Feasibility Study: Creating A Z-28 From A Trim Tag

Thanks go out to our reader Michael for the tip about this 1969 Camaro for sale on Craigslist. Located in the Los Angeles, CA area, it is priced at $14,500. As you can see, it is a pretty basic car. It’s not an SS, an RS, or a Z-28. However, included in the sale is a genuine trim tag from a 1969 Z-28. If I understand the story correctly, years ago the owner obtained the Z-28 trim tag from a car so heavily damaged that it was ultimately crushed. He then devised a plan to build a Z-28 around that trim tag.

The date code on his Z-28 trim tag is 01B. He searched until he found a car with the same date code from which to build the Z-28. This is that car. Typical of many unrestored 50-year-old Camaros, it’s pretty rough and rusty. To get the body back in shape, it will require floor pans, doors (or repairs), both quarter panels, and lots of bodywork. The grille might be reused and the front bumper looks to be in good rechromable condition. There is a back bumper and rear bumper guard pair included. Most smaller trim pieces will need to be replaced.

The interior looks pretty complete but will require all new upholstery and carpeting. After the body and interior woes have been addressed, needed is a Z-28 drivetrain and all the other bits that make a Z-28 a Z-28.

Say after a few years and many dollars later, one has managed to obtain a Z-28 engine block, heads, intake, carb, exhaust manifolds, transmission, clutch pedal assembly, shifter, rear end, etc. Many of these components will probably need to be rebuilt. To summarize, after all the time and money spent searching for Z-28 components and their subsequent refurbishment, plus the bodywork, paint, trim, and interior costs, what do you have? You have a restored Z-28 with non-matching numbers engine and transmission. Your cost to build far exceeds the value of the car. You could simply go out and purchase a Z-28 that’s ready to go for less money and in a much shorter period of time. I didn’t write this article just to pick on the seller. This car was in the queue for someone to write about, so I stepped up. However, I can’t endorse the seller’s plan. It doesn’t make sense to me. The same can be said for many restoration projects. The cost to build frequently exceeds the value of the end product.

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  1. al8apex

    In certain states, changing the trim tag is illegal. This is a BAD idea (not that it hasn’t been done before though, think green RS Z from that Georgia hack) through and through.

    • Karguy James

      Actually, changing the trim tag is NOT illegal because it is NOT the “VIN” tag. There is no law in any state prohibiting the changing of the trim tag.

      However, changing out the TRIM tag so that it does not match the VIN to the car and the title is just basically stupid. In the listing he never claimed to have the Z28 VIN tag or title. All he had was a trim tag he stole off of a car in a junkyard years ago. Not much you can do with that without a title. In fact you can get trim tags made up and duplicated to say anything you want. It adds zero to the value of this Camaro.

      • Steve R

        In 1969 there is no way to document a Z28 through the VIN and the VIN number doesn’t appear on the trim tag. He was planning to build a non-matching numbers Z28. If you have a Norwood car with certain codes, you can’t disprove it’s a real Z28.

        He’s not the first, and won’t be the last person to do something like this. I have a friend that bought a rare and valuable Pontiac in the early 90’s that had a VIN and data plate swapped. When he bought it it came with documentation from PHS. Many years after he bought the car he came across the concealed VIN when doing some work on the car and noticed it didn’t match the VIN on the dash. He sent away to Pontiac historical services for their packet, it came back as a base model car.

        This car will ultimately wind up as a clone, and someone will eventually pay big money for it.

        Steve R

  2. Greg72

    Swapping VINs is illegal, however I do not believe any state cares about trim tags. As I was reading this article I was thinking the same thing the author said in summation. Seems like an awful lot of work (and / or money) to, in the end, have a cloned ’69 Z28.

    • NMCarNut

      Yes, you are correct there is no federal law and most if not all states have no law against replacing a trim plate, however replacing a plate with fraudulent information is an entirely different matter. Ask Bobby Patton who was charged with four felonies for faking a Z16 Chevelle.

  3. Retired Stig

    Any way you look at it this is dishonest. Why did this dirtbag need the tag? To try and pass it off as genuine, of course. Same rubbish goes on with Mustangs. “Believed to be” a: (fill in Z/28, GT-350, Javelin T/A, etc. etc.). Buyers have to be very sceptical in this hobby: accept nothing, believe no one, check everything!

