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Worshrag’s rebuilt car title saga, part I

The Statute of Limitations now applying, the time has come to tell the convoluted, gut-wrenching, ethically and legally murky tale of our quest to obtain a clear Pennsylvania title for Worshrag’s rebuilt Honda Fit.

“Rebuilt” is the key word here. This tiny automobile, which might be classed among the motorcycles were it not for the two additional wheels, had, sometime in its previous life in the blissfully inspection-free State of Ohio, been wrecked to an extent that it was deemed no longer to exist as a motor vehicle. A “rebuilder” had claimed the carcass from a scrapyard, and in Dr. Frankenstein fashion reassembled a complete Honda Fit from the various body parts of other less fortunate Honda Fits, and breathed life into it, and it was good.

Worshrag had set his mind on a small car for reasons of economy. A Honda Fit fit that description perfectly, able to run for hours on a few thimblefuls of gasoline. We somewhat arbitrarily set our buyer price ceiling at $9,000.

In the Miller clan, when one of us is in need of a new car – “new” only in the sense of “new to us” – the whole family joins in the hunt, sniffing out internet leads and venturing out en masse (the male members) to participate in test drives. We would gaze augustly into the engine compartment (“looks like a sewing machine,” one said) and inquire impotently whether the dealer might do better than the $9,995 sticker price. “No,” was the quick, universal and accepted answer.

The internet finally yielded up a Honda Fit fitting the profile at a price of $7,000, but it was four hours away in woodsy central Pennsylvania. I was the one who made the call.

“It’s a rebuilt,” the private party owner offered up front. “It has never given us a problem.” The reason for selling was that he and his wife had found a newer Honda Fit, also a rebuilt, with fewer miles.

“Our son’s first car, an Alero, was a rebuilt,” I told the seller confidently. “We’re not afraid of rebuilts.”

We should have been.

THERE WAS ONE MORE $9,995 used Honda Fit to check out before committing to the full day it would take in travel for a look at the rebuilt. If you are going to drive four hours to look at a car, you plan to buy the car. Everyone involved knows that. It means that all other possibilities have been examined and rejected, and nothing short of finding a funeral wreath in the car’s back seat (which is a story for another day) will deter the buyer.

The last local car we wanted to look was at a Pennsylvania dealership. It was just what Worshrag wanted. I tried to dicker, thinking I could use the rebuilt’s $7,000 price as leverage.

“Buy a rebuilt?!!” the dealership man said, recoiling in horror. “You don’t know! You just don’t know!” He clutched at our hands as if to pull us back from the brink. “A rebuilt car has a rebuilt title -You must beware!”

That rattled me but I put on a brave face. “Ha-ha,” I said, or words to that effect, acting like he was joking.

He persisted even as we departed, a blind soothsayer trying to warn Caesar of the Ides of March, shouting as we pulled off the lot: “Beware! The curse will follow it alwaaaaays!”

WE FOUND THE SELLERS of the rebuilt Honda to be a friendly late-Hippie couple living in an unconventional home off a gravel county road, so far out in the boonies that it had been a full half-hour since we passed a Dollar General. Gee, they could have been us.

They lived not all that far from the Pennsylvania college at which Worsh, a strength coach, was working at the time.

The car ran fine. Worshrag drove it, liked it, pronounced himself satisfied. As we prepared to head for the local Pennsylvania state licensing agent to witness the sale and transfer the title into his name, the soothsayer’s warning about a rebuilt title came back to me.

“You said you bought the car in Ohio. Did you have any trouble transferring the title to PA?” I asked.

They shook their heads. “No problem at all,” the man said. “Otherwise I don’t think we’d be planning to buy another one.”

At the state licensing agency we hit our first roadblock, but it had nothing to do with the car being a rebuilt.

The agent informed us we could not title the car in Worshrag’s name in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because he did not possess a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license. Being a typical 20-something, Worshrag was tardy in keeping his car and driver’s license up to date as he moved from job to job after college.

The only solution coming to mind was to list Honey and me as buyers. We would title the car in West Virginia when we got home, then re-title it in Pennsylvania in Worshrag’s name after he changed over his license. Nothing to it.

That decision set in train a nightmare series of events none of us will ever forget. . . .

(Next week: Worshrag’s rebuilt car title saga, part II)

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