Supreme Court To Review EPA's Clean Air Standards
This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will review the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) tightened clean air standards to determine if the agency had justification for developing the regulations which establish tough new particulate matter and ozone limits. The Court will also consider whether EPA should have considered costs to the industry when they issued the regulations. EPA has historically not been required to consider such costs. Last year, a lower court found EPA had not demonstrated sound justification for the regulations. The EPA appealed this decision. Tightened air quality standards will naturally lead to EPA to increase the air quality targets required of individual states and localities. For the automobile hobbyist, this will inevitably mean more enhanced emissions testing programs, like the I/M 240 test, and an increased emphasis on questionable vehicle scrappage programs.
SEMA Executive VP Chris Kersting commented, "The EPA practice of issuing pollution standards that lack scientific backing has gone unchecked for too long. We look forward to the Supreme Court's decision, hoping it will establish an important precedent to limiting the agency's power under the Clean Air Act, as well as establishing an important standard or responsibility for the EPA and other federal agencies."
Feds Propose 'Rollover' Rating System
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a proposed rollover rating system for passenger cars, light trucks and SUVs. The rating system will be determined by dividing one-half of a vehicle's track width by the height of the center of gravity. NHTSA will convert the resulting number, called the "static stability factor," into a 5-star rollover rating scale-more stars will supposedly mean greater tendency to roll. Given this single measurement, naturally, taller and narrower vehicles will have fewer stars than shorter and wider vehicles.
Consumers, SEMA and the automakers have serious concerns about the proposal. Brian Caudill, SEMA director of outreach and public affairs, noted, "This rating system is ill-advised and very likely deceptive. Consumers may expect a low rating to mean lower rollover incidents. However, NHTSA data shows that other factors like driver behavior, road conditions and inclement weather are overwhelmingly more to blame for real-world rollovers." The rating system also fails to take into account specialized vehicle stability features like enhanced suspension systems and stability control systems now available on many automobiles. NHTSA currently has two other star-rating systems for frontal and side-impact crash tests. NHTSA wants the rollover ratings to go into effect for model year 2001 cars and trucks.
California's Rolling Smog Check Exemption Remains in Jeopardy
An amended bill to repeal the rolling Smog Check exemption in California for cars 30 years old and older and replace it with a static exemption for pre-1975 vehicles continues to move through the California legislature. The bill also provides for a SEMA-supported emissions certification and model-year designation for certain "homebuilt" cars and allows these vehicles to be resold. The rolling 30-year exemption was enacted in 1997 with the overwhelming support of SEMA and California car clubs. As each year passes, the exemption "rolls" forward to cover another model year. The California Air Resources Board, disappointed by the fact that Smog Check is missing promised emissions reductions by about 40 percent, is leading the fight to repeal the rolling exemption.
"SEMA and the car clubs had been assured that the bill would be amended in the Senate to also exempt pre-1975 vehicles from remote sensing and roadside emissions testing programs and provide for a collector vehicle exemption from Smog Check regardless of model year," SEMA Director of Government and Technical Affairs Steve McDonald said. "At this point, the bill does not carry these provisions. Working with bill sponsor Sen. Maurice Johannessen and his staff, we have begun efforts to further amend the bill to restore the 30-year rolling exemption."
California Ups the Ante for Crushing Cars
California's state Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is the latest California agency to ignore the fact that scrappage is a flawed, unfair and ineffective program by initiating yet another car-crusher program. The Department's Consumer Assistance Program will pay motorists $1,000 for scrapping their vehicles despite the fact that scrappage programs fail to produce any verifiable pollution benefits and, naturally, rob hobbyists of parts-cars and future restoration projects. Qualified consumers may also receive up to $500 in emissions-related repairs. The goal of the DCA's program is to repair or retire 50,000 major polluters during the next 4 years. When you combine this figure with the California Air Resources Board's stated goal of scrapping 100,000 cars per year for 10 years in its own scrappage program, the results are frightening and disappointing to low-income drivers, automobile hobbyists and the specialty aftermarket. SEMA recently met with Department officials to discuss incorporating VOLUNTARY emissions system repair and upgrade into this program, using newer-technology catalytic converters. SEMA has consistently advocated VOLUNTARY repair and upgrade as a more viable and cost-effective alternative to scrapping cars and will continue to do so.
