Frequently on the many camper Facebook pages of which I am a member (stop laughing, they’re awesome), someone will post a forlorn request asking about the process to obtain a title on their newly purchased vehicle that did not come with one. And each and every time, it takes all the power in my being not to yell “RUN, RUN LIKE THE WIND.” Partially because no one is usually here to hear me, and partially because it wouldn’t do any good. It wouldn’t have done any good if someone had yelled at me. In fact, many people tried to dissuade me from the procedure after the fact, but it’s too late by then. Money has exchanged hands. Bonds have formed. And there is that cute little camper you’ve been dreaming about for so long, sitting in your driveway, looking forlorn and title-less. So you have to forge ahead.
5 months ago today, I purchased my sweet Gracie from the SWSNBN (Seller Who Shall Not Be Named). And today, FINALLY, I have the end of the title story to tell.
If you would like to review or catch up, you can read all about the start of our title journey with this post here. It’s ok. I’ll wait. Go ahead…
You back? Ok, then…
Where we last left our hero (me), I was sadly lamenting not being able to get the title and plates in time for ReggaeFest. p.s. ReggaeFest was awesome. In July when I scheduled the appointment for the salvage inspection, the next closest date was in September. So we waited. And I really thought that would be a breeze, and we would cruise on out of there with inspection papers in hand, ready to proceed to Step 6 of the 9 step title process for this county.
OH NOOOOO. That would have been too easy. So our saga continues.
As September 7 loomed closer, I got increasingly nervous. I hadn’t pulled Gracie since the day I brought her home, so I wasn’t sure exactly how this was going to go. The State Highway Patrol Inspection site is on the other side of town, which means either going on the freeway at high rates of speed, or through town with stops and starts and traffic. Yikes!
To prepare, I borrowed Mark’s van for the holiday weekend and had a few days to practice hooking up, driving around, and backing in. That was exceedingly helpful. Plus, I got these cute little tennis ball thingies that makes hooking up to the hitch AMAZINGLY easy. If you have to hook up stuff, you need these. I’m a pro at the backing up and hitching now.
Then I drove her over to the elementary school parking lot nearby and practiced backing in and out of spaces for about an hour. I am NOT a pro at this, but at least I started to feel a little better about it. Sort of.
The day of the inspection, I opted for the freeway route as it meant less starting and stopping and running into people. Google maps says it is 19 miles from here to there, but it seemed like 100. Traffic. Cars. Lane changes. Why do lanes suddenly become exit only anyway?? I practically had heart palpitations by the time we got there. But we arrived.
I circled the parking lot and pulled up against the fence as instructed (no backing in, whew!) and went inside. My first indication that something was wrong was the woman behind the counter who asked to see the title. “Well, that’s the problem. I’m here for an inspection because there is no title. I need someone to verify and run the VIN number so I can move on with the court order process.” She gave me the prerequisite incredulous stare. And asked for my notorized bill of sale. Which I don’t have.
Oh, didn’t we talk about that yet? Yeah, so, the day we exchanged cash for camper, the SWSNBN (Seller Who Shall Not Be Named) said he would put a receipt in the camper. And of course, when I went to pick her up, it wasn’t there. He forgot. No big deal. He said he would drop one in the mail. No big deal. But it never came. For the last 4 months I have been exchanging text messages with the *(&%$)(& who kept insisting he would get it to me, and never did. I offered to come pick it up. I told him I needed it to get the title. I even threatened to sue him in small claims court for my money back if he didn’t get me the receipt, which I was really hoping he wouldn’t push me on because I’m kind of attached over here and I did not want to surrender the camper. My last text message from him on September 27 was that he had just dropped it in the mail. Guess what? I still don’t have it.
Anyway, back to September 7…
The woman behind the desk handed the paperwork to an older gentleman who does the inspections. They went outside together to look her over while I waited. She came back in.
Her: Where is the VIN number?
Me: It’s on the inside of the front door, right in the center of the door.
Her: That’s the serial number. It needs to have a VIN number.
Me: It doesn’t. It only has the serial number you see and the model number right above it.
Her: It has to have at least 2 numbers we can verify.
Me: It never had 2 numbers.
Her: It has to have a VIN number. (I’m getting a little weary of this line, at this point.)
Me: But it doesn’t. And it never did. What are my options then?
Her: You’ll probably have to scrap it.
