Is there any way to track down a specific vehicle?

When I was about 8 years old, my Dad bought a truck. It was something like a 1939 Ford something-or-other, not sure of the exact year and make, but you get the idea.

It was a wreck, and he spend the next 10 years or so restoring it, until it was perfect.

About 10 years ago, after owning it for 20 or 30 years, he decided he wanted something else, and sold it. You can see where this is going; he’s now regretting it, and wishes he could buy it back.

Problem is, we have no idea where it is. The place that bought it was a theater troupe located several states away who have since disbanded; the actually guy they dealt with has a common name.

Is there any way to track this vehicle down and at least see if the current owner would be willing to sell?

You could try Carfax. That will at least show what state the vehicle is registered in, or if it’s been wrecked. The sample report on their site goes as far as listing where service work has been done, so you may be able to narrow it down to a specific shop in a city, but you still won’t have an owner’s name.

But, you might be able to contact the last shop(s) that worked on it and ask them if they’d be willing to pass along a message.

What if we don’t have the VIN? Is there a way to recover that somehow?

Do you still have some old records that provide trackable information like the license plate, VIN, etc?

If so, is a good resource. There is a fee but it’s nominal.

ETA: Just see there’s no VIN. Can you contact your old insurance agent for the truck and see if he still has any records? Possibly your mechanic?

Was it the Muppets? They actually got back together last year. Although, not sure who you may have dealt with that has a common name…is Scooter common in the UP?

Do you have any old registration paperwork? In my state, vehicle registrations have the VIN printed on them. Could you contact the DMV and ask? If your father was the legal owner, he might have to be the one to contact them.

You can start by at least identifying what the actual make, model and year are. Does your dad remember? He had to have ordered a ton of parts to restore it. Are there any old pieces of paperwork around from the parts he ordered? Cancelled checks, credit card statements? Anything like that.

Set Google for images and look around. Most of these older vehicles have yearly changes in design that can be identified.

Once you think you know what it is, search for a message board related to that model or similar models and ask for help there too. There are message boards for almost every type of car that you can name, some are better than others, find the right Ford truck board. Some of these boards have as much traffic as the SDMB does.

If your family still uses the same insurance company as the truck was insured under they may have a record, and it will include the VIN. I know a lot of people stick with the same insurance company for many years, if you know who insured it they will be a resource to use.

If you can find the VIN you have a good chance of finding the truck. Since it is a collectable, restored vehicle it probably still exists. They don’t get scrapped unless it was really totaled out in a wreck.

The History channel show Counting Cars, featuring Counts Kustoms found a car for a customer. He had been forced to sell it thirty years earlier (new baby and lots of debt) and wanted it back. They did a VIN search and bought it for the customer. He was freaking out because some decals were still on the dash that he had applied. Even his old 8 track was still in the car.

The car must of been found in a wrecking yard because it was trashed. They did a total restoration on it.

Update: talked to my parents. Apparently it was old enough that it actually doesn’t have a VIN. My Dad said that back then (late 30s), vehicles had numbers on their engines, but nothing like an actual VIN.

Am I screwed?

1939 Ford, not a Studebaker.

Do vehicle sale histories show up on background checks? Could you get your father to sign a background check authorization form and submit it to a company that specializes in driving records? One concern with this is that I understand that a lot of cheap background checks consist of nothing but a name search in a database, and if the name doesn’t appear, the check comes back clear or empty. E.g. if your state’s DMV didn’t include it in their searchable database, or it misfiled it, they won’t go any deeper. In order to get the background check to include actual “on the ground” investigative research with interviews, analysis of physical evidence, etc., you have to spend more.

Could a private detective/investigator (aka “private eye”) help? Afaik they are typically used for surveillance of current activities, but is this something they could stand a chance at succeeding on?

Do you know what the number on the engine was?

Thought I’d update this thread:

I found the truck! I didn’t have any of the numbers, but I was able to track down a member of the theater troupe who had a resume/email address posted online. I sent him an email back in November, around the time of this original thread, but never got anything back from him.

Until this morning! I woke up to an email from the guy, apologizing for taking so long, but he had tracked down the head of the theater troupe who bought the truck. It had been sold again in 2008. The email included some of the numbers we talked about in this thread, the name and address of the new buyer, and several pictures of the truck. Whoohoo!

About 5 minutes of Googling found me the guy who bought the truck, the business he owned, and a Facebook page of the business showing the truck being driven in parades and decorated up as sort of a cool advertisement. It’s in Georgia, and looks like it’s in as good condition as my Dad sold it.

My Dad isn’t awake yet, but I forwarded everything to my Mom, and we’re just so damn excited about the whole thing that I can hardly stand it.

What is it, exactlyl? Photos?

I’m glad you were able to find it! Your Dad is going to be happy to see it again.

I hope the new owner is willing to sell it back to your Dad. Once he/she hears the story, they just may. Good luck!