Introducing SEMA's New Web Site: enjoythedrive.com
SEMA recently launched a new consumer web site, enjoythedrive.com, as part of its Consumer Awareness Program. The content-rich site is divided into two sections: the "enthusiast" zone (at www.enjoythedrive.com/enthusiast) and the "mainstream consumer" zone (www.enjoythedrive.com). The mainstream section is an introduction to the specialty parts and accessories market, with lots of info on products for parents, outdoor enthusiasts, commuters, Generation X and Yers and other folks who likely have never set foot in a speed shop. It's a big part of SEMA's efforts to broaden the market for its members' products-and to help bring closet-enthusiasts into our hobby. There's even a cool Internet Accessorizer in development that will let folks "test drive" products on their vehicles to see if they would like to add a spoiler, running boards or other accessories. A simple, early-stage version of this interactive customizer is online now and accessible from the mainstream home page.
Of course, SEMA could never ignore the enthusiasts who have made our hobby and industry as great as it is today. That's why there's a special section of the web site called "for enthusiasts only." >From the enthusiast home page, you can keep tabs on SAN (SEMA Action Network) issues and check out back issues of Driving Force by following the "Legislator Watch" link (or you can go directly to www.enjoythedrive.com/Main/Main.aspx?ID=60129).
You also can promote your car club and its events on the site. SEMA has partnered with hemmings.com, so visitors to enjoythedrive.com can search through Hemmings' immense car club and event databases and post information quickly and easily.
The enthusiast section of the site also includes an "Ask The Experts" service. SEMA members are experts on an incredibly diverse array of automotive topics, so someone is sure to have the answer to your question. Want to communicate with other enthusiasts? There are several discussion groups for enthusiasts only. Plus, there are articles filled with tech tips and how-to information, and a "Gallery of Cars" where you can post an image and some info on your pride and joy.
Another handy service is a searchable database of SEMA manufacturers. We also are putting together a database of SEMA retailers (both local shops and online and mail-order businesses), which will make it easy to find parts and services when you need them.
We encourage you to check out enjoythedrive.com and let us know what you think. And while you're at it, why not send your spouses and kids online, too. The web site just might help them understand why you spend so much time out in the garage-and so much money on that ride in the driveway.
Wheels of Time Street Rod Association Inc.: Heart in the Community
By Erin Mulholland
The Wheels of Time Street Rod Association is a small, unassuming group of approximately 80 to 100 individual members who produce one main Jamboree event the third week in August of each year. The Rod & Custom Jamboree, small by many standards, limits entries to 2,300 cars, however, nothing about this event or group can be measured by sheer numbers. Instead, you must look to the oversized heart of the Wheels of Time members who return an annual average of $50,000 to local charitable organizations and college students attending automotive programs in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. "We're big on charities," said long-time member Mike Kramer. Wheels of Time started in an unheated garage in the winter of 1977 and 77 members have worked hard to make this one of the premier clubs in the nation. Kramer, who owns a '35 Chevy two-door sedan and works on Wheels of Time legislative concerns, reports a whopping 100,000 spectators attend the annual Jamboree. The 3-day event includes music, raffles, activities for adults and children alike, a poker run, parade, canned food drive, bingo, Chinese auction, craft show and auto flea market, just to name a few of the attractions. Families come from all over the Eastern seaboard, and there is a waiting list of many thousands of 'participant hopefuls' hoping for an opportunity to be more than mere spectators.
It was the charitable work of Wheels of Time that caught the eyes and ears of Hemmings Motor News' Joyce Held, who worked with Kramer in May to submit the Wheels of Time for Hemmings' prestigious Hobby Hero Awards in the car club category.
At this year's July Media Motor Show-hosted in Bennington, Vt., by Hemmings Motor News-Bill Ingraham and his wife Sally attended to accept the award presented to the Wheels of Time Street Rod Association. Along with a certificate of appreciation, each awardee is provided a $1,000 cash award. In the continued spirit of giving to its community, the Wheels of Time donated its cash award to Camelot for Children, an organization in Allentown, Pa.
The Media Motor Show was a delight for Bill Ingraham to attend. "They treated us first class," he said. The small New England town that played host to the event was an exceptional background for the Hemmings-sponsored ride and drive through the countryside for the Hobby Hero award winners and media. Ingraham, who drove a '33 Plymouth Roadster, said Hemmings' fleet of collector vehicles were set out for all to not only look at, but to drive as they pleased. "I was like a kid in a candy store," exclaimed Ingraham, who clearly had the time of his life.
