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Old 01-30-2005, 01:07 PM
ElvishWarrior21 ElvishWarrior21 is offline
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What does it take to register a homemade car?

I live in PA, and was wondering what it would take to make a street legal car of my own design (I'm a soon to graduate mechanical engineer.)

I've been playing with a design for a tanden 2-seater car that would basically trade size for structural strength over a sub-compact car. My idea had a rear mounted engine and rear wheel drive, and possibly a CVT. I was thinking of basically cannibalizing the powertrain from a junked sub-compact car, like a 3 cylinder Geo Metro. I'd design and build a frame-in-body chassis and probably do a suspension that was a hybrid between the donor car and an original design.

Anyone know how I'd go about establishing such a thing as street legal?
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Old 01-30-2005, 01:47 PM
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Contact the state DMV. I tried to get a title for a motorcycle that a friend of mine built. It was not easy. You had to have titles and receipts for every piece of the bike. Then someone had to review everything and inspect it. It was easier to get a title to an old bike and put the numbers on it. I don't know how PA is. There is a place in Maine that will give you a registration if you have a title no matter what state you live in. They have inspections, but out of state cops have nothing to do with it. So you are safe as long as you don't go to Maine. Find out the requirements before you start so you don't have to play catch up. Also contact your insurance agent. Sometimes they are a problem too. Good luck.
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Old 01-30-2005, 02:18 PM
Jerry Gougeon Jerry Gougeon is offline
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Street Legal :

Elvish: You would have to check with the local authorities as to the requirments for building your own street legal vehicle as all states and provinces here have different regulations .

No vehicle that has been altered from factory stock specs is legal on the street here in Ont. Can. one reason any lift over 4" is not legal on my Ford .

There are ways around the truck regulations if one buys commercial insurance and registers as a commercial vehicle as they can be ordered with alterations that are not sold on domestic vehicles .

This is not always a bad thing as they can not request that any vehicle have options added that were not standard from the factory like seat belts or double tail lights and signals on a '31 Ford coupe .

Every part of any home built vehicle that is home built would have to be certified by the proper licenced journeyman and his certification no# and signature intact . They have made it almost impossible to build your own car for the same reason the big three squashed all the little independent car makers of the 40's and 50's like Tucker .

It is getting hard to even build a street rod and remain legal if you want something that will dance you have to stay under the radar with the construction and HP rating . A 350 HP '69 Nova will no longer make the cut as none were ever manufactured by GM get my drift .

Check with your local Transport Ministery and they should be able to set out your restrictions for you . Many states are still fairly slack in this area and you could be home free with whatever you want to build .

From your plan so far I would be looking for an old Pontiac Fiero drive line though which already encompass the drive line you are talking about McGivering together from a regular vehicle .

I built an off road bush buggy in Alberta which incorporated a VW chassie shortened 27" and a 340 cc single Rotax snowmobile engine and secondary
mounted on the transaxle . Worked like a skidder and would bring 2 whole moose to the road in one trip But because off road here must be registered and insured like a quad I had to have the RCMP auto theft division come and inspect it and assign me a VIN no# which they attached to my steel dash with pop rivets . I then recieved an ownership that called it Mod.- Bush Buggy
and Make - Home Built . Year 2001 . I could then purchase plates and insurance but it was one of a kind registered in the province and the boys spent twice as long studying my design and how it worked than they did doing the registration . One even requested I fire it up and take him for a ride to see just how well it performed . Good Luck with your project :
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Old 01-30-2005, 03:17 PM
SoCalDesertRider SoCalDesertRider is offline
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You'll want to get a copy of the vehicle codes in your state and manufacture the vehicle to meet those codes. There are usually specific guidlines on use, color, quantity and placement (both width and height) of all exterior lights, as well as requirements about windshield, horn, fenders and frame and/or bumper heights. You'll likely have to take it through a brake and light inspection as well as provide the proof of origin/ownership information mentioned by Trike1946.

