January 2003

Driving Force Receives Awards

During the past two months, the Driving Force received two awards from colleagues in the automotive publishing industry. For the second year in a row, the good folks at Old Cars Weekly News & Marketplace recognized Driving Force with their 'Golden Quill' award for "outstanding efforts in the communications field of the old car hobby." Also for the second straight year, Driving Force received a gold International Automotive Media Award from the International Automotive Media Conference in the newsletter category. We thank both of these organizations for their recognition and look forward to a continued partnership.

The SEMA Action Network (SAN) staff is not prone to blowing its own horn. We do what we do for the love of the hobby. Brian Caudill, Steve McDonald, Stuart Gosswein, Frank Bohanan and Eugene Kim work hard to arm vehicle enthusiasts with information needed to successfully protect our vehicles from unnecessary government intrusion. We owe every SAN member a big "Thank You" for taking action and supporting your hobby and way of life. These awards are more for you than they are for any of us.

Michigan Insurance Bill Brings Fairness to Collector Car Hobby

After a year of legislative wrangling, a bill that would substantially reduce the fees charged to historic car owners by the Catastrophic Claims Association passed in the Michigan Legislature. If signed into law by the governor, the Michigan bill would reduce by 80 percent the premiums charged by the association for historic vehicles. The SEMA Action Network partnered with SEMA member-company Hagerty Insurance and its thousands of Michigan customers to lobby in support of the bill.

The association's fees, which are currently charged to all Michigan auto policyholders in equal amounts, enable the state to reimburse no-fault automobile insurers for amounts paid on personal injury claims in excess of $250,000. However, these fees make it significantly more expensive to maintain cars of historical value in Michigan than in any other state. "Historic vehicles are by statutory definition maintained primarily for use in car club activities, exhibitions and parades and are rarely driven at all during hazardous winter driving months," said SEMA Government Affairs Director Steve McDonald. "This bill gives appropriate relief from an assessment that has been disproportionately applied to historic car owners whose vehicles are insured under policies that limit use and are required to be stored in a locked and enclosed garage." 

For years, this assessment has been paid by Michigan owners of historic vehicles who have never and likely will never take advantage of the protections the association provides through this funding. "We at Hagerty Insurance believe it's ironic that this assessment has been levied in full on collectors of historical vehicles, especially in the state where the American auto industry got its start and remains rooted today," said Hagerty Insurance President McKeel Hagerty. "We are gratified that the Michigan Legislature saw fit to bring some degree of fairness to the methods by which these taxes are assessed and we encourage Governor Engler to sign the bill into law the moment it reaches his desk."

2003 Agenda: What We're Working On (So Far...)

January ushers in the legislative season nationwide and, no doubt, a number of new challenges. To follow is an update of our current legislative agenda. Within the next few weeks we anticipate pouring over hundreds of bills in our efforts to protect the vehicle hobbies. Don't be surprised if we add A LOT to this list in the coming days.

Maine Custom Cars:  SEMA is working with the Maine Custom Auto Association (MCAA) to seek legislation that would legalize certain motor vehicle modifications. This legislation will be drafted to allow hobbyists to drive customized vehicles without fear of harassment from law enforcement authorities and to ease restrictive equipment inspection criteria. The legislation will address upgrades to lighting, exhaust systems, wheels, tires and suspension equipment modifications. All Maine hobbyists interested in participating in this sweeping effort are encouraged to contact us immediately at 202/783-6007.

New Hampshire Exhaust Noise:  After a great deal of groundwork by New Hampshire SAN members like Ken Golden of Hampton, New Hampshire, Rep. Lawrence Artz (R-Nashua) introduced SEMA-model legislation to create an enforceable exhaust noise standard. Rep. Artz is also a SAN member and authored a pro-hobby inoperable vehicle bill that was  signed into law last year. Currently, New Hampshire deems illegal all modifications that increase noise above that of a vehicle's original muffler. The model bill requires police to prove that an exhaust system modification results in noise levels exceeding 95-decibels before issuing a citation. In addition, the bill allows courts to dismiss an exhaust noise ticket if the defendant had reason to believe that the vehicle complied when cited. For more information, contact the SEMA office at 202/783-0865, Mr. Golden at toxiclown@yahoo.com or Rep. Artz at nashuarep@hotmail.com.

