How to Register a Porsche 550 Replica in Texas

I just registered my Vintage(tm) Porsche 550 Replica in Texas, here’s how to do it…


It wasn’t that hard to do. This will also work with Cobra replicas, I believe. I’ll lay out below how I did it. This is July 2016, and a few things have changed in the past few years from the forum posts I have read.

First of all, this was a previously registered car out of Louisiana with a Louisiana title. If you are not previously titled, you have a few more steps to go through to verify 1) the weight of the car with a weight certificate from nearly any truck stop, and 2) receipts for the major components of the car. So, this process is precisely for a previously titled replica, but the main point is that it is legal to register a replica car in Texas.

Familiarize yourself with the law surrounding “Custom Vehicle” registration. Texas’ Transportation Code has a section 504.501 that authorizes this type of registration. You want to search for and read this document, available online: “Custom Vehicle and Street Rod FAQs – TxDMV.GOV”. There is a second document you want to read, Texas’ “Assembled Vehicle Manual”. You want to reach Chapter 4 of that guide. I showed up to my tax office with those two documents in a binder but never had to refer to them.


What You’ll Need to Register Your Porsche 550 and Transfer Title

Again, assuming you purchased the car with a title, you’ll need the titled signed over to you, obviously.

You need insurance to do any of this, just like any car. I got my 550 registered through Hagerty Insurance. Cost was $547 a year on a stated value policy of $35k.

You will be applying to register a “Custom Vehicle” and the title and registration will state the actual year of manufacture and “ASVE” or “ASSM”–I left these fields blank and let the guy at the Texas tax office help tell me what to put. A Custom Vehicle application is based upon a form called a VTR-852. The 852 requires a special sort of inspection by an ASE Technician. I brought my car to Auto Spec in Round Rock, Texas and they have an ASE Technician on staff. Just call around and you can find an ASE Technician. A shop that works on race cars or vintage cars is going to know about the 852. The shop must also provide a printout of the ASE certifications held by the technician that fills out the 852.

You are applying for a title, of course, so you’ll need the standard 130-U application form. Don’t forget that you’ll need the seller’s signature on this form in addition to having the title signed over. Again, I left the make/year/model blank when I went to the tax office. My local tax office is the main center on Airport Blvd. in Austin–forget about getting this done through a contract title service, they’ll be baffled. You need to go right to the official county tax office.

Now, will you need the safety inspection? There are differing opinions on the forums, and here’s what the guy at the tax office told me. Technically, a run-of-the-mill inspection or a safety-only inspection isn’t required, however, my car was coming in from out of state, so there is no green sheet any more and this safety inspection serves as a verification of an out of state VIN. I would just do the safety inspection anyway, in addition to the ASE inspection anyway.

The “four photographs”: it is a requirement that you submit 1 photo of the car the replica is meant to represent. I used the picture of James Dean at the gas station (taken on that fateful day), and a front, side, and rear picture of my car. Curiously, the Tax Office employee gave me two of my pictures back, and kept 2. I just used ink jet printouts for this.

What you walk out with

So I received a traditional windshield sticker and a paper temp plate–this must be a new procedure because if you read Texas’ guides there is supposed to be a special sticker for “Custom Vehicle” designations that goes in “the rear window”. Perhaps this has changed with the Texas one-step registration sticker scheme. The receipt notes the model as “2004 ASSM”. The Texas law is pretty clear that the title has to bear the actual year of manufacture and the abbreviation for “Assembled”. On the receipt, the “Mileage” is indicated as “Exempt”. The receipt also notes “Plate Type” as “Custom Vehicle Plt”.

Nothing on the receipt though, says anything about my car being exempt from annual inspections, which is certainly what the law regarding custom vehicles dictates.

While the title and metal plate isn’t in my hand yet, I can’t imagine things going awry from here.

Update! Got my metal plate after about 8 days…


What happened at the Tax Office

My interactions at the Tax Office might give some people some insight. The gentleman who helped me was a rather stern looking man of about 55. He had a “by the book” demeanor that didn’t instill confidence. He did ask this: “do you want to register as a street rod or custom vehicle?” I said, “custom vehicle because a street rod is for a replica of 1948 or older”. He stared at the form for about 20 seconds and mumbled “yes”. We probably spent at least 5 minutes sitting in silence while he read through my forms.  He never called over a supervisor, he just methodically went to work on his computer. At one point he said “well, it looks like it would be a fun car.” After about 20 minutes he handed me my packet and said, “well, you did it”.

If you are building a new kit…

If you don’t have a pre-existing title to work with, you’ll have more paperwork to do, but I firmly believe it could be done. In essence, you’ll need two tasks done: one is to get a VIN number and you’ll need to prove ownership of the main components: engine, frame, and body. Your manufacturer (Vintage, Seduction or otherwise) is going to know how to put that packet together for you. If you are building yourself, you will just need receipts, receipts, receipts.

There is even another way

Even if this process didn’t work, I did come across a second way to do this. In my research I talked to a guy from the DPS office in Austin. He told me, “just do custom vehicle, that way you won’t need the inspection every year.” See, in Austin, this is an emissions county, so that would be completely hopeless for a 2004 or worse, 2016 car with a type IV air-cooled motor. But he did say, “if you can’t get custom vehicle, make an appointment here and we’ll issue you an exemption waiver, we know the kit cars and street rods can never pass emissions, then you can just do the safety inspection and register as a regular car.”

Overall, I would say that Texas is very friendly to replica owners.

Good luck with yours…

Pretty Cool CBR600rr Fender Eliminator

Yes, I know, this isn’t for a car and isn’t for a whatever, but I had to put it up somewhere. I got this kit from user areyourshop-a on eBay for $39.99.

Sorta Like Rumble Concepts & Puig

It’s very similar to a much more expensive kit from Rumble Concepts, and a bit like the Puig kit. I don’t want hassles from cops, so I did not want a kit that put my license plate the legally shadowy area deep within the wheel well; I won’t get hassled if my plate is out in back, where cops can see it.

Quality was great, metal is thick enough. Powdercoat is nice and even. I like the look, and the design is harmonious with the rest of the bike. The light is another eBay item and not included with the kit.




Staff Ride: 1990 Spec Miata

This staff ride is a 1990 Spec Miata that runs in the Challenge series (a slightly de-spec’ed class at the Harris Hill Raceway in San Marcos, Texas). It is outfitted with two Ultrashield Rally Sport seats (2 seats is convenient for frightening passengers). It’s a stock 1.6 motor with a fully caged interior and stock exhaust.

The local rules allow for a minor suspension change: Racing Beat lowering springs on stock shock absorbers. realdeal

As for seats, these have driver and passenger Ultrashield Rally Sports.

seats m miata-seats miata-1

From the Graveyard: CompositeWorx SP-1s

Rare, Italian Carbon Fiber Seats from Now-Dead CompositeWorx

These CompositeWorx SP-1s are rare. These were in the car of one of staffers until recently when they were sold to Cody, the marketing guy at Cobb Tuning. These were marketed on the Lotus forums as direct replacements for Exige and Elise seats. They were pricey: about 2,300 for the pair shipped to the US.

And then they imploded…

The miracle of CompositeWorx seats is if you actually ever got them. In late 2013, orders to the US started slowing down, and then eventually stopped, leaving many buyers stiffed out of their deposits. The Lotus forums tell the full story of how CompositeWorx eventually failed to ship a large number of pre-paid orders.  But boy, are they good-looking.