Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Can I build my own car and drive it on the roads legally?

From the NewsGroup

Can I build my own car and drive it on the roads legally?

Are there any specific regulations I need to follow?

I was thinking of building a car out of wood and steel pipes using an old engine and tires.

Useful Responses

Bloody Viking Said-

OK, so you build a car. That's fine. You add the needed lights and so on, but what about a VIN number? Even better, how do you insure the device? Since there are extremely few homebrew cars on the road, a lot of insurance companies will likely not have a procedure for handling the insuring of the device.

A better bet is to build a car from an existing airframe (chassis), much like the kit cars made with a VW Bug airframe. This solves the VIN number problem while a "real" homebrew car doesn't. There is also pollution issues as any homebrew car will have to comply with the latest regs for the jurisdiction it has for a home port. Certainly, the people at the pollution test place will be incredulous as you pull up in the bizarre car. In the Chicago area, the bloke boards the car to put it on the treadmill for the test. Thus, the controls need to conform with the de facto standard or at least be configurable for normal people to use.

A good question is WHY one would attempt to build a car from scratch. One motive I can think of is to design one with some unusual option, such as a diesel-electric drivetrain, stealth technology (to foil speed traps), etc. But it would work out better to pick an existing airframe when building a car due to various legal and insurance issues. While a stealth car could use any old airframe, the diesel-electric would be best done with aft-wheel-drive for the airframe. (e.g. old cop cars)

The same legal and insurance problems await anyone attempting to build a petrol-electric motorcycle using a bicycle's airframe as the platform. While one can build a motorcycle with less than 2 horses AND can't do 30 legally, things get cloudy if any attempt is made to make it faster. In theory, a "buzzbike" could be built, but legal issues have deterred me from ever proceeding to actually build the machine.

The buzzbike has a second issue from the homebrew car, that being the need for a motorcycle endorsement on the drivers licence. But once obtained, how would you register a buzzbike? Bicycles have "VIN numbers", but would the bike's VIN be valid? The legal issues of the buzzbike have left me puzzled for years in which case I never made an attempt to build it. The legal issues of the buzzbike are similar to the homebrew car. If you want really hairy legal issues, consider the Flying Car. This device needs to comply with road use laws AND the FAA laws!