New York, Rhode Island and Missouri Pursue Street Rod/Custom Vehicles:  SEMA is working with New York, Rhode Island and Missouri rodders to pursue SEMA model legislation to create special vehicle registration classifications for street rods and custom vehicles. The model bill provides for special license plates, includes appropriate year-break definitions, allows use of non-original materials and creates tilting criteria that assigns these vehicles, including replicas, the year of manufacture that the body of the vehicle resembles. New York and Rhode Island SAN members have seen similar legislation before, only to have it defeated at the last minute. For Missouri, this is the first time the SEMA-model bill will be pursued. Hopefully, these states will follow Illinois's lead in enacting fair and reasonable street rod and custom legislation. For more information, or for a copy of our model legislation, contact Steve McDonald at stevemac@sema.org.

Virginia Inoperable Vehicle Legislation:  This month, SEMA will begin work with the Southwest Virginia Car Council and the Car Club Council of Central Virginia on a bill (S.B. 613) to create clear guidelines for the outside storage of inoperable vehicles and to repeal current law that allows localities to limit the number of vehicles maintained on residential and commercial property. The bill was held over from last year's session. Last year, we helped convince legislators to withdraw a bill that would have allowed localities to impose fines on property owners deemed in violation of inoperable motor vehicle ordinances. These ordinances create barriers for the maintenance of project and parts cars on private property.

Car Club Council of Central Virginia Holds Legislative Forum

By Fred Fann, President, Car Club Council of Central Virginia (CCCCV)

The Car Club Council of Central Virginia held its first legislative forum on October 28. The delegates to the council decided a forum was needed to communicate our needs as car hobbyists to state legislators. We were unhappy with the passage of a remote emission-testing bill and the failure of a bill to allow hobbyists to keep unlicensed vehicles as parts or project cars during the last session of the Virginia General Assembly.

The CCCCV decided that a forum would be a good way for us to hear from our representatives and for us to make our views known to them. We obtained the use of a local community center for free and sent letters inviting all of the state senators and delegates in the central Virginia area. After several agreed to attend the forum, we made sure clubs knew about the meeting. I spoke at several council member clubs meetings, the forum was listed on the CCCCV Web site (www.carclubcouncil.com) and flyers were distributed at area shows and cruise-ins.

The day of the forum was a chilly, rainy day and we feared attendance would be low. However, car hobbyists in the area showed their concern for legislation by filling the building to its limit. The meeting started with me listing the concerns of car hobbyists to the assemblage. Five members of the General Assembly then spoke. All of them shared our views on emissions testing and the push-to-pass a pro-hobby inoperative vehicle bill in the upcoming legislative session. Overall, the legislators were very impressed with the number of hobbyists at the meeting, the manner in which the council organized the meeting and our command of vehicle hobby-related issues.

Since the forum, several members of the Virginia Assembly have written the CCCCV confirming that they wish to work with us when the Virginia legislature convenes this month. The forum was one step in our plan to get what we need from our state government. It was a great success and we are looking forward to working with our representatives.

Congratulations to the CCCCV. The politicians don't know what we want unless we tell them. - Ed


Classic Muscle Car Languishes in High School Auto Shop Neverland

The Washington Post reports that Jennifer and Peter Bertulaitis dropped off their 1967 Dodge Charger so students enrolled in the auto shop class at Osbourn Park High School (Manassas, Virginia) could do some engine work to it. That was in 1989.

For 13 years and, presumably, 13 different auto shop classes, the couple's classic has moldered, rusted and withered in the high school parking lot, despite a written promise from school officials that the car would be repaired.

According to the Post, neither the school nor the Bertulaitises aggressively pursued the matter until six months ago when school officials, responding to repeated inquiries from the Bertulaitises, countered with a legal threat: Get your heap off school property or we'll sell it!

Lawyers interceded and the school has since relented on selling the car-probably hoping that the couple would simply make arrangements to take back the car. Problem is, they still want it repaired per the school's promise (and it is no longer driveable).

"I'm kind of depressed about the whole situation," said Mrs. Bertulaitis.  "It's a shame to see [the Charger] go to pieces." We agree.  Meanwhile, while the owners and the school engage in circular arguments, a classic rusts into oblivion.

If you have a outrageous or unusual story related to the automotive hobby or restrictions placed on hobbyists, send it to us at: brianc@sema.org or SEMA, Attn: "Can You Believe," 1317 F Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20004.

WE GET (lots of...) LETTERS

Sports Cars? Imports?

