Lights Out: Feds Could Limit Motor Vehicle Lighting Choices
This past summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminis- tration requested comments on two proposed policies governing aftermarket light- ing equipment. The first deals with aftermarket equipment that shifts the location of the rear reflex reflectors for taillamps from the placement chosen by the vehicle manufacturer. NHTSA is proposing to reject this practice. The second deals with the practice of switching the type of color and wattage used in replacement lamps from that designated by the vehicle manufacturer. NHTSA is proposing to reject this practice as well. On behalf of the hobbyist community and member businesses, SEMA submitted comment letters to NHTSA challenging the legality of NHTSA's actions and highlighting technical and practical concerns.
NHTSA's proposed reinterpretation of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard applicable to lighting equipment, if formalized as agency policy, would prohibit replacement items that do not conform to federal standards in exactly the same manner as the original equipment and use the same light sources as the original equipment.
“The broad scope of the proposals changes dramatically the long-standing policy of NHTSA and is of deep concern and significance to all hobbyists who seek the latest technology in vehicle lighting equipment,” said Steve McDonald, SEMA Senior Director of Government Affairs. “If the agency is seeking to use these changes to force compliance with existing photometric standards for replacement lamps or to address safety concerns relating to fire hazards, NHTSA can simply use its existing authority to force a recall of noncompliant or unsafe products.”
SEMA agrees that when a manufacturer designs a lamp to which the federal standards apply, the lamp must comply with the standards. However, that doesn't mean the replacement lamp must be an identical match to the original equipment. Nevertheless, that would be the effect of NHTSA's proposed policy were it to be implemented.
“When Congress authorized NHTSA to create the Federal Safety Standards, the lawmakers clearly intended that NHTSA's standards only establish performance levels for motor-vehicle equipment, not design standards,” McDonald added. “Accordingly, NHTSA should continue to draw a distinction between complying and non-complying products, not differentiate between original equipment manufacturers and aftermarket products, since many aftermarket products upgrade or enhance the original lights.”
SEMA has requested that the agency withdraw the proposed policy changes and reaffirm its long-standing position that the Federal Safety Standards apply equally to both original and aftermarket motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA is expected to respond to SEMA's comments early this year.
Farmer, Legislator, Car Enthusiast: Meet California Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa
By Suzie Carroll, SEMA Research Coordinator
California State Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa (R-District 2) is a fourth generation rice farmer who has lived in Northern California his entire life. He was first elected to the California State Assembly in 2002 to represent the nine-county 2nd Assembly District, which includes Redding, Shasta Lake, Yreka, Red Bluff and Yuba City, California. Assemblyman LaMalfa firmly believes that the government should first do no harm and should work to provide, through the most efficient manner possible, only those essential services that individuals and families cannot provide for them- selves. In addition to his duties in Sacramento and as an advocate for California’s farming industry, Assemblyman LaMalfa is an avid auto enthusiast and collector. Like so many auto hobbyists, Assemblyman LaMalfa finds time in his busy schedule to pursue the all-American love affair with the automobile.
Driving Force: We know that you are an avid automobile enthusiast. Tell us about your vehicles and your personal interest in the hobby.
Doug LaMalfa: Well, like any true "car nut," I have several cars and “projects” including a Ford F-150 Lightning, which comes in handy around the ranch. Those who know me know that I am a big Ford man. I remember when I was in fifth grade and one of my friends was picked up from school in a brand-new Mustang Mach 1 with a 351 Cleveland. Just seeing it was enticing and then when it was started up and I heard the dual pipes, I was hooked. I still have my first car, a ’68 Mustang California Special equipped with the 351 Cleveland, five-speed and four-wheel-disc brakes with handling suspension. I currently have some projects in the barn, including a nearly completed ’69 Torino Talladega with 428 Cobra Jet, painted Petty Blue with fullsize replica Petty 43 numerals for the roof and other NASCAR-style cues. I hope to take it to the 30th Anniversary commemoration of Talladega Raceway. I also have a ’65 fastback Mustang with a 289 and a five-speed, which awaits restoration. Perhaps we’ll do it in a Shelby R-model style. Also, I have a ’69 Cougar Eliminator awaiting a built 351 Windsor and a DeTomaso Pantera that needs cosmetic freshening but is roadworthy and really fun.
