Classic Car Litigation
We act for numerous auction houses, leading dealers and private individuals both in the UK and overseas
We have been responsible for a number of important cases in the courts relating to classic and historic racing cars including the landmark cases of Tuke v JD Classics in 2019, Robert Gray v Richard Smith in 2013 and one of the most significant cases in 20 years, Brewer v Mann in 2012. We advise clubs, trade associations, auction houses and private individuals.
We have built up an unrivalled network of contacts and clients as a result of over 30 years continuous practice in the field. All aspects of law, not just claims or disputes, are dealt with relating to classic, historic, racing, sports, veteran, vintage, antique, old timer and collectors cars, which are known collectively in the UK as classic cars.
We have experience in all the following categories of work, and have been responsible for trail blazing cases in some of them;
Sales and purchases of classic and historic cars
This can include the investigation of title and provenance. An interesting history is always useful in the purchase of any classic or historic car, but there are many where the history is the predominant reason for buying it. The fabrication of fraudulent histories of cars is an on-going problem in the trade and we have been instructed in numerous cases exposing fraudulent practices. Matters to consider when buying a car where provenance is paramount is obviously its identity (fake chassis plates), specification, and factory records. We often deal with high value purchases and have dealt with cars worth up to $20,000,000.
These generally occur either when an individual has purchased a car privately through a dealer or auction house and finds that it is not what it was represented to be, either in respect of its history or its condition. Great problems can be caused when a buyer discovers that a car which he thought was an original of its type turns out to have been made up of parts which may have started life in other cars or even been brand new.
Registration numbers and number plate claims
Claims about these are becoming more numerous as registration numbers become more valuable. The law again in this area is by no means straightforward since no individual “owns” a registration number; he or she only has a licence from the Secretary of State to use it. This can cause complications if registration numbers are accidentally sold with a car when they should have been retained.
There are numerous cases where cars are sent to restorers and either the owner does not take the trouble to instruct the restorer in enough detail as to what to do, or the restorer does far more work than he was contracted to do and charges accordingly or does not do the work to the required standard. There are many nightmare cases involving restorations costing many times the original estimates, and far in excess of the value of the car. We have enormous experience in this area, particularly in trying to sort out disputes without their becoming too expensive.
Motor and racing vehicle accidents
We have acted for a number of racing drivers over the years in this area. We have dealt with claims for personal injuries and damage to vehicles. Problems are often caused when owners let, or even ask, others to drive their cars for them on the track and that person then damages the car by his own negligence. You-bend-it –you-mend-it agreements and liability for third party testing of owners cars are also covered.
Disputes over price
It is not unusual for parties to agree on a price for a car and the deal then to go wrong if the Buyer finds out the car is not what he thought it was, or perhaps if he cannot afford to pay for it. In that case the terms of the contract are everything and careful examination of all the circumstances including anything in writing is called for.
Auction sales and purchases
Acting as we have done and do for a number of Auction Houses we have unrivalled experience in this area. Our Terms and Conditions are widely used throughout the trade and have recently been cited in the Court of Appeal. We also prepare contracts and standard terms and conditions for dealers.
Valuations and inspections
Because of our network of contacts we are able to put you in touch with any expert in relation to any car almost anywhere in the world.
Members clubs and associations.
We have substantial experience in advising Clubs and Club Registrars and the members themselves. Problems can arise when the Club Registrar produces a register of cars and comments as to their authenticity and a member disagrees. This can in extreme cases lead to defamation proceedings. In those circumstances all the members might find themselves liable for the damages.
Although this overlaps with claims involving a cars history, there are many cars in existence today which claim the same chassis number as another car. This matter has become more important in the light of the recent Court of Appeal decision in Brewer v Mann which has upheld the tradition in the classic car business of attributing the identity of a car to the chassis number. The problem often arises because 50 or 60 years ago a car may have crashed during a race, and its parts are split between 2 or more cars which are then built up and each claim the original identity. We have unrivalled knowledge in this very difficult area.
We have dealt with many instances where ownership of a single car is claimed by more than one party, for example the case of Robert Gray v Richard Smith. In addition care has to be taken, in jurisdictions where title can be registered, that the car is not subject to a third party lien or ownership claim. We can guide you in investigating the history of a car in detail using our network of contacts worldwide.