Iowa DOT problems

Since this my favorite place in the ether-world, I finally signed up. If anyone can help me with this problem, it will be a TT member. I live in Iowa and dreamed of owning the ultimate do-it-all bike for chasing my young motocrossing sons, occassional racing (motocross, hare scrambles, enduros) against other 'old guys', and pleasure riding in general. It HAD to be street legal to be practical enough to justify the expense for me. I found my dream-bike over a year ago. A retired gentleman in a nearby town had inquired of the state DOT if he could make a WR400 street legal if he purchased one. "Certainly. Here is a written list of our requirements. Once you have met them, call our office and we will send an officer to inspect the vehicle." He purchased a brand-new '99 WR400 and a Baja Designs dual sport kit and had it professionally installed. The DOT inspection officer was most impressed with the results and happily issued an official State of Iowa Title for Reconstructed Vehicle, Iowa VIN number, and license plate. Gone forever were the factory serial number, MSO, and the Yamaha WR400 (it was now a reconstructed vehicle just like building a custom Harley from scratch, according to the state.) After only 406 street miles, his health forced him to sell the bike. Enter yours truly. I sold 3 other bikes and a Cummins diesel engine to purchase my dream bike (my very reasonable wife, who is reading this over my shoulder, doesn't care what new toys I get as long as I don't spend ANY money unless it comes from selling other toys). I transfered the title to my name (still in Iowa), purchased the required insurance, and became the happiest rider in Iowa for more than a year.

Four days ago, out of a clear-blue-almost-riding-season sky, I arrived home from work to find a phone message from a DOT official whom I have never met regarding the bike he has never seen, has never received a complaint about, and which has never even been pulled over for ANY infraction, and indeed still EXCEEDS all DOT safety requirements. He informed me that the DOT made a mistake more than 2 years earlier (he didn't say what mistake) and that I would soon receive paperwork demanding the surrender of my title, registration, and license plate. Have a nice day, the govt is here to help...

This would leave me with a DOT inspected and certified bike for which I paid thousands of dollars BECAUSE it was, that couldn't even be ridden on State off-road areas or sold with documentation since it would no longer exist on paper. Both the original owner and I have done nothing BUT comply with the DOT rules, yet they expect me to eat a loss equivilent to 25% of my annual income not to mention trying to replace the recreational joy of my life for no reason.

I drive a truck for a living. From the moment I get in it, I am no longer a citizen protected from unreasonable search and siezure, self-incrimmination, or anything else simply because I'm in a commercial vehicle. Who are these jackbooted stormtroopers the founding fathers must have had in mind when they wrote the 2nd amendment? My sworn and hated enemy: the DOT. Since I have such a wonderful and mutual repoir with these folks, I have hired an attorney to fight this. Unlike the DOT, however, my funds are limited, and like it or not, justice must be bought and paid for in this country or at least this state.

Rather than work myself into a postal rage, I need to focus on alternatives like getting the bike registered in another state. Any advice or help will be greatly appreciated.


while its still registered legally register it in a different state.when you get the paper work, title etc. from the new state bring it back to iowa and register it there. if i understand the law they (iowa) have to recognize the other states registration. but that wont protect you from vehicle code tickets. but i have lived in 18 states and never had an officer who knew motorcycle code requirements enough to push the issue.


Please allow me to attempt to help. If I read your post correctly you say that the current title/registration for your "until-very-recently" street legal dirtbike displays a new VIN (like a home-made Harley). In AZ these consist of a metal strip with new numbers that are stuck to the frame with adhesive.

I will assume this is the same for you; or at least very similiar. I have one important question: Does the title/registration for your bike reflect on it, in any manner, the original VIN or engine case numbers? If so then I may not be able to help. If not, here is what I would suggest:

1). Remove the stick-on VIN that the state issued you. Your bike should still have the original numbers from the factory (I assume they havent been ground off or anything)

2). Politely advise the DOT jerkoffs that you sold the bike some time ago to somebody who had no intention of keeping it street legal and you didnt bother to get his name either. Thank them for their concern but the matter is not your problem anymore.


3). Now that the DOT Nazis are off your back, load that bike up into your half empty truck next time you have an out-of-state run and get that sucker titled/registered somewhere else.


