It came up in another thread but it's an interesting thought; since most Model T's are only legally identified by the number stamped in the engine block, what do you do if you change engines at some point?
I kind of thought the most correct answer might be to cut out an aluminum gasket in the shape of the serial number flat that gets held on by the coolant inlet. Just stamp the number on the title onto the gasket and you have the right ID in the right place, but nobody else has mentioned this so I assume there's a better way.
So what do you do in this situation?
I don't know about your location but North Carolina titles used to have a place on them for engine number changes. It had to be done thru the DMV. Check with your DMV without giving any more info that you have too.
Just keep the old engine and if they ask tell them the truth. If you can rebuild the old engine then do so and you'll have a spare to put in a car if it is ever needed. I get concerned that in so many threads people give advice to lie to their states DMV and I think it is wrong. Tell them the truth, back up your comments with facts and research the law before you contact them but don't lie. If you're caught in a lie it will just be harder to get them to trust you on the next encounter. The truth is always best. The DMV aren't as stupid as many people make out on this forum.
Sorry for the rant
I don't know about where you are Tim, but in some states in the USA it's illegal to stamp your own numbers on the engine or frame. Dennis gives good advice. Do your homework and tell the truth.
Just wondering how difficult it is to get a new title re-issued with the "new" engine number? What about stamping the data plate on your firewall with the original number, which would then still match the title. Just a thought.
I had that situation with a 1939 Packard. I discovered that it had undergone an engine transplant so that the serial number on the engine no longer matched the one on the pink slip (title). Fortunately the Packard data plate on the firewall had a separate VIN, but when the car was new the DMV was in the habit of using engine numbers on titles. I was dreading what might happen at the DMV but I was out of there in less than fifteen minutes with a new title with the correct VIN, not the engine number, on the way from Sacramento. The lady who did the paperwork didn't even look at the engine. She just went by the data plate.
Ford had firewall data plates with a VIN on them until 1916. I would buy one of those (Lang's page 248) and stamp it with the number on the title and put it on the firewall. Nobody at the DMV will have a clue that it's not an original VIN plate. If anybody ever asks why the number on the engine is different, you can tell them the truth. Obviously the original engine had to be replaced.
I'm about to take the original engine out of my RPU Hopefully with all of the JB Welded cracks it can be fixed. It runs fine but The last time I pulled the inspection cover off the transmission there were a couple of BB sized pieces of babbit that I cannot determine where they came from but they are round like a BB so it may be nothing wont know until I pull it apart. The good thing for me is that 26 / 27 the engine number is duplicated on the frame. I wonder with the states permission could you do this with an older T especially if it is a bitsa.
As near as I can tell, here in California anyway, the "VIN" stays with the car no matter what. This works fine for newer cars that have the VIN in several places. Replacing the engine does not remove most of the markings, maybe none. I'm not even sure new cars have the VIN on the engine. It's on the dash, the frame, a couple of body locations but I'm not sure about the engine itself.
All well and good unless you have a T. Since all most of us have is the engine number. I guess you'd be OK if it's a later T with the number also stamped on the frame. If not, on one hand the VIN is forever and on the other hand it's illegal to stamp the numbers yourself.
I think if I were in this situation I'd go to the DMV and ask for direction. I'd be sure to get the name, title and employee number of whoever provided the answer.
Steve's Packard story reminded me of my own story. I had to have the PA DMV do a VIN search to verify that my title was clear. What they found was my VIN ( engine number) came back as a 1930's Packard that was last titled in the late '40's.
Steve's Packard VIN without the hyphen equates to a December 1925 Model T.
I have to also consider an exception to Dennis' statement about DMV workers having the reputation of not being the most "vigilant" folks in the world. When I recently titled my '25 Tudor the state sent me a title for a 2025 Ford.
Dennis lets get the facts straight. I don't see where anyone said to lie to the DMV. I would not tell anyone to lie nor would I misquote what someone else said. I do think that too much info only confuses the people behind the desk at the DMV.
