Restoration Wednesday, Lost Titles

posted in: Restoration Wednesday | 3


It’s such an easy thing to buy a car, truck or motorcycle and just say, “meh so what, it doesn’t have a title.” You may justify the purchase with:

  • I’ll just use it for parts
  • I bought it without a title, someone will buy it from me
  • How hard is it to get a title anyway?

Well I’m here to tell you, it’s a pain. At least the way I’ve been doing it in Michigan. For my latest adventures in babysitting, I traded for this 1974 Lotus Elite roller. Of course, it doesn’t have a title. But there is nice fella up the street from our Jackson, Michigan shop that runs an auto repair place and is a dealer. He said “I can help you get a title by using a surety bond, no problem. Getting the bond will cost you $100.” In my mind, that was short money to get a title on a classic car, especially an Elite. They’re are, after all, soon to be hugely collectible once everybody stops comparing it to a Gremlin and recognizes the dumpy back end as creative genius. Awe come on! It’s got angles that look pretty good. Plus it was Colin Chapman’s first venture into a four seat touring car so he tried really hard. Plus, I think they are pretty cool.

But back to the title. The Secretary of State (our DMV) didn’t accept the surety bond on its own. They wanted a bill of sale (no problem) plus a VIN check by a police officer. So I called the Jackson police department and they said “I know this sounds crazy, but just hang up and dial 911. They’ll send someone out for you.” Then she added, “you know you can’t drive the car until it gets inspected.” I’m sorry? Are people waiting for some sort of VIN verification before they drive off in… what? A not-stolen car? “The car doesn’t have an engine ma’am. It’s a restoration project from 1974 with a lost title. And yes, it does sound crazy to call 911.”

Brrrrrriinnnng. Brrrrrinnng.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

“Nothing. Just trying to pull an officer away from guarding the castle so they can verify the car we’ve had for years is really ours.”

In all fairness, the police run the VIN through their database to see if it is stolen. Then they verify the car and VIN, sign the form and we schedule another visit to the Secretary of State’s office. I’ll keep you posted if they ask for anything else. I just met the police yesterday when they signed the form.

Oh, anybody have thoughts on what engine I should put in this thing?


3 Responses

    • Groosh

      So far I’ve heard GM 215 V8 swap from the 60’s or Miata engine. Anybody else? You’re going to have to speak up! There’s a lot of electrical interference on my end.

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