How do I find out about my Classic’s history?

todayApril 29, 2023


How often have you been driving your classic and your thoughts start to wander about the history of your classic…Where has it been? What stories does it have to tell? You may know a lot, or maybe very little, but it could be worth spending a little spare time playing detective.

Although you may dig up interesting stories to tell your family, or even discover something you wish you didn’tknow, there is the chance that its history will add to something valuable too. 

If you vehicle is more unusual or rare, there is a good chance you will be able to unearth a fair degree of background. But if you have a modern classic or collectable, this may be more difficult. 

So, here’s a handy how-to guide from Footman James Insurance to discovering your pride and joy’s background – ranging from the simple to the far more involved.

Hit the internet

This only requires your phone, and maybe a cup of tea. Searching for your registration number may net some easy wins, but you can also try owners’ clubs and enthusiast forums. There’s a staggering amount of past experiences and chatter that you can trawl though if you have the time. It’s also a way of unearthing old pictures and little knownevents. Consider registering as a user, and politely ask if anyone has information they can share.

Some owners’ clubs also have a section on helping you find out more about a specific vehicle and can provide some helpful contacts. The very best (like the Talbot Owners’ Club) have detailed databases and can provide technical documentation. If in doubt, drop the club an email and ask for help.

Ask the last owner

A quick email or call may help you find some facts, even if it’s just the name of the person they bought from.

Strictly speaking, you should only have the current V5C (vehicle log book) as the DVLA requests that you destroy old versions. However, if you have some on file you could look for names.

Older vehicles (bona fide historic and classics) sometimes have the original buff-coloured owner’s logbook, which may list names and addresses of past keepers. Obviously, this information could be well out of date, but you could try contacting them and asking for help.

Mel Holly, Chairman of the Wartburg Trabant IFA Club UK also suggests filing a V888 form with the DVLA. The DVLA may be able to tell you: the number of previous registered keepers, vehicle changes such as colour or engine, and details of any previous keepers where you can ‘provide evidence as to why the previous keepers details are required’. However, the DVLA do note in their guidance that ‘whether details can be released will depend on the circumstances of the case’ and you must need a ‘reasonable cause’. More information on this can be found on the DVLA website.

Contact the manufacturer

Some manufacturers are willing to help fill in the blanks, usually if a vehicle is rare or led an interesting life. If you own a British classic, then you can apply for a British Motor Industry Heritage Trust certificate. There are a range of cost options, but check to see if your marque is be covered.

Seek a specialist

It’s time to get into the details. If you have a sheaf of old paperwork from the last owner, it’s possible that there are old invoices and service records. Look for details of specialists that worked on the vehicle, and then get in touch – they may know a surprising amount about its pedigree.

Finally, for the more exotic or historically important, you can contact one of the UK’s museums or archives, like Beaulieu, the British Motor Museum, or the National Motorcycle Museum. These contain an extraordinary amount of detail, but it could take a while to track down anything relevant.

The information contained in this blog post is based on sources that Footman James believe are reliable and should be understood as general information only. It is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any specific or individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such.

Written by: Steve

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