May 1999

Washington Attempts to Subvert Emissions Exemption

Remember the law passed last year in Washington exempting older vehicles from the state's emissions inspection? Some legislators are now trying to delay this enthusiast-friendly law. The Washington State Senate has passed legislation (H.B. 5886) to delay the start-up date for the exemption from January 1, 2000, to January 1, 2002. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

In 1998, the Washington Car Club Council, allied vehicle enthusiasts and SEMA undertook an intensive statewide campaign to exempt vehicles 25 years old and older from the emissions inspection program. Washington Governor Gary Locke signed the bill into law last spring. Now the Washington State hobbyist community has again united to urge House legislators to vote to maintain the January 1, 2000, startup date. Car clubs have instituted a massive mail, e-mail and phone effort to protect this hard-fought legislation. As Washington State enthusiast Rady Helseth points out, "This bill punishes the hobbyist. [We] need to get involved now or it will be too late and the [emissions exemption] will be history, not historic."

In discussions with House members, enthusiasts and SEMA have pointed out that the reasons for preserving the original exemption are as valid today as they were last year: Vehicles over 25 years old have a minimal environmental impact, constitute a small portion of the vehicle fleet and are overwhelmingly well maintained and infrequently operated. We are all hopeful these legislators get the message.

Scrappage Debate Moves to Vermont

Legislation (H.B. 378) has been introduced in Vermont that would implement a vehicle scrappage program and finance it with a pollution surcharge. Under H.B. 378, the surcharge would be tied to vehicle registrations and would be more costly on expensive and supposedly higher polluting vehicles. The program would also receive funds from a 1-cent per gallon tax on diesel fuel.

A voucher system would pay owners of scrapped vehicles up to $2,000, calculated so that the state pays more for scrapping vehicles that pollute the most. Secondary emphasis is given to fair market value. Vouchers could be used to purchase public transit tickets or a replacement vehicle off of a state-prepared "Clean Car List" from a dealership participating in the program.

To date, this bill has not yet been scheduled for committee action in the Vermont legislature. Nonetheless, SEMA, along with Vermont and New England area hobbyists, is actively opposing the bill and has begun educating legislators on the shortcomings associated with scrappage programs. "I'm alarmed when there is proposed legislation that would inhibit access to older autos and parts," notes New England enthusiast Peter Brown. "Those of us who repair and tinker with older cars are voters and parts recyclers. These classic cars are rarely used and are most often kept in like-new condition by their owners. Most gross polluters are late-model cars that need a tune-up. The environment and people's rights would be better served by government programs that encourage automotive efficiency and recycling."

SEMA Attends Car Club's 'Legislative Breakfast' Meeting

The Kent Island Cruiser's Club of Maryland recently held its annual "Legislative Breakfast." The club invited SEMA Director of Outreach and Public Affairs Brian Caudill to address the crowd on legislative/regulatory issues threatening the hobby and on how to become a more politically active and effective car club. Ten car clubs braved blustery winds of the Chesapeake Bay to take in the presentation.

"Know your State legislators. Invite them to your events and make them aware of the issues that you and your club are concerned about," was the central point of Caudill's presentation. "Legislators like to meet their constituents and at shows, rod runs and charity events, clubs have the perfect opportunity to prove they are a responsible part of the community, present a positive image, and develop a good working relationship with local politicians. This working relationship can pay huge dividends if another legislator introduces a bill that could hurt the hobby."

To illustrate his point about getting to know your legislators, during the talk Caudill asked how many people have had politicians ride in their cars during parades, etc. When some hands went up he asked the next question: "Before you let them ride in your car did you talk to them about scrappage, emissions testing, street rod titling and licensing?" Most had not taken the opportunity, which led to his final question: "Why not?" All of this to illustrate the fact that car enthusiasts cannot afford to be taken for granted. The proven threats to the hobby are too great and too real.

Caudill rounded out his talk by discussing automotive legislative trends in Maryland and throughout the country, emphasizing the need to keep informed. Of most interest to many representatives attending was Caudill's assertion that ten personal letters to a legislator on any given legislation can change a vote. "It's a lot easier to be politically involved and politically effective than people think. You just have to make a concerted and organized effort."

Pre-1981 Vehicles Face Challenge in Oregon

Oregon State Representative Richard Devlin (D) has introduced a bill, H.B. 3217, that would prohibit the registration of totaled vehicles manufactured before 1981. Beginning January 1, 2010, the bill would prohibit the registration of all motor vehicles manufactured before 1981. The bill allows, however, the registration of pre-1981 vehicles if they qualify as an antique or special-interest vehicle or vehicles that have passed unspecified emissions standards.

