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87mj

Rolling Shell with no VIN

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I sure can use some advice here.  I bought a low miles '71 a couple of years ago.  I think the odometer is accurate at 60k miles.  Its mostly original except the transmission is a type B 4 speed. It has been a great car. It is a Sunday afternoon fair weather car. I store it in a heated garage. It doesn't see rain and I put probably 500 miles on it per year.

Parts are becoming scarce and I ran across another '71 shell with a boat load of parts so I bought it.  The shell is in better shape than the '73 I owned in '79 and better than the '72 I owned in '87.  The driver side floor has a golf ball sized hole in it..  One rocker and two rear quarters need replaced. Spare tire holder is great.  Rear Valance is mint. Battery tray is excellent. Frame rails are great.  I have an engine in the car and it runs. Compression is 115-118 on all cylinders (but I question if I got the engine hot enough). I cant justify using it as a parts car. I am willing to strip the suspension, remove the dash, blast and repaint the car.  if I needed to sell it, I don't think I would lose based on how much I paid for the car but because I am obsessed, I would keep it for myself. I found a '81 zx 5 speed cheap I really want to put in it.

The problem is the VIN tag.  The VIN in the engine bay matches the tag in the door jam and dash but it doesn't match the VIN in the firewall.  I know there are a lot of non numbers matching cars out there but in this case, the chassis numbers don't match. 

In my state, I had a sheriff come out to run the tags so I can get a title.  He said ignore it and use the VIN that is visible on the tag and ignore the firewall VIN. I had an appraiser come out to look at it and he said the same thing.  Should I ignore the firewall tag VIN or try to get the original VIN tags with the firewall on it? Is there any way I can get new VIN tags?  Does it even matter if those three tags don't match the firewall? I assume people have run into this before when they have bought a rolling shell so it cant be a new problem.  Would you consider this to be simply a non numbers matching car or is it more than that?  Am I over thinking it?

Any advice would be appreciated even if it is wrong.  :) 

Thanks

Gary

Edited by 87mj

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If you just plan on using it as a weekend car for personal use then take the sheriff's and the appraiser's advice. If you plan on fixing it up and selling it then at a minimum you need to tell the buyer about the firewall VIN in case they run into problems in the future.  If you or a future owner ever want to take the car to a concourse level that's when the problems happen, Banzai Motorworks http://www.zzxdatsun.com/   can make you up new tags but you will have to provide proof of ownership, but don't be surprised if he just says "No thanks"  Nobody wants to have their name attached to a car that has been laundered.

 

 

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Suppose someone steals your car, removes the engine bay and door jamb tags, and either removes the dash tag or puts in another dash with yet another VIN tag.  Now there is no way to prove it is your car, as the only remaining VINs (the firewall, and possibly the new dash) don't match your title.  Personally, I'd look to make sure I get a title based on the firewall VIN.

I have a similar issue with a '77 that we've owned since 1983.  It was stolen prior to our ownership, and reassigned a VIN when it was recovered as the dash, door jamb, and engine plates were removed by the thief.  I have State of MA paperwork linking the firewall VIN to the reassigned VIN, and the reassigned VIN is on a sticker on the driver side door jamb.  At some point, I'll probably restore the car, and will want to remove the sticker for painting purposes, and I'm thinking of having dash, door jamb, and engine bay plates remade with the firewall VIN.  The hardest part may be trying to convince the State of MA to buy off on the process of cleaning the title back to the firewall VIN, especially seeing as the car currently carries a CA title with the reassigned VIN, but I'm hoping that the paperwork trail is clear enough that they'll see the logic of my request.  They allowed me to clean the title on my RX-7 to go from "EXEMPT" mileage to "true" mileage, based on an affadavit from the previous owner, so I'm hopeful.

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in oregon they go by the stamped vin on the firewall since it is permanent and the others can be swapped. Mike at Bonzai didnt have the door tag for a 72 last time i called and said he might not get any more. i ended up getting it from zedd savers.

whatever the sheriff says, get it in writing. may save you some pain down the road. my 2 centavos

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I agree with Grannyknot. Use it as you see fit and let sleeping dogs lie. If you are gonna sell it you should make the buyer aware of the issue. I would  be surprised if you could get the firewall VIN used on a new title. DMV's don't really want to mess with these issues and you may end up in a situation where they questions the legal title of the vehicle. In other words you could potentially, maybe a long shot, loose the car or clear title. You get into a supremely gray area here but I have considered making the firewall VIN match the plates. The law and the DMV say the car is this VIN number, so is it improper to make the fire wall VIN match what they say it should be?

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That's the funny thing about "the states".  We're actually more like 66 tiny nations.  They all have their own laws, and like it that way.  There is no federal VIN law.  Ownership is determined by the laws of the state.

So you're probably fine within certain geographical regions, but might have problems if you want to sell it.

