A chronological history of my:
Jade Green / Gray 1992 Trans Am Convertible
A new page, a new era. I wrecked the car December of 2004. As I said, insurance totaled the car and I purchased it back. The car was a theft recovery very early in its life. The thieves were good and the car was probably on its way out of the country. Pretty much every VIN plate or sticker was removed. The title was correct based on original options and the partial VIN on the engine block. I told myself I would be fine as long as I didn't total it... yeah... oops...
The car was fixed by June of 2005, and that began my journey through the bureaucratic red tape of Mississippi's State Tax Commission. I stop by the highway patrol to pick up a vehicle inspection application. The first line of this form is "We strive to make this process as easy as possible." That is the biggest lie I have ever heard. Reading it over, it appears there are a couple of options depending on the age of the car and what was damaged. Damage is divided into major and minor pieces. Major being windshield frames, subframes, fixed quarter panels, etc. Minor being hoods, attached fenders, bumpers, etc. These are further divided into replaced or repaired.
So going down the list, I replaced two minor pieces and repaired four minor pieces which puts me with the ability to get a clean titled issued (not rebuilt). The last option stated if the car is 10 years old or older (check) and you replaced 3 or less minor pieces (check), "YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE AN INSPECTION DONE." So I call up and ask what the procedure is if you fall into that category. I was told I needed to fill out the application and get an inspection. I told them I realize that most cars in this situation would need to do that but I fall into the third category where the application says I do not need an inspection. I was pretty much told they don't know why THEIR application states that as all salvage titles have to get an inspection.
So then I ask if not having a VIN plate would be an issue. I received an emphatic yes. "Do not go to get an inspection without a VIN plate." Great, so how to I get a new VIN plate? "Not sure, we don't handle that." So I start calling around and doing some research. Found out the tax commission handles new VIN plates, but no one there was quite sure how to do it. After a personal trip to the county courthouse and the local tax commission, I learned I would need the VIN plate application, an affidavit of what I know about the missing plate, and form XXYY-23. Great. So what's form XXYY-23.. Local office didn't know. Back on the phone with the state office (who couldn't tell me what was needed before) just to see what form XXYY-23 was. After a few transfers and minutes on hold, I was told XXYY-23 is the form you receive after getting the car inspected by the highway patrol! Telling them the highway patrol said I couldn't get an inspection without a VIN plate fell on deaf ears.
At this point, I was frustrated and had an LS1 sitting there ready to go in. So I started concentrating on that and figured I would figure everything out after the car was ready again. So the summer of 2006 comes, and I start the process over again. I pretty much don't get past the point I did the last summer. I figured talking to the inspector would be my best bet in figuring out the process. Well at that point in time, there was only one inspector for the region and he was only in Hattiesburg one day a week. You couldn't talk to him directly, and you could only schedule an inspection appointment, which required the $100 processing fee when you arrive.
So this goes on as I change this, change that, and get the car to a point about once a year where I believe the car could be inspected. Year after year I'm met with the same issues. So once again this summer, after I swapped the new rear-end in, I stopped by the highway patrol to pick up yet another inspection application. Mainly because I couldn't find the last one and plus I was hoping something might have changed on the form. They were out of forms in the usual spot and I asked the guy behind the window if they had any back there. He said no, but the inspector is in the back offices and I should ask him for one. What?? Not only is the inspector here, but I am now being directed to go past the big "Troopers Only: Do Not Enter" sign into the depths of my nemeses.
So I meet with the inspector who quickly shares my distaste of the tax commission. Turns out Hattiesburg now has their own inspector. I share the horrors and he tells me to go next door (to the newly opened tax commission office) and tell them to not let them tell me I need an inspection and to get me a new VIN plate. The people next door don't know anything and assure me that no one in that office has anything to do with VIN plates. They actually call Jackson and manage to get me the direct number for the small section of people that handle VIN issues. I call them and get directed to the nice lady who specifically handles the VIN applications. She then enlightens me that form XXYY-23 is from a VIN inspection, not a salvage inspection. This is done through the highway patrol investigation division, not the salvage division.
So after calling and leaving messages for a week, I finally get through to the investigation division on a Friday. He then informs me they only do inspections by appointment on Fridays and got me setup for a week later. So I show up not knowing what to expect. Much to my surprise (I swear I'm telling the truth, you can't make this up), the guy that handles the VIN inspections is the same guy that does the salvage inspections that I talked to! You would think he would have mentioned the whole VIN inspection thing when I talked to him two weeks ago!