Me: (…blank stare while trying not to cry…)
Just then the other guy came back in and basically repeated the same conversation. He said he could not give me the form I need to proceed without a 17 digit VIN number (Gracie’s serial number has 6 digits) and he had no further advice for me. Dead end.
I was devastated. I left there a mess and drove Gracie back home.
But by the time I got home, I wasn’t just a mess anymore. I was PISSED. I did not come all this way to be stymied by a couple of nay-sayers behind a desk. I wanted answers. And I wanted them immediately.
I started by contacting the High Camper Guru, Tim Heinz. Tim confirmed for me that Trotwood campers only had the model and serial numbers displayed prominently on the inside of the door. While other manufacturers put theirs in various and sometimes hidden locations, Trotwood was trying to make it easy on us. Plus, and most importantly, VIN NUMBERS WEREN’T INVENTED NATIONALLY UNTIL 1981. Prior to that, every manufacturer had their own system for cataloging their product, and almost none of them had 17 numbers. Now I’m on fire. How could the guy responsible for doing inspections on vehicles not know about vehicle inspection numbers??? Are you telling me that’s the first pre-1981 vehicle he’s ever seen?
First, I emailed both my state senator and state representatives. (By the way, I did get a call back the next day from State Sen. Jim Hughes’ office. Nice lady.) Then I got back on the phone with the Title Office. SOMEBODY there has to be familiar with vintage vehicles. A really sympathetic man listened to my whole sob story and whole-heartedly agreed. There must be another way. He linked his supervisor in on the call. She, also, was understanding, and explained that they get vehicles in their office all the time with less than the 17 digit number. She had no explanation for why I was told that. They gave me the number of the head of the State Highway Patrol Anti-Theft Unit, who run the inspection stations. Sgt. Timothy Root. So I left him a message.
The next day, I got a call back from Sgt. Root, who offered to come out to the house to inspect Gracie personally, so that I wouldn’t have to bring her back down. We set an appointment for a couple of days later. The day of the appointment, he showed up on time and with a smile. We opened the door, he took one look at the engraved serial number plate on the inside of the door and said, “Oh yeah, that’s a Trotwood plate. No problem.”
Apparently, what the guy at the inspection site did not tell me, is that he suspected the plate had been tampered with, and he did not want to pass the camper. But he never said that. He just gave me that lame excuse about the VIN number. Had I not been persistent, that might have been the end of the story. But clearly, they didn’t count on me.
Sgt. Root apologized for the mix-up, explaining that civilians had recently taken over those duties, and clearly, there was some additional training necessary. But he had no concerns over the serial number and would write up the documentation on the form I needed for the court-order, if I could just give him a couple of days. Um… yes! I mean, we’ve come this far. What’s a few more days.
The following week he stopped by with the much anticipated HP-106 form, signed and notorized by him. I LOVE THIS GUY. Sgt. Tim Root, you get my vote for Gracie hero of the week.
And then, because I was still dealing with that whole receipt nonsense, I asked him what I should do about that. I was hoping he would offer to go rattle the guy’s chain. Instead, he said “Nothing good ever comes out of Pataskala. Ever.” And took my copies of the lengthy text messages between me and SWSNBN, so that he could draft a statement regarding the missing receipt and ownership of the camper. Which he delivered a week later. Can you say “above and beyond?” He also told me that every time he left my house, he recovered 2 stolen cars, so Gracie was his good luck charm. Win-win! Swing by anytime.
SO… now I have all the required documents. All that is left is filing the court documents and appearing before the Judge.
That brings us all the way up to today. (Are you still with me?) In addition to all the paperwork I have accumulated and the court documents, I also have to bring a statement as to how I became in ownership of the camper, and any supporting documentation.
Here is the letter I wrote to the Judge on Gracie’s behalf…
Franklin County Court of Common Pleas
On May 12, 2016, I responded to a Craigslist posting for a 1960 Trotwood camper in Pataskala, immediately contacting the owner to see it. The next day, I met with him and paid $600 cash for the camper. The seller, Chris Taylor, told me the title had been long lost before he even owned it, but stated that I could “just get a replacement title.” I know now that that isn’t quite the case. The weekend of May 27, 2016, I moved the camper to my house in Powell and have been working on its restoration ever since.
