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Thread: What are the bare minimum requirements to make a car road legal in the US?

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    What are the bare minimum requirements to make a car road legal in the US?

    We can separate this discussion into two categories:

    1. ANY car (this includes kit cars, race cars converted for the roads, etc

    2. any factory production car from a major auto manufacturer.

    maybe the requirements aren't any different, but at a glance it seems like kit cars can get away with a lot less to be street legal than a full factory production cars (for example 5 mph crash bumpers and such)

    i tried looking online, but dont really know the right keywords to find the right site with the laws and a definite list.

    but i figure it has to do with things like:

    turn signals, brake lights, side reflectors, rear view mirrors, headlights, etc.

    anyone know where the laws on this are clearly spelled out and wether its standard across all 50 states or varies from state to state?

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    Jay
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    It really comes down to road legality by State. For example, an Ariel Atom is perfectly legal everywhere, so base what you want to do by what the AA has set up.

    If you were planning on building a car like a Caterham or LoCost, you have to check with the DMV and then when the vehicle is finished, present it to them, whereas they will assign a title to it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jayhawk View Post
    It really comes down to road legality by State. For example, an Ariel Atom is perfectly legal.

    If you were planning on building a car like a Caterham or LoCost, you have to check with the DMV and then when the vehicle is finished, present it to them, whereas they will assign a title to it.
    ok, so lets hear of lists of requirements from specific states then, i just want to see a clear cut list.

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    Jay
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    Well, in Illinois, if it is a low production car, it must have:

    -Headlights.
    -Taillights.
    -Permanently fixed brackets for license plates both front and rear.
    -Permanent illumination for rear license plate.
    -Side mirrors or a rearview mirror, or all three.
    -Seatbelts.
    -Windshield glass if applicable, or if no windshield, a helmet must be worn.
    -Permanently fixed fuel tank that is not fully exposed.
    -Tires that are approved by the DOT to be used on public roads (no racing slicks).
    -Must be in good working order.


    That is pretty much it from the top of my head.
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    thats pretty much the same for north carolina without getting into specifics like headlight beam angle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jayhawk View Post
    Well, in Illinois, if it is a low production car, it must have:

    -Headlights.
    -Taillights.
    -Permanently fixed brackets for license plates both front and rear.
    -Permanent illumination for rear license plate.
    -Side mirrors or a rearview mirror, or all three.
    -Seatbelts.
    -Windshield glass if applicable, or if no windshield, a helmet must be worn.
    -Permanently fixed fuel tank that is not fully exposed.
    -Tires that are approved by the DOT to be used on public roads (no racing slicks).
    -Must be in good working order.


    That is pretty much it from the top of my head.
    Thanks, thats the kind of info im interested in.

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    It depends on how you are going to register it. For example, if you are going to use the chassis of a '36 Ford there will be different rules than if you were using a 2005 chassis. Older cars are given a "pass" on some things, like catalytic converters, seatbelts, type and size tire, suspension modifications and so forth.
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    As I understand it, our state (IL) allows you to register repoduction and kits cars as the real thing.
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    A bit more detail with what your planning to do would help.

    Look into Kit car regulations, and you'd have better luck searching for a specific state as all the licensing for vehicles is done at the state level.

    If you get your hands on a pre-50's frame or cowl (depends where the numbers are stamped) and register using the rails, you can avoid any kind of inspections. The benefit is you basically need DOT tires, A headlight and A brake light, and depending on state... fenders.

    Look into "rat rods" and you will see some rickety machines legally allowed to drive the streets.
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    For a major manufacturer, NHSTA crash tests are an issue, which I remember Motorex making a big deal about when they did their Skyline importing thing.

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    I work at a place that builds and rebuilds kit cars (and Alfa Romeos) The book (ADR's) is a weighy tomb, plus their are a heap of new rules (and old rules getting dropped all the time)

    I'm currently doing a new car design from scratch, and the extra stuff even from our last lot of cars in 2003/2004 is simply stagering.

    Things like load sensing flasher cans, angles of vision from side repeaters (5 degrees), Horn volume, Side impact beams (oh God that is a big one...engineering data), seatbelt rules/mounting points, snap off central rear vision mirrors, type of glass in rear vision mirrors, light seperations, soft dashboards, induced noise by vehicle aerodynamics.......I could go on for hours....

    Here is a VERY brief overview for Australia.....

    http://www.dotars.gov.au/roads/motor...dr_online.aspx

    rant

    Thank God Australia didn't follow America's path with their stupid motor laws, and decided to sign up (with the rest of the civilised world) to the UNECE regulations......damn yanks and your stupid FMVSS........in short following my rant your rules will be diffrent.

    No you can't have cool cars Americans. Not yours.

