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Old 07-31-2003, 02:28 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 3

I tried researching this in the Ca DMV site, but no real luck.

When/how do you register a DIY conversion as a motorhome? Are there specific requirements for equipment/#axles/weight that need to be met, and where to find them? Can a private individual do this, or do you need to be a "business" in order to re-classify the truck?

Thanks for the help

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Old 07-31-2003, 04:57 PM   #2
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 42

From the California Vehicle Code:

Web site:

Definitions ...

House Car
362. A "house car" is a motor vehicle originally designed, or permanently altered, and equipped for human habitation, or to which a camper has been permanently attached. A motor vehicle to which a camper has been temporarily attached is not a house car except that, for the purposes of Division 11 (commencing with Section 21000) and Division 12 (commencing with Section 24000), a motor vehicle equipped with a camper having an axle that is designed to support a portion of the weight of the camper unit shall be considered a three-axle house car regardless of the method of attachment or manner of registration. A house car shall not be deemed to be a motortruck.

Amended Ch. 875, Stats. 1968. Effective November 13, 1968.

First-Stage and Second-Stage Manufacturer, Defined
11930. As used in this chapter:

(a) "First-stage manufacturer" with reference to a housecar means the manufacturer of the engine, chassis, and drive train of the vehicle.

(b) "Second-stage manufacturer" means the installer of the structure and equipment permanently upon the engine, chassis, and drive train of the vehicle rendering the vehicle complete and suitable for human habitation and ready for delivery to the dealer or the buyer.

Added Ch. 853, Stats. 1980. Effective January 1, 1981.

Motor Truck
410. A "motor truck" or "motortruck" is a motor vehicle designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.

Remanufactured Vehicle
507.5. A "remanufactured vehicle" is a vehicle that has been constructed by a licensed remanufacturer and consists of any used or reconditioned integral parts, including, but not limited to, frame, engine, transmission, axles, brakes, or suspension. Remanufactured vehicles may be sold under a distinctive trade name. An existing vehicle which is incidently repaired, restored, or modified by replacing or adding parts or accessories is not a remanufactured vehicle.

[This message was edited by SandCarFan on July 31, 2003 at 08:05 PM.]

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Old 07-31-2003, 07:20 PM   #3
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Kingman AZ.
Posts: 59

Have just been discussing this very subject on a Busnut group. Here are some references that one of the guys posted about California.

See for definition of a "Housecar" ie motorhome. Note that it says "Permanately altered".
California 2003 Vehicle code is at

For reciprocity agreement see

The main thing to remember is that as far as the MVD is concerned, what you are registering is a MOTORHOME. Do not refer to it as a truck or tractor or whatever. Only a motorhome. The MVD should be able to give you a list of the minimum requirements that make up a motorhome or "Housecar" as they call them in California.

Weight is another subject that does vary from State to State. In Arizona, we have the 26,000 lb max on a standard operator' license and as long as it registered as a motorhome, it doesn't have to comply to that weight limit. Other States require endorsements for vehicles over the 26,000 limit, best to check the above references and also the Californisa Statutes for any further info you require.

No restriction on axles on motorhomes and any individual can change the use of the vehicle by making sure it conforms to the format you wish to change it to and taking it to an inspector at the MVD or other applicable place.

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Old 08-01-2003, 01:26 PM   #4
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Thanks for the info guys. I'll have to pay a visit to the DMV and find someone that can give me the requirements for "human habitation".
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Old 08-01-2003, 08:19 PM   #5
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Location: Columbus, Michigan
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Good luck
I dread the trips to the DMV.
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Old 08-01-2003, 09:10 PM   #6
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Two of my Volvo conversions have been registered as motorhomes in the State of California. Both were 610 Volvos converted to single rear axle. Each Volvo contained a bed, a microwave and a refrigerator. The original factory hitch was still on bot units at time of registration. Its not easy, but it can be done.

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Old 08-01-2003, 09:16 PM   #7
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by onezman:

Two of my Volvo conversions have been registered as motorhomes in the State of California. Both were 610 Volvos converted to single rear axle. Each Volvo contained a bed, a microwave and a refrigerator. The original factory hitch was still on both units at time of registration. It's not easy, but it can be done.

