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1976 Honda XL175 AND 1976 Honda XL250
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Howdy! I'm a n00b!

Also, I can be long winded. LOL So feel free to skim or skip to the questions at the bottom. I just like to state things clearly, with details that may be relevant, and sometimes that can take some words! So apologies to those who prefer short snappy posts. Also the first few chunks of text are PURE fluff, but I'm stoked I just got some motorcycles!!!

So I just bought my first couple real bikes, and am loving it so far. One is a 1976 Honda XL175. That one is in pretty clean condition, running good, almost totally complete (missing a front blinker and one of the rear view mirrors), 6,000 odd original miles (I'm guessing since the ODO is still working), and has a lovely clean title. Sweet.

The other is a 1976 XL250. It's a bit less complete, cosmetically not as nice, but seems to rip pretty okay, and I think it will polish up to being as nice as I want it to be. Most of the issues with it are electrical, half of which may actually not be problems as I haven't even tried hooking up a good battery to it yet. Electrical is the one thing that doesn't scare me much from working on my cars over the years, so I'm not too worried, and it's all not NEEDED anyway for gettin' down and dirty.

Anyway, where I live The Man will let you ride any offroad/unregistered vehicle on all roads legally (it's a big spot for ATV/dirt bike tourism), except the freeway... But jurisdictions I might want to take a trip to won't, and being able to hop on the freeway for an exit or two would be cool, so I'd like to get them both registered and legal... But the XL250 has no title. The guy I got it from got it from a guy who pulled it out of a barn and got it running. When I learned that I thought "Pshh, it's easy to get titles, whatevs." Because I know about the various ways of getting lost titles already.

Then when I was looking at it I noticed the VIN plate was worn from a cable rubbing on it for who knows how many years. The shape of the wear makes it pretty obvious it was actually the cable that wore it down. You can read the first chunk, and maybe the last digit or so, but there's stuff missing in the middle. Lovely. Guy I'm buying it from has a ton of bikes, knows his stuff, and says they have codes on the engine that match/almost match the VIN that you can sub for the VIN. Sweet! It was getting dark, and I looked and saw some numbers, and called it good. When I went back to take a look later I see that the engine is missing some numbers too from what looks like a decades old gouge from hitting something. Not sweet.

Now I know what some people are probably thinking... "Stolen bike!" I'm 100% positive the guy I got it from didn't steal it, and I doubt the guy he got it from did either, as he supposedly only had the thing for a year or 2 after pulling it out of a barn. You can tell from the way the VIN plate is that was legitimate wear from the cable rubbing for eons, and the engine gouge is MANY years old judging from the way it's aged. That said, maybe it was jacked 30 years ago and somebody ground off those numbers, I really couldn't say. At this point I don't think there's any way to know, unless maybe I can find/reconstruct the proper VIN. Heck, if I can, and it magically pops up as stolen 30 years ago, I'll give the guy his friggin' bike back. It'd make a great YouTube video or something. LOL But really, I think it's just a dirty old beat up bike where nobody bothered to keep up on titling it properly, like a ton of other bikes. This one just happened to get beat up in inconvenient spots.

So, the VIN plate I can get XL250401 off of. That's just the typical stuff for the year, nothing identifying really. The engine has L250 E -1011, then there's a gouge that I can't even tell if it's removed numbers or not, there's enough unmarked metal (space between digits) there where it almost looks like there aren't supposed to be more numbers... But I assume there must have been because the XL175 has a longer number.

Question 1: Is there any other location on the bike that would have a VIN/serial number? I've read they were stamped on parts of the frames for some years, but couldn't really confirm they did that in 1976. I'm guessing not as they went to the tags, but maybe I'm in luck and they did somewhere. Even if they did a partial in some spot I may be able to complete the VIN between the tag and the other location.

Question 2: Is that even the correct motor? The XL175 starts with XL on the engine. Were they just lax about this stuff and XL250s just had an L instead of XL on the engine code or something? Or is it a swap from something else? If it is a swap, what's it from?

Question 3: Were some engine codes longer (like my XL175 which is the same length as the VIN/serial) and some shorter, like the XL250 may be if that is the full code I have... Or should it definitely be longer? The spacing reaaally looks like there almost shouldn't be another digit after that last 1.

Question 4: I read somewhere that the 10th digit is the year of manufacture, is that true? That actually jives with my XL175s VIN, so it would be nice to know. If so I believe that's a 5!

Question 5: I may be able to get 1 or 2 more digits off the VIN plate and engine with the old pencil and piece of paper trick... If I can get enough digits do those numbers combine in any way where I can reconstruct the full VIN? The 175 has ALMOST identical VIN plate and engine codes, but they're a few numbers apart, not identical, which is typical as I understand it. Which means you can't reconstruct the VIN for sure from a combo of the 2... But local DMV probably won't know this, and I may be able to register if I can satisfy them.

