"Building" a car from scrap -- what about the VIN?

Sometime during the '60s, a person I know put together a functioning Volkswagen Beetle from various pieces and parts of Beetles from junk yards. My impression, from hearing the person’s wife describe it, is that this was not a case of restoring a car in really bad shape. There was nothing resembling an intact Beetle as the starting point.

Of course, cars are much more complicated now, but, supposing one could put together a Ford Taurus or some other common model from pieces and parts in a junk yard, would you be able to register such a vehicle? According to Wiki, the Vehicle Identification Number system did not exist before 1980, so the builder of the homemade Beetle would not have encountered this problem. But what about today?

Presumably, even if there was a VIN attached to one of the junkers that contributed parts to the theoretical homemade Ford Taurus, the vehicle with that VIN would be recorded as having been junked.

This isn’t meant to be a “Ship of Theseus” kind of question, just a practical one. Could you register such a vehicle?

IIRC you would register it with the VIN that’s engraved on the engine block. But I could be way off base, and that would cause an issue if you got pulled over and the officer looked at the VIN on the dash (or do they destroy that when a car is scrapped).

Once a car is “junked” or “scrapped” the VIN is recorded as such. The car’s title will show “salvaged”. Wikipedia article. Your hypothetical car-of-many-cars could be titled that way.

I don’t see why it couldn’t be registered as well. In our state, for example, if you don’t have the original title you can swear out a junk title, then get the registration for it. It has to pass an inspection as noted above.

No VIN on the engine block

A friend did this about 10 years ago with a '79(?) Monte Carlo. Beautiful car.

Anyway, when he first went to get it registered in WA, they took it in for a VIN inspection and he had to jump through a bunch of hoops. I don’t think it was the biggest deal in the world, but did take some time.

My friends Dad build built a hot rod from scratch. Welded the frame from tubing, new engine evrything. Took years and is a really magnificiant machine. There is a way for going through the state DOT here in NY to get a title created.

VINs have been around for a lot longer than 1980. My '69 Newport had a VIN tag on the dash, and I’ve seen auctions for the absolute worst condition body shell of a rare make (from the late 50s, IIRC) go for high dollars, simply because people wanted the VIN tags so that they could take them off the shell and put them on their clone, and then resell it as an original. (For example, they’d buy a rusted out hulk that was good for only scrap metal of a Chevelle SS and put it on the non-SS Chevelle that they had.)

Not all states tag a title with “salvage” (or at least not all of them did, I know that this was a hot issue for a long time), so one could take a title that had been marked salvage and retitle the vehicle in a state which didn’t mark it as salvage. This is what’s known as “title washing.”

Salvage yards often don’t automatically run the titles of the cars they buy through the DMV, either. The car owner will sign the title, hand it to the scrap yard owner, and not think any more about it. If the car’s in good condition, or is particularly valuable for one reason or another, the scrapyard owner will probably hang on to the title and not give it to the DMV, knowing that he’ll be able to sell the car for more money if its relatively intact. Scrapyards often have a customer list of people to call if they get a particular make or model in. I know I’ve sold a few clunkers to scrapyards and gotten a renewal notice for the tags some months later (which I shouldn’t have gotten if the vehicle had be registered with the DMV as being scrapped).

People do take late model cars (particularly valuable models) that have been scrapped, rework them, and then try and sell them as being an “ordinary” used car. There’s been some near fatalities (if not actual fatalities) because of this, as while the repair work was enough to correct the cosmetic appearance of the car, it wasn’t nearly enough to make the car safe to operate.

In Missouri you can take the “home built” car to the highway patrol for inspection, then to the Department of Revenue where they will provide a VIN plate to be attached to the frame. At least that’s what they do with home built trailers and dune buggies.

In California, there’s a fairly lengthy, but fairly straight-forward process to get a new VIN for your vehicle.

This page walks you through the process for a kit car.

And this PDF from the DMV attempts to explain the nuances between “kit cars” and “revived junk” and various other flavors of vehicles that don’t have a normal VIN.

My husband built a Harley from boxes of parts. We have a friend with the Secretary of State who helped with the hoop jumping.

I own a kit car which is essentially a VW Beetle with a fiberglass body that makes it look like a 1929 Mercedes. From what I can tell, at least two donor cars went into the creation of this car. It has a lot of parts from a 1960 Beetle, and a lot of parts from a later Beetle (early 70’s). The car is titled as a 1960 Beetle. The original VIN plate is nowhere on the vehicle. I had to get a replacement VIN plate, which involved an inspection/investigation by the local police and a bunch of paperwork. The ID plate that should have been on the engine was also removed, which makes me think the engine came from the later Beetle. I think whoever built the kit tried to remove all traces of the later Beetle since the car won’t pass inspection as anything later than a 1964 car (it doesn’t have seat belts, for example).

I bought the car from someone in NJ in non-running condition. There was a big issue when I got the car titled in PA, and they decided to keep it titled as a 1960 Beetle since that was what it had been in NJ. PA has a special classification for “homebuilt” cars, and it probably should have been titled as this.

A lot of people resurrected old Beetles for kit cars in the 80’s. Most of those Beetles had been junked. Most folks kept the original VIN of the Beetle since it made inspections and such a LOT easier.

My friend Ted regularly builds cars from scratch. So I asked him to write us an explanation. Here it is:

As far as VINs and VWs go, my 1969 bug definitely had a VIN. I had a service book that listed VINs and model year (and sub-year*) info, so they definitely went back some.

*So that mine was ID’ed as a very late year model. It had a tenths of mile odometer and an inside gas flap release that most 69’s didn’t have.

Wikipedia says no such thing, and if it ever did in an edit, it would be wrong. It only says that they were not standardized. I assure you that pre-1980 cars had VINs, most makes and models for decades prior.

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_identification_number

Why don’t you ask Johnny Cash?

I don’t know about the VIN, but Johnny says the title weighs 60 pounds!

Thats my line!!!

“I got it one piece at a time, and it didn’t cost me a dime.”

But be carful with the head lights. I ended up with two on the left, and one on the right. But when I pull the switch all three of them come on.