DF: Last November you had the opportunity to attend the 2003 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a guest of the SEMA Washington, D.C. Office. The SEMA Show is the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world and drew more than 100,000 visitors from over 145 countries. Please share with us your experience and impressions from the Show.
DL: The SEMA folks who showed me around were great, and I appreciate their time and hospitality. I was like a kid in a candy store. Everything automotive you could imagine is there. I had been to the Show back in the early ’90’s and it has grown a lot since then. I enjoyed meeting and chatting with Mr. Vic Edelbrock, an icon of the industry. I visited various exhaust, suspension and brake vendors, checked out crate engines and many other new products. The factory concept models of 4x4s and cars were intriguing, and the new stuff not yet released to the public was fun to see. My favorite was the new Ford GT [GT40] on display. It was incredible! And the Dodge Viper Truck looks like more fun than California regulators would ever allow. The vendors were very friendly and helpful, and the atmosphere at the Show was one of close friends and family. This fits with the importance of SEMA folks sticking together to thwart the constant assault by regulators on our right to choose the particular automobiles we desire to own.
DF: SEMA has been fortunate to partner with pro-industry and pro-hobby legislators like you many times in the past on key legislative initiatives. This year, there was SB 708, a bill to repeal the emissions-test exemption for vehicles 30 years old and older, and AB 844, a bill to require regulators to develop a tire fuel-efficiency program for passenger-car and light-truck replacement tires. These bills were ultimately amended by SEMA to mitigate their negative effects on the industry and the hobby. Tell us why you worked to oppose these bills.
DL: First of all, I am principally opposed to the relentless regulation of businesses in California, and these bills were part and parcel of that mentality. So, naturally, I was already against those bills. The marketplace will decide what tires are popular, not more labeling and needless testing. When a manufacturer develops a higher-fuel-efficiency tire, you can bet they will promote it heavily, and the public will decide if they want it, which is what I argued when we debated the law on the Assembly floor. I know many good, law-abiding folks who have restored or collected classic cars, and SB 708 would have added one more hoop for them to jump through. That is why I am proud to team up with SEMA to fight against legislation like this. SB 708 was stopped by SEMA and the auto clubs, working at the grass-roots level to make their views known. The people can take the credit for stopping that one. Belonging to these organizations and pressuring legislators does work, and this proves it.
DF: Is there any proactive legislation you would like to see introduced to protect the rights of hobbyists?
DL: The problem, at least in California, is not that we don’t have enough legislation, but that we have too much legislation. Instead of trying to pass new legislation, I would rather repeal bad legislation that places a burden on hobbyists. One thing that has frustrated me is the smog-check program. Don’t tell me what I need to do under the hood when it’s the tailpipe where it counts. If it passes the inspection, don’t worry about what parts I have on the car. Aftermarket parts, in many cases, are of better quality than original. Acknowledging that hobbyists take better care of their cars than most people, and drive their specialty vehicles only occasionally, it would make sense to not regulate them with overreaching smog rules. The vehicle-scrappage program makes me nervous as well, and I want to make sure it doesn’t become a monster that dries up the availability of good used parts or scrap cars of collectible value.
DF: What advice do you have for those involved in the hobby who want to take an active role in protecting their rights as enthusiasts from unnecessary government intervention?
DL: Get involved and stay involved in the battle. Take the time to call or meet with your respective legislators, and let them know how legislation is affecting the industry. If you want to stop unnecessary government intervention, you’ve got to get out there and vote. We, the people, should control the government. Government isn’t always right. It’s a great hobby we have and a good family activity. And what red-blooded American doesn’t get a smile or goose bumps at the sight or sound of a great classic or musclecar cruising by?
Calling All Car Lovers!
By Michigan State Representative Kathleen Law
The New Year is a great time to reflect. Reflection is an interesting concept. It can refer to spiritual introspection or a resolve to improve, diet or change. But for me, at the start of this year, I am reflecting on Cobo Hall!
Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan, has a unique light grid above the everyday convention center. It is immediately recognizable, and when I see those lights, I know exactly where my mind has wandered: Autorama.
This is your personal invitation to experience your own special moment of reflection. For classic-car lovers like me, there is no better place to enjoy all of the chrome, glass and paint on hot rods, customs, motorcycles and lowriders from all over the country. It is truly a gathering of enthusiasts second to none.
