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Old 12-29-2015, 11:34 PM   #1
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Missing title, missing VIN in Texas.

I'm looking for my first Airstream in Texas and I finally found one that's the size, condition, and price I want, BUT there are issues...

First, the trailer is titled, but has not been registered in over 10 years, and the title holder and title are long gone (At least I don't know who they are or how to track them down). I was told that the title is in the name of the seller's old neighbors, and that it was lost and previously sold via bill of sale. I called the DMV, and while they won't give me much info, they said the title is in the name of a business in a different city in Texas than the city the neighbors where supposed to have lived in when it was last registered. It's currently located in a rural area and has obviously been parked and unused for a long time, so I can see how it could have been sold and no one took the time to keep the title or registration up-to-date. I can also see how it might have been stolen at some point or some other sketchy scenario. I spoke to the DMV in the small town where it's located and was told they issue bonded titles in cases like this all the time and it's not a big deal. The person I spoke to at the DMV in my city said it's not possible, but I'm guessing she just doesn't have experience with it. A representative from TXDot also said it was possible, but she doesn't recommend it.

Second, I can handle going through the bonded title process, but the plate with the VIN near the door is missing and the rivets have been replaced. So it was probably intentional, but again, I don't know why? I was able to get the VIN from the DMV, but I have to prove it's on the vehicle to get a bonded title, which it is not. Does anyone know where else it might be located if the plate was simply damaged and replaced at some point?

There is a 6 digit number etched on a plate on the body and on the tongue, but it doesn't seem to be related to the VIN. Anyone know what it might be and if it could help track down any info?

Any other advice or experience with this? Has anyone ever gone through this process and been rejected, and if so, what were the road blocks. I've seen a lot of posts from people that wouldn't do it and from people who've successfully transferred the title, but none that couldn't get the title and what happened to the vehicle in this case.

I know I should run, but it's the perfect airstream for me, and it's close by. I'm willing to put in a little more effort to get a title if it's possible.

Thanks in advance for any input.


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Old 12-29-2015, 11:45 PM   #2
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The VIN # should be stamped on the tongue and that is what they go by here in California where the DMV has a form for any situation. The plate riveted to the body had the VIN and the axle capacities and it's suspicious that it's gone. Maybe you could do a lien sale kind of thing after you store it on your land for a few years. A legal owner can pop up and cause problems if it was stolen so I'd investigate as well as you can and it should be a bargain price to take a risk. Leland

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Old 12-29-2015, 11:51 PM   #3
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If this is a mid-60s to late-70s trailer, the total serial number is 8 alphanumeric digits, if it's earlier than mid-60s perhaps the number on the tongue just omits the beginning and trailing letters?

Are you saying you HAVE the VIN on some other paperwork like an old registration document but don't have the title? Or the DMV looked up the serial number from a license plate that's still on the trailer? The number stamped on the tongue should bear at least some relation to the VIN that the DMV has. On my '75 Argosy it's the same number that's on the serial number plate and on my title.

Is the trailer very cheap? Bonded titles aren't a big deal but there's a small risk involved. If the trailer has been sitting around for a lot of years, that risk gets smaller. What year is the trailer supposed to be? (if you have a photo, post it. Sometimes sellers think a trailer is from a different era than it really is, for example.)