Mr. Turner told me he would put a receipt for the cash payment inside the camper, but when I went to pick it up, a receipt was not present. I have continued to ask for the receipt, and despite his assurances on 5 different occasions that he would provide one to me by mail, he has not done so. I have offered to come pick it up, but to no avail. A copy of every text message in our correspondence is available if you would like to see it. I have also worked with Sgt. Timothy Root of the State Highway Patrol on this issue, and his letter regarding my ownership of the camper is provided.
During these 4 months, I have obtained insurance on the camper, and I’ve begun the repairs needed to start getting it back into usable condition (removed walls and mold, replaced framing and wiring, put in new insulation, new walls and new exterior lighting). I’ve also worked diligently to obtain every item in the 9 step Court Ordered Title packet provided. Sgt. Tim Root from the Ohio State Highway Patrol has inspected the serial number plate personally and provided the necessary paperwork showing it has not been stolen.
This camper means a lot to me. I don’t know if you are a vintage camper enthusiast, but Trotwood campers were made in Trotwood, Ohio, outside of Dayton from 1932 until 1981 when the factory burned down. I feel as though I am preserving a part of Ohio history with this renovation. Having spent summers in my grandparents’ camper at Lake Berlin, there is a lot of nostalgia tied up in this for me.
I bought Gracie (yes, that’s her name) as a 50th birthday present to myself, and have spent the last 4 months challenging myself with new skills and lessons in patience, as I have tackled this renovation completely on my own. I have photos of the restoration process, if you would like to see them. My next goal is to strip, paint and seal the exterior before putting it in storage for the winter. Then in the spring, once the last of the interior upgrades are finished, I have many plans with friends and family to get her out on the road and into the woods. Assuming, of course, that you grant my request for a title, so that I can get it registered for Ohio license plates.
I would greatly appreciate your authorization to obtain the title for this 1960 Trotwood Camper.
Thank you very much for your consideration of this request.
Not exactly concise (have I ever been?) but a few tugs on the heart strings couldn’t hurt, right?
This morning, I rounded up all my paperwork in triplicate per the packet instructions and headed downtown. Step 6 of 9 is filing the motion with the Court of Common Pleas. Fairly routine, until the clerk hands me back the paperwork and says “Go to the 4th floor, to the end of the hall, and tell them you’re here to see Judge Sheeran.” Immediately, my hands start sweating.
To the 4th floor I go. The administrative office for Judge Sheeran is down a long hall, make a left, through a security door, down another hall and make a right. I just pretend I know what I’m doing. There is another woman ahead of me who must work for some repo company, because she and the admin seem to know each other as they run through documents for the 3 vehicles she brought in. And then it’s my turn.
The admin, Kim, I think, checks through all my paperwork, reorganizes and shuffles, reads my statement and giggles. “That’s cute.” I take that as a good sign. But the Judge is finishing up some other issues and I have to wait.
After about 20 minutes, Kim gets up with my paperwork in hand and says she will be right back. 5 minutes later, she returns WITH A SIGNED JUDGMENT ENTRY. I never even got to see or thank Judge Sheeran. But his signature on that bottom line was what we have all been waiting for these past 5 months. He says I can have her. No one can take her away from me now. SWSNBN be damned.
I practically skipped back to the first floor to have the judgment entry filed by the deputy clerk (Step 8). I was tempted to take her picture, but I figured they might frown on photos in the court building, so I controlled myself. She handed me back a copy of the entry and said I was done. Done! Just go to the Title Office to have the certificate issued!
I went straight there so as not to lose any juju.
The funny part about all of this is watching anyone who has to process any of this paperwork look quizzically as I hand everything over. Apparently, this doesn’t happen every day. Again, at the Title Office, the clerk was unsure what to do, how to proceed, and it took consultation with 2 additional persons to get everything in order. “There isn’t an existing title? Where did you get it? You don’t drive it?” But then there it was. The title. With my name on it. All official and everything. I almost cried. “Does everyone get as excited about getting their title as I am today?” No, I was assured.
A walk next door to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, while staring at my freshly printed title, another line to stand in, some more confusion about what is happening, and then they hand me the license plate.
That’s it. We did it. Exactly 5 months to the day I bought Gracie, I now officially own her and we are together at last.
And just so you know, I was so elated to hold those items in my hand that I didn’t even yell “In your face, Franklin County!”
Let the celebrating begin.