Every year the staff of STREET RODDER goes through the annual ritual of registering our latest Road Tour car, and each year it turns into a job nobody wants. For whatever the reason, I continually lose the rock-paper-scissors contest and end up spending a good portion of my life at the local Department of Motor Vehicles explaining why I want to register a new old car! It's true that dealing with the DMV is akin to being dragged naked through a field of broken glass while your lips are duct-taped to a hot exhaust pipe! You get the picture?
For starters, for even the simplest of years, for instance when we built the 1936 Chevrolet, it wasn't simple. Remember, we are part of a rather large publicly held company so we are expected to do things by the ol' rulebook--letter of the law stuff--especially when we are dealing with the law. The '36 Chevy was a car we literally purchased from the used car lot of a Chevy dealer in the South. So far so good. Here we had nothing more than a used car that had registration records going back for decades, but little did we know there was more to the picture.
As many a street rodder knows, especially Chevy buffs, the vehicle identification number (VIN) is located on the engine in these cars (and also in those made until the early to mid-'50s) and not the frame. Well, what do you think the odds are that our Chevy had its original engine? Zero, nada, zip, no freaking way! And so the saga continued when it came time to perform the VIN verification at the local DMV. "The numbers don't match; is this car stolen?" And the rest, as they say, went downhill from there. Oh well, I should have known it wouldn't be easy. Understand, while STREET RODDER is a magazine read worldwide and our corporate offices are in New York, the fact is anything we do around the SRM offices is subject to California law. While California has long carried the mantle as the birthplace of rodding, the hot bed of innovative performance ideas, the land of fast cars, etc., the fact remains: California can be a downright unfriendly place when you have a special interest vehicle.
And that brings us to this year and our PPG / STREET RODDER Road Tour '34 Chevy. Over the past few years, the fires of vehicle registration have burned brightly when dealing with specially constructed vehicles. Street rods can fall into this category when built from a combination of new or new and used parts. With this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to "suck it up," as the saying goes, and follow each and every procedure to the letter of the law on how to register a car legally within the state of California--the theory being if you can do it here you surely can do it anywhere. Without question, there are no less than 14 states where registering a street rod is embarrassingly simple, and they readily recognize street rods, kit cars, and special construction vehicles for what they are: small numbers of hobbyists who are pursuing a passion wrapped around the automobile. Our cars aren't gross polluters, we are not ransacking towns, and the vast majority of us have spent very little time in jail! We can't--we have mortgages and grandkids, and retirement thoughts are creeping up more quickly than any of us would like to admit. In other words, if there was ever a hobby that reflected the American way of entrepreneurialism and the rugged cowboy spirit of the Old West, it is the world of street rodding. We solve our problems ourselves, or with the help of our friends, and pretty much stay out of the way of the rest.
I started the procedure by going to the DMV to pick up the required paperwork. Two hours later and a phone call to Sacramento--the seat of government for the state of California--and I was somewhat in business. There's always someone at your local DMV who can help you with registering a street rod or a specially constructed vehicle, it's just you don't know who that person is and it's virtually impossible (at least in California) to get to that person. When you walk into our DMV, you are handed a number, and you begin the wait. From here you are assigned a window to work at and at this point, let the games begin.