Final Ramblings: I'd really like to be able to get this legit registered without breaking any laws etc. The devious side of me already realized I could just "make up" a code by combining the last 1011 with the rest of the VIN (or some other approximately correct number), and use the apparently widely known register in Vermont trick with no VIN verification. But I could never transfer to Idaho as they do VIN inspections... Unless I ordered one of those reproduction VIN plates with the number I created. Odds of it clashing with an existing bike that's still registered are pretty slim, especially if I intentionally used a number that was out of their typical numbering procedure or something. But I really don't want to do that kind of thing unless it's the legit VIN number.

Another thing would be to buy a legit frame only (or just a legit VIN plate) and use that ones plate, but I've heard different things about the legality of that too. Is that legal or not without actually swapping frames?

Maybe I'm a sucker, but I want to avoid being shady. LOL If I can't get anything figured out this will just have to remain an unregistered bike for in my county I guess. Shoulda done better due diligence before buying, but the masochistic side of me kind of likes a challenge anyway! LOL

Hopefully some of you gurus can help me figure some stuff out!

XL175
66909


66910


XL250

66911
 

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Motorbike Macgyver
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393 Posts
There’s a difference between being detailed and being a long winded rambler. There is an unspoken etiquette on forums to keep posts as short as possible. Focusing on pertinent details and leaving out anything that’s not necessary will help a lot with that. I just want to give you that advice because I barely read any of your post at all, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who won’t read long posts. What I’m trying to say is, some of the people who could actually help you, probably won’t read your posts. I myself am definitely not an expert on bike registration. Every state is a little bit different, and what I know, I only just learned from registering my first bike. And that’s in my state. Your state is probably different. But remember, the vin might be more than one place, and if a bike has two different vins, that’s not legal.
 

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Secret Agent
2006 Honda CBR1000RR, 2008 Honda CRF230L, 2019 Honda CRF1000L
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In Kansas, the state highway patrol used to be the only place to do vehicle inspections, which is required vid the vehicle comes from out if states. Now a days, city PD and county sheriff can do it too.

My ex father in law was Kansas highway patrol, and some vehicles needed a new vin, he had the job of stamping new vin plates and fastening them to such vehicles. This could be a reproduced VIN, from a known VIN, or a completely new VIN.

I'd start there for information.
 

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I have a motorcycle that has my birthdate for the VIN and I was literally told to stamp it on the frame myself by MTO :LOL:

... to make a long story short the stealership absconded with my original VIN when they replaced my frame after an accident, returned my bike to me with no VIN stamp on a replacement BMW frame obtained from who know where,
and then built a motorcycle around my VIN which the sold several years later. I went to renew my plates one year and was informed my motorcycle has been sold twice the previous year :mad:
I had to fork out $ for a vehicle fitness certification and do the affidavit process to obtain an RBT # before I could purchase a plate that year. Needless to say I was not impressed.

&btw the engine serial # coincides with the VIN on some motorcycles, it did on my BMW ymmv. MTO does not care about any # other then the frame VIN which is totally stupid.
 

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1976 Honda XL175 AND 1976 Honda XL250
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
There’s a difference between being detailed and being a long winded rambler. There is an unspoken etiquette on forums to keep posts as short as possible. Focusing on pertinent details and leaving out anything that’s not necessary will help a lot with that. I just want to give you that advice because I barely read any of your post at all, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who won’t read long posts. What I’m trying to say is, some of the people who could actually help you, probably won’t read your posts. I myself am definitely not an expert on bike registration. Every state is a little bit different, and what I know, I only just learned from registering my first bike. And that’s in my state. Your state is probably different. But remember, the vin might be more than one place, and if a bike has two different vins, that’s not legal.
I know I can be a bit long winded when posting online, which is why I have the trigger warning and told people to skip to the questions if they didn't want the fluff! A lot of posts there's nowhere to put fluff is you want it, they're just straight forward no matter what. So it's not like every post I will make will be long, it's usually just with weird stuff that has a lot of "side" issues. I'm hoping the VIN is in more than one place, and I'm hoping somebody here knows where the alternate place might be as I've seen references on different years of Hondas having it in different spots.

In Kansas, the state highway patrol used to be the only place to do vehicle inspections, which is required vid the vehicle comes from out if states. Now a days, city PD and county sheriff can do it too.

My ex father in law was Kansas highway patrol, and some vehicles needed a new vin, he had the job of stamping new vin plates and fastening them to such vehicles. This could be a reproduced VIN, from a known VIN, or a completely new VIN.

