I just rediscovered this story, written a couple of years ago, as I clean out my old computer and transfer files to a new one; a Christmas present to myself with contributions from family…
I had been out of the California scene since 2001 and was so spoiled living in Hawaii and making 5 minute stops at the local DMV to transfer used vehicles for $5 each. NO TAX, no other fees… just $5.
Having arrived back in San Diego in early 2008, I ran through a 1986 Ford van, then a 1990 Toyota PU, a 2003 Honda Silverwing Scooter and finally a poor, derelict 1963 CA77 Dream with no title or license plate. So, far, I have paid over $600 in fees/taxes on my mostly vintage fleet of vehicles. OUCH!
With time on my hands and a few $$ in the bank, I tracked down the 1963 CA77 (actually stamped CA78 on the frame due to some redesign changes), out in the farmland of Riverside county and brought home for adoption and at least to bring it back to life, once more. Once I had put in a new battery, cleaned the carb, added some mirrors, tires and a couple of cables, I fired it up easily and it was ready for a new home. So, on “Good Friday,” I decided that it might make better sense to try to obtain “title only” paperwork to help its sale-ability.
So, starting out about 10:30AM, I loaded up the bike, sans battery and headed off to DMV land. I armed myself with what I guessed would be appropriate forms from the DMV website. They do have cool PDF forms that you can type into, then print out for a signature and then submit to the powers that be behind the low-slung desks at the local office.
The line was short to get to the “sorting station” where they either give you paperwork or check what you are doing, then assign a number to you, so you can wait your turn out in the lobby. I had B114, but was told to take the bike over to the inspection area and wait for someone to verify the serial numbers.
I unloaded the bike from the back of the Toyota PU and rolled it across the parking lot, over the sidewalks and into the open lane for verification. I pressed the buzzer ONCE, as instructed and waited and waited and waited. Finally someone, who was giving a motorcycle driving test, came by to check on my status and said that someone else would be out soon. 5 minute later, a woman showed up with clipboard in hand and we began. I gave her my pre-filled paperwork, but she pulled out her own verification sheet. Next, I had to explain that the serial numbers on a Dream are WAY DOWN, deep behind the brake light linkage, stamped on the frame above the footpeg bracket. I rolled the bike out into the sunlight and positioned it so there was maximum light on the serial numbers. She kneeled down on her clipboard and peered into the recesses of the frame and was able to see the numbers, which I had cleaned off previously. The motor number was next, then she looked at the speedometer, which was reading 1460.7 miles (I swapped out a nice used one, with the old one the day before). It wasn’t until she gave me paperwork and went off into the office that I noticed that she had written down 14,607 in the mileage boxes. I had already pushed the bike back to the motorcycle parking slots and walked back inside to check my number status…. B117 please! I missed it! I went back to the front desk, and the woman just generated another ticket for me… B144! GREAT, I get to wait another 20-30 minute for my number to come around again. That is when I noticed the mileage error, so went back to the side of the building, rounded up the same woman and she redid the whole form again to correct the error.
Back inside, I have advanced about 10 numbers, so continue to wait and watch the throngs of humanity flowing in and out of the building. Finally, I am directed to #2 desk, where a 40-ish woman with pronounced front teeth meets me. I tell her that I have brought her paperwork on a bike that they can’t recognize. She launches into a “we can find out” speech, while I let her sort out the paperwork. The verification woman wrote that she was unable to determine the year/model of the bike, assuming that the letters CA, in CA77, might mean that the bike has a California Assigned serial number! NOT! I explain that there is an actual model designation called CA77 from Honda, but have failed to bring substantiating data to show the model and the year model, which is encoded into the serial number. CA78-310936. She tells me that I will need a letter from a “classic motorcycle dealer” on letterhead, which confirms that the bike is a 1963 model. I tell her that I can print out a page listing all the serial numbers from Honda parts books. She looks unimpressed with that information, then tells me that if I bought the bike from a salvage dealer, that there should be paperwork to verify the salvage operation and that paperwork would constitute a new “title,” in their eyes, anyway. I had bought the bike from a salvage yard, but he only gave me a grimy copy of the title application form. Finally, she says that I have to have a brake and light certificate (on a non-running salvage motorcycle?) before they can issue a title.
