By on November 6, 2017

Ariel atom

In 2013, Texas’ Department of Motor Vehicles began revoking titles on newly built dune buggies. While that was already a bit of a dick move, the state was at least good enough to grandfather-in existing vehicles. However, that has changed in recent months now that the state’s DMV seems keen on enforcing Texas Administrative Rule 217.3 (Section 6).

The mandate, which appears only to exist to make automotive hobbyists sad, came into rule in March of 2015. But it has picked up lot of steam since then, denying titles on dune buggies and kit cars that had previously received them without trouble. As a result, enthusiasts are starting to organize in the hopes of lobbying the state to re-legalize the vehicles as others sell off their beloved rides — fearful that nobody would buy them in Texas since they aren’t street-legal anymore. 

Speaking with Hemmings Daily, Adam Shaivitz, a spokesman for the Texas DMV, said the decision to ban dune buggies is “because many of these vehicles do not have key safety components or do not have a body at all. These vehicles, as manufactured, were not designed for on-road use. These vehicles, as modified from previously manufactured vehicles, also do not keep their on-road qualities.”

While being cautious about modifications is understandable, the overall safety concerns fall flat in a state where around 450,000 people own motorcycles. In fact, the last time I rode a motorcycle in Texas, I noticed the state doesn’t even have a helmet law. I would also wager there are more people cruising around on Harley-Davidsons without a protective lid in the Lone Star State than there are with a Meyers Manx in their garage.

If you’re interested in what this hypocritical law says, here is an excerpt from the dreaded Section 6 that outlines what types of vehicles are now illegal to own in Texas:

(A) vehicles that are missing or are stripped of their motor, frame, or body, to the extent that it materially alters the manufacturer’s original design or makes the vehicle unsafe for on­road operation as determined by the department;

(B) vehicles designed or determined by the department to be a dune buggy;

(C) vehicles designed or determined by the department to be for on­track racing, unless such vehicles meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for on­road use and are reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration;

(D) vehicles designed or determined by the department to be for off­road use only, unless specifically defined as a “motor vehicle” in Transportation Code, Chapter 501

Vincent Parisien, the president of the Manx Club, said that the title revocations and the ban on dune buggy are essentially discriminatory practices. “We’re not about making the streets more dangerous,” he said. “Our members are willing to go through all the same safety standards as other cars.”

I would also suggest the ban establishes a fairly dangerous precedent against auto enthusiasm. It wouldn’t be impossible for someone to propose similar a ban on all modified vehicles or motorcycles on the grounds that they were “unsafe” and using the dune buggy title revocations as an example.

Faron Smith, founder of the Save the Texas Dune Buggy Facebook group, has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough money to hire a lobbyist to work on behalf of Texan dune-buggy and kit-car enthusiasts. The man chosen for the job, Ron Hinkle, has previous experience working with the State of Texas to legalize the Polaris Slingshot.

“We definitely see this happening in other states,” Hinkle said. “If Texas deems this as the right way to operate then other states will do so as well.”

Meanwhile, Manx Club officials have reached out to Texas State Representative Ed Thompson, who has asked the Texas DMV rescind its ban on buggies. Hemmings said they’ve also sought help from the SEMA Action Network and the Historic Vehicle Association. They could probably use whatever help you can offer.

[Illustration: Matt Posky; Image: Ariel Motor Company]

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38 Comments on “Texas Cretins Are Revoking Titles for Kit Cars and Dune Buggies...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    We need federal laws enabling the registration of kit cars. It’s ridiculous. Federal regulations are why kit cars are needed in the first place. And as fun as motorcycles are, they are more dangerous and more of a PITA to live with. Nobody, I repeat, NOBODY, is buying a new car in place of a kit car.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      “they are more dangerous and more of a PITA to live with”

      How exactly are motorcycles a PITA to live with?