It seems to me that if your original VIN (factory/frame numbers) are not listed anywhere on the new title/registration then they can't track your bike. I used to roadrace a Ducati 900 SS which I bought new from a dealer. It was titled and registered and I rode it on the street for about four months. I then raced it for the next two seasons (24 months). When I quit racing it I made it my street bike again. I went down to the DMV and said, "I want to renew my plates please." The lady at the counter was salivating over the past due charges that I had accrued,($4.00 first month, $8.00 for every month after that). She tells me the total and I say, "No, I will be signing the waiver that states it hasn't been on the road for the entire time." She looks at me and says,"Are you going to be able to prove that it wasnt on the road?" I said,"Are you going to be able to prove that it was?" She gave me a look like I just punched her in the forehead. I got my plate and left. :D

I personally believe that if you cant pass the DMV hiring exam then you automatically get offered an airport security job. :D

I hope you can do something, all cannot be lost; you own the bike, they just own the plate. Mail it back to them. Better yet, drop it off and save the postage. Good Luck.

[ March 03, 2002: Message edited by: ChopperCopper ]

[ March 03, 2002: Message edited by: ChopperCopper ]

Thanks for the reply. It is my understanding as well that Iowa must honor other state's titles. My concern here is whether Iowa will somehow "block" my title transfer. I have not yet received any documents demanding their surrender, but I no doubt will unless my lawyer can keep them busy for a while. It sounds like VT is a good state to transfer to (?). As I said, it is by no means a safety issue, the bike has and still can pass a rigorous inspection and believe it or not, I REALLY behave on the road--- my license IS my living. If it were a bathtub with wheels and passed a DOT inspection, Iowa would have no problem with it. Our best guess at this point is a law passed a few years back to prevent the licensing and use of ATV 3&4 wheelers on the road which prohibits the licensing of ANY vehicle with a MSO (manufacturers statement of origin) denoting "off-road vehicle". In that case the dispute would be the difference in opinion as to the definition of "Reconstructed Vehicle". Not my opinion, mind you, but rather that of the actual inspection officer vs. his own coworker who has never seen the bike. If it is an (R.V.) as the inspecting officer determined,it is no longer an "off-road vehicle" or even a wr400. It is now a "parted-together" vehicle with original owner being the manufacturer, thus voiding Yamaha's MSO, liability, and off-road designation. This is why it is issued a new VIN #. The conundrum is that IA already stripped this bike of all former identity both on paper & serial number when they issued their own. If they take that, my bike no longer exists for legal purposes of any kind. I trusted the state when I paid hard money for a bike CERTIFIED to be bonafide and street legal by the state. I paid sales tax and title transfer fees as well as license and insurance. They should honor their own certification.

Replacing the rusted bodies on pickups is a whole industry in this state. When you do that, the VIN no longer matches the title or reg. You must do precisely what the orig owner did and have the DOT inspect and issue a Reconstructed Vehicle title and a new VIN.Regardless of which official's opinion prevails, why did it take over 2 years and 2 owners for this internal DOT problem to manifest itself? More importantly, after paying more than my share of the wages these competent professionals receive, why should I pay thousand$$ for either of them's mistake- real or imagined?! Not in this lifetime!!!!

Please bear in mind that this is only my best guess as to what passes as their "reason". They have yet to feel inclined to return my or my lawyer's phone calls asking for a reason. Therefore, your advice to transfer my bike's title out of their bumbling reach is to me the best option, but I feel I must move quickly. I will keep everyone posted. Ride safe/Ride free


I live in quite possibly the most lenient state in the union when it comes to licensing toys. Wyoming will license ANYTHING right off the show room floor, no inspections, no hassles, you pay your money and get your license. I have plates on my 96 XR 600, no dual sport kit, and I have plates on the wifes Kawasaki Mojave 250 4 wheeler. I got the title, registration, plates, everything in one stop. If I can be of any assistance to you in solving this problem with Iowa, let me know. I'll be glad to help.


You sound like a nice enough guy so I'll warn you this way. Don't kill yourself trying to comply with whatever the DMV says. If they want your plates, let them take you to court for it and let the judge decide how a state office can deny you what you've already paid for.

But before it turns into a pissing contest, just get it plated out of state. Oh I dunno, Vermont might be a great place to start. Just get out of state plates, then by law, when the bike "comes back in state" you MUST get local plates for the out-of-state bike.

Go to the DMV, shut up about what you already know, don't offer jack-crap by way of info on your case history, and let them turn you away if they figure it out on their own.

If so, just drive around with your out of state plates. Keep them up to date and if you ever get pulled over, tell the officer how DMV won't issue you plates.

Basically, fight them with the same crap they are feeding you.

Good luck and let us know how you did.

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