Custom Chrome Bike Kits Under DMV Investigation

This is the story of Dain Gingerelli, editor of Iron Works Magazine. Gingerelli built for himself a bike from bike kit parts bought from Custom Chrome Inc. In April, he locked up a sure sale of his motorcycle but California DMV blocked the sale by refusing to issue a title. DMV has refused to give him any details about the investigation, other than acknowledging that it is investigating something related to the Custom Chrome bikes and that it affects all their California owners. Gingerelli says that an investigator told him the DMV is looking into a motorcycle shop that was improperly building and selling a large number of Custom Chrome kit bikes. As it happens, California State frequently goes after bike shops that sell large numbers of custom-built motorcycles. State law stipulates that kit bikes assembled by hobbyists for their own enjoyment are not subject to emission standards. No smog tests, no maintenance requirements and no special equipment. Some bikers touched by the Custom Chrome investigation have had their registration holds lifted. Gingerelli thinks that he knows why his hold has not been. He wrote on his registration form that friends from a motorcycle shop helped him assemble his bike although he didn’t pay for the help. It seems that three California DMV staffers were assigned to the case of the Custom chrome Bike Kits, each with 400 to 450 bikes to investigate. That could stick the number of affected bikes at 1,200 to 1,350. DMV doesn’t comment and only states that the investigation is ongoing. It is worth noting that recently, Custom Chrome informed its motorcycle dealers that it will no more sell any bike kits. I hope that Dain Gingerelli will develop this story in the pages of his Iron works Magazine.


13 Responses to “Custom Chrome Bike Kits Under DMV Investigation”

  1. 1 Nicker Jun 23rd, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Well, from my perspective

    “…1,200 to 1,350 bikes…” assembled by shops is a manufacturing scenario and should be classified as “products” not true custom builds.

    This sort of thing spoils it for the rest of the guys who scratch build a scooter.

    I’ve had some ordeals with the DMV trying to get stuff registered. Sorry, i’ve not got much sympathy for loop-hole exploitation.

  2. 2 John Jun 23rd, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    I wonder what people who bought a bike kit from Custom Chrome are going to do if they cannot title their bikes in Californis. I guess sue Custom Chrome.

  3. 3 Greg Jun 23rd, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    I think Custom Chrome was selling these bike kits with the mention “50 states legal”.

  4. 4 Boyce Jun 29th, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    So you walk into the DMV & give them the MSO(s) for the engine & frame, & show a list of parts you paid for & get the bike titled. They would only know it was built from a kit, if you told them. The MSO(s) supplied did not have any mention of a kit.

    In Texas, after the bike is built, you get insurance, then a state inspection sticker, take the bike & MSO(s) down to the DPS, they compare the MSO(s) & run the numbers off the bike for the engine, frame & transmission to see if they show up on a hot list. If they come back clean, then you take the paperwork the DPS gives you to the DMV & they issue a “Assembled Motorcycle” title, & a new VIN number with stickers you put on the frame & the license plates for the bike. Then you stamp the new VIN numbers into the frame, change the insurance over to the new VIN number (at first the insurance company will use the manufacture frame number), and you are done.

    Not sure exactly what it takes in California, but I would guess it is not much different.

    I do not see how Custom Chrome could be held responsible for problems getting a title, no matter if it was built from a kit, or bought and built a single part at a time.

  5. 5 DAIN GINGERELLI Jul 2nd, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    In response to the story that appeared about my CCI kit bike in the Orange County Register, it should be clear that CCI is not at fault for this fiasco. An independent bike shop is under investigation for selling more than the alloted share of non-certified motorcycles in California. Once a shop exceeds the limit–24 per year from what I’m told–then the bikes must be emissions-legal, which of course, most (if not all) kits bikes aren’t. But that is why laws were instituted that allow one-off builds such as mine to be registered; by establishing a limit, enthusiasts like you and me can build our own bikes without the burden of passing smog tests. The rub with the California DMV is that they chose to investigate ALL special construction bikes that originated from CCI, simply because someone at the DMV stumbled on the illegal activities of one shop. In typical small-think response that is nurtured by government agencies such as the DMV, they reasoned that if one shop is doing this, then all shops selling and/or building CCI kit bikes must be doing this. In short, the DMV twits have determined that all CCI kit bike owneers are guilty until proven innocent, which is against the grain of the U.S Constitution. Sadly, our judicial system is so intertwined with money-hungry lawyers that for anybody to initiate a class action lawsuit against the DMV (and one clearly needs to be made in order to rein in this behemoth), it will take a monumental amount of funds to do so.

    Addendum to the OC Register newspaper story, I recently received notification from the DMV twits that my bike’s registration is on suspension for 2008. In short, I can’t ride the bike on the street anymore–even though I paid several hundred dollars in registration fees and taxes in 2004 to put the bike in my name.

    Plans are to address this situation in my Sept. issue’s editorial.