I'd start there for information.
Yeah, in Idaho you can have an inspection done at DMV, or by some law enforcement agencies. Finding info on issuing a completely new VIN is scarce for ID, but it may be possible under the right circumstances. I want to verify I can't get the VIN from elsewhere before I do that though. That could be a last ditch effort thing to try though as long as it's through a legit process and not just faking my own new VIN with a replacement plate or something.

I have a motorcycle that has my birthdate for the VIN and I was literally told to stamp it on the frame myself by MTO :LOL:

... to make a long story short the stealership absconded with my original VIN when they replaced my frame after an accident, returned my bike to me with no VIN stamp on a replacement BMW frame obtained from who know where,
and then built a motorcycle around my VIN which the sold several years later. I went to renew my plates one year and was informed my motorcycle has been sold twice the previous year :mad:
I had to fork out $ for a vehicle fitness certification and do the affidavit process to obtain an RBT # before I could purchase a plate that year. Needless to say I was not impressed.

&btw the engine serial # coincides with the VIN on some motorcycles, it did on my BMW ymmv. MTO does not care about any # other then the frame VIN which is totally stupid.
That sounds like fun... Did you go raise hell with that dealership once you found out??? At least your new VIN is super custom :)



Sooooooo I found some more info when I was geeking out after posting this. The engine code DID start with an L, not an XL, on at least some other 1976 XL250s. That was confirmed by a database of old Vin/Engine codes I found. So that probably is original.

I also saw in passing some people mentioning that some Honda's did have VIN plates AND Frame Codes... Does anybody know where the frame code would be though on a 76? I didn't see anything exposed when the bike is ready to ride, so if there is one it's gotta be hidden somewhere. If there is one, do the frame codes ALWAYS coincide with the VIN, or is it just that it'll be in the ballpark like the engine code?

As I said above, I know there are shady and/or last ditch ways to get it registered if I really want to, but I'd like to exhaust all options for finding the real and true VIN first if I can.
 

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1976 Honda XL175 AND 1976 Honda XL250
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
So for future reference for anybody who might stumble across this in a google search after the same info, the the 1976 XL250's full VIN number is etched into the frame neck on the left hand side. It's kind of covered by cables etc which is why I missed it the first couple times even when I was specifically looking in that area! Doh! I figured it out by looking at frames only for sale on eBay, and a few showed the VIN there. It looks like they're there at least a few years before 1976, and for many years after, if not still there on new ones.

As for my specific problem, that area was of course a fair bit rusty! I definitively figured out a couple more of the digits, but there's 1 or 2 I haven't got between the 2 locations yet. I'm gonna try to clean that spot up so it's a little more legible and hopefully I'll be good to go! If it's too worn to read them after cleaning up I'm back to square one unless anybody knows of a 3rd spot they are on these old bikes!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Easy read and it will answer some of your questions ;)
Hi Trials. Yeah, I already knew a chunk of that type of info before any of this, and gave myself a crash course in a lot of other stuff after running into this issue. First, online VIN check things DO NOT work for pre 1981 VINs because they don't have the modern VIN format. So can't do anything there. I had an old Jaguar car before that was the same deal, so not surprised.

But the big problem is if I can't get the FULL original VIN at all. Then it comes down to either never being able to register and title it, or doing something shady like buying a 2nd frame and (I think illegally) swapping VINs, or just making up a plausible VIN and hoping there's not another out there with that VIN number! As I said earlier I want to avoid shady, so I'm hoping once I clean a bit of rust off the headstock area I can get a proper read of the full VIN... I almost got it! Only 2 digits to go! LOL
 

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Hi Trials. Yeah, I already knew a chunk of that type of info before any of this, and gave myself a crash course in a lot of other stuff after running into this issue. First, online VIN check things DO NOT work for pre 1981 VINs because they don't have the modern VIN format. So can't do anything there. I had an old Jaguar car before that was the same deal, so not surprised.

But the big problem is if I can't get the FULL original VIN at all. Then it comes down to either never being able to register and title it, or doing something shady like buying a 2nd frame and (I think illegally) swapping VINs, or just making up a plausible VIN and hoping there's not another out there with that VIN number! As I said earlier I want to avoid shady, so I'm hoping once I clean a bit of rust off the headstock area I can get a proper read of the full VIN... I almost got it! Only 2 digits to go! LOL
Can't be too illegal because a dealership did that to me once and got away with it. They built a motorcycle around my written off frame they purchased as scrap from the insurance company and assembled the bike from parts over a period of 7 years. You're not swapping vins if you swap frames, you are swapping the motorcycle title according to law here. MTO here don't give a hoot what the #'s on the engine say, just the frame.
 

