Today the Westfield finally got its real inspection sticker. That’s the last step in the registration/inspection process that I started at the beginning of the summer. When I started, I looked for information about the process on-line and didn’t find much. So it seems like I should write down what I learned. This is what worked for me, and I really can’t say whether you would have the same experience. In particular, it varies widely by state, and even within Massachusetts, it can vary over time.
The first step is getting a VIN. Even though the Westfield chassis has a VIN stamped on it, that’s not valid. You need to get a Massachusetts assigned VIN. Those start with MA and then have 5 numbers. To get a VIN, you need to make an appointment with the State Police at one of their salvage inspection sites. There are several of these sites around the state, but you’ll need to call 857-368-8443 to get a time and place arranged. I went to the one in Revere on a Friday because there are usually two policemen at that site on Friday mornings. When you call that number, you just leave a name and number for them to call back. This can take a while. When he called me, he said that he was doing flag duty at a road work site. That’s where he usually gets through his backlog of calls. So the callbacks can be a little intermittent.
One tricky bit of this inspection is that it costs $50, but you can’t pay the policemen. You need to go to the RMV, pay them $50, and get a receipt. You then take the receipt to your appointment. I guess I can see the logic of this, but it’s a bit complex in practice because nobody at the RMV knows anything about this. It took me a couple of tries to get them to take my check. It helps to bring a filled out Application for Replacement of Vehicle Identification Number, and to sound confident. If you sound like you don’t know what you’re doing, they’ll find some reason to turn you away. This form takes the VIN of the donor car. That VIN will become invalid after the new VIN is assigned. In addition to the title of the donor, you’ll also need what’s called a Certificate of Origin, or a Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin for the kit. I’m not sure what you do about this if you’ve built your own frame.
On the day of your appointment, you’ll need to trailer the car to the State Police. Tom and I loaded it on the trailer the night before. Because the Miata’s steering column has a lock, we put the key in while we were loading the trailer. We forgot to take it out when we finished, so when I came out in the morning, the battery was completely dead. That made this process a little more exciting then it really needed to be. When you get to your inspection, the policeman will check all of the numbers. I also brought pictures of all of the VIN stamps on the donor, as well as the purchase documents from when I bought it more than 20 years ago. When you pass the inspection, he will put a sticker on your frame which has the new VIN. At this point, your car has 3 sets of identification numbers. The VIN of the donor, the number stamped on the chassis, and this new one. If the car is ever stolen, this last number is the only one that will lead to you. So it’s a good idea to make up a good, solid plate with that number on it and hide it somewhere on the car.
Now that you have a VIN, you need to get a title. I think that it might be possible to do the next three steps in one trip, but I wasn’t able to figure out how to do that, so we’ll go through them one at a time.
You need to go back to the RMV with a filled out RMV-1 form. This is a fairly confusing form because the registry uses it for a lot of different jobs. The key items in this case are:
- Check “Title Only” at the top in item 4
- For “Previous Title” (item 7), enter “C/O”
- Enter your new VIN in item 10
- For Year (item 11), enter the current year. As far as I can tell, this needs to be the year you finished building the car.
- For Make (item 12), enter REPLI
- For “Model Name” (item 13), enter the name of the car your kit replicates. In my case “Lotus 7”.
- For “Model Year” (item 14), enter the year of the car your kit replicates. In my case 1957.
There’s a lot of other stuff to fill out in this form, but the rest of the items are pretty straightforward. Filing this form will cost you $75, but this is also the point where they check to make sure you’ve paid all of your sales tax. So you’ll need to bring receipts for anything which hasn’t had state sales tax paid and write a big check to cover all of that.
They’ll send this form off to the title division for you. The title division will create a new title for this car. It’s going to take weeks for them to have the title printed on fancy paper and mailed to you, but you don’t need to wait for that. Once the title has been assigned, you can proceed to the next step. Nobody is going to tell you when that happens, but you can check using this web form. I checked this every day for a week or two. That might have been longer than it normally takes because it was over the Fourth of July.
The next step is getting insurance. You’re probably going to want to have started talking to your agent well before this point, but they’ll want the title number before actually issuing the policy. I had originally thought I would use one of those special kit car policies from Hagerty or Grundy. It turns out that there’s a problem with that. There’s a law in Massachusetts which prevents them from writing policies for any car which is less than 25 years old. The age of the car is calculated from the date on the title. As you may remember from the previous step, we had to fill in the current year for that. So, we can’t use one of those policies. So I just put it on our regular insurance. You’ve got a couple of options there. As I said, you’re going to want to have some conversations with your agent.
Once you have a policy, your agent will fill out a second RMV-1 form with the insurance stamp. Then you go back to the registry again. This step is pretty straightforward. The RMV processes this sort of form all day long. You give them the form and a check (I think this one was $60), and you’ll walk out with a registration form and a pair of plates. Go home and put the plates on your car and go for a drive!
Now you have 7 days to get the car inspected. You do this by going to any inspection station and having them do the standard safety inspection. The guys at my garage thought this was pretty exciting because they’d never seen anything like this car. But when they finished the inspection and went to print the sticker, the computer came up with an R. They were pretty worried about that until I told them that it’s normal. When the new VIN is assigned, it is entered into the computer with a flag which will cause it to get an emissions fail on its first inspection.
So, now you need to get that flag cleared. You’ve got something like 90 days to do this, but you should get right on it because it can be a slow process. To do that, you call 866-941-6277 and make an appointment for an inspection at a Motorist Assistance Center. These are run by a private company named Parsons, although I understand that the contractor is changing at the end of the year. These are the same folks that do training for the people who do inspections at the service stations. I went to the MAC in Medford. The inspector checked that I had all of the correct emissions bits for the year the engine was built. Note that you need them to do this for the year of the donor, not the year on your new title. This means that you’ll want to have brought along a copy of the donor’s title. The title that was destroyed back in step 1. Because me engine was from a 1993, the requirements were pretty basic. A newer engine can be pretty complex, because they’re going to tap into the OBD-II port and check all of the codes. You’ll need to have gotten all of the sensors setup exactly right. The most complex thing I missed on my first try at this was that I didn’t have a sticker next to the fuel filler that said “Unleaded Fuel Only”. You’ll also need to give the inspector copies of all of the forms you’ve accumulated, and pictures of all of the number stamps and emissions components. They use this to build a dossier for your car.
Once you’ve satisfied all of the requirements, the inspector will take the dossier to the registry. This can take a week or so. If the registry approves, then they’ll clear the flag in the computer. Now you can go back to the inspection station. They’ll reenter your registration and print a new sticker. Then you’re done!
While I was waiting for them to print my new sticker today, the guy ahead of me started complaining to me about how long it took them to do the inspection. I just laughed at him and told him he had no idea. I think that from start to end, this took 10 weeks or so. That’s quite a bit longer than I thought it was going to take, and several of the steps were confusing, but everyone I met along the way was very helpful. They didn’t always know what the next step was, but most of them were really interested me find a way through it all.
Since it got registered, I’ve been driving it a lot, and having a lot of fun.