    Dain Gingerelli

  6. 6 florencio taitano Mar 4th, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I too purchased a bike kit from CUSTOM CHROME in mid-2005. The kit was built by DWP CUSTOM MOTORCYLES in Riverside, ca. I rode my bike from mid- 2005 to mid- 2006 problem free. I then received a letter from DMV Ca. stating that my bike did not meet ca. emissions standards, my registration was then revoked. I contacted the bike builder [ DWP CUSTOM] and he said that he would take care of the emissions problem. One year later my registration was re-instated. I then was able to ride my bike until Jan. 2008. I received another letter from the DMV that now my bike was illegally built in the state of CA. and to turn in my registration & license plate. I contacted the bike shop owner Dan Patterson and he told me the state of ca. shut him down and that there was nothing he could do any further and that he filed for bankruptcy protection. He suggested that I contact CUSTOM CHROME. I did and was told that they were out of the motorcycle kit business and basically I was S—T out of luck! I have been trying for a year now to get my bike on the rode. Any suggestions or help would be appreciated.

  7. 7 Kirk Perry Mar 4th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    The only remedy explained to me in 2007 stems from the Democratic Rep. Moldenado (sic) who I was told is an old-car enthusiast, created a 500 person per year “cap” on emission-exempt vehicles (auto and motorcycles lumped into the same 500 person per year cap).

    This means that every year on the first business day of January, applicants camp out at the doorway of the DMV’s across the state, the day before. They have all their paperwork in hand and the DMV accepts all registrations. Once 500 permits are issued state wide, the registration is closed. Those who miss the first lucky 500 roundup have their registrations cancelled.
    You can’t build a kit out of state and bring it into California. There are 49 states that allow emissions exempt kit-builds. While we can’t help a kit-builder from California, we can contact and stay in touch with the AMA. They have a program designed to keep the existing niche for one-kit-per-person-per lifetime kit builds in the current EPA guidelines.
    The AMA is on the kit-builders side. Support the AMA and it’s effort to keep un-corked motors one the road.

  8. 8 florencio taitano Mar 4th, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    So basically there’s nothing i can do in ca. about my bike other than sell it out of state or chop it up.

  9. 9 Kirk Perry Mar 4th, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    It seems so, but an email to the AMA might give you a more up-to-date-answer. The AMA will respond quickly to your inquiry. Let us know if there’s anything new in the pipeline.

  10. 10 Kirk Perry Mar 4th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Here’s the info (excerpted from the original reply from Peter Norris at the AMA):

    Kirk –
    With regards to your specific question, currently there is a one-bike per lifetime exemption for non-EPA conforming emissions motorcycles. No other type of vehicle has this federal emissions exemption.

    As you cited, different states also have different standards, some more strict than the federal standard, as is the case in California.

    However, the federal exemption still stands and therefore, no legislation is needed at this time to protect the EPA exclusion.

    Please see original EPA exemption language below and feel free to contact me should you have any further questions/concerns.

    Best Regards,

    Peter G. Nonis
    rights. riding. racing.
    101 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
    Suite 800 West
    Washington, DC 20001
    202.742.4304 (f)

