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Discussion Starter #1
I have done this before with my dad back in the '90's but I don't remember details or know if anything has changed, so I thought I should see if anyone can walk me through the right way to get to the point I have title on my 1956 Mercury I bought.

The story I have is that this vehicle was one of a few that somebody brought to a transmission repair business that is now closing but it was left there and the owner hasn't taken the vehicle back... I don't know anymore about the owner, but I could probably contact the guy I bought from if needed. He is quarantining because he had recent contact with somebody that had a positive covid test. I contact him through the messenger app.

The story checks out, a google maps image search shows the vehicle sitting where it was when I bought the vehicle. The image is dated November 2020 and I bought the vehicle March 26, 2021, and picked up last Friday, I have receipt signed by myself and the seller. I also brought the VIN number to my local police department to have them check their database to ensure it wasn't reported as salvage or stolen and they found no records in the state database.

My recollection is that back in the '90's we called a county sheriff out and they did a VIN inspection, I don't recall what else is in the process. I have a secretary of state appointment in May for multiple items because I have a boat I bought (I have title for that) and was planning to also bring my son for his learner permit... Since it's such a long wait for appointments, I want to try to have everything done beforehand if possible.
 

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Hates: Liver. Loves: Diesel
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Wish I could help you with Michigan-specific things. I do know in most states there are provisions for doing this. In PA, it's super old-school and just comical. I did this for an old Scout that was on a buddy's property when he bought it.

My process was that I had to post a classified in the legal section of any publication (which I did in the local penny saver for free), then I had to get a $5 report from the state to get the vehicle history. Since PA only keeps records back 10 years, there were no results. My next step was to send certified letters with return receipt to the previous three owners on record letting them know. If I completed those steps and gave the previous owners 30 days to reply, I would have been issued a title in my name. Since there were no records on file, I instead had to fashion a petition for release of vehicle title with the county, and I was granted a title. Just don't try to do that with a trailer in PA. It doesn't work. You first have to get a salvage certificate for $$, then go through an enhanced inspection for $$$, then apply for a salvage title $$$. Money grab, and you're left with a branded title.

{sarcasm} I'm sure that is highly effective, because every person reads the classifieds in my local penny saver, and I'm sure if I received an unsolicited return receipt letter via snail mail, I would totally sign it because that happens all the time {/sarcasm} This might have worked in 1958

When I was in CA, it was much easier. I bought a 62 Caddy with no title for $1500, found the previous owner, contacted him and he happily signed a paper to let the DMV know it was kosher.
 

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Most states have a process for securing ownership of an abandoned car, especially one left at a repair shop. Typically the process requires a lien sale, which involves posting ads announcing the sale. Once you do all that, the DMV issues a title in your name. Since each state is different, read your local laws.
 

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Sounds complicated to me as far as who actually owns the thing. The customer who brought it to the shop, the shop owner, or the guy you bought it from. If the shop went into some form of bankruptcy that vehicle could have been deemed an asset and there for who ever the shop owner had a mortgage to would be the proper owner of that property.

Here is what I would do and do with all my rides.
Don't do a thing to the car till you have the title in your name.
Keep a record of the original bill of sale somewhere safe. Courts will not respect any form of copy. You can keep a copy for your records but you will want to keep the original in case things do go bad and you need to go to court.
If it all goes good pay the $15 for a quick title(plus the taxes) and you can walk out of there that day with the thing in your name.
If it does go bad that bill of sale will save your butt up to the purchase price. Now if it goes bad and you tore the car apart well. You can imagine the person who actually owns the thing may have a issue or won't care that that $600 rust bucket now has a $6000 powertrain. Best to wait even if it means waiting several months.

Pre covid I have actually brought people down to the state office when they have given me a "I don't have the title" excuses I did it 4 times and 3 of those had issues. Bit of a pain. But better then transporting the thing to then find out the thing still had a lein or was in the ex's name. A lost title can be done through the mail easily. Or the same day (pre covid) in person.
If someone says they do not have the title I just move on. Want to sell it get the title in your name.

Without a dealers license(and registered business) your only allowed to sell 5 a year. This is the main reason why people do the "I don't have the title" thing. Generally 5 is a hard number to hit with this covid stuff going on so if someone does say they do not have the title that just means they are lazy or something is not correct.

A note on buying from auctions. A majority have the title and having the auction does give you a nice bubble in case things are stolen. Still before you bid make sure they have the title at the registration desk. If they have no title or such then your not buying a car your buying salvaged steel. If you want to turn that into a car you simply file for a assembled vehicle showing where you bought it from and then generally you will not have a issue. Note you will need receipts for everything when doing this. A majority of the time if your taking something like a Buick from the 50's as long as it comes back as a Buick your fine. If it comes back as a Peterbuilt you may have a issue.


Checking the vin with your local law enforcment was the right way to go about as a first step.
Just avoid messing with the thing till that title is in your name.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
So far I've popped the caved in roof up just because it was bothering me and it was apparent that it was a place for water to pool, but my intent is that I've first got to set up my 4 post lift I moved that was my dad's, then I need to disassemble things from my donor car before I start on anything.

After being on hold 4 hours with Secretary of State the process I was told is this:

With a vehicle in general without a title I'd have to go through the assurity bond process... I don't want to go there, but this process is not required if the vehicle is over 10 years old and has value less than $2500. It really should be with major missing parts, like the entire steering system, the entire top of the engine, the hood, etc.

Anyway, what I need is an owner certification form TR-205 and a police VIN inspection filled out on form TR-54 and an appraisal showing the value is under $2500. The instructions on these forms indicate I'll pay sales tax on the actual price or the appraised value, which ever is higher.

Then getting the appraisal is the hard part, I called a nearby used car dealership and they don't sell cars of this age so they said they couldn't, so I called a place that sells classic cars and they said they'd do an appraisal for $150. So assuming they follow up after I e-mailed them photos as discussed I'll go that route. Like I tell myself, I underestimated how much a $200 car would cost.
 

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These guys are in royal oak. Tell them your situation and they will get it appraised.



Or drive on down when they are not busy.
703 North Rembrandt Avenue, Royal Oak, Michigan 48067
 

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Discussion Starter #7
These guys are in royal oak. Tell them your situation and they will get it appraised.



Or drive on down when they are not busy.
703 North Rembrandt Avenue, Royal Oak, Michigan 48067
Thanks I called and he's going to come out this evening... his price is $295 so even more, but I'll just get it done and grumble to myself about how a $200 car should just cost $200 not $200+trailer rental+gas+a whole weekend+another $300 to have it appraised to prove that with the tie rods broken off and everything in between missing and a rusted out headless engine that's been sitting in the rain for years...

I mean, I doubt I could sell my running rust free Grand Marquis for $2500, so this better not appraise that much!

Okay, I feel better, grumbling about things that are beyond my control is my other hobby.
 
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