Since 1994, Hemmings Motor News has recognized individuals and organizations that enhance the collector car hobby by raising funds for charitable causes, or by promoting awareness and education of the car hobby. Nominations close in May for Hobby Hero categories of museums, individuals, businesses, organizations and car clubs that have helped to strengthen and promote the hobby. Hemmings' web site, www.hemmings.com, provides links to the nomination forms beginning in March each year. Hemmings also provides free web site hosting for all car clubs. Simply click on the Car Club Central button, then go to "About Car Club Central" for information on how to add your car club's web site, or call them toll-free at 800/Car-Here (227-4373), exts. 599, 644, 660 or 665.
WE GET LETTERS
Cautionary Advice About Charitable Involvement
Many car clubs donate revenue generated during club-sponsored events to nonprofit organizations. Our club, the Houston Mopar Connection Club (HMCC), has donated many thousands of dollars over the years to the Houston Food Bank as a result of our annual Houston Mopar Show & Race. (See http://www.houstonmopars.org/events.html for this year's show dates.)
Yet, it is clear that some of these nonprofits are actively seeking "donations" of "old cars" in exchange for tax write-offs. Usually these vehicles go directly to a junkyard; many are evidently crushed before any valuable parts are saved and recycled. Clubs may want to reconsider donating to nonprofits that actively promote such cars for tax write-off promotions.
Gary Hamel, Houston Mopar Connection Club
VOLUNTARY Repair and Upgrade Draws Comment
At a recent meeting of the Southwest Virginia Car Council, members discussed the importance of the SEMA Action Network (SAN). Everyone is thankful to SEMA for its timely and informative legislative updates. There is no doubt SEMA is a great ally to the hobby. However, it did not go unnoticed that the August edition of Driving Force contained a letter from Mr. Bill Buck of Arizona, which applauds upgrade or retrofit of emission systems as an alternative to scrappage.
We believe that there should always be fallback positions in the event scrappage legislation cannot be defeated entirely. Trade-offs are often necessary to negotiation, but retrofit and upgrade should be used only as a last resort. Repair should be the trade-off alternative to scrappage. Retrofit and upgrade will likely lead to the governmental incrementalism to which we have grown accustomed. Government will always want us to do more. States rights are falling daily only to be replaced by overriding federal laws. We may soon be forced to fight national scrappage legislation. Let's not give away the store without a fight.
Mr. Buck suggests, " We truly hope other states can put together a similar program....and keep our pride and joys on the roadways." Our group says thanks but NO thanks. Rather than giving in bit-by-bit to ill-informed legislators and special interest groups, we should start educating them and stand against scrappage and the trading of pollution credits, period! Scrappage bills can be fought if we all work together. If we must trade-off something, let's offer repair-not retrofit-because the latter leaves us little room to maneuver in the future.
Tom Cox, President, Southwest Virginia Car Council
I absolutely love what SEMA does for the hobby. But you've got to be more careful on this repair/upgrade/retrofit topic. We know the EPA is going to make it necessary for states to clean their air, and we know that this means states are, more and more, going to look at scrappage programs. This is the unfortunate reality. But when you talk about any "upgrade" program it scares the daylights out of auto restorers! No hobbyist with a perfectly restored car, like my 1960 Chevy, wants to hear about putting an "upgrade" on their car!
You guys need to be clearer: Emphasize the fact that repair/upgrade programs are necessary only when it becomes obvious that the only other alternative is crushing cars. Emphasize that repair/upgrade programs are VOLUNTARY and that classic car owners will not be forced to upgrade their cars. Emphasize that 25-year emissions exemptions, like we have in California and like the one in Virginia, are a perfect way of nullifying this whole argument. It only takes a couple extra sentences in your articles to tell the whole story and to avoid confusion. This is my unsolicited advice.
Pete Mascara, Road Dogs Club, California
Editor's Note: Our thanks to Tom Cox for his comments on legislative/regulatory strategy (we agree) and to Pete Mascara for his "unsolicited," but insightful, advice on how SEMA presents information. (We'll do our best.) - Ed.