View Full Version : Where do car titles go ?

olly hondro
03-01-2016, 11:36 AM
As I look for a Thunderbird in a state of semi-disrepair, I find listings that read " No engine". OK, that's fine. "No transmission" I can deal with that. "No title". No thank you. How is it that a vehicle has a title all it's life, now it doesn't ? I don't get that.

03-01-2016, 11:54 AM
Most the time folks just lose em, Or they bot the car for parts and never needed to update it.
Here in Okla. i believe you can still get a title thru a Rebuilders statement not sure how that works also There is whats called a tittle 42

03-01-2016, 12:00 PM
There are lots of states that didn't have titles back then. They had transferable registrations. If the car sat unused the registration was usually not renewed and as years went by states purged their old records and any proof of ownership was gone. Also many titles were just lost as owners passed away and cars sat abandoned. As states go to electronic titling it's not an issue any more but years ago everything was paper and searching for a lost title was almost impossible.


olly hondro
03-01-2016, 04:50 PM
Oooh, that's interesting. Without the title, or equivalent ownership document, there is no way to know that the seller is authorized to sell it. Curious. Thanks,


03-01-2016, 07:25 PM
Alex, I'm with you and so is Michigan. No title, no sale.

We had an example of a Squarebird with 'home made' VIN numbers and the Data Plate was missing. Hmmmmm...

Further, the car was titled as a 1959 but the rear tail light sheet metal was clearly made as a 1960, with three openings. So, somebody hacked that into two openings. Hmmmmm....

The grille was a '59 and the rest of the car was made to look like a '59. Now, I have heard of folks who made their car look NEWER (for obvious resale reasons) but I never heard of making a car look a year OLDER.

To me, this was a clear case of careful manipulation for purposes of deception. The car didn't look anything like it did from the factory, to the original owner. In fact, he would never ID the car as his.

So... when was it done? Fifty years ago? I'm sure all those records from 1960 are long gone, as John pointed out. Police reports are gone, insurance records are gone and so are DMV records. Possibly, the original owner is gone, too.

We encourage all our members to register their Squarebird with the registry. That way a history can be found for your car and you are identified as the current owner. - Dave

03-02-2016, 05:39 PM
I believe the Latin saying is Caveat Emptor. "Buyer Beware"

In 1994 I bought my Thunderbird as a 59 w/o a title in CA. The lady said she had the title in KC, MO but she needed to sell the bird before she could move back to KC. She wanted $1000 for the bird. I gave her $500 with the condition she'd mail me the title when she got back to KC. I'd then send her another $500. I wrote that all up in the Bill of Sale which she signed and I had notarized. I never heard another word from her.

I soon found out the Bird was a 58 with a 59 front grill. All else was 58. So I re-titled it with the state of CA as a 58. I had to find the title owner which turned out to be the a man in CA who had sold it to the lady's husband. We filled out a "lost title" app and a bill of sale to me. I was then able to transfer the title to me with a change app to register the bird as a 58.

As a general rule one does not ever stand in a DMV line in CA because the lines are way too long always. I was a AAA member and AAA does title work, so they basically walked me thru the whole process in short order.

I have done basically the same process in MN twice, once for a 65 Mustang and most recently with a 48 Dodge Panel Van. The toughest part is always to find the person whose name was last on the title. Years ago State agencies would not only give you the name, but also the last known address. Now days privacy and protection does not allow the State to give contact info. I got lucky with the 48 Dodge thru a simple Google Search. The State provided me with the name and Google revealed about 100 such names thru out the country. Turned out the first name I tried 12 miles away was the lady on the title. She had claimed that the Van was stolen 11 years previously from her deceased husband and she wanted the vehicle back. But the statute of limitations in MN is 7 years. The short of a long story was that I gave her $100 to sign the title over to me.

Fortunately these experiences all worked out for me, but buyer beware as you could be getting yourself into a jamb with the last known title owner.

03-17-2016, 05:54 PM
If you happen to find a car without a title that's too good to pass up, many states will allow you to post a surety bond to get a new title.

The way it usually works is the DMV will determine from its own price guides the value of the car and the bond is often 1 1/2 times the value and you buy a three year bond.

At worst, you pay a couple of hundred for the bond.

There are a couple of things you can do to check if a car is stolen.

Call your local police auto theft department. They can run the VIN and see what comes up.

You can also run the VIN through the National Insurance Crime Bureau:


olly hondro
03-30-2016, 01:52 PM
OK. I imagine there are inspection hurdles to jump along with getting a bond approved. There is a rocketbird in poor condition at Three Points AZ, but no title. Will think about it some more. No hurry. I cannot decide between squarebird and rocketbird anymore, so may have to get one of each :)

03-30-2016, 09:59 PM
OK. I imagine there are inspection hurdles to jump along with getting a bond approved. There is a rocketbird in poor condition at Three Points AZ, but no title. Will think about it some more. No hurry. I cannot decide between squarebird and rocketbird anymore, so may have to get one of each :)


Here's the AZ statute:


And here's the affidavit that you'd have to submit along with any documentation that you get from the seller:


03-30-2016, 10:27 PM
Now that's some Neighborly Love! And people from the MidWest think we're rude in AZ...

Olly Hondro, get the Squarebird!

olly hondro
04-09-2016, 11:14 AM
Thanks for the links, and yes, Squarebird it is. A '58 is most interesting to me, only because it was manufactured the same year I was :)

04-09-2016, 11:27 AM
Alexander, the '58 Squarebird was the least produced of all three years of production. Because they got a late start in producing it. It is more rare than a '59 or '60. The '58 Convertible is even rarer with only 2,134 being made.. The '58 also has a unique situation regarding it's rear end. It has coil springs instead of leaf springs. Some of our members have replaced that rear end set up with leaf springs. I do not think it is an easy change to do, but it can be done. Here is some information regarding the '58 Squarebird that you might want to check out.


Reading through the various links on this website will give you a lot of information regarding this old Bird...

olly hondro
04-19-2016, 09:30 PM
That is an interesting article, thank you. A coil sprung '58 would be a nice find, for sure.

06-18-2016, 10:21 AM
I have had some experience with title work in Texas. Doing a Department of Public Safety search on a vehicle here (to see if it was reported stolen) doesn't buy you much. I bought a vehicle from the original owner, but it had not been registered in about 15 years. He applied for a duplicate title but there was no record for the vehicle in the "system." Turns out when Texas went digital recent but non-current vehicle registrations were not entered into the system. Luckily I managed my way through this and got a clear title. I wouldn't gamble on a bonded title.

06-18-2016, 11:07 AM
I know this is rare but I have the original bill of sale for my '55. If the car was stolen, I doubt he would also have this document. Of course, I'm not the original owner but the Bill of Sale could help your state track the vehicle.

Now you know why we have a registry. If your car is not on it I suggest you register your VIN now. - Dave

Dan Leavens
06-19-2016, 10:19 AM
Dave very good point about the need to register your TBird in the TBird regsistry on our site.
For those who haven't yet you can locate the TBird registry that John Rotella maintains in the TRL section of our site.

Happy Fathers Day to all and hope you enjoy your day:D

06-19-2016, 02:42 PM
I would not risk more than a few hundred dollars on a car without a title but I would gladly pay a few hundred for an old T-Bird without a title.