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Old 12-30-2015, 12:06 AM   #4
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Thanks for the replies. It's a 1964. Were VIN numbers stamped on the tongue then? The exterior is in really great condition, expect the tongue is rusted, so it may be hard to find, but I haven't checked yet. I got the VIN from the DMV based on the old plates that are still on the trailer. The VIN is way different than the 6 digit number. I'm not really concerned about getting a bonded title because of how long ago it was registered, but I have to provide a photo of the VIN on the vehicle or a statement that it is there. I don't want to lie about it being there and then screw myself on the title if it's ever inspected. There's also a process to get the VIN restamped, but I believe the legal owner has to request this, and the DMV probably doesn't consider the current owner the legal owner.
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Old 12-30-2015, 12:14 AM   #5
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Also, Does anyone know if the DMV would have known if it was reported stolen or is that something that wouldn't surface until I apply for a bonded title?
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Old 12-30-2015, 04:36 AM   #6
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Vehicles built prior to 1981 do not have VINs. If you insist on a VIN for that trailer, you are going to cause yourself even more trouble. The SERIAL NUMBER should be on the name plate near the main door, and should be 8 characters. That is all there is, there is no VIN. Never had one, never will.
As for it being reported stolen, call your local or state police department, give them the serial number and license plate number, and see if it comes up stolen. It may not come up if it has been a long, long time since being reported, and not show up immediately. That's one purpose of the bond. I would avoid performing any work to the trailer, or spending any money on it, until you are sure it is yours.
Since you say the DMV shows the trailer belongs to a company, and it isn't the person selling it, or the person the seller says owns it, I would stop right there, and run away.
Red flag: no title.
Red flag #2: Person selling says it belongs to a neighbor, but it really belongs to someone other than the neighbor.
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Old 12-30-2015, 05:33 AM   #7
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The license plate could be fior any trailer. People put any old tag on to make it look legal. Info from the tag registration could not be relevant to the trailer it's on. Stolen trailers are often found with tags belonging to other trailers. Not to say this one is stolen, just saying the license plate may not be the correct one. Many people who just want to move a trailer will put any tag laying around to move it, doesn't draw attention like having no tag would. Hope you get this straight.
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Old 12-30-2015, 06:18 AM   #8
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To do list:

Just thinking - I understand the temptation BUT....

Search function here - Google - search for "stolen"
Here is just one as an example.

ON EDIT - go to page five of this thread - see if the story is familiar

If your search locates something that sounds or looks suspiciously like the stolen trailer - well do the right thing and contact the poster. With luck she/he will have bought a new trailer and then it's simply a matter of getting the insurance company or old owner to sell the trailer to you.

Second: Take lots of pictures of the unit. You may not want to post all of the pictures here - or the location - since others might be tempted to scoop up your find - but if you PM someone like Overlander63 or Frank Yensan, who are both on the east coast and respectively work at an Airstream dealer/has his own restoration shop, and wouldn't be tempted, either might be able to give you the year and model and be able to tell you if the VIN does exist on the tongue.
Also look for "ghost numbers" on the front and rear center panels over the windows. As you may know, WBCCI members traditionally put their membership numbers on that panel in red - using plastic numbers that stick to the aluminum. Even if the numbers have been removed and all the old glue is gone, the ghost of those numbers will remain due to difference in sun exposure on the aluminum. Anyone with old WBCCI directories can look up former and current users of that membership number. Might take you right to the real owner, or at least to someone who can tell you who he sold it to... and so on.

Third: Call the police and give them the whole story.

Fourth: (optional) Call the business that is reported to own the trailer's license plate - and with luck you may find that the plate does go with the trailer and that they DID sell the trailer - verified with your pictures of the trailer.

Fifth: do a background check on the people who are trying to sell you the trailer. When we hire we start by checking their social networking posts and by checking the local court case history files which are both public records here in Virginia. Google the seller's ADDRESS - many real estate sites show who owns a home and for how long. (Smelling rodent droppings IN an Airstream is a BAD sign. Smelling rodent droppings around the seller is WORSE.)

Sixth: say to yourself "if it looks too good to be true, it probably IS."

Seventh: If you do decide to go the bonded title route after ascertaining that you've got a "mystery trailer" - then follow the advice to store it without spending any money on it until the title has been CLEARED. (Unfortunately you might lose "the pink cloud" of excitement about finding your "precious" while this is happening.)

Last - it is truly funny how often you start finding other available trailers - usually about 3 days after you've blown all of your money on a trailer. I've got about 9 I've seen in the last 2 months. And I bought a 10 meter Avion earlier this year.

Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 12-30-2015, 06:38 AM   #9
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Not your job

I have dealt with registering Airstreams without paperwork several in Texas. It has not been a major problem. BUT....I don't like the fact that the door plate has been removed and rivets placed in the old holes. Your Airstream never had a tongue number.....its registration number was on a plate riveted on the exterior, beside the door. I would say that the owner now should do All the paperwork chasing BEFORE you buy. Then both of you go get the title transferred. This whole story is stinky to me.
Put a few photos up in this posting for folks to look at and see if it "rings a bell" somewhere. Good luck.
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Old 12-30-2015, 07:39 AM   #10
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If the interior is in original shape you can probably confirm the SN of the trailer by looking at the underside of drawers and the countertops. Most of the time these components were pencil 'marked' with the last 4 digits of the trailers SN when they were built.
Hi Ho Silver RV! Vernon, Sarah, Mac the Border Collie -
A honkin' long 34' named AlumaTherapy
and a 26' '63 Overlander, Dolly
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Old 12-30-2015, 11:03 AM   #11
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Thanks again for all the responses and suggestions!

