Minnesota Registration, Titling and Licensing Process
Building your own car from scratch is very different from building a kit. It is rarely done so naturally the process to get it on the street legally was a bit challenging.
The year the car is titled can be critical depending upon where you live. If the state claims your car is new you may be forced to install anti pollution equipment that not only destroys performance but is extremely expensive. One way to get around this in my case would be to register the car as a 1937 Cord. To do so I would have to have a title for a 1937 Cord convertible – which can be bought believe it or not. This, however, is fraught with risk. States are cracking down on this practice as it is seen as a means to avoid paying certain taxes. I was told that Boyd Coddington pled no contest and paid a heavy fine for re-titling his hot rods in this manner.
To avoid the emissions nightmare, I attempted to convince the state the car was a 1967 as that was the year of the engine and I had a title for a 1967 Mustang. This had issues since my car does not look like a Mustang and if the police pulled me over, my credibility might likely be questioned. The state didn’t buy it either.
In the end the state claimed the car was new so it had to be titled as a 2005. The make was designated as “Special” and the Body “Street Rod”. In Minnesota Street Rods are exempt from emission testing. Should I move to another state the rules might be different. In Colorado, for instance, I would have to meet the emission standards of the year of the engine – in my case 1967.
With this settled, the next step was to get a new Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). To obtain one the car has to be inspected at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This is hard to do since the car is not legally drivable. Typically one has to have it towed and dropped off at the DMV and picked up and towed back to the garage after the inspection – two tow charges. I told the officials my plight and they took pity on me. They actually came by the garage and did their inspection.
They inspect primarily for stolen parts. In order to obtain a new VIN, one needs to show evidence of legal ownership of all the major components. That means you need to provide either titles or receipts for the engine, transmission, rear end, frame and the body. If you do not have proof of all of the components then the car needs to be bonded.
Despite the transmission I bought 20 years ago was completely trashed and should have been considered scrap iron, the state did not look kindly on the fact I did not have a receipt for the heap. Subsequently I had to go to a local insurance agency and have my car (yes, the entire car) insured for 1.5 times its value (no, not the value of the lousy transmission) for a period of three years. I expected this to be insanely expensive but it was not. The insurance rate must take into account how often owners of stolen parts go after chop shops and sue for their parts. In the end it cost me a $180.
After getting the car bonded, I had to get a police officer perform a safety inspection. Instead of checking the welds on the frame, the officer checked for operational lights, turn signals, wipers and the like.
One of Rochester’s finest inspecting the car
Upon passing the safety inspection, all that remained was getting the VIN installed on the car. Once again I convinced the officials to drop by the garage and install it on the frame. The VIN is not on a classy brass plate that makes a statement on its own. No it is a cheese decal that gets adhered to the frame near the hinges of the driver’s door. To make sure no one steals the sticker it is pop riveted as well.
DMV Officer riveting on the decal
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