In this crazy time we are living in, the difference between real or clone Max Wedge or Race Hemi cars is getting ever harder to determine. As more and more details come to light on these cars and the values go up, it becomes more important all the time to be sure you know what you are buying.
The important thing to know when looking at 62-65 Dodge and Plymouth Max Wedge and Race Hemi cars is the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and Shipping Order (SO) numbers. These are the two fingerprints of these cars that prove whether or not you are looking at a real car, a counterfeit or a harmless clone. It's important to say that clones and counterfeit cars are not the same thing. The difference being a clone is a car that someone builds to enjoy the original experience without putting a piece of automotive history at risk on a more daily basis. A counterfeit is a car someone builds and misrepresents as original in order to STEAL from someone. Back to the VIN / SO thing. As everyone knows the VIN is an important piece of a cars authenticity when dealing in original cars. When you are looking at original paperwork the VIN on the paperwork must always match the VIN plate on the drivers side door jam. If you are not fortunate enough to have original paperwork to fall back on, then Darrell Davis' books on these cars are a real life saver. The other equally important part is the SO number. This number can be found on the inner fender build tag just rear of the battery in the engine compartment. This number is comprised of two parts, the scheduled build date of the car and the Vehicle Order Number (VON). This is a number assigned by Chrysler for that scheduled build order. When you put these two numbers together, the build date and vehicle order number you have an SO number. This number is the number you will find stamped on the body sheet metal in certain places. On early '60s cars the two most commonly known places are the drivers side of the upper radiator support and left rear of the package tray - the landing in front of the back window. This number is covered by the cardboard panel when a car is finished. As far as authentication goes the SO is the number that ties in with the VIN of the car and proves the body matches the VIN. It really is a safeguard for protecting a car from being counterfeited. The thing that makes an SO so important is that VINs can be made and fender tags can be made to look correct on counterfeit cars. Guessing the correct SO number, however, when making a fake fender tag would be as tough as picking winning lottery numbers, because you only get one shot. That's why the SO is so important. There are also other important codes on the fender tag that identify the engine and transmission options original to the car. Both the VIN an SO numbers can be found together on either the broadcast sheet or IBM build card if the owner has them. A photocopy of the IBM card can be obtained for these cars from Chrysler Historical with the proper paperwork that verifies you as the owner. This takes time though and it won't help you when you are standing there looking at the car as a potential buyer.
It's fortunate to have people such as Darrell Davis writing books on these cars that help a person figure that out. For example in his books he lists the Vehicle Identification Numbers of the real Max Wedge and Race Hemi cars. If you are looking at a particular car that has been represented as a legitimate factory car all you have to do is look up the VIN in Darrell's book that pertains to the year and model of interest. If the VIN you are looking at is not on the list you should take a step back and re-evaluate what you are looking at. Check into the particulars on that car more and talk it over with your expert.
Of course Darrell's books are just one way to verify the VIN is correct and for the most part that is good enough. I do however strongly recommend before you plunk down the kind of money real cars are going for that you have someone that knows these types of cars well take at a look at it for you. It will cost you a few bucks to have this done, but the money you might save from getting stuck with a counterfeit will be well worth the expense. Keep in mind while rounding up your expert that not all guys that know the '68-'71 cars know the '62-'65 all that well. Be sure to ask them what their level of knowledge is on the early cars.
The term clone is used very loosely these days. Truthfully 99.9% of what are considered clones out there are far from that since the word clone means an exact copy. Words like tribute car or fabulous recreation are thrown around as well and to be honest they are more appropriate for what passes as a clone these days, but for now lets just say clone as a general reference. I am not implying that clones are not worth buying. In the past I would have said that, but clones have definitely found their place in our hobby. I am currently building two of them for myself. With original cars being worth so much today, a person can enjoy every aspect of an original car with a clone except for the VIN and drive whenever they wish. Clones aren't cheap like they used to be but they are definitely more affordable to insure and replace should anything happen to them. Would I rather have an original Max Wedge or Race Hemi car? Of course I would. Original cars are not only a true piece of history but a very sound investment. When you plan to retire or something else comes up unexpectedly, original cars will pay back everything you have invested in them, and more, provided you bought them for a reasonable price. That being said, even if I did have an original car I would also have a clone for a driver.
LAST WORD: HAVE THAT ORIGINAL CAR CHECKED OUT BEFORE YOU BUY IT!