      • 0 avatar
        ChesterChi

        From my past experience:
        * you need at least $1000 worth of gear to have a minimum level of safety
        * your butt starts to hurt after 30 minutes on some bikes, 3 hours on others
        * when it’s cold, you freeze, when it’s hot, you roast in the sun, when it rains you have water drops on your visor
        * if you want to talk to other people during a trip, you need hundreds of dollars of electronic gear
        * if you get something in your eye while riding, you have to pull over, take off your gloves, take off your sunglasses, take off your helmet, before you can do something about it
        * can’t eat or drink while riding
        All this together qualifies as a P.I.T.A. in my opinion

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Motorcycles may be very dangerous to their owners, but a significant larger vehicle like one of these buggies pose a danger to other vehicles if something goes wrong, safety-wise. (I’m not sure we should encourage the use of “not as deadly to the driver as driving a motorcycle with no helmet” as the sole bar to cross for automotive safety.)

    “Our members are willing to go through all the same safety standards as other cars.”

    Dude, have you even taken a casual glance at the FMVSS? You are in no way equipped to turn a dune buggy into something that can meet those standards.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Motorcycles may be very dangerous to their owners, but a significant larger vehicle like one of these buggies pose a danger to other vehicles if something goes wrong, safety-wise.”

      If this was truly the issue and home built cars were veering into oncoming traffic due to shoddy workmanship, the DMV could easily require a road worthiness inspection prior to issuing a title.

    • 0 avatar
      nvinen

      I doubt most cars over 10 years old meet current FMVSS either. Are you going to petition to have their registrations cancelled on the basis that they are unsafe too?

    • 0 avatar
      sgtjmack

      Yes they are. Those rules are established on the model year of the vehicle being modified. So if it is a Manx, us is more than likely based on an older 1960 to 1970’s VW Bug. So it only needs to pass the safety standards of that year.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Really, the only people potentially at risk here are the occupants of said vehicles. Since those people willingly acquired and operate said vehicles, it’s safe to assume they’ve accepted that risk. So have at it.

    I wonder who’s pet project this bill was and why.

    • 0 avatar
      cwallace

      I wonder if this has something to do with changing the regulations on side-by-sides in the future? (Polaris-es, Mules, what are these things called?)

      As those offroad rigs get bigger and more truck-like, maybe someone is looking to hold them to a higher standard than is current.

      Somebody in the Texas DOT is seeing all these mules being sold in the state without paying for plates or inspections, and this is the first step in making some (more) money off them. And the owner can’t say “hey, it’s just a dune buggy” if the state doesn’t allow dune buggies.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        No revoking titles to previously street registered dune buggies costs the state money to process and denies them of future registration income. So it is the opposite of making money off them. Doesn’t meant that they are outlawed either, just that you’ll now have to put it on a trailer to take it off road, instead of driving it there.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    So I can have a semi-automatic weapon or high capacity magazine but I can’t have a kit car?

    Dully noted.

  • avatar
    arach

    The theoretical Texas and the real Texas are two totally different worlds.

    The theoretical Texas that we all love to believe is the real Texas would never allow such a ridiculous, unamerican, untexan law to take place.

    that just goes to remind us that Texas isn’t the theoretical Texas everyone thinks it is.

  • avatar
    Aron9000

    Does Texas have annual safety inspections or emissions tests????

    I’m betting this is aimed squarely at people buying those new side by side off road buggies, or those on the farm buying the Kawasaki Mule/John Deere Gator types of things. They now all come with headlights, turn signals, and enough power to do at least 30mph, some of those off road buggies can do 60+. Heck some of those farm buggies with the dump bed now have fully enclosed cabs with heat and a/c!!

    Some stupid bureaucrats just realized these type of vehicles fall through a loop-hole in their existing laws and had their egos hurt. Figured it would be easier for them to just ban stuff than try and re-write regulations.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Texas has annual safety inspections for basic wear out items like lights, brakes, tires, etc. Some shops look carefully for opportunities to sell lights and wiper blades while others will pass almost anything. Some urban counties also have emissions tests that consist of checking the gas cap and fuel system for leaks and connecting to the OBDII port and checking for check engine error codes.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Home-built/kit aircraft are allowed to be built and used by the owners/builders. However, there is a rather meticulous FAA inspection required prior to registration and use to ensure the safe construction of the craft prior to allowing use in the airways. Perhaps this is what could solve this – a meticulous inspection by a similar competent agency to ensure safe construction prior to allowing use on the public highways. Otherwise, run ’em off road in your field. I’ve seen some marvelous kit cars/home-built vehicles in my lifetime but, likewise, I’ve seen many horribly shoddy unsafe pieces of crap tooling around the highways at speed. I would not like some idiot dropping his home-built/kit aircraft out of the sky on my head. Similarly I would not like some idiots kit/homebuilt car careening across the median at speed toward me because the builder forgot to put a cotter key, either required by the kit instructions or good engineering practice, in place or the “it’ll work good enuf” galvanized pipe he used to affix the axle to the frame fell off.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      To amplify this point, no aircraft of any kind can operate without an airworthiness certificate. Factory-built aircraft have a type certificate meaning that the design and specific configuration has been certified. As mentioned, the airworthiness certificate for experimental aircraft is obtained from a DAR (designated Airworthiness Representative) who is empowered by the FAA. Experimental constructors must provide a considerable amount of documentation regarding the construction in addition to the detailed physical inspection of the aircraft.