 

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  It appears to me that someone swapped dashboards but not the vin tags. The question appears to be, do I make it legal or do I make it legal and right. Making it legal is just a matter of telling the DMV what they want to hear. If they deal in dash vin tags then go with that. Making it right is going to be more difficult. Is it possible to check the history of both numbers with DMV or Police Dept? Any chance the PO has or knows where the orig. dash is?

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35 minutes ago, Mark Maras said:

  It appears to me that someone swapped dashboards but not the vin tags. The question appears to be, do I make it legal or do I make it legal and right. Making it legal is just a matter of telling the DMV what they want to hear. If they deal in dash vin tags then go with that. Making it right is going to be more difficult. Is it possible to check the history of both numbers with DMV or Police Dept? Any chance the PO has or knows where the orig. dash is?

The way I understand it is all the VIN tags (3) match each other but not the engraving on the firewall. So they are not original to this chassis

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If I had to guess, I'd say someone had a car with a bad chassis, bought that shell, and transferred everything. Or maybe there was some foul play involved. It will definitely come up if you ever sell it - unless the buyer is oblivious. I would probably pass on it regardless of condition. I'm surprised that both the sheriff and the appraiser said to ignore the firewall VIN since, as Alan said, that is the one VIN that cannot be removed - or I guess I should say least easily removed. Maybe check the backside of the firewall for welds just to be sure. If you want this thing as a toy, I would simply follow the sheriff's advice, despite being illogical, and get your title that way. If you want it to hold value as a collector, then you have a problem. If it were me, mind you I know nothing about the proper protocol here, I would likely have them run the firewall VIN (a risk - be prepared to give up the car), and then have the remaining tags remade to that VIN - I believe there's at least one person in the community who provides that service.

24 minutes ago, Patcon said:

The way I understand it is all the VIN tags (3) match each other but not the engraving on the firewall. So they are not original to this chassis

That's how I understood it.

3 hours ago, HS30-H said:

At this point, it looks to me as though you don't actually have full and correct ownership of that. I'd consider that a big problem...

He's talking about getting a title, so it doesn't sound like he owns either car - the one the connected to the VIN on the firewall, or the one that donated its three VIN tags. Bad situation.

Edited by rturbo 930

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Yes Patcon is correct. All 3 tags were swapped and they match which gives the appearance of a numbers matching car.  

I suspect I can get a title off the "real" firewall vin assuming the car was not stolen 20 years ago. Has anyone heard of problems with bmv or law enforcement if the dash doesn't have a vin?

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I actually bought  this car as a parts car. But I just don't have the heart to part it out .

 If I can get a title I would consider restoring it and enjoying it but if I can't I would leave it as a parts car or give it up if I the law tells me to.

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my car didnt have the tag on the dash. im assuming the original dash was trash and some replaced it. (good for me, it has no cracks) it also had the door and engine bay tags replaced, but neither matched the firewall vin. dmv told me the only one that counts is the one stamped into the firewall (which matches the title) i have since replaced the door and engine tag and hand-stamped the correct numbers on them

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4 hours ago, HS30-H said:

Without getting into the philosophical discussion of what actually constitutes 'a car', it is generally accepted that 'the car' in your case will be the thing that has the firewall-engraved chassis number. At this point, it looks to me as though you don't actually have full and correct ownership of that. I'd consider that a big problem...

 

I hate to agree with the man, but he is pretty much correct. What you have is a time bomb, not a car. S30's do not have a "VIN". They have a serial number. The auto theft databases that most (US) states rely upon don't work very well for cars made before 1981. If the paperwork you have in hand matches the serial number on the dash, you may well be able to get a title, but down the road you could still lose the car if it turns out that it was stolen years ago. At the very least you have evidence of tampering.

The whole thing sounds very questionable to me.

 

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I knew a guy had an old Datsun pick up truck. It finally bit the dust and he found one out west. If he bought it, he was thinking about pulling the VIN tags off the old Datsun and putting them on the new one so that he wouldn't have to pay sales tax. I think both of these vins were '71.

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My tupence worth: I see the advice from the sheriff and the appraiser as sketchy at best - its not their skin in the game nor do they have the final say.  The only opinion that counts is your state's DMV!  In my state, all title application inspections are handled by the Highway Patrol officers.  They have an extensive listing of all of the locations for permanent VIN stamps, including the factory secret locations.  Those are the only VIN identifiers that count.  If you plan to move forward on a driver and not a parts car, check with your DMV before acting on it.

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You could always make the etched vin simply go away. I know it doesn't solve your issue. 

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Wow... Remind me to never buy a vehicle from Indiana.    LOL

So if you don't have a title, then what documentation do you have to prove that you even own the vehicle in the first place? A notarized bill of sale? A non-notarized bill of sale?

And what information is on that documentation to indicate that the documentation pertains to that specific car? Is there VIN listed on that documentation? If so, which VIN? The one from the firewall, or the one from everywhere else?