Over 600 cars and trucks (and an additional 200 in the used-car corral/swap-meet section) are pre-selected for exhibit. Ridler Award competition cars grace the entrance. These are the first shown cars with designer names, such as Alloway, Alexander Brothers, Anzalone, Barris Brothers, Foose and on and on. Motorcycle enthusiasts will be inspired by classic Harleys and custom bikes created by famous builders throughout the United States.
This isn‘t your father‘s Oldsmobile. It has been chopped, tubbed, dropped and blown. Your grandmother wouldn‘t know how to get into her Buick with its shaved, flowing lines, trick wheels, big-block engine and flames. Your uncle would love the way you meticulously restored his Woody, and mom would love the flip paint on her old Mustang.
I think back on the past 51 years of Autorama, and I can‘t wait to experience the sounds, lights, smells and excitement of the 52nd Autorama, February 27-29, 2004. The Michigan Hot Rod Association and Championship Auto have organized this event, and this driving hobbyist is grateful. You will be, too. Hey, Ford, Chrysler and GM: Come and see what we do with your cars when they are 30 years old! Mopar, Bowtie, Blue Oval, Willys, flat-head Windsor, Hemi, nitro, alcohol, injected, shaved, chopped, lowered, stretched, tubbed, sliced, lowrider, highboy, skirted, louvered, frenched: This is not just a hot rod car show; this is mobile art! Wait until you see the glow of the metallic paints, the shine of the chrome, the beautiful mural work and the fabulous, intricate pinstripe work. These are 600 one-of-a-kinds.
My favorite time to attend is set-up day. As the cars come into their spaces, the big motors growl and echo. The exhaust fumes are quickly dissipated as the city‘s People Mover rumbles overhead, and men, women and kids renew friendships made at cruises across the region. Nothing beats laughter, old friends and old cars.
You are invited to the 52nd Autorama at Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan, February 27-29. For more information, please call 586/771-7110 or go to the website: Tell them Mrs. ‘57 Ford sent you.
Editor‘s Note: State Representative Kathleen Law, the author of this article, represents the 23rd District (part of Wayne County) in the Michigan House of Representatives. She and her husband are avid car nuts.
Legislative Quick Hits
Canada Exhaust Noise: SEMA members based in Canada have expressed interest in pursuing legislation to amend the current law in the provinces governing exhaust-system noise. As in many American states, most Canadian provinces require exhaust systems to “prevent excessive or unusual noise” without defining these terms. SEMA has offered its model exhaust-noise legislation as an alternative. The SEMA model, versions of which have been enacted in California, Washington State and Maine, forces compliance with an objectively measured 95-decibel limit in a fair and predictable test.
Illinois Blue Dots: A bill has been recently reintroduced in the Illinois legislature that would allow antique vehicles to display a blue light of up to one-inch in diameter as part of the vehicle‘s taillights. Similar legislation was introduced in 2001. The bill recognizes that blue-dot taillights have no detrimental impact on safety; enables enthusiasts to modify their vehicles to recall in fine detail the glory days of the hot-rod era in America; and follows in the tradition of similar laws enacted in Minnesota and Montana. SEMA is urging Illinois members and hobbyist groups to contact their state legislators to support this bill.
Missouri Bumper Heights: Legislation has been introduced in the Missouri legislature to add a new section relating to maximum bumper heights for motor vehicles. Under the new section, vehicles with a gross-vehicle-weight rating of 9,001 through 11,500 pounds would be authorized a front bumper height of up to 29 inches and rear bumper height of up to 31 inches. Missouri law currently makes no provision for vehicles of this size. The current Missouri bumper-height law applicable to all other vehicles is substantially similar to the model legislation currently endorsed by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, which SEMA supports.
New Hampshire Exhaust Noise: The New Hampshire House Transportation Committee passed an amended version of a SEMA-sponsored bill to remove vague and subjective provisions from that state‘s exhaust-noise law. Currently, New Hampshire deems illegal all modifications that increase noise levels above those emitted by the vehicle‘s original muffler. The original SEMA-drafted legislation required law enforcement authorities to prove that an exhaust-system modification results in a noise level in excess of 95 decibels as measured by SAE test standard J1169 before issuing a citation. Deeming the 95-decibel limit too restrictive, the House Transportation Committee simply deleted provisions in the current law, which referenced the noise levels of the original muffler.
