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Minnesota Legislature

Restored pioneer vehicles clarified

Published (3/2/2012)
By Mike Cook
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Automobile restorers can easily invest tens of thousands of dollars restoring vehicles dating back to the Great Depression and before. They want the title to reflect the accuracy of their work.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Benson (R-Rochester), HF2239 would, in part, change the title application and type issued for the vehicle. Approved Feb. 27 by the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee, the amended bill awaits action on the House floor. A companion, SF2202 sponsored by Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), awaits action by the Senate Transportation Committee.

What happens now, Benson said, is when an owner seeks a new title they receive one saying the car is a reconstructed vehicle, it will have a Vehicle Identification Number that doesn’t correspond to numbers previously on the vehicle and the year on the title will be the year the vehicle was restored, not its manufactured year.

“The bill’s intent is to correct that and create a titling process that allows for cars that are manufactured from 1935 or before to have a pioneer plate and a title that says restored, rather than reconstructed, and has the proper numbers that are already stamped on the block,” Benson said.

Vicki Albu, vehicle services program director with the Driver and Vehicle Services Division of the Public Safety Department, said the answer is complex because the vehicle must be described accurately, in part, for insurance purposes. “The problem comes when either the body or the frame or some major component part of the vehicle is not from the same model year and make of the vehicle. What do you call it? … These are handled on a case-by-case basis.”

“No collector in this business is going to cheat by putting the wrong motor in a car,” said Gary Hoonsbeen, who has been restoring vehicles since the 1940s. He said three people he knows of have received notification letters saying they did not restore, but rather reconstructed the vehicle and could only receive a collector’s plate.

“We want the name of the original manufacturer of the car clearly on the title; we want to retain the vehicle’s original identification number … and we want to recognize on our titles the year that the car was originally manufactured,” Hoonsbeen said. “We feel these are historical vehicles, not just collectors, and the reason we have pioneer plates is to recognize that place in history.”

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