Based on some of the things I've read on this forum for the past seven or eight hears, the DMV is often unaware of how to identify individual Model T Fords and when that happens, the owner tries to explain how it works and the government bureaucracy either believes it or not. _If not, some kind of paper-chasing difficulty ensues and the burden of proof is on the owner.
My '15 Touring had a replacement dashboard when I bought it and, apparently, the original data-plate was discarded with the old, rotted dashboard. _And so, there was no way to know the body number (which, as you know, has nothing to do with the VIN). _For the purpose of historical appearance, I purchased a blank data plate and, having no other number to use, stamped it with my engine number, which, as is standard with Fords of this vintage, is also the correct VIN (my engine being original).
So, quite by accident, I may have solved any future identification problems, for now there is a very official-looking, somewhat tarnished, brass Ford data-plate bearing the car's actual VIN. _If you're considering switching engines, then the idea of also switching the essentially meaningless body-number shouldn't bother you, either. _Maybe you'll decide to get a new data-plate, stamp the correct VIN into it, rivet the thing in place and have something to point at should the need ever arise.
Tommy I did not interpret that what Dennis said about lying to the DMV implied that you recommended lying to them. You clearly did not state that so there is really no facts to straighten out. There have been some colorful stories that people have told to the DMV that have appeared on this forum so I am sure that he was referring to those and not you.
I know that the laws differ from state to state so advice should be taken with caution, even if given by a resident of the same state. In NC the quality of service differs from one county to another. I usually drive to another county if I have business with the DMV.
It happens, I know, here where someone buys a vehicle then flips it without sending in the title. In other words having an "open title". This is obviously not legal, but what is a buyer to do, pass on the purchase?
Depends on state laws.
In FL have changed out two engines from T's previously titled in my name. FL has one page form the owner fills out, no notary, and you take signed form to DMV and cash and DMV issues new title with replacement engine # as. new VIN. Form good only for autos dated 1945 and earlier.
What I am about to write happened about 1953 so I am not sure it still applies. I lived in California at the time and still do. I had a Model A on which I changed the engine. I also had a bill of sale from the owner of record of the car from which the engine was removed. I took that into the DMV with my title and they changed the vin number of my car to the one on the engine.
This next thing happened on a car which I purchased from an estate. The car had been restored in the 1960's and sometime in the past the engine was changed. The car is a 1922 but the engine is a 1926. The registration had the number of the original engine, but the former owner's insurance company had the number which was on the engine in the car. I took the car to the CHP and they verified the number of the engine in the car. The DMV changed the number to the one on the engine. It is still registered as a 1922. This happened about 5 years ago.
The main thing they are interested in is whether the car or engine had been reported stolen. Fortunately, in my case they were not.
The people at the DMV are ultimately paid by the state, they are given rules to follow, and when in doubt, the easy and safe answer (for their job security) is NO.
Despite your status as a citizen, you are not the same as a customer at a retail establishment. If you aren't happy, taking your business elsewhere is not an option.
On the other hand, the car business is full of shady characters and they make it difficult for the rest of us.
Once when standing in line at the DMV for the "Show Me State" another person commented; "these are the times we pronounce our state name as Misery!"
About restamping numbers... it is very risky. A DMV
inspector can have the vehicle seized and you might not ever get it back.
Carefully reread my post above, I did not say in this post that someone said to lie. I said "I get concerned that in so many threads people give advice to lie to their states DMV and I think it is wrong"
Well my 1925 T coupe has an earlier motor, 1923, but that is what I used for vin. number, I have given the thought of restamping the num. but--what num. ? You can't just pick a num. that would be correct for the year, that num. may be in use! Then you would have a real problem if the DMV found that! Many old valuable cars that are rare most likely had much better care than a model T ever had and have a better chance of a paper trail, I'd bet thousands of model T's never had paper work!EVER but do not try to explain that to the DMV! My kids just bought a transportation car,1997, hell it's old enough for antique plates! must drive the DMV people nuts! Every state is different and each person behind the desk is different, keep it simple!