    /rant

    Sorry bout that!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Labcoatguy View Post
    For a major manufacturer, NHSTA crash tests are an issue, which I remember Motorex making a big deal about when they did their Skyline importing thing.
    And they tried to say that a R33 and R34 are the same......*giggle*

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    Quote Originally Posted by jayhawk View Post
    Well, in Illinois, if it is a low production car, it must have:

    -Headlights.
    -Taillights.
    -Permanently fixed brackets for license plates both front and rear.
    -Permanent illumination for rear license plate.
    -Side mirrors or a rearview mirror, or all three.
    -Seatbelts.
    -Windshield glass if applicable, or if no windshield, a helmet must be worn.
    -Permanently fixed fuel tank that is not fully exposed.
    -Tires that are approved by the DOT to be used on public roads (no racing slicks).
    -Must be in good working order.


    That is pretty much it from the top of my head.
    Pretty much this, but with turn signals manditory in Florida (not that anyone uses them ). Also, only the rearview mirror is required. Though Florida tends to be the easiest to register kit cars, iirc.

    To register in Florida, check out this link: http://www.dmv.org/fl-florida/custom-built-cars.php


    And kaBOOMn, I'll agree that the US standards are quite restrictive, preventing the influx of fun import cars (god I wish I could have a Mondeo ST220), but from the sounds of it, you have to worry more about kit cars than we do. In a good number of states (well, at least Florida) kit cars don't have to comply with crash or emissions standards (especially since Florida did away with vehicle inspections). So in essence, kit cars can be smog producing, global warming inducing, tin foil death traps, so long as they have the bare minimum accesories like what jayhawk listed. We have it easier in kit cars, but worse in importing...
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaBOOMn View Post
    And they tried to say that a R33 and R34 are the same......*giggle*
    And R32. They tried to pass off the R33 results as an R32/R34. I've talked to someone who pulled the bumpers off of the R33 an d R32 and said the R32 would take quite a bit of structure to make it legal.

    I can agree with your rant, sadly when our safety laws were implemented we had to do it, because cars weren't being made safer, people were bitching but refused to buy something safe (like a Volvo)... fucking commy bastards.

    Why the US doesn't just ditch it's safety standards and follow the rest of the worlds is beyond me.
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    Master of Disaster Steve Levin's Avatar
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    Quite honestly, why the rest of world is interested in building less safe and higher polluting cars is beyond me.

    Drive a Corvette Z06 and then tell us a safe car can't be fast.

    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Levin View Post
    Quite honestly, why the rest of world is interested in building less safe and higher polluting cars is beyond me.

    Drive a Corvette Z06 and then tell us a safe car can't be fast.

    Steve
    Less Safe? Maybe 10-20 years ago. Most of the difference in safety in the US is in the front bumpers, they have to put quite a bit of supports there to prevent damage under 5mph, from my understanding, thats pretty much a requirement everywhere but perhaps Japan now.

    And considering the Germans and Swedish reputation for safety, I doubt there is a problem. At this point it's stupid shit thats different, like tail lights, or on BMW's we have to have plastic covers of the headlights (on the E36) where in Europe they were glass.
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    Jay
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    Fuck Motorex...I have to deal with their fuckups and shady deals regarding Skylines.

    If anyone lives here in the US, YOU try to find parts for these cars! Thankfully I have a go between in Canada...
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    I had to buy bits for my Holden VL Commodore....genuine Nissan RB parts....made in the USA.....by GM (well you can say the RB is a GM motor...lol).....from personal experience the genuine GM gaskits are far better than the genuine Nissan gaskits

    Also quite a lot of nissan engine bits swap between engines. Sensors etc. With a bit of imagination you won't have a problem....

    To the Americans:

    Here is your problem

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_F...le_Regulations

    The rest of the world should invade America and force them to adopt sensible regulations.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by jayhawk View Post
    Fuck Motorex...I have to deal with their fuckups and shady deals regarding Skylines.

    If anyone lives here in the US, YOU try to find parts for these cars! Thankfully I have a go between in Canada...
    You care to go into more detail on what your on about?

    And I'm not surprised parts are hard to get. I hear Renault R5 turbo owners have just as much issue as Renault does not like the 30 or so grey market cars being in the US.

    Quote Originally Posted by kaBOOMn View Post
    The rest of the world should invade America and force them to adopt sensible regulations.....
    I'm game, I'll help from the inside I'd love to switch to the metric system, I heat converting gallons to ounces and what not.

    Unfortunately our safety regulations were practically written by the "Big 2.6" and were a veiled way of keeping foreign cars out of the US market, rather than just by increasing tariffs and the like. I REALLY hate the NHTSA regulations, see the parts "Unintended Consequences", our headlights sucked donkey dick until the early 90's where we were finally allowed lights Europe had since the 60's.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NHTSA

    Now I have another reason to hate Zee Germans.

    The success of the grey market, however, ate into the business of Mercedes-Benz of North America Inc, which launched a successful congressional lobbying effort to eliminate this alternative for consumers in 1988
    Last edited by thedguy; July 14th, 2007 at 4:01 AM.
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