Classic cars come and go. Buying and selling is just a part of gearhead life. But what do you do when regret sets in, maybe years after signing that bill of sale, and a little voice in your head convinces you that you’ve got to have that old car back?


We’ve all been through this at least once. In my family, the car is a ’70 LS6 Chevelle that my father bought new and then sold in 1982 or so for $3,000. He needed the money but regretted the sale almost immediately, and I’ve wanted it back for as long as I can remember. I know the car was a factory SS 454 in Fathom Blue with 4-speed, bucket seats, Monte Carlo woodgrain dash and no SS grille emblem. But what I don’t have a record of is its VIN — the car’s specific identity — and that’s been the biggest stumbling block in locating it again. I’d love to get my hands on that Chevelle, but after 34 years, it could be anywhere. I wouldn’t know it if I saw it.


That’s why I’ve decided to save all my car’s VINs, written on a small notepad that I keep in a special spot in my toolbox. My ’66 Caprice is there, and so is my old ’01 Camaro SS, my ’72 Chevy K10, and my ’06 Charger SRT. When life dictates I have to sell something, at least I’ll have some information to help me backtrack in the future. Maybe I’ll use the information, and maybe I won’t. But at least I’ll have it in case that little voice starts screaming at me.


When you have a VIN, you can contact your local DMV to see if the car is registered, check current cars listed for sale, run it through Google, or use it in the ACC Premium Database to see if the car has ever sold at auction. Any of that can potentially get you in touch with the car’s current owner, which might eventually lead to getting the car back.


While having a VIN isn’t exactly a clear path to finding a long-lost car, you’d be completely out of luck without it. Think about it like the lottery — the odds of winning may be exponentially small, but the only way to be sure you won’t win is not to play. So save those VINs — otherwise you’ve all but guaranteed that the car you once sold really is gone for good.

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