Registering the Car and First Drive

Its been a busy week with the car, and I probably should’ve written a couple of posts over the coarse of the week, but better late than never. As the last post said, the car was basically done last week, as far as getting it registered is concerned. The goal for this week, if possible, was to get a VIN number for the car, perhaps get it registered, and maybe even get a chance to get a first drive in. My parents are here this weekend, and getting a first drive in would be a nice coincidence, as they were here the day I picked up the kit, the first time the body went on and would be here for its first drive.

Some of the people who are following my build may have already read the story of this week elsewhere, and we’ll get to it, but I’ll start at the beginning of the week, when I was getting my VIN number.

Last week I decided that this was the best week for getting a VIN number for the car. The only day I can do it down here is in Mondays, and I didn’t want to wait yet another week. There was both the possibility that I could drive the car with my parents here making this week the best option, as well as the fact that there is a foliage drive with the local Cobra guys in two weeks.

The process for getting a VIN number in New Hampshire is pretty straightforward — you just bring the major receipts for the car in question with the car in question to one of a few state inspection stations at a designated time. The closest one is open every Monday a few miles from my house, at a truck scales area off I93.  Last week I reserved a UHaul trailer for Monday so I could bring it there.

I was hoping a trailer would be available in town, unfortunately the closest one was the next town over, almost ten miles away. I was doing the VIN before work, and between a late pickup on the trailer and the distance to pick it up and drop it off, it was going to take longer than I was hoping.

Monday morning I left the house at about 7:30 and headed out with my truck to pick up the trailer. The drive was uneventful, with a quick stop in a Dunkin Donuts for some coffee. When I got the trailer back to the house, and got it backed into my driveway, I had to get the car up onto the trailer. This would’ve been easier with help, but I had to make do.

Unfortunately I discovered the car was too low for the trailer after I was already most of the way onto it, and scraped up the side pipes and the side pipe hangers a bit. Its hard to see even if I get right down on the ground, but I’m annoyed I had the problem. I don’t think it got through the ceramic coating, but until the car is up on stands again, I can’t really tell. I think it’ll be fine.

Once up on the trailer, and fighting the urge to be sick from nervousness, the car left my driveway for the first time, as I took back roads over to the highway. I got on 93N and drove at barely 55 as I worked my way up to the next exit to turn around and head back south to the scales. I stopped at one point to tighten down the wheel straps, but other than that the drive was uneventful.

The actual process of getting the VIN was uneventful, other than the fact that I stood in line for a good solid half hour before the woman at the office told me I didn’t need to stand in line. The two officers looked at my paperwork, verified I had the car with me, and issued me the VIN number. Unfortunately, I discovered after the fact, the officer issued me a 2009 VIN number, as opposed to everyone else I’ve spoken to recently who got a 1965 VIN.

The drive back home was uneventful, at least until I got into the driveway. I discovered I couldn’t get the engine to start to get the car off the trailer. After poking around a bit, I realized that I had run out of gas, and coincidentally, I’d been able to get the car onto the trailer before running out, but couldn’t even start the engine after that.

After putting a gallon of gas in, I could get the car into the garage, and rushed the trailer back to the UHaul place and got into work, two hours later than I wanted.

The rest of the week I spent investigating insurance options. There are a lot of them, and a lot of opinions about the best companies to use. The company I wanted to use was Midwest Classics, as they had the best policies but they didn’t write policies in New Hampshire. Part of the problem is that most of the specialty companies wrote agreed value policies that are VERY restrictive. Most of them amount to “you can park the car in your locked garage, you can drive the car on your way to a car show or event, and you can park it at the event, but nothing else”.

A lot of people use stated value policies from the big insurers, however they generally don’t understand what a stated value policy was. A stated value policy is essentially no different than a normal car policy, except the dollar value the policy is based on is a stated value from the insurance company, which typically is provided by the owner or an assessment. A stated value policy pays on claims the same as a normal car policy, meaning whatever the market value is. An agreed value policy pays out a mutually agreed to price, no matter what.

After having bad luck finding options, I e-mailed Midwest Classics as a last ditch option, just in case anything changed and they were doing New Hampshire now. As it turns out they were, and I was able to get a policy without the restrictions I was concerned about, but with an appropriate agreed value. I’m happy, and got the insurance bound on Friday morning.