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Old 08-04-2003, 11:04 AM   #8
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Default about not reading enough before I asked! I hadn't even noticed the "build your own" section, never mind the "Larry Ziegler" section of this forum. There was more than enough info on there.

Larry, you have an awesome amount of info about all of this. Are you turning this into a full time business? Sounds to me like you ought to. My purchase is several months away, at least. I'm in research mode for now. I'm thinking when the time comes I'll probably just call you up and get one of those sweet Volvos.

Thanks again!!
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Old 08-05-2003, 06:41 AM   #9
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Location: Gilmer,TX. USA
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Charger, don't forget to check out all the good info that is available on the Escapees web site. Look under the MDT forum -- also there is a Search available to hunt just about anything re: MDT/Class 8 Conversions.

Note: not taking anything away from this site; just my attempt in helping someone gain more information from another source. I would have sent email direct to Charger, but no address is listed.

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Old 08-09-2003, 11:21 PM   #10
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Yorba Linda, CA, USA
Posts: 35

Good luck trying to obtain a list from the DMV. I contacted the head office in Sacramento and discovered there is such a list in the DMV manual but they refused to give me a copy. A supervisor told me DMV policy dictates that the list is not for distribution to the general public and therefore DMV employees are not allowed to give out copies. When I asked him how the public can be expected to comply with the requirements if not allowed to see them, I got the typical DMV broken record response where he repeated what he had just told me. That means you will need to find someone in a DMV office who is either unaware of the policy or is willing to break the rules and hand it out. Most often the counter people are unwilling to go out on a limb so they call in a supervisor who proceeds to quote DMV policy for the umteenth time. However, in the L.A. Times article about Mr. Emanuele's battle with the DMV which was reprinted in this forum ( and (, I noticed that the California DMV is a member of the American Assn. of Motor Vehicle Administrators and that the list of criteria for a motorhome from the Association sounds just like the list the DMV employee in Sacramento read to me from the manual. If so, I'm sure the Association will be less stingy about giving out a copy. Be aware, however, that DMV policy is not binding law in the same way that a statute or a regulation is. It is a guideline that may be persuasive but only becomes binding law when a Ca. Appellate Court or the Ca. Supreme Court says it is and that has not happened yet. That goes both ways, i.e. technically you don't have to follow the list but even if you do everything on the list, the DMV may still deny you a registration. Although I have not read the case since it is at the trial court level and therefore unlikely to be published, the article indicated that the real concern of the DMV was that Mr. Emanuele's truck was designed to be a tractor and since it retained its 5th wheel its purpose had not changed despite its conversion to a motorhome. Although VC 362 does not specifically say that, note that it also does not include an exception for a house car not to be deemed a truck tractor as it does for a motortruck. The DMV can and may have argued that if the legislature had intended to exclude a truck tractor in the statute it would have done so and the omission is evidence of legislative intent not to exclude truck tractors as part of this exception. Since it is not clear, it is ultimately up to a judge to decide on a case-by-case basis until an upper court decision comes down. Since taking the DMV to court is a hit or miss proposition at best and certain to be expensive, the best course is probably to follow Larry's (and others) lead and go to various DMV offices until one goes along with the motorhome registration. To that end, since the 5th wheel seems to be the main point of contention, geof's suggestion to remove it and add it back on later may be a good one since there is no statue or regulation specifically prohibiting its addition after you have secured the registration (technically, one might be better off starting with a straight truck since you can then argue that it was never designed to be a tractor in the first place). Note that the definition specifies designed and used, not designed or used.

VC 655. "Truck tractor"

(a) A "truck tractor" is a motor vehicle designed and used primarily for drawing other vehicles and not so constructed as to carry a load, other than a part of the weight of the vehicle and the load so drawn. As used in this section, "load" does not include items carried on the truck tractor in conjunction with the operation of the vehicle if the load carrying space for these items does not exceed 34 square feet.

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