With this effort to force the retirement of older vehicles and recent proposals to restrict vehicle suspension—H.B. 2360 and S.B. 574 respectively—Oregon has become a hotbed of anti-enthusiast legislation. This latest initiative would deny registration to vehicles that fail to qualify as antique or special-interest vehicles. H.B. 3217 would also buck a national trend by forcing pre-1981 vehicles to undergo emissions tests at a time when many states are completely exempting older vehicles from such tests because of their typically highly tuned condition and low environmental impact.

At present, this bill has not been scheduled for a public hearing. Nonetheless, SAN is working with the Oregon enthusiast community (including umbrella organizations like the Northwest Motorsports Association, Oregon Council of Vehicle Associations, the Pacific Northwest Four Wheel Drive Association, and smaller groups such as the Cruisin' Rebels Car Club, Mopars Unlimited and Rollin' Oldies) to make all aware of this legislation. Should H.B. 3217 come up for a hearing, Oregon hobbyists will make their concerns known.

NSRA Volunteer Inspections: Building Safe Street Rods

By Erin Mulholland

The National Street Rod Association (NSRA) has conducted courtesy street rod inspections for years. In 1998 alone, their inspectors crawled under and through 13,428 cars to ensure their safe condition. Why? One main reason: car enthusiasts want to know that the car in front of them is safe. Safety is key to any vehicle event, not only for the enthusiasts, but for spectators as well.

I met with Ron Busche, a volunteer NSRA inspector with the Southwest division, who took me through a 1940 red convertible Ford owned by Kent Bruns. The car, built by John Hesford, owner of Vintage Auto Body & Paint in Brea, California, passed with flying colors. Dennis McNall, new to NSRA inspections with only a couple of years under his belt, was on hand to give Busche assistance with the inspection process. A team of two volunteer inspectors always conducts inspections.

Busche explained that voluntary NSRA inspections are taken very seriously, not only by those involved with NSRA events, but also by safety inspectors in many states. When some state inspectors see a NSRA safety sticker on a street rod, they simply pass the car because NSRA inspections are typically more thorough than ordinary state inspections. Even insurance companies are getting into the groove, offering discounts for vehicles that pass the NSRA inspection. An NSRA inspection also serves an added bonus when selling a street rod. It adds value to prospective buyer and the owner feels safe in passing the vehicle on to another person.

The inspection itself is very thorough. With 23 items on the list to check, the job was surprisingly completed in under a half-hour with time to spare. They not only checked that the horn, windshield wipers and lights all worked properly, but also spent quite a bit of time under the hood and even under the car itself. Some of the items checked included safety plated glass, a required automatic transmission lockout, good tires, a rear view mirror, calibrated speedometer, and shock absorbers with 2 inches of travel. Interestingly, they also checked to see if a shift pattern is visible, in case somebody borrows your car or has to move it.

Excessive steering play, fuel system ventilation, throttle linkage, proper use of fuel tubing and leaks in the exhaust system are also checked. All four shock absorbers are inspected, along with the brakes. Four wheel brakes are a requirement, and are inspected for leaks, pedal travel and the length of the flexible lines are checked.

Fractures and "sloppiness" in the rod-end bearings are questioned, and are also required to have a 1/8-inch spacer on each side of the ball and be no more than ten degrees misaligned. Rubber bushings are checked for size and condition. The team also checks for the positive use of self-locking nuts, lockwashers, safety wire and cotter pins.

Busche, an inspector since 1976, says, "The inspections are free of charge and are not required by anyone. It is a pride in ownership thing, and I really am glad to see more and more people getting involved with this." Both Ron and his wife, Shirlee, attend meets with their own vehicle, a brown and gold 1929 Ford Town Sedan with matching camping trailer in tow.

Legislative Updates in Texas, Washington State, Nebraska

The following are brief legislative updates on bills that SEMA Action Network member clubs and SEMA are following in selected states. Each of these items has been covered in previous editions of the "Driving Force."

Texas Scrappage: Despite the opposition of Texas vehicle associations including the Texas Vehicle Club Council (TVCC), affected industries and SEMA-member companies, the Texas House Committee on Environmental Regulation still aims to pass legislation to implement a scrappage program and move the emissions exemption to include vehicles up to 35 model years old. So far, two attempts to pass this legislation out of committee have failed due to widespread opposition.

