Trace ownership and history

Can anyone in the US help, how can owners of cars (mine being an e type) imported to the UK trace the history of our car in the US.

We know that the cars were originally imported via New York in most cases, but how can we access these details, as I understand this facility no longer exists. I know that some data exists on the XKE Data site, but that relies on past owners updating records. Here in the UK for example, as the current owner of a vehicle we can pay a fee and obtain details of past owners registered with our vehicle licensing authority.

Does any such system exist in the US, any help and advice as to how we trace past owners in the US would be much appreciated

Your best start is likely a Heritage Certificate. Often this will tell you the name and city of the first owner which will let you try to trace moving forward.

From whomever you purchased from you might try to trace backwards.

Alas, in the US we have about 52 separate agencies handling car registrations and each state has their own contacts, policies and archives - usually not much in the way of long-term records.

That is the approach I took and I got some info on each end but a big gap in the middle of my car’s history.

Posing details here is a long-shot but there is always a chance someone will recognize the car.

I tried in USA as well.,.most states do not maintain the old records.,. since trashed, nor did the dealer Hornburg. so I found nothing,. As said…,maybe someone will know/remember if you put info out…maybe some old letter, repair receipt or photo will show up…slim chances.,.it has happened.

Years ago I was able to trace the history of my 2+2 back to the 2nd owner, I was the fifth. I just started working backwards. I had the title from when I bought the car, so I knew the 4th owner’s name and address, From that I contacted the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) where he lived, they searched their records and provided a copy of the title from when he bought the car from the third owner. The same kind of inquiry netted the name of the second owner. From there the trail went cold.

That was about 20 years ago. Since then privacy laws have changed and/or many states may have purged their records, a s Nick pointed out. Still, it’s worth checking into. Also, as Geo points out, The heritage Certificate may have the name of the first owner. But I’ve been told the dealer was responsible for oproviding that information back to Jaguar when the car was sold, and many dealers in the U. S. failed to do so.

Not a huge help but I believe starting in '86 or so Carfax became an item. I believe the UK has a similar service. In any case you may be able to find out where the car was registered from '86 forward. It might offer a clue as to what geographic area to look for clues, possibly local Jag club affiliate.

I thought about that and tried it. No go. Carfax demanded a 17 character VIN. I tried my license plate (Historical Vehicle) and Carfax says it doesn’t exist.

That’s interesting. There’s a huge insurance database Lexis Nexis I believe. About 12 years ago I went to change insurance on my VW… this was in California and the agent told me I’d had a claim for the Jag in Connecticut about 4 years prior… blew a thermostat bypass hose so had it towed home. I was stunned, they knew about a claim on a different car in a different state. So they have these records/histories regardless of VIN. Apparently a different database than the DMVs but since you can register and insure a car with any kind of VIN don’t get the carfax problem. I also believe the 17 digit VIN only became mandatory in the mid 80s about the time carfax popped up. Don’t know the connection.

I looked that up: 1984, and that is another notch in my ability to grok how long ago this online stuff began!

Wow! In '84, the term, “online” meant something completely different.

Thanks everyone, I take the point about old records being destroyed and also the Data Protection and Privacy laws and how they have made life more difficult to get information.

I purchased my car through a dealer in California and spoke to the owner, but she was little help as her husband had purchased the car as a present but could not remember who the dealer was. It must have been close to Monterey as they lived in Watsonville, but does anyone know of either a Jaguar dealer or a dealer in high performance/British Classic cars in or around that area around 1987 when they purchased the car?

John, you say you contacted the DMV, I have a copy of the last owners Registration document. You say from that it may be possible for that DMV to give me the name and address of the previous owner, is that correct and do you know if they need a form completing and a fee paid?

I have the heritage certificate but that just tells me it was sent to the British Leyland Dealer, New York, so no first owner details. Does anyone know if that facility still exists? All long shots I guess but any help ideas gratefully received

IIRC there was a form for Texas and a simple letter with the necessary information sufficed for Louisiana. Both had fees, not much as I recall, $15-$20.


Maybe this could help

My car originally sold at British Motor Cars at 512 Pacific Ave in Santa Cruz in Aug 1968. I do not know if they were still there in 1987. Santa Cruz is close to Watsonville. A few years ago I was in Santa Cruz and stopped by and the location was a used car dealer called Beach Auto Sales. The guy I talked to there knew that the location used to be a Jaguar dealer. Looks like there is a Santa Cruz British car club. Maybe some one there might know something about dealers in that area in 1987.

68 E-type FHC

It’s been a federal crime to release DMV information in this manner since at least 1994.


Quick answer, NO!

There are 50 states and 50 different rules for the Department Of Motor Vehicles.

The Heritage Certificate will give you a start. You could write to the DMV and see if the car sold to someone in State. You caould also see if the original owner was still alive.

I own an SS1. by the time I was given an owner’s name, he had passed 4 years previously, but his 60 plus year old son was extremely helpful. He provided me with a couple dozen pictures of the car while his Dad owned it.

Do not be surprised if you have to pay for the DMV to get the info.

Thanks again guys, I am not surprised about the restriction of data, but noted what Lovell says in that you have 50 differing sets of rules. At least we only have the one type of DMV, although when speaking to them sometimes you get many different interpretations!

David your reply re the dealer in Santa Cruz is interesting and also the link to the local Brit car club. As the dealer disappeared some time ago, I guess I am out of lunch there, although I will look up the other dealer link.

Great info again, so my thanks for all the suggestions. I see from another posting that some of your DMV has had difficulty due to lack of Vin numbers, but will still give them a try. Does anyone have a clue as to how long they keep records for?

If you were in the U. S. I’d suggest that you call the DMV(s) in the state(s) you are interested in and start asking questions. The worst that could happen is someone official telling you they don’t release, or no longer have what you are seeking. Being the the UK Maybe it makes sense to e-mail the DMVs and ask them how to get the info you seek. Again the worst that can happen is a refusal or no reply. In my limited experience most DMVs are staffed by average decent folks and will try to help you if they can.

For what its worth, below are pages from Jaguar’s April 1963 booklet listing its Retail Dealers in California.

The Heritage Certificate typically only provides the name of the importing entity, which is usually called the main distributor. The retail dealership that actually sold the car new almost never appears on the Heritage Certificate.

Mike, thanks for the dealer listing, that will give me something to do, checking who if any are still in business! Your final comment is borne out on my Heritage certificate. The records at the point of import would of course help where the car was sent. However those records have probably been long gone.

John where can I locate the addresses of the DMV’s, as you suggest an email to them may open up other suggestions.

So once again I am grateful to you all, good to have so many well informed contacts to draw on.

Try Googling “DMV” followed by the state name. For example “DMV California”.

Tony I know nothing about this company. A few years ago a guy I know was trying to research his car’s history. I think I remember seeing an ad back then in Hemmings for this place and let him know. I do not know if he ever contacted them or not. If you get stuck they might be worth a call or e-mail to get details about what they do.

68 E-type FHC

Hi David

Thanks for the link, it looks an interesting site, so will definitely follow it through. This is exactly the sort of help I think us guys over the pond need. It seems quite daunting from here when first starting out, especially with you having some very strict data protection laws, but also with so many DMV’s. If the car has travelled around a little, knowing where to start is a headache. In my case as I have no link when the car was first imported and secondly as the owner cannot recall (and is not really interested) where he purchased the car, then finally having to go back nearly 34 years when he purchased, the chances of the dealer or any records will certainly be a challenge.

So thanks very much for your input, will try and keep the post up to date as and if any progress is made.

Kind regards