January 2004

Massachusetts and Missouri to Introduce SEMA Model Street Rod/Custom Vehicle Bill

Massachusetts State Representative Viriato "Vinny" deMacedo (R-Plymouth) has agreed to introduce SEMA's model street rod/custom vehicle bill in the Massachusetts Legislature. The legislator has forwarded a draft of the bill to the state's regulatory community and to the SEMA government affairs staff before formal introduction in early 2004. In addition, State Representative Tom Green (D-St. Charles) will reintroduce the SEMA model in Missouri. Citing the expense to the state of offering additional specialty license plates, Missouri's governor vetoed the SEMA model in the last session. The Missouri Legislature overwhelmingly had passed this bill. Unfortunately, the SEMA model was attached to other bills, unrelated to the street rod/custom sections, that created a slate of new special license plate options. This year, Representative Green has committed to keeping the SEMA model as a stand-alone bill. The SEMA-model bill is still pending in New York (S.B.615, A.B. 5224) and Rhode Island (H.B. 5487). It was enacted in Illinois in 2002 (Public Act 92-0668).

The SEMA model bill provides for special license plates, and it exempts rods and customs from a state's periodic inspections and emissions tests. It also allows for the use of non-original materials and creates a titling criterion that assigns these vehicles the same model-year designation as the production vehicle it most closely resembles.


Under the provisions of the bill, use of these vehicles is limited to occasional transportation, exhibits, club activities, parades, tours and similar uses. Vehicles registered under this bill may not be used for general daily transportation. As part of the bill, hobbyists will also be allowed to use blue-dot taillights for rear stop lamps or turn indicator lights. Vehicles registered under these designations would be charged a one-time-only registration fee.


"We are extremely pleased that Massachusetts is poised to join the parade of states that have embraced our street rod/custom vehicle registration legislation. This bill recognizes the immeasurable amount of time, money and thought that automotive hobbyists invest in their cars," said SEMA Senior Director of Government Affairs Steve McDonald. "For many vehicle enthusiasts in Massachusetts and Missouri and throughout America, building, maintaining and enjoying their vehicles is a favorite pastime. This legislation represents an opportunity to acknowledge their commitment to the hobby and to protect it for future generations.


"As in Illinois and the other states, the Massachusetts and Missouri bills, if enacted, will offer the added benefit of also including qualifying replica cars and kit cars in these specialty vehicle titling and registration classifications," McDonald added.  


SEMA-Model Street Rod/Custom Vehicle Bill - Defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom vehicle as an altered vehicle manufactured after 1948. - Provides specific registration classes and license plates for street rods and custom vehicles. - Exempts street rods and custom vehicles from periodic vehicle inspections and emissions inspections. - Provides that vehicles titled and registered as street rods and custom vehicles may only be used for occasional transportation, exhibitions, club activities, parades, tours, etc. and not for general daily transportation. - Provides that a replica vehicle will be assigned the same model-year designation as the production vehicle it most closely resembles and allows the use of non-original materials. - Exempts street rods and custom vehicles from a range of standard equipment requirements. - Allows the use of blue-dot taillights on street rods and custom vehicles.


For more information about how to enact pro-hobby street rod and custom vehicle legislation in your state, please contact Steve McDonald at stevem@sema.org.

A SEMA Success Story: California's Exhaust-Noise Testing Program<

The California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) is reporting that 83 percent of vehicles which have undergone the state's new exhaust-noise test have been certified to be in compliance with California law. As you may recall, the BAR began operation of the motor-vehicle exhaust-noise testing program late this past summer. The program, the product of a SEMA-sponsored law, allows California hobbyists to prove they comply with state noise standards.

"This information validates our long-held contention that a vast majority of citations written for violation of California's exhaust-noise laws are, in fact, erroneous," said Steve McDonald, SEMA Senior Director of Government Affairs. "For years, the enforcement policy used by police officers has deemed nearly all exhaust system modifications illegal, even where the noise levels met state standards. Motorists who modify their vehicles for durability, appearance and performance prefer aftermarket exhaust systems. By establishing this evenhanded testing process, this program is proving to benefit consumers who favor these state-of-the-art products, the aftermarket industry that markets them and even police officers who are charged with enforcing the law."

The law also allows courts to dismiss citations for exhaust systems that have been tested and for which a certificate of compliance has been issued. Under the program, the 40 Smog Check stations statewide that provide referee functions are performing the test. These referee stations are issuing certificates of compliance for vehicles when tests of their exhaust systems demonstrate that they emit no more than 95-decibels, under Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) test procedure J1169. However, only those vehicles that have received a citation for an exhaust-noise violation are permitted to submit their vehicle for the test. The BAR has yet to issue a regulation concerning the cost to consumers for performing the test. Tests are currently being performed at no cost to consumers. The BAR has established a toll-free number to accept phone calls from cited motorists who wish to have the test performed (800/622- 7733). BAR officials have asked that cited motorists have the citation and vehicle-registration information available when calling.

