The state government got its first Y2K surprise months early when owners of 2000 model cars and trucks received titles identifying their new vehicles as "horseless carriages."

Despite millions of dollars spent to ensure state computers are ready for the year 2000, computers in the secretary of state's office got confused over the 2000 model year designation.

The case demonstrates the problems that can occur when computers misread the year 2000 as the year 1900, which is what happened in the secretary of state's office.

Because the computer read the model year as 1900, the titles were printed with the "horseless carriage" designation used for vintage vehicles produced before 1916, said Secretary of State Dan A. Gwadosky, whose office oversees licensing and registration of vehicles. About 800 passenger car titles and about 1,200 tractor-trailer titles were issued with the error, Gwadosky said.

Since few people pay cash for cars, most of the titles went directly to banks and financial institutions. "Most of them chuckled and said we need a clean title as soon as possible," Gwadosky said.

Gov. Angus S. King Jr. did not know of the problem until reporters asked him about it today. He said there is no guarantee computers will work properly but he said the state doesn't envision widespread problems on Jan. 1.