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Old 02-28-2012, 12:03 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Posts: 19
Default bumper legalities?

hi guys --

i was wondering if the typical sterling-family car setup, with no metal bumpers, passes inspection in most places. i've seen a lot of pics of these cars, and aside from the (i think) fake bumpers on some cimbrias & sebrings, there aren't usually any bumpers. i'd guess that most people think that the cars generally look far better without them, at least in the front. i sure do.

i've seen things in various posts about how certain OEM bumpers could possibly be cobbled into working on one of these cars, but the majority out there seem to be lacking true bumpers.

so how do all these bumperless cars pass inspection? i live in michigan, and the requirements clearly call for bumpers. yet, when i owned my old wreck-of-a-sterling that i bought for $200 while in college here in 1988, hoping (futilely, of course) to restore it, the crashed front end clearly never even had a bumper to begin with. so i'm confused.

do cops or inspectors just kind of assume that any vaguely-bumperish-looking bodywork-protrusion on the front or rear end of a car constitutes a legal bumper? or are bumpers not required to be metal? or strong?

i know that the advent of hidden bumpers & the eggcrate energy-absorption plastic bumpers has probably muddied the waters a lot. i was surprised a while back to see how little metal there actually is in a modern bumper nowadays.

are sterlings basically just kinda "getting away with it," because the majority remain titled as vw's & never actually get inspected after kit-car conversion?

and, lastly, has anyone ever heard of an owner building something akin to a bumper onto the frame, but inside the bodywork? i noticed that, on dave aliberti's website, the plan-view drawing of his custom tube frame for the sterling has something that looks like that in the front.
i assume it's the kind of thing where, in an accident, the front end of the fiberglass would get wrecked, but you'd at least maybe not die. but there'd be no 5-mph light-bump protection from that setup.

anyway -- just wondering how there are legally so many bumperless cars of this family out there.
sorry for the long-windedness.


drew j.
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Old 02-28-2012, 01:31 PM
letterman7's Avatar
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Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Downingtown, PA
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It's going to vary from state to state. You'll need to find out from your DMV a) how the car is going to be titled and registered and b) what the required equipment is for said title.

Here in PA you now cannot register a VW based kit or dune buggy as a Volkswagen. It has to be re-titled as a 'special construction' which has some loopholes that allows most fiberglass kit cars to avoid the bumper issue. And a lot comes down to who does the inspection and how they feel that day. If you have a 1x1 piece of square tube in front of the beam that poses for an "internal" bumper, you may get away with it... or not.

Talk to other kit and dune buggy owners near you and see how they have their vehicles registered. It's the only way you'll get the correct information.
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