You'll need to use lights that are DOT approved and meet the minimum brightness requirements. Most vehicle codes have sections describing that the lights can be seen from so many feet way or that headlights be no more than x number of watts and that fog or driving lights are only operational under certain circumstances. Canada also requires daytime running lamps. I'm not sure if any US states do or not. There are also requirements about reflectors or reflective tape, as well as third brake light, lisense plate light, backup lights, turn signals, etc.

When I went to register my off-road-only baja bug for street use, I followed all the vehicle code guidelines to a tee when I did the necessary modifications to it, or so I thought. The shop that did the brake and light inspection had a big problem with my toggle-switch operated turn signals because there was no cancelling function. I never found anything in the vehicle code mentioning anything about them having to cancel, but the shop refused to approve it no matter how much I argued with them.

On the brakes, you'll likely be required to have a main service brake system that operates on all axles and uses an independent dual hydraulic system (front brakes on a seperate system than the rear) as well as a strictly mechanical (non-hydraulic) parking brake system that is operated independently of the service brakes. Basically, all the normal qualities of a modern car's braking system .

Emmissions may be the biggest obstacle. Unless you can start with a vehicle main structure that was manufactured in a year prior to your state's emmission testing cutoff date (in California it is 1973 or '74, in Arizona, last I heard it was 1967), then your car will likely need to have all of the approved emmissions equipment on it. In California, that means all parts of the system must be approved by CARB (California air resourses board, or something like that). This is the same approval process that all aftermarket engine and exhaust parts manufacturers have to go through. I probably wouldn't even bother trying this idea in California or other strict emmissions law states.

I'm not sure what the approval process would be for a vehicle manufactured from the ground up, or if there are exceptions for one-off vehicles like the one you are talking about. The emmissioins requirements are different based on the vehicles GVWR. If you can make this a 5-ton truck, you'll probably have an easier time with the emmissions. Using an all-electric engine would probably be the easiest way to get around emmissions issues altogether .

I'm not sure what all the safety requirements would be, like safety belts, air bags, side impact door beams, crush zones, etc. Since this is a one-off custom car, it is possible that only safety belts would be required. You'll have to do some reading in your state's vehicle code as well as read up on the federal guidelines for that information.

There may be some kind of internet disscussion group you can find about custom or experimental vehicle manufacture and operation that could be a real valuable source of info from people who have done this before. Maybe a Google search would turn up something?

Good luck with the project!
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Last edited by SoCalDesertRider; 01-30-2005 at 03:40 PM.
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Old 01-30-2005, 03:46 PM
SoCalDesertRider SoCalDesertRider is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Gougeon
Worked like a skidder and would bring 2 whole moose to the road in one trip...
Jerry, that was hilarious .
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Old 01-30-2005, 04:06 PM
ElvishWarrior21 ElvishWarrior21 is offline
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To clarify, pretty much every fluid and power system would be taken from the donor car or existing aftermarket. Emissions should be identical or better, except for different tubing lengths.
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I like big trucks and I cannot lie!
You other driver's can't deny
That when a Ford pulls in with a shiny round grill
And it's fog lights in your face you go Arrugghh!
Wanna jump inside...

Last edited by ElvishWarrior21; 01-30-2005 at 04:08 PM.
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Old 01-30-2005, 04:27 PM
Ghostgunn Ghostgunn is offline
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Do a search on Kit car websites, they have all the information on homebuilts as well. I remember reading them years ago. I do know it is alot easier if you are able to incorporate a existing vehicle Id number although.
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Old 01-30-2005, 04:38 PM
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I heard something about Boyd Cottington having legal problems with the titles for many of his custom built hot rods. Maybe you could find it on Google ?
You might be safest to use the complete chassie of the donor car to ease emissions testing & title regestration.
OR.....build your own chassie & body around the drivetrain of a brand new, wrecked compact car. That way, the emissions will already be in place.
AL.
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Old 02-01-2005, 02:47 AM
ElvishWarrior21 ElvishWarrior21 is offline
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Ok, after all the advice I read here and a little bit of research, a pure electric car seems the best idea. I can design it for the weight distribution of batteries and it's probably far easier to design it for a simple electrical system than to design a whole new IC layout and try to make it efficient.