Just to clarify, when I say VIN, I mean the serial number. It's the same in Texas and what is on the existing title. I'll need to prove it's visible on the trailer if I go through the bonded title process.

I agree with everyone who said the license may not even belong to this airstream, but I'm not sure how to confirm without a visible serial number. This trailer has the bathroom fixtures, bathroom wardrobe/medicine cabinet, the wardrobe outside the bathroom, and the upper cabinet by the entry door, but everything else has been removed. I'm going by there today to see if I can find the serial number anywhere.

I want to have the local police inspect it, but they may not be able to determine if it's stolen or not without the serial number either.

I have attached a photo of the exterior, a close up of where the plate used to be, and the two plates with the 6-digit number I'm unsure about. I wonder if the 6-digit number is a reissued VIN from Texas or another state? Does anyone recognize this type of plate or numbering system? If you are able to identify potential owners from this number, please message me privately, and don't post someone's personal info on the public forum.

I would love to reach out to the last titled owner, but I can't get that info. All I know is that the last titled owner is a business and the city they are located in. It's crazy that anyone can look up real estate owners' names and addresses online, but same this info on a travel trailer is so heavily guarded. I'll look closed for a ghosted WBBCI number when I head out there today to see if that gets me anywhere. Anyone have any other idea's how to track down the title holder?

Again, I know I should probably run, but I'm going to put a little more effort into trying to figure out if it's legit. Or maybe I'll end up helping someone find their stolen airstream. Either outcome is okay with me. If it turns out the business sold it to the neighbor who never titled and registered it because they are in the country and just had it parked, that's an okay history to me. The price isn't amazing, but it's good, and I don't have to deal with shipping and inspecting an airstream across the country. At the end of the day, it's a perfectly good airstream wasting away in a field, and I'd like to save it as long as it doesn't belong to someone else. Based on the interior condition, I'd say it hasn't been used in a very long time, and if it was stolen at some point, it probably happened quite a while ago and is no longer missed.
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Old 12-30-2015, 11:08 AM   #12
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Also, I have a lot more photos if they would help anything, but don't want to post them all on here. PM me if you have any ideas of things to check in the other photos or when I go by later.
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Old 12-30-2015, 11:10 AM   #13
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Just to add my two cents worth, when years have gone by without registration on a trailer, the tag may mean nothing. If the DMV has that tag registered to a 1964 Airstream, then it is very likely the right tag and you can have some degree of reliance on it. If you dig a bit deeper at the DMV, you my find that the tag is for a different trailer.
- Because the trailer is pre-VIN, a bill of sale from the previous owner and a bonded title combined with a due-dilligance check of DMV and DPS records to determine if it was ever reported stolen are a good start. The remaining difficulty is that the trailer may have been stolen at some point from another state!
- IMHO the most likely reason for all of this is a very common behavior in rural Texas. Many rural folks have one license tag they use for multiple trailers, and commonly do not renew that tag for a decade or more. In many cases the trailer is only going to be on the highway for short distances and short periods of time, so the chances of getting caught are minimal as long as there is a license tag of some kind on the trailer. If you check with your county tax-assessor/collector you will find that registration of recently bought trailers with only a bill of sale and no previous registration and title is not at all uncommon. The key, again, is if the license tag was registered to the same make, model, and year trailer as what you are actually purchasing.

Once you have run, and documented in writing, all the checks on the providence of the trailer, presuming you find nothing, there is very, very little chance that someone will come after you. Frankly, since the trailer has no VIN, it would be extremely difficult for someone to show that they once owned that particular trailer years ago.

Once you get the state to issue a title, the trailer is yours and the burden of proof is on anyone who wants to claim it. If the tag matches the trailer, then you must buy it from the last registrant, in this case the company that supposedly owned the trailer.

For the final word on this go to: TxDMV.GOV - Bought a vehicle without a title?
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Old 12-30-2015, 11:16 AM   #14
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This post shows the last 4 digits of my trailers S/N written under the kitchen counter top.

On edit - your photos indicate it's a 1964.

Hi Ho Silver RV! Vernon, Sarah, Mac the Border Collie -
A honkin' long 34' named AlumaTherapy
and a 26' '63 Overlander, Dolly
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