Scrapping Old Cars: Going, Going, Gone?

Enthusiasts are starting to breathe a little easier. Looks like the federal government isn't going to buy and scrap old vehicles, not yet anyway. Legislation introduced in Congress to reauthorize the highway law will retain the current ban on using federal funds for state and local scrappage programs.

This past August, we reported that SEMA had been working quietly behind the scenes with a coalition of other aftermarket trade associations urging Congress to keep the ban in place. The effort appears to be paying off.

"Every few years, Congress must reauthorize the highway laws," said Conrad Wong, SEMA Action Network Director. "This allows lawmakers to reconsider how monies are spent on highways and mass transit. Unfortunately, it also provides an opportunity to lift the ban against spending federal taxpayer dollars on scrappage programs.

"A vehicle scrappage program may sound good at first to a lawmaker," Wong continued. "Once he or she learns the facts, though, scrapping old cars is not a cost-effective tool for cleaning the air or improving gas mileage. There is a constant need to monitor legislation and to educate lawmakers that well-maintained older vehicles are not significant pollution contributors. In fact, most scrapped vehicles are rarely operated second or third vehicles that have minimal impact on air quality."

Usually, Members of Congress pursue this issue. This time around, though, the U.S. Department of Transportation recommended lifting the ban. To date, the request has been ignored.

SEMA will closely monitor the legislation during upcoming Congressional votes to ensure that no last-minute scrappage amendments are attached. Congress has until the end of February 2004 to complete work on the new six-year highway reauthorization bill.

As you will recall, through the considerable grassroots efforts of the SAN in 2002, SEMA successfully defeated a provision to establish a national program to scrap vehicles older than 15 years that was included in a Senate energy bill. Lawmakers received a flood of telephone calls, faxes, e-mails and letters from SAN members. You made your voices heard! Lawmakers still remember that message.

U.S. Supreme Court to Review OHV Access to Wilderness Areas

The Supreme Court has agreed to review a decision by a federal appeals court that allows environmental groups to sue the federal government for failing to limit adequately off-highway vehicle (OHV) use within wilderness study areas. A number of OHV access groups challenged the ruling.

The main issue that the Court will consider is whether an agency can be sued over its day-to-day actions or inactions. For some, this is important to the public interest because only a formal rulemaking decision by an agency provides an opportunity for judicial review. On the other hand, opponents argue that the case would set a bad and dangerous precedent, opening the floodgates to lawsuits over daily policy decisions. In this case, OHV enthusiasts could see their access to trails denied while the lawyers argue over an agency's day-to- day decisions.

On another issue, the environmental community and OHV interests both oppose the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) planned sale of oil and gas leases covering 16,000 acres in Utah. The reasons for opposition are different, though: removing land from wilderness protection versus denying access to OHVs. Each side has filed separate lawsuits to prevent the sale of the leases. The sale puts in motion the Bush Administration's decision to limit the amount of BLM land available for potential wilderness designation using a 1991 inventory rather than a larger 1996 inventory.

Driving Force: Spotlight on the North American Motorized Recreation Council (NAMRC)

By Del Albright, NAMRC Facilitator

Enthusiasts who love motorized recreation have banded together on a national level to improve communications, find strategic solutions to common problems, and build unity in the sport. Inspired by many leaders in motorized recreation, the North American Motorized Recreation Council (NAMRC) was formed in 1997.

NAMRC represents all forms of motorized recreation, including four-wheel- drive vehicles, ATVs, snowmobiles, dune buggies, personal watercraft, recreational vehicles, racing vehicles and motorcycles. Over the years, these various interests have banded together on more than one nationally significant issue.

NAMRC is a national "knights of the round table" gathering of land-use and access organizations concerned with responsible multiple use of our lands and resources as it relates to motorized recreation. NAMRC meets twice a year to discuss solutions to common problems nationwide and to develop national strategies that can be followed in each parent organization.

Our Mission Statement is this: "NAMRC is an alliance of organizations, which facilitates communication, shares information, expertise and resources, to enhance unity on all issues concerning motorized recreation. NAMRC helps the organized motorized recreation community and other interested groups become more effective in their efforts to maintain, improve and expand opportunities and experiences in our many forms of recreation."

Some of the key issues that NAMRC has tackled include the "Roadless Rule" and various "Roadless" issues; wilderness legislation in many states; long-term strategic planning and organizational coordination; educational programs for hobbyists; kids programs (such as "Future Four Wheelers"); the "Fly-In For Freedom," a chance for members to fly into Washington, D.C. and speak to their legislators on issues affecting the motorized-recreation hobby; manufacturer involvement in access issues; image enhancement; and many others. But the most important thing NAMRC does is to provide a forum for all motorized interests to share ideas that can be used throughout the community for the good of all.

