Robert Cook and his wife Jenny pose with his 1934 Ford at Sonic Drive-in Submitted photo

Danedri Thompson
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When Robert Cook, Gardner, went to the Johnson County Department of Motor Vehicles to tag a 1934 Ford in 2007, he went to the window, showed his vehicle title and insurance information.
The Kansas tag that reads “antique.”
Now it appears his truck may be illegally tagged, but not through his own error.
“When I bought this truck it had a Kansas Title. I had insurance and bill of sale,” he said. “They gave me the tag.”
According to state statute, an antique vehicle is any vehicle more than 35 years old. Cook’s vehicle meets that standard.
However, according to a state trooper who pulled Cook over Memorial Day weekend, antique tags only belong on cars that haven’t been significantly modified. A state trooper handbook also suggests that antique tags only belong on vehicles that haven’t been significantly modified. State troopers enforce state statute, but no one at the Department of Revenue or with the Highway Patrol could point to a statute that requires antique vehicles be original.
Cook’s 1934 Ford truck obviously has modifications. It’s painted a flashy purple and white with a flat bed back end that didn’t come out of the Ford factory. Other upgrades include things necessary to make the car street legal like seat belts and turn signals.
No one asked Cook any questions about modifications to the truck at the motor vehicle office.
“They didn’t examine the car. They didn’t give me a colonoscopy,” he said. “I went in and bought a license plate and that’s what they sold me. They didn’t throw me in a chair and hook me to electrodes and start beating a confession out of me. They evidently have been doing it wrong and as we stand here and talk, they’re still doing it wrong.”
State Highway Patrol Technical Trooper Howard Dickinson said part of the disconnect is that in-state vehicles aren’t required to undergo inspections. The staff at the motor vehicles office don’t have all the proper information, he explained.
“They are basically just secretaries or accountants or pencil pushers,” Dickinson said. “They’re not going to have all of the proper information.”
The disconnect translated into a frightening warning on the side of the highway outside of Louisburg for Cook.
When he was pulled over Memorial Day weekend, the trooper told him the antique tag was defrauding the Kansas Department of Revenue. The warning, he told Cook, would be put in the computer and if Cook didn’t get it taken care of, he could be arrested and his car impounded the next time he was pulled over.
Cook went to the county DMV immediately. He was met with confusion.
DMV staff asked what he wanted them to do about his antique tag. Cook gave staff his warning ticket and information.
“She goes in the back and talks to someone,” Cook said. “She was there for quite awhile…She comes back and she said the guy in back is going to have to do some research on what to do and how to do it.”
She suggested that a new tag would require re-titling the vehicle including inspections, title searches and all. That could take a significant amount of time for DMV employees, who are already swamped, as well as an expense for the owners of the 124,000 cars tagged as antiques in Kansas. Cook owns seven of them.
“It sounds like the guy just kind of slipped through the cracks,” Dickinson said.
Cook, for his part, just wants the process straightened out with limited expense and without wasting his time.
“Doesn’t the DMV have enough problems without having all the street cars in Kansas come in and be re-titled?” he said. “I assume if you want to go back 10 years, do you have any idea how many vehicles are (tagged) wrong?”