So he begins to check the usual spots for a VIN, to which I save him time and tell him they are not there. So then he says he can check the engine for the VIN. Nope.. Not the original engine. Then he wants to check the label in the center console. Nope.. Not the original console (plus the spid label was removed from the original anyway). He calls an expert who gives him a few clues where to look, but none are accessible without tools. He does run the title and verifies that there are no issues with it, but says unless he sees a matching VIN number on some part of the car, he can't give me form XXYY-23.
I do some research over the weekend, and the only known spot that might still have a VIN is on the firewall, under the inner HVAC box. The thought of having to remove the dash and HVAC just to show a VIN number (much less if there wasn't one there) made me seriously consider registering one of the many Trans-Am titles I have and sticking the tag on my car. After looking over one of the parts cars, I finally found a VIN stamped on the passenger side fender frame rail. This was on an 85 model, and GM had just about moved every VIN stamping over to stickers around 89, so I was a little scared one would not be there. I removed my passenger wheel well liner, crossed some fingers, and shoved the others in the small space between the fender and fender rail. There was something stamped in the right location, but I had no way of reading it going in this way. After a few failed attempts, I was able to see the correct VIN (albeit backwards) by removing the battery, putting my head in upside down where the battery was, left hand holding a telescoping mirror through the fender well, and my right hand holding a flashlight through the partially opened headlight. Unfortunately, I had to have him repeat this process at the highway patrol. That next Friday I was back. After removing the battery and explaining what he needed to do, he told me I could just read what I see out to him since I probably didn't have it memorized (I did and had I known I could have made up a crazy location and just recited the VIN, this would have been easier). So 30 minutes and a few more checks later, I finally had form XXYY-23!!!
If you're still with me, you might as well finish; we're about half done...
So I send my VIN application, form XXYY-23, and an affidavit off to the State Tax Commission in Jackson. Now I have talked to the lady who handles every new VIN request, and I have her direct number. I sent the package next day certified mail, but didn't call here until 3-4 days out. I was hoping she would tell me she was done, but would have been happy to hear she received it. That's when she informs me that there's only one PO BOX for the State Tax Commission and it would take about six weeks before it even got delivered to her.
Sure enough, I received a letter about 6 weeks later stating my VIN application had been approved. The new VIN was being made and I would be notified when and where to pick it up. Well about 2 weeks later, I received a letter stating my new VIN was ready and I could pick it up any time. Of course it was delivered on a Friday and I had to wait until Monday to pick it up. Want to guess where? Yup, the tax commission office that assured me no one there had anything to do with VIN plates.
So I immediately go over to the highway patrol and talk to the inspector. Having seen this guy at least three times now, I kind of expected some compassion. Nope, I was told I needed to call him Thursday between 9:00 and 10:30 as that is the only time he schedules salvage inspections. I wait a few days and call, getting an inspection scheduled for that next Tuesday. Inspection goes fine and I get all my paperwork. I was told I should be able to take all my paperwork and go get a tag.
So I immediately take all my stuff down to the Lamar County Tax Collector and tell them I need to get a tag. I get a very arrogant "What do you expect me to do with this?" I tell the lady the highway patrol said this should be all I need, and she gets her supervisor over to tell me that they can't do anything with this. We argue for about 15 minutes as they are not budging and won't call anyone to verify. I get told I need to mail everything to Jackson and let them figure it out.
I head to the house and get on the phone with the State Tax Commission in Jackson. I get bounced through about 5 people until I wind up with a guy who knows his stuff. He asks me what I have and tells me that is all I need to get a tag. He said, "Go back down there and tell them that's all you need and if they have any questions to call me." So I drive right back to the tax collector, go back to the same woman I went to earlier, and tell her "Joe in Jackson said you have everything you need, call him if you have any questions." She replies, "I don't feel like talking to anyone in Jackson today," and after 5 minutes of typing, she hands me my tag.
Finally in August of 2009, I had a tag. Almost 5 years in the making. Six weeks later, I received a letter from the tax commission with my clean title. Actually it was a letter saying the lady at the tax collector didn't send everything in correctly and I needed to go back and resubmit the application. Then, six weeks after that, I received a letter that had my clean and clear title.
Page 3 is depressing me. Let's move on to page 4.
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