Law & Order

Texas DMV Issues Implementation Policy for Street Rod and Custom Vehicle Law; Contains Major Flaw

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has issued its policies and procedures for issuance of titles and specialty license plates to vehicle owners seeking registration as street rods or custom vehicles. The policy also provides for a basic safety equipment inspection to be performed by an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) master technician. These procedures were drafted pursuant to the 2011 enactment into law of SEMA-model legislation. 

Originally slated to go into effect September 1, 2011, the new law defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom as an altered vehicle at least 25 years old and manufactured after 1948. The law also allows for the use of non-original materials and creates a titling and registration criterion that assigns these vehicles the same model-year designation as the production vehicle they most closely resemble. In addition, the law only holds street rods, customs and replicas to the equipment standards specified by law during the model year listed on the title of the vehicle.

Unfortunately, due to a flawed interpretation of the law by the DMV, all vehicles seeking registration as street rods and custom vehicles must carry a title with a “Replica” brand—even those vehicles altered from original steel bodies. According to the DMV, any changes to that policy must be provided to the agency through amendments to the law. SEMA is currently in the process of contacting members of the Texas Legislature to seek additional legislation to correct this flaw. The Texas legislature does not meet for a regular 2012 session, requiring legislation to be introduced in 2013. In the meantime, the new polices should accommodate owners of replica street rods and custom vehicles.

The DMV’s Policy and Procedure bulletin, in addition to frequently asked questions (FAQs) document and license plate application form, is available on the Texas DMV's website. The application and FAQs are listed as "attachments" below the subject line.  

For more information, contact Steve McDonald at