September 1999

Hemmings Honors SEMA Action Network Clubs

Recognizing the determined pro-hobbyist efforts of the Specialty Equipment Market Association, Hemmings Motor News honored the enthusiast-based SEMA Action Network (SAN) as one of its 1999 "Hobby Heroes" at the publication's 1999 Motor Media Show.

In presenting the award, Terry Ehrich, publisher of Hemmings, noted, "As the 'grapevine' linking people in the hobby with critical information, SAN has fought to preserve the rights of enthusiasts to use and enjoy their vehicles. It has mobilized hobbyists on public policy issues ranging from emissions inspections to scrappage programs. For being the hobby's 'driving force' behind stamping out legislative threats, we present this token of gratitude and a cash award."

"Driving Force" Editor and SEMA Action Network Director Brian Caudill accepted the award on behalf of SEMA. Caudill commented, "We are honored that Hemmings chose the SEMA Action Network as one of this year's 'Hobby Heroes.' I accept this award not only on behalf of SEMA, but more importantly, on behalf of the SEMA Action Network member organizations. The auto enthusiasts nationwide, who make it their business to write, call, visit and maintain relationships with legislators on behalf of the hobby are the true heroes. We are also proud to present Hemmings' cash award in the name of SAN enthusiasts to the SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund, which supports the education of students pursuing their dream of working in the automotive industry."

Also accepting Hemmings Hobby Hero awards were two SAN member organizations: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association of Alamo, California, and Westminster, Maryland-based Street Cars of Desire car club. Goodguys was honored for its 17 years of success in promoting events for rod, custom, muscle car, truck and street machine owners and enthusiasts, as well as for successfully engaging the baby-boomer generation in the automobile hobby. Street Cars of Desire was recognized for its impressive charity work. As producers of the nation's largest indoor car show for charity, Street Cars of Desire has, since 1990, donated more than $350,000 to a variety of charities, many benefiting children with special needs.



California Law to Prove the Flaws about Scrappage

In a victory for auto enthusiasts, as well as common sense, California Governor Gray Davis signed a SEMA-authored voluntary emissions system repair/upgrade bill into law. Sponsored by Senator Maurice Johannessen (R-District 4), S.B. 1056 gives aftermarket emissions reduction upgrade equipment the chance to compete as an alternative to the California scrappage programs that buy up and crush older cars.

Existing law in California requires the state to abandon scrappage programs where aftermarket "upgrade" programs can be shown to offer more cost-effective emissions reduction opportunities. Under S.B. 1056, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will review and assess emissions upgrade devices to determine their effectiveness. Assuming CARB finds these voluntary emissions repair/upgrade devices effective, this bill may be the first step toward eliminating car-crushing as a viable tool for reducing emissions in California.

SEMA Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Chris Kersting was involved in crafting S.B.1056. "SEMA is convinced that voluntarily upgrading vehicles' emissions control equipment is a more cost-effective and useful emissions reducer than vehicle scrappage. For example, a successful voluntary upgrade program run by the San Diego Air Pollution District has generated twice the emissions reductions per dollar as typical California scrappage programs. There simply is no reason to crush older-in some cases collector-cars simply because they are old."



Hobbyists and SEMA Blast CARB Over Scrappage Regulations

Despite the signing into law of an emissions upgrade bill supporting an alternative to scrappage, regulators at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) still intend to crush cars. Specifically, CARB intends to crush up to 150,000 vehicles a year for 10 years to meet emissions reduction goals. As a result, the inevitable loss of irreplaceable parts and vehicles needed by hobbyists will be significant.

The CARB scrappage proposal continues to violate California law S.B. 501 that mandates all scrappage programs include parts recycling. SEMA Director of State Relations Steve McDonald noted, "By requiring parts recycling as a part of any scrappage program, California law recognized the needs of car collectors and low-income drivers who depend on the availability of older vehicles and parts. As this regulation currently reads, the only way a restorer could obtain a needed rear-view mirror would be to buy the entire vehicle." Notably, SEMA has presented CARB an opinion letter from the California Legislature's Office of Legislative Counsel which supports SEMA's position.

By continuing to push car-crushing, CARB also continues to ignore the facts about scrappage: (1) CARB does no testing to prove emissions reductions are achieved or that vehicles scrapped are actually replaced by cleaner vehicles; (2) many cars turned in for scrappage can barely run or cannot pass smog inspections and the programs themselves are susceptible to fraud; and (3) regulatory agencies cannot justify crushing cars when more cost effective and socially responsible programs, such as voluntary repair and upgrade, exist.

