• Question: can you tell what car it was after the crash if it had been damage beyond repair?

    Asked by ethboy123 to Mark on 11 Mar 2011 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Mark Hill

      Mark Hill answered on 11 Mar 2011:

      Sometimes cars, or vehicles do catch fire a in collisions. They end up very badly damaged. However, usually the shape of the bodywork, headlamp apertures, front or back of the vehicle, or the door shape look familiar, especially to ‘petrol-heads’ who recognise many shapes of cars. If a car was so badly damaged that we couldn’t recognise it, then sometimes components, or parts of components help. We can often recognise a part of a car as having been fitted to a particular make or model. Cast components often have the car maker’s logo or badge moulded into them.

      If fragments of mouldings, such as light lenses, bumpers and many other items are found, they usually have a round 12 point ‘clock’ printed into them. This will have a dot on it. If you read the clock as a calendar, then the dot will be alongside the month of manufacture. For example a dot alongside the 10th mark indicates October. The next bit is easy. Two numbers printed into the centre of teh clock are the last two numbers of the year, so a dot at the 10th mark and ’04’ on the centre indicates that the component or fragment was made in October 2004.

      A longer series of numbers and letters nearby will also tell us, through databases, which make and model of vehicle it was made for, whne it was made, the spec level and dates that the model was made between.

      The best information that we have is stamped into the car chassis panels (monocoque), usually under the driver’s side carpet. A long line of capital letters and numbers tell us the make, type, number of doors, colour, engine size and age of that vehicle, from when it was originally ordered from the manufacturer. It would be unusual to not have anything to tell me what sort of car it was that had been destroyed.

      A very well thought out question, covering something that I have just had to do, to identify car light fragments left at a murder scene. That one turned out to be a 1996 model Jeep Cherokee. We then found it totally burnt out. Glass fragments from that and from the collision scene were then matched.

      When you have the time, ask a teacher, or someone you know who owns a car, to let you look for those numbers and moulding clocks. They are easily visible on the outside of light lenses and bumpers. Good luck.