Thursday, July 21, 2011

Project Gift Horse: Whoa, Nelly

I got a phone message this afternoon from––let's call him Bob––my guy at the Oregon state DMV office in Salem. It ain't looking good for Project Gift Horse.

I had contacted Bob several weeks ago about the local DMV office's refusal to inspect the VIN on Project Gift Horse unless the bike was "substantially complete." No amount of argument from me to the effect that there are only two VIN stamps on a motorcycle––on the engine and the frame––would convince them to modify their position, even after I said I didn't want to register it for the street yet, just get the title in my name.

At that time Bob informed me there was no such requirement, and that it was commonplace for people to request titles on bare frames, and for them to be inspected, researched, cleared,  and transferred to their new owners. It seemed as if all that needed to be done was convince the locals that a frame and engine were all they needed to see.

Realizing I was hitting my head on a brick wall, Bob asked me to send  tracings of the engine and frame numbers, photos of same, a condensed version of the saga of anger and frustration of dealing with stubborn and unimaginative civil-service drones, and all the original documents I had to the head office, via certified mail. I did that.

From then until a few days ago, the huge packet of documents and letters of explanation and photos that I had sent in support of my application to transfer the title to me worked its way through the bureaucratic digestive system sluggishly, like a piece of rotten meat. Yesterday it was returned to me by mail, and when I opened it and read the cover letter, it was immediately apparent that no one at the DMV had bothered to read the letter I sent, or look at the enclosed documentation. My application was rejected due to the lack of, among other things, a VIN inspection.

I called Bob straight away. He said he'd look into it, and get his manager to straighten out the hicks at the local office and tell them how things are done in the Big City. I'm paraphrasing here.

This afternoon, while I was out of the house, Bob phoned and apologized for being mistaken about the "substantially complete" requirement––it is, in fact, in the regulations. He cannot, of course, tell how how substantial "substantially" is. The only definition in the regs applies to cars, not motorcycles.

While awaiting resolution of the quest for the title, which sounds like an online role-playing game for spotty adolescent boys, I reduced the SR500 to half a dozen boxes of big, easily identifiable parts, and about a hundred labeled zip-lock bags full of nuts, bolts, screws, dowel pins, ball bearings, and utterly mysterious widgets. Putting the bike back together, even "substantially," will be a gigantic festering pain in the butt. Also, I don't have some important parts––shocks, an exhaust system, tires, brakes, turn signals––so I'm not sure whether the assholes (yes, I said it) at the DMV will accept whatever Frankenstein's monster of a bike I bring them to inspect.

And so, yet again, Project Gift Horse is on hold, this time while I ponder how much heartburn owning a nicely restored SR500 is worth enduring. Stay tuned for further developments, but don't hold your breath. I sure won't.

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