California SEMA Action Network clubs were alerted to the CARB scrappage program amendments and have responded to CARB in large numbers. Richard Osmer of West Hills, California, summarized enthusiast sentiments in his comments to CARB. Osmer noted that people who drive older cars fall into two categories. The first are those for whom an older car is the only affordable option. For this group he argues, "If [scrappage] goes into effect, these people will literally have no choice but to drive their vehicles into the ground. Imagine the environmental impact of that." The second group is the enthusiasts. Highlighting this group he asked, "How many car clubs hand out awards for 'Most Smoke at Start-Up?' If anything, this group serves the community by removing clunkers from the road and salvaging the usable parts." Finally, Osmer concluded, "Stop and ticket the guys with billowing smoke and dangling parts. Simply dumping [older cars] as scrap is short-sighted, ineffective and unnecessary."



Louisiana Fender Bill Becomes Law


Louisiana Governor M.J. "Mike" Foster Jr. signed into law a SEMA-authored provision exempting vehicles not originally equipped with fenders from burdensome new fender requirements. Also included in the new law, as a bonus to Louisiana street rodders and customizers, is a SEMA provision that allows fender flares as an alternative to traditional fenders, flaps or splash aprons. Fender flares will accommodate the sort of wheel and tire modifications important to many hobbyists in personalizing their cars. The law went into effect August 15th of this year.

The SEMA Director of State Relations said, "SEMA's successful involvement in Louisiana's legislative process is a clear example of the association's ability to defend the interests of automotive enthusiasts. We are grateful to Governor Foster for making this pro-hobbyist bill law."



Arizona Volkswagen Bus Club

By Erin Mulholland

What began in 1990 as an attempt to gather a few vintage Volkswagen Bus owners for camping adventures has grown into charitable events benefitting children in the southwest. Founders Greg Weingardt, Richard Kimball and Earl Sachs share the blame for the weekend fun enjoyed by VW Bus enthusiasts in and around the Arizona deserts.

Based in Phoenix, the Arizona Volkswagen Bus Club is just as much fun as you might imagine. What was at first a small band of campground hunters has blossomed into a group that numbers close to 300 vehicles at various events throughout the year. The club's claim to fame is the organized fun and safe events they produce, with special emphasis on activities for children.

Last year, the club's first annual Mr. Rogers Award was given to member Evan O'Mara in recognition of his hard work and time donated to run the children's events program at club functions 3 years in a row. Arts and crafts and children's games are mainstays at each event, and the most notable children's activity involves painting a vintage Bus with watercolors.

On the charitable side, each year a Bus in need of restoration is purchased with club funds, and then club members do a complete restoration using donated parts. The Bus is displayed year-round to show off the members' hard work and the children's painting handiwork. A real attention grabber with all the bright watercolor paint, the Bus is eventually washed off and receives a real paint job prior to being raffled off at the club's annual Jerome, Arizona event. Proceeds from this raffle benefit a local children's charity, such as the Phoenix Child Crisis Nursery.

The group has become famous for their convoys to camping weekends and events, often reaching into neighboring states to attend events such as the Buses & Balloons event in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Octo Show and Classic in Escondido, California. Although the convoys take longer, a party atmosphere abounds, with the assistance of raffle prize drawings conducted at various stops along the way.

One of the group's largest shows is the 3-day camping weekend at Jerome, Arizona. Perched atop a private mountain at Gold King Mine, the campers, all with 1967 or earlier Buses, hold contests such as the ever-popular Slow Drag (a competition between two vehicles tuned to go as slow as possible over a distance of 50 to 100 feet, without the operator touching the clutch or brake or without stalling). It may sound easy, but it's not. "Competition is fierce," said member Deborah Stanton. "Competitors fine tune their vehicles at all hours of the night...so their Buses won't die during the competition."

Legislatively and socially, the club works with six other local clubs (Arizona VW Club, Fharvignatics, Flat Four Fetish, Horizontally Opposed, Southwest Auto Transport Owners and Wolfsberg) as well as the Arizona Automobile Hobbyist Council to fight scrappage programs. The club also organizes bowling tournaments throughout the region.

A fun group, these folks sure know how to work together and celebrate their passion for the VW Bus.



Hobbyists Unite to Slay Anti-Enthusiast Legislation in Oregon

With the recent adjourning of the legislature, SEMA Action Network clubs in Oregon have successfully helped kill three separate bills that seriously threatened the automotive hobby in that state.