      Furthermore, all aircraft have an extensive annual inspection (called a condition inspection for experimentals). This inspection must be performed and signed off by an FAA-licensed A&P mechanic or by constructor of the experimental aircraft.

  • avatar
    Acd

    This is the kind of thing I would expect in California, Maryland or Massachucetts, not Texas.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I would not expect it anywhere, not in the numbers being sold. The safety concerns are being borne by the owner and any added financial liability would be rolled into the insurance rates that the owner would pay. Not too likely that these would present much of a threat to occupants of other vehicles. Emissions are irrelevant as this is a rounding error of a rounding error as far as any impact goes. If that was really a factor you could always require a minimum standard for kit cars, but frankly you would do far more good getting gross polluters off the road.

      There is no good reason to ban these at all. This is a real case of governemnt overreach.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Then they’ll publicly agonize about why they can’t youths interested in STEMs, and the widening intergenerational gap. [SMH]

  • avatar
    Ermel

    “It wouldn’t be impossible for someone to propose similar a ban on all modified vehicles or motorcycles on the grounds that they were “unsafe” and using the dune buggy title revocations as an example.”

    Or even old cars. They’re “unsafe” too, aren’t they? Just watch old crash test footage.

  • avatar
    fiasco

    TEXAS…I am disappoint in your lack of love for MURKA. Or something like that. Seriously, this is regulation in search of a problem; there is a lot more danger inherent in a KING RANCH FERD ELEVENTYBILLIONFIDDY DUALLY CREWCAB TURBO DIESEL than some guy in a kit car.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Why is the car in the photo not legal? I see seat belts, DOT-approved lights, and body panels over the front, rear and lower sides. Are all roadsters now illegal? This is like being the modesty police at the beach; how small can a bikini be before it’s too small?

    How is revoking the title on a previously legal car not an unconstitutional “taking”?

  • avatar
    relton

    When I built my first car, in 2012, it was easy to get it registered in Michigan. Cost $25.

    I’m halfway through my second. I hope Michigan doesn’t change the rules before I get it done.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Interesting. More depth as available would be appreciated, Matt.

    We went through/are going through a similar thing in Oregon with non-street legal dirt bikes that were licensed through (honestly) some chicanery over the years. OR DMV has revoked some registrations, yet some remain, even for identical bikes.

  • avatar
    psychoboy

    Texas played both sides of the Polaris Slingshot, trying to decide if it’s a car without windshield wipers or a motorcycle without a saddle, but potentially illegal either way.

    Then they started screwing with Exocet builders, some people could get theirs registered and others couldn’t

    The DF Goblin is based in Texas, so I’m guessing they are going to start having problems. Dr Matt of Demolition Ranch and Vet Ranch isn’t going to be happy.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    If Texas wants to do something about vehicle safety, they should start enforcing bumper height requirements. A jacked up brodozer is a dangerous missile when it rearends something at standard height.

  • avatar
    lon888

    If those jerks want o ban any thing, why not ban those stupid pickups and SUV’s that are jacked up 5 feet in the air with massive oversized wheels and tires. Those stupid things violate so many Federal Motor Vehicle codes its ridiculous. Just for the ignorant, there’s is a formula for how much tire can be exposed on a car and the tire cannot stick out past the fender line.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      Not to mention how those jacked up bro trucks have bumpers that are more in line with passenger cars windshields than passenger car bumpers. For that reason alone, it should be illegal (and enforced) for people to lift trucks like that.


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