Have you ever dreamed about driving a NASCAR vehicle? You’d look pretty unique heading down Main Street in a Toyota, Ford, or Chevrolet capable of doing some 200-mph. But as we know, these race cars are not street legal. You couldn’t take a NASCAR vehicle directly from the track and drive it on the road. But why?
The cars that NASCAR drivers use aren’t street legal for a number of reasons, but does that mean you couldn’t take one and modify it to become street legal? In today’s blog, we are going to try and answer this question.
For those wanting to know, the good news is that it is absolutely possible to make a NASCAR street legal. It requires satisfying a list of requirements that are needed for any vehicle before you can title and register it with the DMV (or equivalent in your home state in the US). The main components in need of change will be the tires, seat belts, and steering wheel. At the same time, other components will need to be added, such as a muffler, proper horn, new brakes, headlight, taillights, reflectors, and possibly a vehicle identification number (VIN).
As we mentioned above, the first important step to making a NASCAR vehicle street legal is ensuring that it has all the proper equipment that other regular passenger cars have. If you are in the US, specific rules and requirements vary from state to state, but there is a common core of requirements that tend to be shared by all states. These say that every car should have:
- Working seat belts for driver and any passenger seats that are installed
- Two working front headlights
- Two working rear brake lights and taillights
- Front and rear turn signals
- Reverse lights
- License plate lights
- Rearview mirrors: one interior mirror, and two exterior (driver and passenger side)
- Four tires that meet Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements
- A round steering wheel that meets DOT standards
- A functioning horn
- A working set of brakes with brake pad thickness no less than ⅛ of an inch (3.2mm)
- A set of reflectors
- A working muffler, and catalytic converter
Using available data, we’ve generated the following table to predict the cost of these modifications to a NASCAR vehicle. The car itself might cost anywhere from $20,000 and up, but you might get a good deal on something that needed additional repair or maintenance as well as the changes we’ve described above. As for the individual modifications, our estimates are below:
|Modification||Est. Cost (Parts and Labor)|
|Seat belts||$80-250 each|
|Headlights||$400 each (lowest estimate)|
|Brake lights and taillights||$200-300 each (lowest estimate)|
|Front and rear turn signals||$110 each|
|Reverse lights||$120 each (if more than one)|
|License plate lights||$100|
|Rearview mirrors||$140-330 each|
|Tires||$300-1,000 each depending on type|
|Brakes||$800 (lowest estimate)|
|Reflectors||$5-400 depending on style|
Estimate Source: Jerry Insurance, Tirebuyer.com, CarParts.com, and others
All of this means you’d need a pretty decent budget to complete this project, and the somewhat bad news is that sourcing and modifying the cars is actually the relatively easy part. Things can get very difficult indeed if you happen to live in a high-population state that has strict rules about customized vehicles, namely: California, New York, and Texas. We’ll cover that in the next section.
In some situations, registration of a modified NASCAR can be surprisingly easy. For example, in the state of Vermont, no vehicle older than 15 years has to have its own title as modern cars do. An alternative can be issued by the state, which you can (in theory) then transfer to use in other states where it can be tricky to register outright, such as nearby New York state. However, this clearly doesn’t apply to most people. If you’re living in California or Texas, it doesn’t make much sense to register/title your NASCAR vehicle in Vermont!
The main problem one would have in those stricter states we mentioned is that a heavily modified vehicle like this would mandate a very thorough inspection before it could be sanctioned, and even if you’re confident in the quality of work you have done, it is very unlikely that it could pass the state’s stringent requirements. This is because they tend to view such vehicles as a never-ending “work in progress”. When the attitude is that the car is never truly finished, getting it recognized as a street-legal vehicle is very difficult.
When it comes to registration, another issue also arises when it comes to the vehicle identification number, or VIN for short. If a car was manufactured specifically for use in NASCAR, then it likely won’t have a VIN, but it still should have a chassis number. If you have the chassis number, and the bill of sale to prove that you own the vehicle, then registration is still possible, and it’s even possible a new VIN could be obtained.
There have been examples of people making their NASCARs street legal, and then later even putting them up for sale. One such instance was shown on Carthrottle.com where a resident of Alabama was selling his modified NASCAR for $21,000. It appears to have undergone major mechanical transformation, including the replacement of the original monster NASCAR engine with a more conventional Chevy 5.3L V8 unit.
His story shows that with enough determination, money and hard work — as well as the bonus factor of living in a more permissive state when it comes to automotive matters — it can be done. If you are interested in undertaking such a project, ensure that you have made yourself fully aware of all your own state’s rules and regulations on these matters. This will save you from wasting your time and money, and perhaps even from getting embroiled in a difficult legal matter!