Well, the venerable Steve Jelf in so many more words basically agreed/echoed what I mentioned about stamping the data plate with the soon to be removed engine. There's your title match. Period. When I brought my '12 Comm. RPU home for inspection the guy saw that plate first, looked at it, wrote the number down, and gave me the certificate. Less than 2 minutes and I was done. So now it doesn't matter what, if anything, I do to the engine. Sweet.
Tim, Why don't you call the OPP station just west of town and ask them? If they don't know, I'm pretty sure they would know who to contact. If they are like the State Troopers here in WI, they consider the number assigned to the car by the title as THE identification number. To them its the paper number that counts, not the engine number.
Well, this is about California, those in other states, you can listen to my stories, but they might not apply where you live.
So, let's go back to 1969, when I was far enough along in my Model A restoration that I wanted to get plates for it. Mind you the title (Original! Rats!) had been turned in by my Dad back in '62 and transferred to his and my brother's names. But now the DMV wanted something other than a motor number and wanted to rivet an aluminum plate on my firewall (nowadays it's just a sticker!) with an assigned VIN number. I showed them the San Francisco Assembly plant number on the front seat crossmember, and they accepted that as the new VIN number--no plate! Now, yes, the original number is stamped on the frame on an A, but it's buried under the front fender/splash apron and you have to lift the body to expose it. Also, technically that number on the body isn't legal as it's just on the body and not the frame--oh well.
OK, now it's 1977 and I need to correct the engine (VIN) number on my 46 Ch##y "everyday" car. The old, cracked engine is sitting beside the garage. I go to the DMV and "You must post a bond" to get title. "But I have the old engine!" "Well then put it back in the car and we can go from there!" Oh bother! Also the clerk didn't like that the factory VIN plate on the door post was held on by screws and was a little scratched up (after 22 years?). I eventually went to another DMV office, the clerk looked over the paperwork (SAME paperwork) and said, OH, you just want a VIN correction, no problem." She went outside, "I can't read that engine number easily, would you read it to me?" SURE!! "Ok, VIN plate fastened with screws, that's correct for the year model. It's a little scratched, would you confirm the number for me?" "lets go back to my window, you won't have to wait in line." Went back in, "No charge, it's just paper shuffling."
EGADS!! That was the right day to go there!
OH, Before that I had to go through a lien sale to get title on a '39 that was our previous "everyday" car, but Linda couldn't see over the hood, so we "upgraded." It wasn't an upgrade!
I have a few other horror stories, once I went in and the clerk said, "You work for Sam Girdler! I don't believe anything you say here!" Went to another office and had title and plates in 20 minutes--same car, same paperwork.
OK, enough of these, except to say my most recent purchase I used a title service as all I had was a bill of sale and a statement of facts. And it's getting harder to get titles here.
As for VIN numbers, Henry started putting them on the frame, and unlike the model A, you just lift the floorboards and there they are. Now the DMV officers don't know when the numbers were first done by the factory--all they care about is that it's in a valid location and is a valid number--and isn't on the engine (unless they match). Number on the frame is also good for you, if the car is ever stolen, or you have to change engines later.
What I was told in the other thread, was to use the number that is on the engine and register the car that way. GA is a no title state for vehicles that old, so there is no title to mess with.
So if I change the engine and sell the car, I would give the buyer a bill of sale with the current engine number, not the original replaced engine number. He can call the car whatever year he wants to.
I did install a repo data plate on my wooden firewall with the engine number and I can replace that if I replace the engine so the number match.
We did have a story here in GA where a police officer would not use a data plate number if the data plate was screwed and not riveted to a frame or body. Seems he knew that 5 minutes after he left, the data plate would be switched to something else.
There is a story for everything . . .
I have heard of many engine builders shaving the block on the pad and stamping your serial number on the block you have rebuilt.
As far as the DMV here in Texas is concerned about engine numbers is to make sure the vehicle is not stolen. Whether using a bonded title service or the DMV to aquire a title, having the vehicle inspected by a Licensed police officer to determine the car isn't stolen is all they are interested in. The engine no. is what they go by.
