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Texas begins revoking titles for dune buggies, sand rails, and other kit cars

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1970 Meyers Manx. Photo courtesy RM Sotheby’s.

While Texas state officials claim to be looking into the matter, the state’s DMV has outlawed any rebodied vehicles and has started to revoke titles and registrations for dune buggies in the state, a move that has provoked Texan kit car enthusiasts to start lobbying the state to re-legalize the vehicles.

As far back as 2013, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles put a halt to registrations of newly built dune buggies, grandfathering in previously built and registered dune buggies. While some owners of Volkswagen-based fiberglass-bodied beach cars reported success registering their kit cars under the donor vehicle’s identity, the state DMV in March 2015 adopted Texas Administrative Rule 217.3 (6), which explicitly made any vehicle “designed or determined by the department to be a dune buggy” ineligible for title “regardless of the vehicle’s previous title and/or registration.” The only other vehicles that, as a group, the Texas Administrative Code specifies as ineligible for title are race cars, off-road vehicles, and flooded cars.

Starting earlier this year, the Texas DMV has sent letters to dune buggy and sand rail owners in the state alerting them that their titles have been revoked and that the owners have to surrender the vehicle’s original title, windshield sticker, and license plates to the DMV. The letters note that the state considers dune buggies and sand rails “designed for off-road usage and may not be legally operated for use on Texas streets or public roadways.”

Adam Shaivitz, a spokesman for the Texas DMV, said the decision to ban dune buggies came about “because many of these vehicles do not have key safety components or do not have a body at all. These vehicles, as manufactured, were not designed for on-road use. These vehicles, as modified from previously manufactured vehicles, also do not keep their on-road qualities.”

While he said that the DMV is currently researching how other states regulate dune buggies, sand rails, and other rebodied vehicles, that process is in the early stages.

Vincent Parisien, the president of the Manx Club, said that the title revocations and the ban on dune buggy registrations amounts to discrimination without merit. “We’re not about making the streets more dangerous,” he said. “Our members are willing to go through all the same safety standards as other cars.”

However, as Parisien pointed out, a number of Texan dune buggy enthusiasts have already resorted to selling their vehicles out of state, and others have parked their dune buggies fearing both the devaluation of their vehicles and the risk of facing legal trouble if they were to drive them on the streets.

To counter the ban, he said Manx Club officials have contacted Texas State Representative Ed Thompson, who has already requested the Texas DMV rescind its ban; the SEMA Action Network; and the Historic Vehicle Association, which added Bruce Myers’s Old Red to the National Historic Vehicle Register in 2014.

In addition, Faron Smith, founder of the Save the Texas Dune Buggy Facebook group, late last month started a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough money to hire a lobbyist to work on behalf of Texan dune buggy enthusiasts.

That lobbyist, Ron Hinkle, has already worked to get the state of Texas to legalize the Polaris Slingshot, Smith wrote, and has agreed to take on the dune buggy case.

While the dune buggy ban only directly effects Texas residents, Parisien said it has implications for dune buggy and other specialty vehicle owners across the country.

“We definitely see this happening in other states,” he said. “If Texas deems this as the right way to operate then other states will do so as well.”

No other state in the country has a similar outright ban on dune buggies, though a number of them do refuse to issue titles or registration for sand rails.

As of this writing, the GoFundMe campaign has raised $3,260 of its $6,000 goal.

UPDATE: The Save the Texas Dune Buggy Facebook group has distributed a petition for Texas dune buggy owners to sign and postmark to the Texas DMV by November 9.