Is Wisconsin up to more anti-hobbyist vehicle legislation?

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We have been hearing stories of Wisconsin hobbyists having their collector plates "yanked" by the state and other threats against the hobby, including a rules that apparently states a hobby vehicle that receives an engine transplant is required to have OBD III (on-board diagnostic) computer equipment. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation's website has not been updated to show any of this information and we have not been able to confirm any of these instances, although rumors still circulate. This story from Curt Rymkus contains the most information I have seen, and so it is posted here for the information of the old-car hobby in Wisconsin:


Submitted by Curt Rymkus

I have been in contact with the Legislative Laison from the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles.

I received an email posted as “REGARDING REGISTRATION OF NONSTANDARD VEHICLES” from the Legislative Laison. The email states, “in absence of Trans 123, the Departments current process for reviewing title and registration applications for certain HOBBYIST VEHICLES has a number of shortcomings. It requires great deal of case by case involvement by DMV staff, and places a lot of discretion in the hands of department personnel. The rules are not sufficiently available or transparent to citizens. THE DEPARTMENT NEEDS TO REMEDY THIS SITUATION”.

Although Trans 123 has been withdrawn, the typically acceptable method for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation “TO REMEDY A SITUATION” is thru new legislation or create a new administrative rule.

The Legislative Laison’s email displays the attitude that WisDOT considers nonstandard vehicles and hobbyist vehicles as the same type of vehicle.

During my personal phone discussion with the Legislative Laison, it was stated that, although Trans 123 has been withdrawn, new legislation or new administrative rule is being considered by WisDOT, it just won’t be called Trans 123.

On the premise that WisDOT is planning to create new legislation for the titling and registration of non-standard vehicles, I expect the legislation to be in conflict with the interests of owners of older vehicles.

There will be a meeting with the Legislative Laison in the near future.


Within WisDOT and based on their past proposed legislation, generally, a non-standard vehicle is a vehicle manufactured before January 1, 1968. These vehicles are termed non-standard because they did not have to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards(FMVSS).

A non-standard vehicle also includes a vehicle that does not display a certification label from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration(NHTSA). Generally, most vehicles manufactured before 1967 do not display an NHTSA certification label.

I feel confident stating that, at least 75% of the people reading this article, own one or more vehicles that, meet the definition of nonstandard.


For the people that, have title and license plates for your nonstandard vehicle, your title and license plates can be revoked by WisDMV, at anytime.

This titleing and registration issue started in 2007, because WisDMV pulled the title and license plates from a Wisconsin residents 1976 vehicle. The vehicle had been titled and licensed for two years. In 2007, WisDMV declared his vehicle as nonstandard. The vehicle owner took the matter to court. The court ruled that the WisDOT was wrong. Regardless of the court’s ruling, WisDMV attempted to pull registration from the owners of other alleged nonstandard vehicles. Subsequent court proceedings and appeals ruled in favor of the owners of the alleged nonstandard vehicles.

WisDOT’s lost the legal fights because of WisDOT’s misinterpretation, misapplication and ignoring Wisconsin State Statutes and Administrative Rule regarding vehicle registration. To remedy the situation, WisDOT then created Trans123. That legislation, favorable to WisDOT, would have allowed WisDOT to refuse registration to nonstandard vehicles and avoid legal entanglements. 

Currently, WisDMV is continuing to hold up new registration applications for vehicles that WisDOT terms nonstandard. WisDMV has begun to hold up and refuse to register some applications for “HOBBYIST” license plates and applications for “street modified” and “replica vehicle titles.

For the people that are applying for a “street modified” or “replica” title, you will be subject to WisDMV’s continued incorrect interpretation and incorrect application of current Wisconsin State Statute and Administrative Rule, regarding the titleing and registration process.

For the people applying for “HOBBYIST” plates, you will be subject to WisDMV’s

continued incorrect interpretation and incorrect application of current Wisconsin State Statute and Administrative Rule, regarding the titleing and registration process.
Prior to WisDMV’s incorrect application of Wisconsin’s State Statutes and

Administrative Rules, regarding vehicle registration, there were minimal to no processing problems.


Contact your legislators and inform them that, WisDOT and WisDMV are threatening your hobby and threatening your right to drive your special vehicle on the roads of Wisconsin. Also,inform your legislator that, WisDOT and WisDMV are not properly applying or interpreting Wisconsin State Statutes and the Administrative Code, regarding the processing of vehicle title and registration applications. Ask your legislator to look into the situation and inform you of his findings.

With all the problems that, the legislators are having in Madison, now, they may not be quick to respond.

Contact, directly, the office of the Secretary of Transportation, Mark Gottlieb and inform him of the threat to your hobby and WisDOT/DMV's incorrect interpretation of Wisconsin Statutes and Administrative Code, regarding the processing of vehicle title and registration applications.

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