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1976 Honda XL175 AND 1976 Honda XL250
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Can't be too illegal because a dealership did that to me once and got away with it. They built a motorcycle around my written off frame they purchased as scrap from the insurance company and assembled the bike from parts over a period of 7 years. You're not swapping vins if you swap frames, you are swapping the motorcycle title according to law here. MTO here don't give a hoot what the #'s on the engine say, just the frame.
Actually physically swapping the frames is what makes it legal. Which I suppose I could do if I'm happy with the way this bike is behaving otherwise... But just swapping the numbers on paperwork/maybe the VIN plate would be easier... And also illegal as far as I know. LOL Actually doing the physical swap of frames is what makes it all on the up and up.

Paying to have the swap done would probably be more expense than it's worth... And although I do like to tinker and figure things out, and I don't think swapping everything over is beyond what I could figure out if I want to, that might be a little more than I want to bite off in the near future. Just so many things I actually HAVE to do in life, doesn't leave a lot of time wasting spots in my schedule. But maybe if I put it off for a year or something! I've still got my fingers crossed I can read the stupid frame VIN after I clean off some rust. Maybe I'll try to do that tomorrow.
 

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American Legion Rider & sub-Administrator
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Actually physically swapping the frames is what makes it legal.
Just curious, couldn't you argue you just swapped engines? I know this has nothing to do with swapping the numbers but just the way that was stated prompt the question.
 
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1976 Honda XL175 AND 1976 Honda XL250
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Just curious, couldn't you argue you just swapped engines? I know this has nothing to do with swapping the numbers but just the way that was stated prompt the question.
As I understand it, it would basically be the same dif in the eyes of the law! Engine swap, frame swap, that would just be an alternate way of saying the same thing to them :)

For more random info, some of which I knew from cars but same applies to bikes, before the modern VIN system existed there were different ways of identifying a vehicle. Some companies put the serial number AKA VIN equivalent on the engine block itself, some on the frame, some matching on both. Depending on the vehicle in question either engine or frame serial number can be grandfathered in as being your VIN on your modern paperwork.

If you have an old bike (or car), you could probably pull a fast one and claim the engine number is the VIN and most DMV folks wouldn't know the dif, especially if a bike/car had no other obvious VIN equivalent on the frame. If it does have a VIN equivalent on the frame they tend to lean towards using that vs engine numbers. Perhaps they have a fancy list that says what numbers to use on different makes/models, but I doubt it.

It's a weird deal on the old vehicles. I had a Jag that got towed from a private parking lot once (Shoulda paid the parking fee instead of trying to skate for an hour! LOL) and the tow guy almost wouldn't let me have my car back because he thought the serial number/VIN on the car didn't match what was on the paperwork! We figured out they'd added a bunch of zeros at the beginning (or end, don't recall) to make it 17 digits and fit within the modern system.

As for my saga, I'm 99.9% sure I got the 2nd to last number after a bit of cleaning! The one before that I'm about 80% sure on... So I may call DOL (Who does DMV stuff in Washington state) and see if they ever had a bike registered with that number. If so that's probably my bike. In theory that one digit only gives me 10 options, so can probably work it out from there one way or another. Definitely going to check serials more thoroughly before I make another purchase in the future!
 

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The plate, and the stamped frame numbers are on the steering head. The engine number is on ---------- the engine.
They are different. The plate may show up missing. The stamped frame, on the steering head, even if rubbed, can be read with the correct gear. UK
 

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1976 Honda XL175 AND 1976 Honda XL250
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The plate, and the stamped frame numbers are on the steering head. The engine number is on ---------- the engine.
They are different. The plate may show up missing. The stamped frame, on the steering head, even if rubbed, can be read with the correct gear. UK
Howdy. When you say correct gear do you just mean like a magnifying glass and bright light? Or are there more exotic ways/specialty tools that shops or the police might have? I'm still only semi sure on that one digit, so if there are any clever tricks I might be able to do at home, even if I have to snag an item or two, I'd be interested to know.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Stereo microscope would work.
... most people don't have one, cops do.
Haha. I imagine it might help notice a few of the details!

I've just been using my naked eye since I have pretty good vision for up close... I'm wondering now if a magnifying glass might not help though. I should try that. Even noticing one little swoosh could make the difference between a 6 or an 8, which is my working theory for the final number from the bit I can make out. There's a curvy bit, but I don't think it's a 0 because it doesn't curve like the other 0s. There are no 6s or 8s in the rest of the VIN, so I can't tell the subtleties of how they should curve... I should actually look at the 6 on my XL175s frame and see how it curves too now that I'm thinking about it, because it's probably the same and might answer the question too. I'm starting to feel like a forensic detective or something a little bit... LOL
 
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