Title Information For Kit Cars
This is a quick summary of some options available for titling kit cars in Illinois.
- I am not a lawyer - these are my understanding of what I've picked up as I've gotten a title for my car.
- I am not advocating any one of the below options above the other
- I do not accept any responsibility for the accuracy nor use of this information
- There may be other (better?) options available
- It is highly recommended that you investigate, on your own, which ever of these methods you choose - laws
change, as do interpretations thereof.
- These are specific for Illinois, I don't know how they will apply to other states
In Illinois only two things are recognized as valid when applying for a title - a previous title or a
Certificate of Origin (COO). A COO is issued by the original car manufacturer, who must be bonded with the US
government as a legitimate car manufacturer (I'm not exactly what all this is, but what it means to most of
us is that we cannot issue our own COO for a kit we build). Without a COO, one must have/acquire a title
(or equivalent) in order to get a title - interesting, eh? catch-22?
RUCC does not issue a "Certificate of Origin" with its kits. They do
issue a "Bill of Sale" (BOS). Other kit manufacturers may or may not issue a COO with the purchase of a kit.
I strongly recommend you ask for such, as having a COO greatly simplifies the process. The reasons for RUCC not issuing
one is simple - in doing so, the issuer may be accepting responsiblity for the construction of the car and could
be held liable in a court of law for subsequent damages and injuries as a result of faulty assembly of the kit.
Note that in any event the kit manufacturer can likely be held responsible for faulty piece parts and/or faulty design.
There are three ways I uncovered for obtaining a title for a kit car:
- Transfer a title from an existing car: If you have used a donor car for your build, you can use the
title from the donor to title the new car. I don't know how much of the donor you need to use in order to
make this transfer, but be aware of this: in Illinois, only the Illinois State Police (or, I believe with
new legislation that has recently taken effect, a body shop) may issue a new VIN sticker/plate for a vehicle.
Hence, it's likely that you will have to convince the State Trooper that comes to inspect your car that
the kit is "one and the same" as the donor and, hence, the VIN/title can be transferred. The year of the
kit on the title will be that of the year of the donor car.
- Obtain a "Bonded Title": this is intended for that "junker" you find in a field somewhere and cannot
find the owner nor title for the vehicle, but which will also work for kit cars. To obtain a Bonded Title,
you first take the vehicle in and
get it appraised by a car dealer (wholesale value is ok, but the appraiser must have a dealer license which
number must be included on the appraisal form). You can then take out a bond with the State of Illinois for
150% of the appraised value and apply for a Bonded Title. Your friendly local insurance agent can help with
this bond - at a rate of about $20 per $1000 of bond. This bond must be for three years, after which you
have title free and clear. Again, the intent of this Bonded title is to protect you if the original owner
of the vehicle shows up and makes a claim to your car - they get the bond - you get to keep the car. If no
claim is made within the three years, you get your bond back. This works well if the appraised value is less
than $1000 or so, but gets pretty spendy if you have your completed kit appraised for $20,000 or more. The recommendation
here, if you plan on going this route, is to get the kit appraised prior to assembly when it's just raw parts (if
you can find someone to do this). The down side of this, is that the car will be titled in the year in which
the application for title is made.
I believe you must also have a safety inspection by the Secretary of State Police
prior to title application (this is undergoing change and now may require, or allow as an alternative, an
inspection by the Illinois Street Rod Association).
- Use the services of U.S. Titles or
equivalent: You literally and legally sell you kit to U.S. Titles. They are in New York state, which recognizes
a Bill of Sale as sufficient in order to obtain a registration for a vehicle. Additionally, they do not issue
titles for vehicles built prior to 1972 (I think - I'm not sure of the exact year), but only registrations. Additionally,
New York allows kit (replica) cars to be registered in the year of the car they replicate - that is a kit of a '32 Ford
can be registered as a '32 Ford-R (Ford replica) even if it's built with all new parts. Your kit must have a VIN
either stamped to the frame (issued by the kit manufacturer), or use the engine block casting number (I'm not sure
how this works). You sell your kit to U.S. Titles, with a notarized Bill of Sale, and all vehicle information. They
register the car in NY as a 1965 Ford-R Cobra (for example). Once the registration is complete, they sell the car
back to you, along with the registration. Illinois (and all other states I'm led to believe) recognize that NY does
not issue titles to cars prior to 1972 and will allow the registration to serve as the previous "title" and will
issue an Illinois title for your kit. Note in this case the title will be for the year the car replicates (1932, 1965, etc.).
Although not required, it's still recommended that you get a safety inspection for your kit by the Illinois
Street Rod Association.