Hall of Fame officials and the car's owner say the 1982 Ford Thunderbird was driven by Earnhardt, just not for the '83 Talladega 500 victory.
The Hall unveiled the car on Tuesday, but The Birmingham News questioned whether it was the right one.
The car's owner, Alex Beam, restored the car and had it on display at the Memory Lane Museum in Mooresville, N.C. He said Hall of Fame officials never asked if it was the car Earnhardt used in the 1983 Talladega 500.
Hall spokeswoman Kristi King said officials were led to believe that was the car they were getting.
The car will remain on display at the museum.