NAMRC works closely with SEMA. Through the years, SEMA has sponsored the Fall meeting of NAMRC in Las Vegas to coincide with the SEMA Show. NAMRC actively seeks advice and cooperative opportunities from SEMA. It has proven to be a mutually beneficial relationship.

Please visit NAMRC's web site at www.namrc.com or email the author for more information at jeepndel@goldrush.com.

SEMA Fights Against Unreasonable Restrictions on Altered-Height Vehicles

On behalf of 4X4 enthusiasts, SEMA continues the fight against unreasonable restrictions on altered-height vehicles. SEMA provided a detailed technical rebuttal to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators' (AAMVA) draft report on altered-height vehicles. The report provides a description and analysis of braking tests done on a single modified Ford F-150 several years ago. Without sufficient data and analysis, AAMVA's report concludes that oversized tires have a profound effect on rollover propensity and increases the applied pedal force required to achieve equivalent levels of braking performance. The report also makes vague recommendations to "further address safety issues that arise from the practice of installing lift kits and oversized tires . . . " As we have done for the past several years, SEMA has recommended retaining the existing AAMVA-model legislation providing for fair and reasonable standards for these vehicles.

We Get Letters

I just received a Massachusetts citation for both a "noisy exhaust" and a "modified exhaust." The problem is that I'm a Vermont resident with an aftermarket exhaust system. My vehicle is inspected by Vermont, not Massachusetts. Massachusetts law has an appalling disrespect and disregard to the laws, regulations and jurisdictions of other municipalities, state governments and the federal government. Massachusetts has no jurisdiction or control in my case.

-- Christopher Righi

Dear Mr. Righi:

Thank you for taking the time to share your plight with other SAN members. In 2002, SEMA was successful in killing Massachusetts legislation that sought to prohibit the sale or installation of "an exhaust system which has been modified in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the exhaust." That bill's sponsor pushed identical legislation in the 2003 legislative session and enlisted the support of the Boston City Council. To date, we have been successful in stalling serious consideration of the bill by the Massachusetts Legislature and the City Council and have offered the SEMA-model exhaust-noise bill as an alternative. However, it is still a violation of Massachusetts law to operate a vehicle with an exhaust system that amplifies the noise.

As you know, the SAN fights for the rights of all vehicle enthusiasts to customize and enhance their rides with legal aftermarket accessories, including exhaust systems. All of us want fair and reasonable laws and regulations with objective criteria for compliance. Your situation illustrates why we need uniform state laws governing exhaust systems. Many of us live in one jurisdiction and work in another. A uniform law takes the guesswork out of the compliance requirements, so that drivers as well as law-enforcement officers know and understand the requirements for a legal exhaust system.

We at SEMA will continue to work for this uniform law. If you have any questions or would like a copy of SEMA's exhaust-noise model bill, please direct those requests to Steve McDonald.  He can be reached at stevem@sema.org.



January 16-18, Lake Havasu City
Buses by the Bridge VIII
Information: www.bussesbythebridge.com

January 17-18, Phoenix
13th Annual Papago Military Vehicle Show
Sponsor: Arizona National Guard and Arizona Military Vehicle Collectors Club
Information: www.armytrucks.org

January 21-25, Scottsdale
Barrett-Jackson Auction
Information: http://www.barrettjackson.com/

January 23-24, Scottsdale
Russo and Steele Collector Automobiles
Information: www.russoandsteele.com


January 10, Vista
17th Annual Burger Run
Information: 760/744-3340

January 10-11, California City Camp B
BLM Work Weekend
Sponsor: Smitty's Desert Riders
Information: 714/528-1817

January 16-18, Grass Valley
Winter Fun Festival
Information: 209/368-8929

January 17-25, Los Angeles
Minnesota Street Rod Association's Southern California Getaway
Information: 952/546-3110


January 17, Cape Coral
13th Annual Cape Coral Car Show
Sponsor: Edison Region AACA
Information: 239/542-7969


January 25, Lockport
27th Annual Swap Meet & Car Corral
Sponsor: AACA Illinois Region
Information: 815/729-0366


January 16-18, Wichita
47th Darryl Starbird National Hot Rod and Custom Car Show, Convention
Submitted by: Minnesota Street Rod Association
Information: 918/257-4234


January 17-20, Louisville
20th Annual Winter Swap Meet at the National Guard Armory
Sponsor: Falls City Model A Club
Information: 502/447-6464


January 10-11, Detroit
2004 Motor City Swap Meet & Car Corral
Information: 419/991-5902


January 2-4, Oklahoma City
47th Darryl Starbird National Hot Rod and Custom Car Show, State
Submitted by: Minnesota Street Rod Association
Information: 918/257-4234