I am the president of the UpState "Z" Club in Greenville, South Carolina. I am a member of SAN and really appreciate all the work SEMA does to protect our hobby. My "Z" is my daily driver and my project is a 1947 Chevy street rod, hence my exposure to SEMA.

At our monthly club meetings I give updates on some of the legislation that has been proposed or defeated in other areas, so our members can be aware of what might be heading in our direction. Now, since the "Z" car was introduced in 1970, many of our members could be affected by scrappage, noise or modification legislation. I don't know if SEMA has placed any focus on the sports car industry, but there are a lot of us out here, not just "Z" cars, that could be adversely affected by the type of legislation SEMA tracks.

Thanks again for the hard work of everyone involved with SAN.

Guy Seymour

UpState "Z" Club

Greer, South Carolina

Thanks for the kind words. The short answer is... Yes! We have lots of folks in the sports car and vintage sports car niche: Datsun 510s, MGs, Zs, Healeys, Lotuses, Aston-Martins, Ferraris, Lancias, etc. are all represented in the SAN. Admittedly, we'd like more sports car club participation, as issues like scrappage affect 240Z owners just as hard as vintage Chevelle owners. Luckily our online sign-up option at www.semaactionnetwork.com is helping immensely in this pursuit. -Ed

CAFE Confab

I feel that SEMA should re-evaluate its position on CAFE standards. Taking the position that any kind of government regulation on CAFE is an infringement on free choice of automotive products is very short sighted and shows a poorly thought out, knee-jerk reaction. The oil cartels have a strangle hold on our energy policy, which is to use more and more oil. As everyone knows, all government inflation indexes exclude the price of energy. In reality our consumers' costs are greatly increasing. We need to keep the cost of energy down and reduce the outflow of American dollars to foreign companies.

With a small increase in CAFE we all can benefit: We can enjoy smaller levels of inflation. We can afford to keep our "muscle cars" on the road. We can afford to fix up and maintain our 4X4s etc.

I strongly support the actions of SEMA and enjoy your monthly newsletter. SEMA addresses many important issues such as scrappage; however, it needs to take the long view and support our mutual benefit. We need to work smarter by supporting the increase in CAFE.

Al Gordon

Littleton, CO

Newly Introduced Legislation

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

Driver Distraction

California:  AB 45 - would prohibit cell phone use while driving a car; permits use of hands-free cell phones.

Ohio: H.B. 280 - would prohibit hand-held cellphone use while driving except in the case of emergency; prohibits any cell phone use, including hands-free units, by any person with a temporary instruction permit.

Ohio: H.B. 281 - would subject a person who commits a moving violation while using cell phone to a fine double the usual amount.

Pennsylvania: S.B. 1577 - would prohibit hand-held cell phone use while driving.


Kentucky: BR 264 (Pre-File) - would prohibit enforcement of vehicle emissions testing program by an air pollution control district board that is required to terminate the program.

Maine: H.B. 1746A - would reallocate funds from the clean air vehicle fund (pertaining to the High Pollution Vehicle Retirement Program) and the clean fuel vehicle project into the general fund.

Ohio: H.B. 620 - would require residents in a county subject to motor vehicle emissions inspections who sell (or offer for sale) a vehicle to first have the vehicle inspected; requires the seller to make necessary repairs in order to pass inspection.


Montana: D. 1667 (Draft) - relates to illuminated headlight requirements while driving.

Montana: D. 1228 (Draft) - would require certain vehicles to have mud flaps.

South Carolina: S.B. 17 - would repeal law relating to the sale or use of equipment that changes the original design or performance of a headlamp or other lighting equipment, unless the equipment has been approved by the department of public safety.

Texas: H.B. 223 - relates to the authority of counties to enact noise regulations; prohibits the use of a motor vehicle that is unreasonably loud.

Licensing, Titling, and Registration

Montana: D. 185 (Draft Bill) - would authorize vintage license plates.

Montana: D. 1046 (Draft Bill) - would define junk vehicle and abandoned vehicles.

SAN Club Events


January 17-18, Pomona

National Board Meeting

Sponsor: Early Ford V-8 Club of America

Information: 760/242-2077


January 18, Lake Worth

3rd Annual Fords and Friends Meet

Sponsor: Early Ford V-8 Club of America, Lake Worth Region

Information: 800/330-1004


January 26, Warren

Winter Swap Meet

Sponsor: Walter P. Chrysler Club, Great Lakes Region

Information: 810/825-6707