Lotus Elan

Registering an Elan in California?

PostPost by: monkeyodeath » Mon Aug 20, 2018 6:53 pm

I finally got my hands on an Elan! It's a 1966 S3.

Now I get to bring it into California. The car has a Tennessee title.

When I brought it to AAA to transfer the title, the employee who came out to verify the VIN could only find the plate stamped on the body. They told me that when there's only one VIN, the car has to be taken to the CHP for verification.

This being urban California, all the available appointment times are well into next month, but I'm a little concerned -- one CHP officer I talked to asked me if I had any importer paperwork, and proof that the car was federalized, which I don't. He said I might have to take the car to an importer to get it made legal for CA.

Anyone else in California have experience with this? Given the age of the car, it seems a little ridiculous to expect that I'd have importation documentation. I have copies of the car's past 3 titles and a bill of sale from CT, the state it was in before that. All VINs agree.

I called someone who does VIN verification, but he told me that with only one VIN, the only place I could take the car is the CHP.

Kind of tempted to call RD and see if I can get a repro door plate and just stick it on the jamb and have AAA take a look again.

At least I don't have to get it smogged...
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PostPost by: elanfan1 » Mon Aug 20, 2018 7:50 pm

It may be of help and/or just interest but if you write to the member LotusArchives on here it’s Andy Graham the Lotus Factory Archivist. Get yourself a Certificate of Provenance, there is a charge but reasonable I think. Should prove its origins which ought to mean you don’t need to worry about the Federal stuff and might help with registration too.

HTH
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PostPost by: awatkins » Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:42 am

The CHP person you spoke to is misinformed. Smog control required by California began in 1968. The horror he is describing would only happen if the car were ‘68 or later, and even then only if you imported it directly to CA from outside the US. The reason the CHP gets dragged into VIN verification is, I believe, due to the desire to detect stolen vehicles because CHP has access to a related database. The only reason you should need anything like a factory doc is if the year of the vehicle were in doubt. Usually the VIN inspectors accept the previous registration doc as proof of that.

I’m a big fan of getting as few government people involved as possible. However if you do decide to go to CHP with your single VIN I wouldn’t be worried. If there were to be a federalization or smog issue you would find out during registration at DMV, not at CHP, and it would start with “we are going to have to send this to Sacramento.”. CHPs role is simply to assure DMV that the VIN being registered does belong to the vehicle and that the vehicle has not been reported stolen.

I learned all this from importing a ‘72 Alfa from Holland. After literally a year the CA air resources board let me off the hook because there are no labs in CA capable of running the ‘72 emissions tests.

Is there really only one place on a ‘66 where the VIN is stamped/printed/engraved? I had no such problem having my from-Colorado 67 S3 VIN verified by a private verifier and then registered at DMV in late 2015.
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PostPost by: Wpk12345$$ » Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:55 am

The biggest problem I had when registering my 67 Elan Coupe in California was the fact that the VIN plate was hand engraved. The CHP officer that inspected it questioned why it was not professionally stamped like a typical automotive manufacturer. I explained that Lotus was a very small manufacturer and that was the way they identified the car back in 1967. He finally believed me and signed off on the VIN verification.

I would not try to register the car through AAA because this is a special case. You need to put on your most trustworthy face and do the registering in person. I would emphasize that you have a title trail from another state that proves that you are the owner. If a DMV office gives you some trouble, I have found that going to a different office often works, (a DMV office in a small town works the best). It is surprising how different DMV individuals are, some are very picky, and others process the paperwork without a whimper....


Good luck...
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PostPost by: monkeyodeath » Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:21 am

I hope you're right. Definitely seems ridiculous that I'd need importation paperwork for a car sold new in the US 50+ years ago -- assuming the original owner even got anything like that. I'm going to try to make an appointment with another CHP and see if I get the same feedback. (Most DMV employees seem to have no idea what Lotus is, maybe this guy just assumed it was some weird old Euro-only car!)

Would love to avoid entanglement with the state as much as I can, but according to the AAA and the VIN verifier I called, who deals with vintage cars , the CHP is my only option with one VIN -- he said he couldn't touch it. I can see how this might be an attempt to catch stolen vehicles, especially since most modern cars have VINs stamped on practically every body panel.

As far as other VIN locations, I'm new to Elans, so there might be something I'm missing (someone please chime in if so!), but as far as I can tell, the only 2 places the body number was stamped on the S3 were on the plate under the bonnet and on the frame itself. And since my car has a replacement Lotus frame, the frame number is going to be different anyway (not that I feel like removing the engine to make sure!).

Apparently the later Elans also had the typical door jamb plate with the VIN as well. Part of me is tempted to get a reproduction one, pop it on the car, and then go to a different inspector...but that might be pushing some legal boundaries.
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PostPost by: rgh0 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:19 am

Normal practice is to Punch the original unit number on the replacement chassis / sub assembly in the original location as the replacement will not have had a number on it. I may already be there as it may have been put there when the chassis was replaced.

cheers
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PostPost by: prezoom » Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:10 pm

Try a private registration company. They seem to be able to work through any problems a DMV office cannot. As far as proof of the cars being for sale in California at the time your car was made, buy a Road and Track from 1965, and look at the Bob Chalman ad for his Lotus dealership. The Jon Dahlstrom art work will show the car along with the written advertisement. The only time I have had to have the CHP inspect a vehicle, was when I registered my kit built Super 7 back in 1965.
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PostPost by: monkeyodeath » Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:07 pm

Is it at all possible to see the frame stamp with the engine in the car?
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PostPost by: 1963 S1 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:37 pm