    G. Exemption for Motorcycle Kits and Custom Motorcycles

    During the rule-making we sought comment on the need for emission
    control requirements for motorcycle engines distinct and separate from
    the current and future requirements for complete motorcycles. We sought
    comment in this area because we had identified a small sector in the
    motorcycle market where the engine manufacturer and chassis
    manufacturer are not the same entity. This includes two very small
    parts of the market: one in which motorcycles are assembled by
    individuals from parts and sub-assemblies procured from motorcycle kit
    marketers or other separate sources; and another in which elaborate
    custom motorcycles are created for display by collectors. At this time,
    we are not including any certification requirements for engine
    manufacturers. See discussion in Chapter 1.5 of the Summary and
    Analysis of Comments. The small volume motorcycle manufacturers who
    purchase the vast majority of engines from other entities for
    incorporation into the motorcycles will continue to be subject to the
    regulations, and will continue to meet the requirements of the
    regulations, as they have in the past.
    However, for those individuals who put together a single motorcycle
    for individual use and businesses that produce a handful of custom
    motorcycles for display, we believe it is appropriate not to require
    these entities to have to certify their assembled vehicles. Therefore,
    we are promulgating provisions for two special exemptions. The first is
    a one-time exemption for any person building a motorcycle from a kit
    for individual use. We believe that the small benefit of having single
    individuals certify to the standards is outweighed by the substantial
    burden to these individuals in certifying. Moreover, because the
    engines in such kits generally are built by the same companies as those
    engines going to the small volume motorcycle manufacturers, who still
    must certify and who will represent the majority of the engine-makers’
    production, we believe that most of the engines will be the same or
    very similar to the engines used in the certified motorcycles.
    Individuals may not use this provision as a regulatory loophole to
    modify or customize a certified motorcycle in a manner which adversely
    affects emissions. This provision is limited to one motorcycle per
    individual over the life of the provision.
    In the case where the owner of the kit motorcycle is not the
    assembler of the motorcycle, the limitation of one motorcycle per
    person applies to the purchaser of the kit components of the
    motorcycle, who we expect is the end user of the motorcycle, rather
    than to the person or persons who actually assemble the motorcycle. A
    kit purchaser may have the kit assembled by another party and retain
    the one-time exemption for the motorcycle. In order to qualify for the
    exemption under these circumstances, the kit must be purchased by the
    ultimate owner before assembly begins. Parties or businesses who
    purchase kit motorcycles for assembly and retail sale are not covered
    by this exemption.
    The second exemption is a sales-limited exemption for elaborate
    custom motorcycles that are created for display by collectors. The
    chassis of these “display” motorcycles are usually unique designs,
    while the engines are either purchased from independent engine
    manufacturers or custom built from engine components. Current
    regulations in 40 CFR 85.1707 contain provisions which provide an
    exemption applicable for all motor vehicles and engines produced solely
    for display purposes. While these regulations are generally appropriate
    for display engines, certain aspects of the current custom-built
    motorcycle market make it appropriate to add a new provision applicable
    only to such motorcycles. (Kirk’s note: This 2nd expemtion is for “trailer queens” and not for Kit-Builders-are-Us people)…. In particular, because these motorcycles are
    often sold to collectors, the current exemption, which does not apply
    to engines that are sold, would not be applicable. Therefore, we are
    adding a limited exemption for custom manufacturers to sell a small
    number of these engines every year, with the conditions discussed
    below. It is our understanding that these motorcycles are rarely
    operated on public streets. Therefore, as a condition of this
    exemption, these motorcycles would be allowed to operate on public
    streets or highways only as necessary to the display purpose, such as
    traveling to and from motorcycle shows. No request for the exemption is
    necessary for motorcycles that will not be sold or leased. However,
    manufacturers planning to sell motorcycles for display under this
    exemption will be required to notify EPA of their intent before they
    sell any exempted motorcycles. They must also maintain sales records of
    exempted motorcycles for at least three years and make them available
    to EPA upon request. Sales under this exemption would be limited to
    less than 25 per year per manufacturer. Every motorcycle exempted under
    this provision must include a label that identifies the manufacturer
    and includes the following statement: THIS MOTORCYCLE IS EXEMPT FROM
    TO 40 CFR 86.407-78(c). We will generally allow manufacturers to locate
    the label where it will not detract from the appearance of the
    motorcycle. For example, We could allow the label to be located under
    the seat.
    As noted elsewhere, EPA may be revisiting several issues related to
    motorcycle standards in the context of the 2006 technology review and
    review of a possible World Motorcycle Test Cycle. One of the issues we
    may be reviewing at that time is whether it is appropriate to regulate
    motorcycle engine manufacturers or motorcycle kit manufacturers under
    the motorcycle regulations. If we agree to regulate loose engine sales
    at that time, these exemption provisions may no longer be necessary,
    since both kit builders and custom manufacturers would be able to
    purchase certified engines. Therefore, we may propose to remove or
    modify these provisions in the future.

    (Kirk’s note from an EPA telephone conversation): “The WMTC, if established in the future, would include the current one-kit-per-individual (emission exempt) standard now in place – and would be a set of standards that any state could adopt, for convenience, if they chose not to create their own standards”.

  11. 11 Kirk Perry Mar 4th, 2009 at 2:20 pm
  12. 12 Kirk Perry Mar 4th, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Sorry for the multiple posts, but I’m gathering information and can only cut and paste one page per post !
    Here’s the two exemptions : “Kit Bikes” and “Customs”
    2006 EPA language on the AMA site, search “Kit Bike Exemption” – for the 49 states.

    Kits: Under the regulations, a person is allowed only one kit motorcycle in their lifetime that is exempt from meeting EPA emissions requirements.

    Custom: For custom motorcycles, a builder may create and sell up to 24 bikes a year that don’t meet EPA emissions requirements, but those machines must be labeled as exempt and are show bikes that only rarely may be ridden.

  13. 13 Tom Oct 4th, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    I used to own a 76 honda chopper and never had a problem with getting it regerstered. what i found was that it was always listed as a 76 honda even though it was a full blown hardtail with really long forks. I think how they got away with it was to keep the original neck section with the serial number on it then weld in all the rest of the frame so it was still listed as a 76 honda. there was also something about the year 76 or older but i forgot why. If some one was to try this i would suggest that you use one that is non-opt or up to date on the paperwork. I do know that i never had any problems at dmv or even when i got pulled over which was quite often. went to court a few times , showed the judge photos of the bike never had a problem. cop tried to give me a ticket for modified exhaust of which i gave him a lecture about how pre76 exhaust was based on db …. ie sound level and not on the straight pipes which i had he let me go as to how much i knew about the code on bikes and as to the fact that i was nice about it…… i’m not saying this will work but….. being a biker is based alot on what you can get away with ie; the freedom to be free .

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