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For me, knowing where a car has been all its life really adds to the interest I have in it. As well as early photographs, I have the original order card, delivery letters, BMC warranty and service logbook for this old Austin car.
It led a sedate life pottering around the lanes of Devon for many years, until 1987 when they gave up driving altogether.
As well as for personal interest, there are other good reasons to trace as much of your car's history as possible. There is also a section on this site, the car registration numbers index, which may be of some use too. To seach the DVLA site, you need to know the make and registration number of a car before a seach can be made.
Many old cars, at some point in their lives, pass through the halls of a classic car auction house. Classic car magazines have letters pages, as do club publications usually, and these are also worthy of consideration.
With so much of our lives being handled over the internet, its easy to forget how things were done 'in the olden days'. Basically, any nugget of information, that sheds a little more light on your car's background, is worth getting hold of to help build up that history file. With luck you'll receive a reply back - the chances of a reply are greatly increased if you enclose a stamped, self-addressed, envelope with your initial communication. DVLA records are not always up-to-date either - perhaps they are behind in updating their database, and many owners are a little slow when updating DVLA of any changes that occur with their car. Tracing the history of a car, van, lorry or whatever can be fraught at times, but with persistence can be very rewarding.

There you'll find information on a car's registration number - ie where it was first issued, and the date period(s) that the single- or double-letter registration code was used. I've had some success with tracing the history of cars I have seen in old photographs, simply by searching (for example on Google) for the car's registration number.
A look on the DVLA site currently says that the car is taxed til next year, and is painted black. Try emailing them, asking if your hunt for information could be published within their pages. I'm told that if you write to DVLA, enclosing a cheque for a nominal sum, they will send you photocopies of old logbooks for the car you now own. If you hear nothing after a few weeks, try going on the BT website and see if you can track down a telephone number that is associated with this person and address.
If you know where it was serviced, especially when new, a call to the garage may just yield some old records - dealerships and garages may change name over the years, but sometimes old paperwork simply gets pushed to the back of the pile, rather than chucked away. After several decades, the original owners of a car may no longer be alive, could have moved (elsewhere in the UK, perhaps to a care home, or even overseas), or have changed names. Although things are tightening up now, for many years cars were scrapped and DVLA not notified of the event, which led to cars still showing in their database, despite being chopped up years beforehand.
If the contact address was from a long time ago, then the previous owners of your car may no longer live there, but there is still a chance that the new house owner has a forwarding address for the previous inhabitants.
Being this lucky with a 1902 Benz is perhaps a bit more that you can hope for, but if you're researching a car from more recent times, you could just hit the paperwork jackpot. A real problem nowadays is the vanity numberplate market - so many cars are now losing their original registration numbers, and being affixed with non-transferable 'age related' replacements.
More than ever cars are being exported to foreign climes, fuelled by the ease of buying cars from the other side of the world via the internet.

When I first got it, I knew nothing of its past, but now I have files inches thick, packed with magazine clippings, letters from people who used to drive this, and similar, vehicles, photographs old and new, and a log of work done on it to date. The current V5C only lists the previous owner, but a chance to receive details of all previous known owners, is something not to be passed up on. All of these approaches cost very little, but could just turn up some fantastic information about your car. Other manufacturers, such as Mercedes Benz and BMW, also have larger archives, detailing their older models. As soon as this happens, the continuity of a car and its original registration number is lost. This led me to contact both of the team mechanics that drove it in the 40s and 50s, and a fascinating string of stories about the old lorry. With a bit of luck you may still have the old buff logbook for your car, which will contain details of many previous owners, going back some decades in the case of older cars.
Again, some clubs have old build records so are worth contacting, just in case they can help (most club services are for members only).
A photocopy of all old logbooks from DVLA will provide the continuity, detailing when the change of registration took place, and the reg.

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26.01.2014 admin

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