Washington Street Rods: Washington State hobbyist developed and supported legislation to broaden the state's street rod definition to include more types of vehicles has passed in the House and the Senate Transportation Committee. The bill now awaits approval by the Senate Rules Committee before a full Senate vote. SEMA Action Network member clubs in Washington remain cautiously optimistic, but encourage all enthusiasts to keep up the pressure on legislators in order to make this bill a reality.

Nebraska Nitrous Oxide: Bowing to pressure exerted by Nebraska clubs including the Nebraska Rod and Custom Association, the Rapid Transit System and the Eastern Nebraska/Western Iowa Car Club Council, the legislature held a hearing but took no action on a bill prohibiting nitrous oxide and other fuel enhancers on state highways.

Link Your Club Web Site to SEMA Action Network

SEMA Action Network online is offering a free link to your club's web site. If your organization is interested in this opportunity, please contact the SEMA Action Network webmaster at san@sema.org. All we ask in return is that your club put a link on its home page to SEMA Action Network at http://www.semasan.com to keep club members abreast of the latest happenings in the automotive aftemarket.

Can You Believe?

Here is a regulatory horror story, an example of a ridiculous law or regulation that adversely affects a business or individual. If the following irritates you, let your legislators know and offer to work with them to reduce the tide of legislative and regulatory overkill. Also, let the SEMA Washington office know if you have any similar horror stories to share.

Laissez Un-Faire

A cargo ship carrying 3,060 cars, trucks and buses from Yokohama, Japan, to areas in Latin America was forced to make an emergency stop in Hawaii when two of its propeller blades fell off. The trouble, however, didn't end there, because 573 of the vehicles were bound for Puerto Rico, and according to a trade law known as the Jones Act, cargo on a foreign flagged ship may move from a foreign port to a U.S. port, but not between two U.S. ports. Apparently, customs officials decided that the 573 vehicles going to Japan were now moving between two U.S. ports, constituting a trade law violation.

Rather than allow the ship to continue its course, the Customs Service ordered the 573 vehicles to be offloaded in Hawaii, put on an U.S.-flagged ship and taken to the West Coast. From there they were loaded on trains bound for the East Coast where another U.S.-flagged ship took them to Puerto Rico.

Letters to the Editor

In the April 1999 issue of the "Driving Force," it was mentioned that Nebraska introduced legislation that would prohibit vehicles using power boosters from operating in that state. Doesn't this prohibit interstate travel? And can you mention the law that is supposed to prevent states from stopping interstate travel? It appears their state lawmakers think they can force their vehicle equipment laws on citizens from other states or stop us from traveling through their state. I would appreciate hearing from anyone with prior experience or knowledge in this area.

Respectfully submitted,

Dan LaValley
Rods 'n Classics Club
Ruskin, Florida

The short answer is that Nebraska Bill 688 is not yet law and hopefully will never become law. The longer answer is that, generally, states are allowed to dictate vehicle safety equipment standards for automobiles in use on their roadways (unless the Federal Department of Transportation has issued a standard, in which case the federal standard rules). Just because your ride is considered safe and legal in one state doesn't mean it will be in another. Anybody else have a few thoughts on this matter?-Ed.

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.


CALIFORNIA S.B. 1058: would ease the burden of emissions testing for owners of aftermarket-equipped vehicles by limiting visual and functional testing requirements.

IOWA H.S.B. 251: would urge the U.S. EPA to reduce sulfur levels in gas.


OREGON S.B. 682 (H.B. 2768): would prevent localities from enacting any ordinance or land-use regulation which restricts or prohibits a person from engaging in the automotive hobby as long as any inoperable vehicles are kept out of ordinary view.

OREGON S.B. 1038: would allow for nuisance abatement action against keeping one or more wrecked or non-operative vehicles on property that is visible to the public.

LOUISIANA H.B. 652: would prohibit local authorities from adopting or enforcing an ordinance that allows the removal of an inoperable vehicle from the property on which the owner resides.


NEW YORK S.B. 3096 (A.B. 5740): would prohibit pickup trucks that have been raised or lowered more than 3 inches from the original manufacturers' design.


MISSOURI H.B. 141: would allow a vehicle owner possessing a license plate that is over 25 years old and is consistent with the year of manufacture of the vehicle, to register such plate as a "historic" license plate.

MONTANA S.B. 525: would allow owners of vehicles 11 years or older to permanently register their vehicles.

KANSAS H.B. 2142: would allow for a permanent "antique" vehicle title.

GEORGIA H.B. 823 (H.B. 855): would provide for display of license plates issued in 1942 or earlier for vehicles manufactured in those years.


ALABAMA H.B. 363: would provide a statutory definition of a "street rod" and would provide for street rod license plates upon payment of a one-time fee of $50.