Texas doesn't keep any vehicle records older than 25 years. They aren't interested if your 1915 Model T has a 27 engine if it's restamped from years gone by or not. If its not stolen your good to go.
Yikes, lotta dispute over something that was actually just hypothetical. Seems that if the day ever comes I'll probably just go with the repop firewall plate, even if that's not correct for a '26.
I pulled the origional motor out of my hack with the intention of rebuilding it in the future and installed a replacement.
I just got a brass plate from Langs, stamped the origional motor number on it, and put it on the firewall.
I figure that 99.99999% of the people would not know and half of the remaining 0.00001% would not care.
50% of The remaining half are too old to say anything and the other 50% need something to complain about.
Thus I am doing my civic duty by giving complainers something to do.
Tim, this is a different slant on the same problem. I know of a fellow who had an engine block with severely eroded exhaust ports. Rather than spending big bucks having them re-built and machined back to spec, he found a replacement block. The replacement was cast just one day later than his original, but the engine number was some 100 000 higher. He did as you suggested. He made a brass plate and stamped his original number on it.It covers the later number, without the need to grind and re-stamp. When the side water outlet is bolted on with some black RTV sealant, the plate cannot be detected.
Allan from down under.
Just in case I was misunderstood:
As far as the DMV is concerned, the body number on a Model T's patent-plate is meaningless. _A number of sub-contractors built body tubs and they numbered them for the sake of their own book-keeping and if there was a problem, they could tell Ford, "No, that defective body isn't one of ours." _So as far as Ford was concerned, the body number was no more than a quality-control matter between itself and however many sub-contractors were involved at the time. _Therefore, if your car has an original patent-plate, the number stamped into it will very likely not be the car's true VIN. _Again, the body number is meaningless (except to historians and hobbyists).
Now, if I want to take a roll of masking tape and a magic marker and plaster the VIN number all over my car, I'm sure there's no law against that. _But I would not, would not, would not advise changing an existing VIN stamp or in any way misrepresenting the car's identity to any official. _The problem is, somewhere around 1911, Ford stopped stamping the VIN into the chassis and the only thing with a stamp was the replaceable engine.
All true, Bob (except I think the stamped data plate went up to 1916). But if I put the number from the title on a data plate and stick it on the firewall, the DMV folks will take it as the VIN, which it truly is, because they know and care nothing about the historical details. Meanwhile, if I use a different engine or series of engines in the car, the plate (and title) will retain the vehicle's true identity.
Ca. DMV does not register cars by engine number, be they original or altered. If you even mention an engine number to them these obstructionist drones will send you down a path from which there is no satisfactory exit. I stamp all my old cars with the VIN on the right frame rail under the front floorboards where they were all stamped 1926 and later. I don't need a lecture on altering or forging VIN numbers. These cars are mine! I am just making it easier for these public servants to take my registration money. They need it to provide services for undocumented immigrants. Sorry about the OT political content there. These are just my experiences here, but I expect other states are similar. Don't give these people anything they can use to make your experience more difficult and expensive, because they will at every opportunity. I believe many of my friends in the Golden State will concur. Jay, how about you? Fordially, Erik
My car (a 22 touring) has a 24 engine in it...the DMV doesn't know one Model T engine from another, so they went with the engine number on that 24 as the VIN. The only thing they were worried about was if it was stolen or not...hell I didn't even have a bill of sale when I registered my car...I just said I inherited it.
I registered my 26 at the motor vehicle branch with no engine and the body number was used. At the time I was not aware that the number was stamped on the frame. All old cars were registered in a vintage file, as the files grew and electronic filing was adopted all old vehicles were re-filed in the general files and at that time the frame number was used and the body number was discontinued. I have owned the car for over 60 years and from time to time the vehicle branch sends out a letter of confirmation that I am still the owner. I think I am the 4th owner, I know the last 2 owners but not the first owner. I picked up the car from a field in Saskatchewan on my grandfathers farm and he drafted a hand written letter authorizing me to remove the car from his property, that letter (I still have) was accepted by the local motor vehicle branch as confirmation of ownership.