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Making Your Buggy Street Legal

A lot of people are surprised that you can actually drive sand rails on the highways. Well the process is going to vary from State to State. And some States are much easier than others.

For Starters you probably want to try to get this book:
Complete 50 State Guidebook to Kit Car and Street Rod Registration

This book is out of print, but you might be able to find  a Kit-Car maker in your area to show it to you. There's only a couple pages on each State so it's not critical.

Try looking here for Info that is specific to your State: Street Legal

State Inspection:

In Virginia, we have State Inspections so my first step was to make sure that I was willing to do everything necessary to pass the Inspection. I obtained an inspection manual and read it (several times). If you live in Virginia you can obtain one by writing to:

Commonwealth of Virginia
Department of State Police
Safety Division
PO Box 85607
Richmond VA 23285

The manual was about $10, but to be on the safe side call them to find out. If you don't live in Virginia, then ask someone at the the local Inspection Station where you can buy a copy (TIP: The address is usually on the inside of the Manual.) When you get the manual read it carefully - very carefully.  It might say something like "each door must be equipped with an inside handle". It doesn't say you need doors however.

You'll need the obvious things like:

DOT Approved Headlights
DOT Approved Windshield & Wipers
Windshield Tip: If you have a Tube Chassis order Bugpack part #6049. This is a molding that is designed to hold a windshield glass inside a tube frame. Any good automotive windshield maker/ repairer can custom make a windshield out of DOT approved safety glass. Make the windshield removable for off-road use. Removable Windshield Photos
Wiper motors can be bought from JC Whitney. They are cheap so don't expect them to do much more than just remove rain water.
DOT Approved Turn signals
See the Electrical page in the TechTips section for Turn signal wiring.
A turn signal switch can be bought from JC Whitney.
DOT Approved Brake Lights
See the Electrical page in the TechTips section for Brake Light wiring (It's a little tricky for front/rear brakes with a brake failure light and turn signals.
Front Brakes
Make sure the front brakes work properly. You might need a brake proportioning valve to keep them from locking up. Get an adjustable one so you can lower the pressure even more for the dirt.
License Plate Mount
Hint: On the back get a plastic frame with a built-in light
Emergency Brake or Holding Brake
An Emergency brake is better and safer that a holding brake.
Look here for options for Disc brakes: VW Rear Drum to Disc Conversion
Defroster: In VA you need one. Not that it will do a thing in an open air car, but you do need one
Fenders? Full Width Bumpers? - Not necessary in VA but read your Inspection manual!

Vehicle Registration:

This depends again on the State you live in, and what kind of chassis you have.   It will usually boil down to something like this: If it's a "lot" like a VW, then it be titled as a VW. If it uses the original VW pan and suspension then it will be a "Reconstructed Vehicle." If it has a custom made Chassis then it will be a "Specially Constructed Vehicle."

Go to  Department of Motor Vehicles in your State and tell them you need the forms to obtain a VIN number and a new title. You'll probably need receipts for the major componts or you'll have to sign an affidavit that states that you did in fact buy the parts and/or the vehicle. Also you might need to write a "Statement of Construction" that states the type of material the vehicle is built from, what type of vehicle the major components came from, etc.  If the local branch office of your DMV gives you a blank stare, then you'll have to call the main office and ask who handles "Kit-Car" or "Specially Constructed Vehicle" registrations. Once you get all the paperwork filled out and you have a VIN number, you'll probably have to make arrangements with a State Inspection officer (or someone similar) who will inspect that the VIN number is in place. They may also inspect the Vehicle. Once you have your VIN number and Title you should be able to get your Tags (License Plate). Don't forget to get a vanity plate with a cool message on it (DUNE-BUG, BUGGY-1, etc..) If the plate relates to the buggy, then  it will help to keep the donut eaters off your back. (Text removed due to a Dunkin Donuts owner getting offended.)


First ask your insurance agent  to add a new car. Explain that it's taged, titled, and will be inspected once you can drive to the inspection station. If your lucky you'll get it.

If you get turned down:

I got shot down the first time I tried to get insurance. Then I called the home office and talked to the insurance adjuster. I explained to him that this car is recognized by the state as a Department of Transportation approved vehicle, it passes state inspection and is fully licensed. (It's important for him/her to understand that it is a street vehicle NOT an off-road vehicle.) Furthermore I explained to him that it has a full roll cage and 4 point seat belt system similar to a race car, and a fire extinguisher. It only gets driven in fair weather a few hundred miles  per year and certainly this VW powered vehicle was much safer than my Trans-AM that he insures or any other typical passenger car for that matter.

Don't plan on getting Collision insurance from a national company though. They don't know how to go about doing repairs on a hand-built car. However you should be able to find an Insurance company to give you straight Liability insurance.

Driving on the Street:

When you do get out on the road, please drive in a safe manner. Don't attract attention to yourself and you won't be harassed (hopefully) by the Police. In some States where there are not many street buggies, the Police will go out of their way to harass you no matter what you're doing. Pennsylvania is one that I can think of right off the bat.  If  you do get stopped (for doing nothing) be polite and explain that it is in fact perfectly legal. It will usually be a small town cop with nothing better to do than to show his perceived authority. TIP: Keep a disposable camera in your buggy and  take a picture. Be sure to get your buggy, the policeman, and his car in it. If nothing else it'll be funny. Don't forget to send the picture to me though.


Good Luck, Have Fun, and Be Safe!!


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