My big question is: Does it always take nearly 100V, or can you make a 12v or 24v system with enough power? I was considering going for a four motor better-than-AWD type of system for best controll in inclement conditions. Range wouldn't be a huge issue, but I'd want at least 50 miles or so. It would mainly be used as a runnabout either from home or from a van into which it would dock.

Any good sources for powerful enough 12v motors? Say 15-20hp for each, figuring this would end up weighing 1000-1500lb, and a 2000lb car is well powered with a 100hp engine, so total power of 60-80hp should be more than adequate.

Edit: I'm ROFLing. I just did the physics and getting 15hp out of a 12vdc motor would require 940 amps, if it's roughly 750W per 1hp, 60hp being 45,000W, dividing that by four leaves 11,250W for each wheel, dividing by 12v results in 940 amps. Call me a nerd, but that's just plain funny.
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I like big trucks and I cannot lie!
You other driver's can't deny
That when a Ford pulls in with a shiny round grill
And it's fog lights in your face you go Arrugghh!
Wanna jump inside...

Last edited by ElvishWarrior21; 02-01-2005 at 03:07 AM.
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Old 02-01-2005, 11:50 AM
rwplett rwplett is offline
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The way to get your creation licensed is to start with the frame from a car with a valid VIN # and legal title. If you use one that's more than 35 years old emissions compliance will not be an issue.

If you try to licence something that you have built from scratch, you'll have to comply with most of the emissions and safety regulations that any auto manufacturer has to comply with to build a new 2005 car. I believe that very low volume manufacturers do get some breaks on crash testing.
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Old 02-01-2005, 12:27 PM
ElvishWarrior21 ElvishWarrior21 is offline
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They'd make me crash test my own car? I don't suppose computer simulations would suffice? Emissions would be licked if it was electric, as stated above. It may have a cockpit type harness and roll bar protection. But I really couldn't afford to crash test my own car. For emotional reasons if nothing else.
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I like big trucks and I cannot lie!
You other driver's can't deny
That when a Ford pulls in with a shiny round grill
And it's fog lights in your face you go Arrugghh!
Wanna jump inside...
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Old 02-01-2005, 05:56 PM
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You could be your own crash test dummy! I was gonna build a 3 wheeler, cuz here in FL 3 wheelers (no matter how big) are classified as motorcycles, and thus exempt from just about everything. They do want to see receipts for materials, engine, etc. I have a set of plans for the Doran 3 wheeler, but I'd probably build something lighter and more open. It's a front wheel drive 3 wheeler, using either Subaru or electric drivetrain. I thought of maybe a real small FWD car transaxle, and a big v-twin Briggs or something.
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Old 02-02-2005, 12:31 PM
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In NH you simply list it as a "hot rod" and it has to incorporate a 30s-50s style exterior or frame. The big things they look at are

1) modern windshield
2) modern lights
3) seat belts

The guy at the RMV (state cop in NH) that inspects it will look for normal construction techniques and safety things.

So, in PA, you might want to sit down and go over the law books concerning motor vehicles. You rarely find this type of information freely given.
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Old 02-03-2005, 12:14 AM
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i know of two motor "cars " that are homemade and are moving leagally on the streets of new mexico and these are motor cars i'd never want to ride in if my life depended on it. gonna show you pic's.
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Old 02-04-2005, 08:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dealford
I heard something about Boyd Cottington having legal problems with the titles for many of his custom built hot rods.
AL.
Here's a link to the article....
http://streetrodderweb.com/hotnews/0410sr_boyds/
AL.
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Old 02-04-2005, 08:59 AM
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