My recent experiences with VIN verification. My car was out of the DMV system for several decades and, once ready to register, the DMV requested a VIN verification stating either DMV, CHP, or an authorized VIN verifier can complete the needed verification. I decide to head down to the CHP office thinking it would be most straightforward. Once the officer saw the four fixing screws, original to my car, holding the identification plate he was ready to write me up for a felony. “You do know removing the VIN plate is a felony, I clearly see that you removed it because there are screws holding it down, it should have rivets, we will need to place a new California VIN plate, creating a new VIN number, onto your car with proper rivets as should be on all cars irrespective of age. And by the way, I don’t believe this is a Lotus and therefore will need to do my own research plus have you bring corroborating evidence that it is in fact a Lotus.” I believe his doubts peeked, where any reasonable discussions were pointless at that time, once he was convinced that my car was involved in some sort of chassis plate tampering. To no avail, the Lotus Archive certification which I provided, the fact that the Borne plate and the engine number all matched on the documents were not of any interest to the officer. I left as I was asked to return with more ‘evidence’ before CHP could tag a new VIN plate onto the car. Nervous that I’d have issues with any VIN verifier, I removed the screws and riveted the plate onto the car. Decided to visit DMV instead and within minutes the VIN verification was completed. The DMV VIN verifier did look at the historical DMV records which I had with me, looked at the actual original Lotus hand scribed VIN plate and was satisfied. He did search for a plate on the door however I noted that such a plate did not exist for my year and he carried on. I would agree with an earlier post, that with any government office you will experience very different levels of service depending on the person at the counter and their past experiences/familiarity of a particular matter – I helps calling/visiting at different times as you may receive different answers.
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PostPost by: awatkins » Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:25 pm

OK, with that last CHP story I change my recommendation. Do whatever you have to to get a VIN verification done by DMV, AAA or any of the private registration services.
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PostPost by: monkeyodeath » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:43 pm

Well 1963 S1, to illustrate your point, I got a call back from a CHP officer I'd left a message for yesterday.

He seemed surprised that the DMV didn't register my car -- apparently there's a big box on the form indicating that pre-1970 cars are exempt from having the federal VIN marking plates! Wishing now that I'd taken the car to the actual DMV instead of the AAA.

This officer at least seemed a lot less uptight about the car -- didn't mention anything about importation paperwork, and when I mentioned that it only had one VIN plate, said something to the effect of "Yeah, of course, its a '66."

I asked if I could just try to find a better DMV and redo the verification but the CHP guy told me that once your vehicle has been marked in the system as needing CHP verification, you can't really back it out.

So I'm hoping that the appointment next month goes well and that there aren't any gotchas. Might try to see if I can find the chassis numbers just for giggles, but at least this officer's tone was a lot less hostile than the last guy.

As far as what I've learned -- next time I'd definitely take a car like this to an actual DMV for the verification. I don't think the AAA people are experienced in odd cases like this, and the CHP officer said that they tend to be the least well-trained with these scenarios.
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PostPost by: monkeyodeath » Wed Aug 22, 2018 9:48 pm

Also, I was being dumb and didn't see the frame number clearly engraved on the car's frame. Unfortunately, it's a "LRXXXX" number that doesn't correspond with the car's number.

Definitely won't be bringing that to the CHP officer's attention!
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PostPost by: Lotus14S2 » Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:20 pm

California now requires a smog check on 1976 or newer vehicles, no matter where they come from.
We are not talking about "grey market" cars here, coming from outside the U.S.
I registered a 1963 Series 1 Elan, in California, after buying it in Texas, with Georgia registration and Massachusetts plates.
Once I supplied the California DMV with the paperwork, and gave them information on the goofy car registration system in Georgia, I had the car with California pink slip and plates in one day.
I don’t know where people go and have all the difficulty with the DMV.
I’ve been dealing with them for close to 60 years, and have registered everything from home built car trailers to hot rods and never had much difficulty.
I have found if you have all the paper work, and all the forms filled out, it takes no more time, than it takes to do yearly registration. All the forms can be found on line, along with a check list.
You do need an appointment as the car has to be checked to see what the build plate says, and that the lights and horn works. There was no one checking the ID to see if it was stolen, in fact there was little done, except the inspector was interested in the Elan, as he had never seen one before.
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PostPost by: monkeyodeath » Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:49 pm

Yeah, I'm not sure what happened. I've brought out-of-state vehicles in before, and it's usually just a cursory check of the VIN plates. All the paperwork was good to go.

I think so much of it depends on who you deal with. Earlier this year, I brought in a truck from Arizona and requested 60s-era plates. Everything seemed fine until, a few weeks later, I got three pairs of different license plates in the mail -- for the same vehicle!

Then, a couple months later, went to renew my driver's license, only to find that the replacement had left off my motorcycle endorsement.

Hoping that the CHP officer I'll be doing the inspection with is as relaxed about the situation as he sounded on the phone.
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PostPost by: awatkins » Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:05 pm

>>You do need an appointment as the car has to be checked to see what the build plate says, and that the lights and horn works

I’ve never needed that in CA except when registering an SPCN aka special constructuction aka home bilt or kit, in which case it’s called a brake and light inspection, and thus involves the brakes as well and is done by a correspondingly registered private mechanic.

Lotus 14 S2: what was the scenario where that was required, and when?

And by the way, some of this VIN complexity is new. If you compare the current form at
https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detai ... /reg/reg31
with one from a few years ago, you’ll see the new one is far more complex and stringent.
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