    • Billy 007

      Once you start having to worry about originality and value, it is no longer a hobby, it is a business interaction. I am not saying that is a bad thing, but it is different. As for me and my house, we miss the hobby.

  4. Dirk

    In one way or another, folks have been trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear but, to the best of my knowledge, they ain’t done it yet.

  5. Superdessucke

    At best unethical and at worst illegal.

  6. Fred Barnes

    As long as the seller is clear about the origin and the build, what difference does it make to any of you? If you don’t like it, don’t buy it, and move on.

    • philthyphil

      thats a very big “IF’

  7. Mike1955

    Just as a point of interest, where do you draw the line?
    It’s ok to change rear quarters? Floorboards? Doors, fenders , hood, deck lid, even roof panel?
    Frame bent or rusty? Change it? Dash damaged? Replace?
    But we draw the the line at Two rivets on the firewall?
    What about new Camaro complete bodies?
    Changing to deceive is wrong, but to preserve? Opinions….

    • Derek

      Repairs are ok, so new sills/floors/panels/whatever. Keep a note of it in the car’s history file that you’re adding to.

      Two new heads and three new shafts, but it’s still my grandfather’s axe…

    • Bobby Miller Bobby Miller Member

      I’ve pondered that same question. Where is the line between a rebody and an restoration? If a project starts out with only a cowl and the rest of the body is repro, is the final product a restoration or a rebody/recreation? There’s this show on TV…..

  8. poseur Member

    fraud = fraud.

    regardless of intentions of whomever creates “tribute” or “clone” cars at some point in their ownership it’s likely that they will be misrepresented.

    it’s easier to spot the fakes now with enthusiast forums, VIN tracking, image searches, etc but it’s still caveat emptor for sure.

    personally i’d rather have a car i can drive without fear of door dings, hail dents, deer strikes, curb rash & other rational concerns rather than an “appreciating” garage queen.

    a friend who owns a couple dozen high-value, genuine & irreplaceable muscle cars (a few in the multi-million range) drives them (fast) in traffic on busy urban streets in Chicago. but he’s got FU money and i don’t.

  9. R lunt

    The money to be made is this original sale of a piece of crap rust bucket and a trim tag….. this guy is bad news

  10. ben

    As I have said junk is junk no matter how you try to disguise it. I’d rather have a plain Jane car and add some power (motor trans etc.) but then again I’m an old hot rodder. One of my favorite cars was a 1964 Pontiac Tempest with a 454 chevy motor and a 400 turbo.

  11. Mike1955

    What if I save the firewall from a total and without touching any tags, install in a new body.
    Is this deception? Only if not disclosed.(my opinion)
    It loses originality and value, but still a fun car to drive.
    Disclosure is the key, I think.

  12. bobk

    Pay $14.5k up front – and significantly more later, to commit fraud? Nope, not me.

  13. Oingo

    All it needs is everything and it will be a bad attempt at a misrep. Why bother there is no value and a better performing zapper can be built with mostly new parts.

  14. Andre

    Pieces of a sketchy puzzle — good luck finding a correct date coded 302 to match — let alone heads, etc…

    Would be a life’s work to make it all numbers matching.

  15. Steve


  16. Comet

    Deception is ruining our hobby.

    • Billy 007

      No, chasing after money is ruining our hobby. Isn’t the hobby about the joy of finding things, fixing them up, driving them, and showing them off to others? The only reason why this is even an issue is the value someone has put on these, and that makes lying a commodity. In the end, it should be whether or not a car is good looking, and performs well, not how original it is. I will admit that these outragous prices have preserved some cars instead of them rotting away, plus part remanufacturing has flourished, but the costs are way over the top compared to regular business profits, and that is because of these insane values….the parts people want thier share of that big score. I once added onto our house, had a guy come out to estimate what he would charge me, and I was not happy with his number. The costs of the materials, and his crews labor plus what I thought was a fair profit was more then double in my opinion. This was during the housing boom and he insisted that the house would be worth much more with his addition so he said the value was there. He wanted his piece of the action, but I just wanted the house, not to resell, same thing here.

  17. Classic Steel

    This annoys me to no end ..
    Trim tag swapping cheats many inexperienced buyers that do t know to look at the many other hidden places for numbers.
    This is why if a car for sale has the vin removed separately I walk away !!