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There are many ways to get a title for a vehicle, that might not be the original for the bulk of the car.  It's surprising what you can do.

Here's a sampling from Oregon.  The link and a snippet.  The thing about the Z's is that their VIN format doesn't match the common databases that DMV's use.  So computer records are scarce, probably for showing that a car was stolen also.  87mj could probably file for a lost title and get it with the firewall VIN number, then change the other tags to match.

Question - does the engine code match the engine bay tag?  Might be a clue about where things came from.  Pretty common to combine cars to make one good one.

http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV/docs/trassembled.pdf

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On 11/19/2017 at 9:04 AM, foosman said:

Suppose someone steals your car, removes the engine bay and door jamb tags, and either removes the dash tag or puts in another dash with yet another VIN tag.  Now there is no way to prove it is your car, as the only remaining VINs (the firewall, and possibly the new dash) don't match your title.  Personally, I'd look to make sure I get a title based on the firewall VIN.

I have a similar issue with a '77 that we've owned since 1983.  It was stolen prior to our ownership, and reassigned a VIN when it was recovered as the dash, door jamb, and engine plates were removed by the thief.  I have State of MA paperwork linking the firewall VIN to the reassigned VIN, and the reassigned VIN is on a sticker on the driver side door jamb.  At some point, I'll probably restore the car, and will want to remove the sticker for painting purposes, and I'm thinking of having dash, door jamb, and engine bay plates remade with the firewall VIN.  The hardest part may be trying to convince the State of MA to buy off on the process of cleaning the title back to the firewall VIN, especially seeing as the car currently carries a CA title with the reassigned VIN, but I'm hoping that the paperwork trail is clear enough that they'll see the logic of my request.  They allowed me to clean the title on my RX-7 to go from "EXEMPT" mileage to "true" mileage, based on an affadavit from the previous owner, so I'm hopeful.

Most States I've lived in - reassign a new VIN, to replace the original -  for one reason - the Car was reported as a Total Loss by an insurance company, and sent to Salvage. In which case the Title is surrendered back to the State. If the car is then rebuilt out of the junk yard and other parts  - - It is assigned a Rebuilt or Reconstructed VIN and a new matching title. Here in Florida for example - the new VIN is the same as the original - only preceded by FLA. HLS30 2323 for example would become FLAHLS30 2323.  This is to assure any new owners is aware that the car had a Salvage Title.

 

@87mj - - - that would be the Legal Route for you. Apply for a "Salvage Title"-  because in effect you are reconstructing a Z out of different parts, that the factory never put together in the first place.

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I would not apply for a salvage title. If I could get a clear title I would. In many states some cars that are total loss still carry clear titles and I have come across cars, including my present project, that could have been totaled but weren't. There are a number of states that have really harsh rules for wrecked cars, Florida being one of them. In my state there are no "rebuilt" titles, only salvage titles which means the car went back to the insurance company and they got a salvage title from the state. There is no reason to brand the car if you don't need to...

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I think that, maybe, one reason mj87 is nervous is because he might lose the car if he digs too deep.  If it is has been falsely titled in the past and the efforts to get it titled show that, he might be holding stolen property.

So, really, no offense, it's kind of a moral dilemma - know the truth or hang on to what might actually be someone else's car.  Probably better for peace of mind to just try to get the proper VIN on the proper title.  It's most likely just a lost or reconstructed title in the past.  You could probably do another lost title process and get it all squared away. 

It's the people at the DMV in your state that will know.  Not the two people you've talked to so far.  

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 Some years ago I read about owners of Oregon vehicles with branded titles, registering them in Washington and then back to Oregon. Seems in the transition back to Oregon, the "brand" on the title would get dropped. The car then had a clean title. 

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If you getting that feeling that all this is too much work and worry, sell the car to me as I could care less about what does and doesn't match up.

 I was surprised to read that the local LEO even knew there was a firewall VIN but maybe there is a database available to them to check.

Vintage tube frame race cars had a chassis number stamped but most of the 30,40, or 50 year old cars have been re-tubed multiple times and about the only thing that is original is the section of tubing that has the stamped chassis number, I'm talking about race cars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, where the tube, the engine, the body work have all been replaced, repaired or modified and yet they are deemed "original". This is true for a 1956 Ferrari race car that is worth north of $16MM that ran at LeMans and was recently restored by shop near me.

But I digress, sell me this troublesome Z.

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21 hours ago, Mark Maras said:

 Some years ago I read about owners of Oregon vehicles with branded titles, registering them in Washington and then back to Oregon. Seems in the transition back to Oregon, the "brand" on the title would get dropped. The car then had a clean title. 

This is called title washing. It is getting harder to do and could be illegal in many areas. I find it unethical to "wash" a salvage titled car once it is branded, but it doesn't bother me to have a clear title on a car that has crash damage. Salvage cars don't scare me for some of the same reasons gnosez posted above. Just about any damaged car can be made right if you spend the time and effort. Just my perspective...

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