The first bill, H.B. 3217, would have prohibited the registration of totaled vehicles manufactured before 1981 and, beginning in 2010, all vehicles manufactured before 1981. Pre-1981 vehicles would have only been allowed to register if they qualified as antique or classic or had passed unspecified emissions standards. A hearing was held on the behalf of H.B. 3217; however, thanks in large part to many cards, faxes and e-mails from hobbyists to legislators, the bill stalled without further committee consideration.

The second two bills, S.B. 574 and H.B. 2360, would have impaired four-wheel-drive enthusiasts by banning outright all vehicles with bumpers elevated more than 3 inches over the originally manufactured bumper clearance. In response, SEMA Action Network clubs across Oregon helped defeat these bills by packing hearing rooms with interested hobbyists and by instituting an aggressive letter, phone and e-mail campaign. Doug Fyfe of Oregon's GM Haulers Club commented on a hearing for H.B. 2360. "By the time [hobbyists] got through explaining what was wrong with the bill, one Senator looked at another and jokingly said, 'Why don't we ban small cars instead!' Basically, [these bills] died because of their lack of support and the information that SEMA gave us to support our position."

Beside the GM Haulers, the SAN would like to recognize the efforts of the Pacific Northwest Four Wheel Drive Association, the Brush Busters 4x4 Club, the Peer Pressure Truck Club, and the Burnouts and Road Angels Car Clubs in helping defeat these harmful legislative efforts.



Newly Introduced Legislation

Note: The following state bills are not laws. They have been recently introduced and are currently being considered for adoption by the respective state legislatures.

REGISTRATION

New York S.B. 1584
Requires owners of historic motor vehicles to pay a one-time registration fee of $100 in lieu of the current annual fee of $33.

Pennsylvania H.B. 1781
Provides for titling and registration of modified, salvaged, rebuilt, flood-damaged and specially constructed vehicles.

Pennsylvania H.B. 1782
Provides for the titling of nonrepairable and salvaged vehicles after they have been abandoned.

MTBE

California S.B. 192
Requires warning signs or labels when fuel with less than 1.1-percent MTBE by weight is sold.

VIN TRANSFER

Tennessee H.B. 1767
Prohibits the transfer of VINs from inoperable vehicles.



Working Together European Car Clubs Unite on American Ground

By Erin Mulholland

Owners of European cars experience many of the same problems as owners of American cars; however locating reasonably priced parts and services for European cars can be a bit more difficult. And if the car is a vintage European model, the problems increase exponentially.

"We have the same problems to deal with as every old-car club, but American owners of non-American cars have additional difficulty with parts and skilled service, so we tend to spend more energy networking in that direction," said Steven Ayres of Prescott, Arizona's Flat Four Fetish VW Club.

The Arizona Automotive Hobbyist Council (AAHC) has successfully fought many proposed scrappage programs which threaten parts availability. "They have been instrumental in beating [scrappage] back," continued Ayres. "I expect we'll keep winning that battle because Arizona culture runs firmly against government intrusion." The Flat Four Fetish VW Club has benefited by working with the AAHC's many clubs.

Jerry Needham of the Flatwater Austin-Healey Club (FAHC) in Omaha, Nebraska, recently attached "Driving Force" to a letter addressed to a 'Vette loving friend in Indiana. He explained the SAN's purpose and highlighted the "Working Together" article featuring Corvette clubs. The FAHC belongs to the Eastern Nebraska-Western Iowa Car Council, a coalition of car clubs designed to protect special interest automobiles. "We have worked on a number of Nebraska legislative issues from special licensing to restrictive fuel use," said Needham, who has testified before legislative committees on several hobby-related topics.

Needham believes broad political involvement is essential to the hobby. "The only time politicians really listen is if you bring along the clout of a large number of constituents. On one hand, time does not allow them to work on every single issue brought to their attention, so only those that have the greatest support or backing will win their attention. On the other hand, large numbers of special interest groups (lobbyists) translate directly into votes, and the politicians respond to the power blocks that can ensure or prevent their tenure in office."

Edward Komzelman is a member of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club in San Diego. The club has been affiliated with the San Diego Car Club Council since the mid '80s, and has helped to establish an automobile museum there. Komzelman believes all car enthusiasts must "stand together to provide our elected representatives with the will to stand against simple political posturing."

Louisville, Kentucky, is famous for their annual Kentucky Derby, thoroughbred horses, and the local British Sports Car Club. Jim French, another Austin Healey fanatic, presides over a club that accepts members with any British car for membership. "We are involved in issues concerning emission requirements and the RFG fuel required in this area. This fuel causes a lot of problems for the engines of older cars. We think all issues that affect other car clubs will also affect any auto hobby enthusiast; further, we feel there is more power to be gained in acting as a group to fight oppressive anti-hobby legislation."

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