    Hence if you dropping big bucks on a car hire a pro !!!!!

  18. Ikey Heyman

    I’m sure some Roman dude was scammed on a chariot purchase 2000 years ago. There’s always going to be crooks and victims in this hobby, unfortunately some people have no scruples.

    • Steve R

      There will always be crooks and victims whenever something of perceived value is involved. As you pointed out this is nothing new and it is not isolated to collector cars.

      Steve R

  19. Classic Steel

    PLEASE Don’t promote fraudulent behaviors on vins👀

    I walk away from cars with vin tags removed and ready to reassemble 😮

    Every year people get ripped on fraud cars..

    I know I am preaching to the choir but..
    When shelling big bucks hire a pro to check all the numbers and body locations of vins

  20. John

    So here we go, another soon to be Z-28 clone coming down the road, to sell to some Camaro hungry buyer. It’s a shame the level this hobby has stooped to. This seller had unethical plans from the start and even tries to sell it that way!

  21. Scott

    A good restomodding will bring a fair amount of cash and be an honest car. And cheaper to build as well.

  22. victor sanchez

    So a poor sole like me that has a REAL Z/28 that I spent about $65,000.00 restoring along comes some one who thinks a clone is something special not good, sorry to go on but real is real. I’m afraid that if someone does take this and thinks it will become a real Z/28 will be burnt beyond recognition when they in turn try to sell it as a restored car.

  23. Miguel Member

    Bobby, this was a funny line.

    “The interior looks pretty complete but will require all new upholstery and carpeting.”

    Yes the interior does look complete but you failed to mention the floors are non existent.

    It is hard to install carpet on a non existent floor.

    Oh, and personally, I would rather have a base model restored or original, than another fake Z28 out there.

    • Bobby Miller Bobby W Miller Member

      I failed to mention the floors are non-existent? I guess you missed this: “To get the body back in shape, it will require floor pans, doors (or repairs), both quarter panels, and lots of bodywork.”

      • Miguel Member

        I said you didn’t mention it when you said the interior looks pretty complete.

  24. Steve A

    I get a kick out of at the end of his ad he goes on about knowing all the Craigslist scams for payment. But he’s okay with scamming someone who would think their getting a original Z-28. What a dirtbag. Wish I lived closer.

  25. YankeeTR5

    I don’t disagree with any of the comments so far. But here’s one for you: what happens when a LeMans racing car from the ’50’s is involved in a fiery crash and the wreck is, essentially, thrown to the side of the road. Years later its found by the side of a barn and a few components are taken – perhaps a frame crossmember. From that, an entire car is “rebuilt”. Eventually earning its FIA papers and sold at auction as an authentic car. Not a fraud, but a celebrated car. Now, what happens when a 2nd car pops up claiming the same provenance, built under the same circumstances! I’ll tell you…they never are allowed to show up at the same show or the same auctions but both are considered “authentic”.
    True story, probably repeated multiple times. At one end of things its not a hobby but a ruthless business and its a big turnoff to me and others.
    It makes swapping a build tag onto a different car childs play.

    • Steve R

      If one car used the original frame, or what was left if it as a foundation, I’d consider that the real car.

      There is one big difference, the car you mention, seems to have been done in the light of day. That won’t be the case with this car. Whoever buys this car down the road won’t have a clue as to its true history.

      Steve R

  26. stillrunners

    Is that Panther Pink ?

  27. JC


  28. Pete

    I think a Dyncorn body is about 15K, Buy one of them and make it any damn thing you want. It will be a brand new car with a brand new VIN. What you would have is an honest car, just the way ya wanted it, brand damn new from top to bottom. I might just go on and do that with a 69 or 72 Chevelle Convertible body and get buried in it after I get buried in it. LMAO

  29. james boyd

    I’m no lawyer, but their plan, by definition, sounds like fraud. I could be wrong.

  30. Randle Holt

    All you guys are right. As a builder and enthusiast . How did they ever think that the die which made a panel on Monday was any diff on Friday ss.z28 rsss plain j. Be sure to tell the die which to be.

  31. JoeNYWF64

    If any ’60s-70s pony car still or even now has a 6 cylinder in it, you can be SURE you are not getting ripped off. lol

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