NEW YORK A.B. 5490 (S.B. 3000): would provide a statutory definition of a "street rod" and would provide for street rod license plates upon payment of an annual $23 fee.

PENNSYLVANIA H.B. 799: would establish a vehicle "lemon law" and would exempt the sale of "classic cars" from the bill's requirements.

IOWA S.B. 1090 (S.B. 400): would allow use of non-oxygenated gas in antique vehicles.

LOUISIANA S.B. 168: would repeal the existing registration fee for "street rods" registered after August 15, 1999, and would replace it with a one-time fee of $25.

LOUISIANA S.B. 381: would decrease the one-time fee for registration of antique vehicles to $25.

May SAN Club Events


    May 1-2 , Palmdale, Calif.
    7th-Annual Buick Shootout and Team Challenge
    Sponsor: Buick Grand National Racing Association
    Information: 714/772-6201

    May 1-2, Sonoma, Calif.
    GoodGuys Nitro Nationals Memorial Nostalgia Drags
    Sponsor: GoodGuys Rod and Custom Association
    Information: 925/838-9876

    May 15, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
    Tech Session
    Sponsor: Buick Grand National Racing Association
    Information: 714/772-6201

    May 15-16, Pomona, Calif.
    GoodGuys SoCal Nationals
    Sponsor: GoodGuys Rod and Custom Association
    Information: 925/838-9876

    May 21-23, Bakersfield, Calif.
    NSRA Western Street Rod Nationals
    Sponsor: National Street Rod Association
    Information: 724/932-3747

    May 22-23, Pleasanton, Calif.
    GoodGuys Summer Get-Together
    Sponsor: GoodGuys Rod and Custom Association
    Information: 925/838-9876


    May 1, Brighton, Colo.
    22nd Annual Swap Meet
    Sponsor: Ye Olde Auto Club
    Information: 303/659-3269

    May 23, Denver, Colo.
    35th Annual Denver to Brighton Run
    Sponsor: AACA, Denver Chapter
    Information: 303/457-4240


    May 23, Lisle, Ill.
    Fiero Parts and Memorabilia Sale and Swap Meet
    Sponsor: Northern Illinois Fiero Enthusiasts
    Information: 630/305-9806


    May 22, Luling, La.
    Crawfish Feast IV
    Sponsor: Imaginary Bug Club
    Information: 504/727-1761


    May 15, Stevensville, Md.
    Kent Island Day Cruise In
    Sponsor: Kent Island Cruisers
    Information: 410/643-4582


    May 30, Marshfield, Mass.
    11th-Annual Auto Show
    Sponsor: Silver Lake Auto Club
    Information: 781/871-1916


    May 22-23, Rochester, Mich.
    GoodGuys Motor City Nationals
    Sponsor: GoodGuys Rod and Custom Association
    Information: 925/838-9876


    May 14-16, Springfield, Mo.
    NSRA Mid-America Street Rod Nationals
    Sponsor: National Street Rod Association
    Information: 505/763-5771

    May 15, Farmington, Mo.
    Cruise to Mingo Swamp
    Sponsor: Mineral Area Mustang Club
    Information: 573/483-2266


    May 28-31, N.J.
    Scout the Pinelands
    Sponsor: Triple Diamond Fourwheelers
    Information: 609/784-0019


    May 1, Ashland, Ohio
    Student 4WD Awareness Clinic
    Sponsor: Sport Utility Action Network
    Information: 330/648-2470

    May 8-9, Marietta, Ohio
    Wayne National Forest Run
    Sponsor: Sport Utility Action Network
    Information: 330/648-2470

    May 28-31, Gallipolis, Ohio
    Annual Memorial Day Run and Hayride
    Sponsor: Sport Utility Action Network
    Information: 330/648-2470


    May 29-31, Nyssa, Oreg.
    The Country Cruise
    Sponsor: The Big Guys
    Information: 208/459-3046


    May 14-16, Carlisle, Pa.
    Carlisle Import/Kit Replicar Nationals
    Sponsor: Carlisle Productions
    Information: 717/243-7855


    May 14-15, Williamsburg, Va.
    27th Annual Colonial Williamsburg Rod Run
    Sponsor: Tidewater Street Rod Association
    Information: 757/838-2059

    May 29-30, Leesburg, Va.
    13th Annual Rod Run
    Sponsor: Custom Cruisers of Northern Virginia
    Information: 703/754-7453


    May 30, Tomahawk, Wis.
    Main Street Memories Car Show
    Sponsor: Northwoods Cruisers
    Information: 715/453-1955