Finally, I decide to reclaim my paperwork, take her little POST-IT of what’s needed and leave to continue the paperwork process. She has not inputted anything into the DMV computer, but does finally run the serial numbers, which come up as “no record found.”
So, I load up the Dream and head back to the house for more paperwork preparation to verify the year and model, plus decide to run across town to the Honda shop, which surely can do the brake and light inspection. I get to the Honda shop and they say NO! We aren’t licensed and the nearest place they know of is about 15 miles away. On a hunch, I stop by the local independent bike shop, across the street.
Pulling up on the side road, with the “Black Widow” on the back (there’s a whole different story about that) and I ask the manager, who is of Middle-Eastern descent if he can do a brake and light inspection for me. He eyeballs the bike and says, “ You have to have turnsignals on the bike, to be street legal, so I can’t give you the certification.” I argue that the bike never had them and they are not required on bikes that old. He will have none of it, so I leave in disbelief and disgust. He wouldn’t even look into the rule books for me, because he didn’t want to waste my time or his. Grrrrrrrrrr…..
Back to the house, where I fire up the computer, search for DMV forms and other brake and light safety stations and call DMV to find out where I can get more info. DMV finally answers and says to call BAR (Bureau of Automotive Repair), which I do next. A pretty sharp guy answers, leads me back to DMV site for a Statement of Facts form, which he says can be used in lieu of the “formal inspection” process if the nearest certification station is too far away. GREAT! While we are speaking, I find an obscure DMV motorcycle safety form online, which has notations about bikes with no turnsignals (before 1/1/69) and other non-current equipment situations. A HA! I have proof now, so jump back into the truck for another 5 mile run back to Mr. Know-it-all to show him the form. I pull up, jump out, find the manager again and give him the form. He’s dumbfounded and wants to know where it came from. He says he had to pay a fine of $5,000 to DMV because of a bike he inspected and was out of compliance. THAT’s why he was so gun-shy of the Dream paperwork! He gets on the phone with BAR and confirms that the rule is correct. I have to unload the Dream again, fire it up, run it into the shop, where he looks at the HI-LOW beams, the tail light and brake light, and then wants me to actuate the brake light with the front brake lever! :>) They didn’t have those either, back then, I explain. He says, FINE, I’ll get the paperwork for you. He’s already mentioned a $21 charge for the inspection, so I am ready to shell out some cash, but he softens at the end and says that I have gone to too much trouble to make my case, so it is on the house, this time. I like FREE, so load up the Dream again and head off for DMV, just after 4PM.
A quick run down the highway gets me back to DMV by about 4:30. Surely, things will have settled down by then, right? I draw B257, and they are on B217, so 40 more to go in 30 minutes. They close the doors to incoming customers at 5PM, but carryon with the last 50 people, after hours. I am called at 5:10PM, and thankfully, don’t get the same woman as I saw in the morning. The young girl, sitting at window 6 takes a deep breath and just stares at the dozen sheets of paperwork I have presented. She sorts it, types in some information and then she wants to know where the bike came from, before I got it from the guy at the salvage yard! I ask about how far back we have to go with this…. ? It could go on forever, it seems. She just wants a statement from the seller to me, explaining how he got the bike and when. If I can do that part, then I can have a “title only” for $60! She takes my check, stamps the paperwork and hands it back to me with an envelope, saving me another tortuous trip to the office again. By the time I return home, through afternoon traffic, it is about 6PM. Most of the last 8 hours has been spent getting a $60 title for a $100 bike. As left the DMV desk, I mutter, “It didn’t used to be like this.” Next time, I will probably just part out a bike like this and do it all on Ebay and California DMV will get nothing for my efforts.