Since the car was insured, I also wanted to get the plates taken care of. I had spent a bunch of time trying to come up with the appropriate vanity plate, and had a list when I went down to town hall. The process took longer than I wanted, and as a result of the officer giving me a 2009 VIN, I ended up with a 2009 registration, and the town had no interest in hearing that every other one I knew of this year was not registered that way. I’m not sure what options I have to correct it at this point, but I can deal with that potentially even in the spring.

With the temp plates in hand, and the car insured, it was time to take it for a test drive. Since my parents were here, I asked them to follow me in one of my other cars, just in case. That also allowed them to get some photos and video of it.

First things first, a video of me pulling into the street for the first time:

The drive itself… well, it was a bit of an adventure. As most of you who are following my build know, the car doesn’t have a key — its just RFID tag (like a Prius or other cars these days that just use a radio FOB). So, to start the drive I disarm the car, fire it right up, and pull out of my garage. After a pause, I start down the street.

My parents are following me in my Miata. After four miles of backroad driving, my (uncalibrated) gas gauge had gone down 3/4 of a tank. Since the gauge wasn’t calibrated, I had no idea if something was weird and I was getting 3mpg (only had two gallons in the car) or if the gauge was just being screwy, so I stop and get gas. I’m pumping gas, very happy to discover I don’t have any fill-neck flow problem, and close things up and get back in the car.

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Where. Are. The. Keys. Both key fobs and the keys for the hood/trunk were all clipped together and were not in the car anymore. My parents are there, my Dad is helping me look and my Mom is in the Miata trying not to laugh. Yeah, they definitely were not in the car.

As I was trying to figure out what to do, I looked to the sky, and a bank of near black clouds was rolling towards us, clearly getting ready to downpour. In a near panic at this point, I have my Dad wait at the car at the gas station, and my Mom and I take off retracing our route to see if I got lucky and can find them.

Back a couple miles, in the middle of the intersection of two major streets, there are the remotes. I must’ve dropped them on the transmission tunnel, not the passenger seat, and they went through the e-brake hole. I hop out and play Frogger running across the street to grab them. Crushed. The keys for the hood/trunk, gone. Thankfully, the LED on them still worked, so we haul it back to the gas station to get the car before it starts to pour.

I get to the gas station, and the remotes don’t do a damn thing. As I was sitting there getting ready to jump off a bridge, and watching the storm clouds continue to fly overhead, I tell my Mom to switch seats in the Miata and I flew back home to grab replacement remotes I happened to have (hoping maybe they were programmed correctly) and the bypass code (which I had no idea if worked with my controller, as I had replaced the controller a year ago and never tried it…)

My Dad, meanwhile (who can’t drive stick), managed to get one of the remotes to work once, and was able to get the car started. Thankfully I hadn’t left it in gear, because I’m sure he wouldn’t have known how to get it back out of gear.

My Mom and I haul it back to the gas station in the Miata (its four miles each way), and I jump out of the Miata, jump in the Cobra and book it back out of the parking lot, racing the rain. Ten minutes later I pull into the garage, just as it starts to drip outside.

And then, calling the company to get instructions how to program the new remotes without having the old ones, I find out the replacement ones I had weren’t the right ones anyway.

Meanwhile, my Dad was back at the same intersection, and playing Frogger in heavy traffic, he managed to find both of the trunk keys, so in the grand scheme of things there is no harm done except for the crushed remotes.

So the verdict? The heater valve is leaking a little. The engine is leaking oil (which I’ve known since the day I picked it up, just haven’t gotten it back down to Fortes to get it fixed). The car is insanely loud. Having none of the door trim sheet metal installed means it was a blast furnace driving the car. Its definitely too low, I rub on bumps. I have the advance wiring disconnected so the car won’t go over 3500RPM and is definitely down on power.

But holy h-e-double-hockey sticks, what a blast to drive.

Thats the only drive I’ve done so far. I may do another tomorrow, but my next steps are to get the car back up on jack stands, make sure everything is still holding together now that I have ten miles on it, lube things again, and try to deal again with the oil and coolant leaks. I also need to get the timing controller hooked back up and do some engine tuning now. I should have plates this week or early next week, and I’ll hopefully get the car inspected as well.