looked great, and in fact ran very well, but the cruise control was dead (kaching!), the rear suspension was toast (kaching kaching!), the climate control stopped controlling in a week, as the seller had simply recharged a leaky system, and the auto temp control setup never worked right (kaching!), the tires were 13 years old and starting to dry rot (kaching!), . . . , you get the idea. The bad odo is actually one thing I don’t necessarily fault the seller on, because it wasn’t totally stopped, but it only worked about one-fourth of the time. The problem is that it had been that way for a long time, which you could figure out from the old service records that had oddly small mileage differences from one visit to the next.

    I decided to cut my losses and immediately put the car back up for sale, as-is but honestly described. The loss I took was less than the cost of fixing all the problems. The buyer was Dutch, so maybe the poor beast is happier now that it has been repatriated to Europe.

  • avatar

    BaT lists cars of interest from among those submitted from viewers as well as ones found by themselves. BaT exclusives are just that. Listings for commission or fee as with any other marketing medium.

  • avatar

    As for this car.
    According to the last 7 digits of the VIN.

    Production data as follows:
    09/1986 E28 518i Sedan M10 Europe Left hand drive Manual
    Production Code: 4091

  • avatar

    What’s really shady is when the guy adjusts the contrast on the photo on the eBay listing that shows the driver’s side of that BMW – the one that indicates that the color match on the front fender is off. Actively trying to hide a defect and never mentioning it in the ad. Yeah, that’s shady.

  • avatar

    You guys are whining about” Curbstoners ” ?? .

    _EVERYONE_ knows they’re all F.O.S. , that’s why they *instantly* begin yelling when you ask them a question they know they’ve lied about already .

    I’ve bought a few Flea-Bay cars , every one was a bullshyte piece of junk , my fault for not going in person to inspect .


  • avatar

    The law in all its majestic equality is often referred to as a panacea but in real-world scenarios merely a lesson in futility and not cost-effective and even if a judgement is in your favor collecting said judgement can open a new squirming bag of worms.

  • avatar

    1970 Shelby GT500 – it was an apparent barn find in Buffalo NY about 17 yrs ago. Sheet metal and running gear was correct but VIN was not. The VIN was for 1969 (which IS correct – the 70 Shelbys were ’69 hold overs) but the VIN ID did not correspond with a Shelby. I am guessing it was a regular Mustang that was converted back in the day, perhap after ther real Shelby was in an accident. I offered $$ based on the Shelby compnents, but much less than an actual Shelby. The owner got very upset and ran me off his property. I suspect he duped someone eventually.

  • avatar

    I once went to look at a “Ninja 250 with minor road-rash” posted on a craigslist add that turned out to be a totaled Hyosung GT250R. The posting pictures showed some minor damage to the right fairings, which the seller said had come from accidentally backing into the bike with a car (presumably tipping the bike over).

    The actual state of the bike was that it was entirely inoperable, the fairing mounts had been shattered and most of the bike was held together with duct-tape. The battery had also been damaged, and the seller had driven nails into the positive and negative leads so he could use alligator clips to start the bike (which it didn’t actually start while I was there).

    His buddy also showed up when I was there and said “oh yeah, it was much better looking before it fell out of the truck” so my guess is it actually took a tumble out of a pickup and tumbled around a bit. Fortunately all I was out was an hour of my time, but some poor sod ended up with a $2000 bike with 5k worth of damage done to it.

  • avatar

    I recently bought a new Nissan pickup at a Georgia dealer. A couple of months later the dealership notified me they had put the wrong VIN on the title, and they were quite anxious to correct that mistake. I suspect that the dealership knows what’s required and what you can get away with, and the wrong VIN is not one of those things you can get away with. I think if your title shows a different VIN from the vehicle in question, it means that legally you do not have title to the vehicle in question. You might “own” it but technically I think you can’t get a tag and you can’t sell it.

  • avatar

    My father bought an early 80s bmw 735 grey market. nice car. it was the cool thing to do back then. when he traded it in it was found that the odometer had been changed. He had his bill of sale so he was OK.

    My guess is same thing happened with this car.

  • avatar

    First car I ever bought was a 67 mercury cougar. “No bondo in that car. It’s all original” the seller was excited to point out. I did not even know what bondo was. Well I found out what bondo was, the car was full of it (as was the seller). Oh and it had a 302, instead of a 289. Still, it was an OK car.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Jeff S: True for now but let’s give GM some more time to see what happens. Battery technology and...
  • Jeff S: The refinery capacity in the USA continues to decrease and it is very hard to get a refinery built because of...
  • Jeff S: @mcs–The Walmart near me had several charging stations but they took them out. I haven’t seen too...
  • Jeff S: Let me see. I might want to first take it on a trip and get the feel for it on the road.
  • Jeff S: @ajla–Yes after 8 1/2 months I finally got one. I have only seen 4 on the roads and 2 Santa Cruz. My...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber