What constitutes a "matching numbers" car?

  • The pure adherence to originality always impacts being able to say you have an original car. This is generally considered to be the basis for establishing the car’s history.
  • Start with the general production records which can be found in many places.  One of the best sources are maintenance manuals. Often the front pages of popular catalogs, such as Moss and Victoria British, have these records. And surprisingly they are pretty accurate.    
  • More detail can be obtained from sanctioned car clubs, car registries and manufacturer’s archived records.

Where are the numbers found on the car?

  • Again, you can find much of this information in shop manuals. Some parts catalogs, and many books written on this subject are also good sources.  The AH Sprite for instance has an engine identification plate, a manufacturer’s commission plate and a body ID tag. All are traceable to manufacturer’s records.  The latter tag usually will yield paint color information.
  • Missing number tags do not preclude finding the car’s history but may prevent securing a heritage certificate.

What is a "heritage certificate"?

  • The short answer is it is a document that is produced by an association set up by, or sanctioned by, the original manufacturer.  It is generally accepted as proof that the car is original in all aspects.
  • This document, regardless of the name, carries a great deal of weight if and when you decide to sell a vintage car.  It says you cared enough about the originality and history of the car to do the research prior to any restoration attempts.
  • There may be minimal charges or fees associated with obtaining the certification.

Are the colors for the cars spelled out in the original manufacturer's history?

  • This and much more. In many times yes, the color schemes are detailed, however it may be very general, such as “primrose yellow with black interior”.  You will need to do much more research to determine what that color actually was and how to match it in today’s materials.
  • Once you know the historical data you can often find the color “buried” behind hinges, inside doors, under carpets or other places that are not disturbed during repainting.
  • Many paint producers maintain color chips, charts and formulas for original paint specs.  Some of these are DuPont, Ditzler and PPG.