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That’s the serial number plate of a ’66 Austin Mini Cooper S, and yes, those are just screws  attaching it to the body shell. And while they built only a few thousand of those classic Mark 1 Mini Cooper Ss with this rust-o-matic body shell, they built something like 5 million classic Minis with that body shell,  and they look damn near identical. Can’t find a rust free body shell amongst those millions? You can still buy a brand new one. And if any owner doesn’t like the serial number on that plate, they can buy a brand new blank one to stamp with any number their lil’ heart desires. Oh, and that 1275cc. S engine of which just a few thousand were built? With some improvements it later became the standard power plant in a few million other Brit cars.

As one can see, there’s more than a little potential for mischief here… In fact a whole cottage industry has sprung up to make such mischief as some of those five million pedestrian Minis get mislabeled as classic Mini Cooper Ss. One enterprising bodger took a 1990s Mini, added some 60s racer bling, and called it a 1960 Mini Cooper S. Well, he can call it anything he wants, but Mecom auction fell for the BS and even featured it in a recent auction, where it sold at a pretty profitable price. Nothing wrong with upgrading a plain Jane car, but selling a 1990s car as a 1960 model that never was is a felony in most places. A felony that Mecom and the buyer should have easily caught, being that the Mini Cooper S wasn’t built ’til 1962 or so. It gets worse- Ever eager to up their profit margin, these Mini bodgers have often resorted to even cheaper stolen Mini’s to repackage as 1960s classics. But heck, they’re mere wankers who have barely scratched the profit potential in these bogus classics… The even rarer factory race and rally Minis can go into 6 figures at auction. There were maybe a hundred of those Mini Cooper Ss, most were scrapped after a season or two of racing, and most of the witnesses to the great BMC factory racing effort are now bench racing upstairs. Yup, an enterprising bodger could stamp the serial number of a factory race or rally car on a new serial number plate, attach it to a identical body shell of a 60s Mk.1 Mini Cooper built by the tens if not hundreds of thousands or a later shell modded to look like one, drop in a 1275 lump with dual carbs, fabricate a history all over the internet, and turn a tidy profit. But Minis are a minor market compared to musclecars…

As we saw at the recent nebraska auction of a few hundred abandoned old Chevys at 5 and even 6 figure prices, there is a large market sector of boomers with what the addiction treatment counselors call “euphoric memory” of 60s musclecar performance.  But the stop watches and now computerized data recorders don’t lie… The new base model 6 cylinder Mustang and  Camaro can run with the 60s Shelby GT350s and Z28s in the quarter mile, run away from them after that due to their superior aerodynamics, and totally disappear after a couple curves due to their better handling. But not wanting to destroy a good “they don’t build ’em like they used to, and the EPA…” conspiracy theory with reality, these boomers can and have bid up 60s muscle cars above and beyond the million dollar mark. I think I see a much richer market than mere Mini bodging here…

Consider for a moment that Ford built around a million of the first generation Mustangs in the mid 60s, and you can now buy a complete aftermarket bodyshell for one. Even the SS396 Chevelles, Camaro Z28s, Fairlane 427s, etc. were based on mass market cars that sold well into the 6 figure range, and their 289, 396, and other motors still litter the landscape in less exciting tunes. And unique 17 digit VINs welded to the cowl didn’t come ’til the early 80s, then throw into the mix a few million underemployed mechanics in garages and sheds from the barrios to the boonies… It’s a bodger’s most profitable paradise!

To make matters worse, the factories may very well have been the first to enjoy this fraud. The racing sanctioning organizations like the FIA in Europe and NASCAR and NHRA in America would typically require minimum production quantities of a car before they’d allow it to be raced as a “production” or “stock” car. Thus when the FIA upped the minimum production numbers needed to “homologate” a rally car as “production” and compete, BMC suddenly upped the production rate for Mini Cooper Ss… Or did they? I had the good fortune to spend the 60s in a middle class ‘hood riddled with car dealerships and well endowed with disposable income, and towards the end of the decade worked in GM and Ford dealerships. I have never seen a Ford Fairlane station wagon with a 427 engine, other than a championship winning drag racing car. And that car, by the racer’s own admission, was a Fairlane wagon bought used from the Post Office, with it’s 6 cylinder engine pulled and a 427 race motor dropped in. The official version of the story was that the State Patrol had bought the hundreds of 427 Fairlanes necessary to meet the NHRA’s minimum production requirement, but I’ve never seen them, and the only State Patrol Fords I remember from that era were Galaxies with 390s and “cooking” 428s. Searching the foggy banks of my memory, I can remember maybe two Fairlane 427s, and those could have been garden variety Fairlane GTs with “427” badges available at any Ford parts department. And the even rarer ’64 or so vintage Fairlane Thunderbolts 427s? Probably hand built racers, one of the car mags interviewed a retired line worker at the plant that built Fairlanes and he never saw one. Given the engine bay surgery needed to swap a big block 427 into an early 60s Fairlane that would barely accomodate a small block 289, everyone on the line would have definitely noticed.

Once leaving the factory gates, life didn’t get any easier for these 60s musclecars. Heck, some of ’em never made it off their MSO… I remember one Mopar dealer that had the hemi engine stolen right out of a Road Runner inside a concrete block enclosure and another hemi engined one stolen and totaled by a thief.  One of the dealers I worked at was home to a factory/dealer sponsored racing car, and it’s already impressive SCJ429 was replaced by a hand built racing engine. This was pretty common, as racing cars typically have spare engines in case one blows in the heat of combat. And to add further to the glut of spare bits, the big three kept selling these 60s race engines for years as “crate motors” for decades as well as using detuned versions in trucks and such. So we have all the makings of bogus musclecar mayhem… surviving mass production and even new bodyshells, surplus high performance engines, an aftermarket that can provide anything else needed to flesh out these rolling frauds, mix ‘n’ match serial number plates, typewritten documentation that disappeared with defunct dealerships, and few living witnesses.

Of course, if the boomer buyers wised up and  these bogus classics sold for less at auction than the costs of the bits to build them, this whole cottage criminal industry would find something else to fake or maybe even some useful employment. Boomers, quit making such pigs of yourself…

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