We Get Letters
How do I go about registering my kit-car Cobra as a 1965 vehicle in California?
You're in luck! A SEMA-supported California law enacted in 2001 enables kit cars to be registered as specially constructed vehicles. The law provides a more accurate model-year designation and emissions-system certification for these specially constructed vehicles.
Under California’s law, a smog-test referee compares the kit car to those of the era that the vehicle most closely resembles to determine the model year of a specially constructed vehicle. The vehicle’s owner can choose whether the inspector will certify the vehicle model year or the engine model year. If there is no close match, it is classified as a 1960 vehicle. Only those emission controls applicable to the model year and that can be reasonably accommodated by the vehicle are required. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registration program is limited to the first 500 specially constructed vehicles per year that meet the criteria. Contact the DMV for more information as to how you can register your vehicle under this classification.
In years past, California kit cars were assigned the current model year for smog-inspection purposes. This policy unfairly subjected kit cars and other specially constructed vehicles to more stringent smog-inspection requirements. Thanks to this measure, engines and vehicles now are held to the standards of the model year they represent rather than the more sophisticated vehicles of today. The law was updated in 2002 to allow previously registered vehicles to take advantage of this classification as well.
California exempts pre-1974 vehicles from the biennial and change-of-ownership smog-check requirements. Under the 2002 law, specially constructed vehicles designated with a pre-1974 model year are exempted from the test. As of 2003, all vehicles 30 years old and older are exempted.
JANUARY 2004 SAN CLUB EVENTS
January 16-18, Lake Havasu City
Buses by the Bridge VIII
January 17-18, Phoenix
13th Annual Papago Military Vehicle Show
Sponsor: Arizona National Guard and Arizona Military Vehicle Collectors
January 21-25, Scottsdale
January 23-24, Scottsdale
Russo and Steele Collector Automobiles
January 10, Vista
17th Annual Burger Run
January 10-11, California City Camp B
BLM Work Weekend
Sponsor: Smitty's Desert Riders
January 16-18, Grass Valley
Winter Fun Festival
January 17-25, Los Angeles
Minnesota Street Rod Association's Southern California Getaway
January 17, Cape Coral
13th Annual Cape Coral Car Show
Sponsor: Edison Region AACA
January 25, Lockport
27th Annual Swap Meet & Car Corral
Sponsor: AACA Illinois Region
January 16-18, Wichita
47th Darryl Starbird National Hot Rod and Custom Car Show, Convention
Submitted by: Minnesota Street Rod Association
January 17-20, Louisville
20th Annual Winter Swap Meet at the National Guard Armory
Sponsor: Falls City Model A Club
January 10-11, Detroit
2004 Motor City Swap Meet & Car Corral
January 2-4, Oklahoma City
47th Darryl Starbird National Hot Rod and Custom Car Show, State
Submitted by: Minnesota Street Rod Association
Newly Introduced Legislation
Note: The following state bills are not laws. They were recently introduced and are currently under consideration by the respective state legislatures:
Kentucky BR 817: Prohibits vehicle-emissions-control programs from inspecting motor vehicles four model years or newer.
Missouri SB 851: Extends re-inspection period after a failed test for vehicle emissions from 30 to 60 days; also establishes a fee waiver for owners age 65 or older.
Pennsylvania HB 2283: Provides for a waiver amount for vehicles failing the anti-tampering visual-inspection test for emission equipment; also ends separate gas-cap tests if the vehicle is equipped with a gas cap approved by the department.
New Jersey AB 3995: Prohibits the sale or use of any spray or cover used to make a license plate invisible to a photo radar, red-light camera or other imaging device.
New York SB 5811: Requires inspection of a motor-vehicle audio system when the annual inspection is conducted.
Pennsylvania HB 2257: Sets tinting at no more than 15% and a light-transmittance level of not less than 70%. Requires manufacturers and installers to provide a label with their names and percentage of light transmittance and reflectance with tint products. INSPECTIONS
Vermont HB 485: Changes inspection requirements for exhibition vehicles from a yearly basis to once every five years or whenever sold.
LICENSE PLATES AND REGISTRATION
Maine SB 609: Exempts classic auto dealers from dealer plate restrictions.
Indiana SB 131: Makes mobile-telephone use while operating a vehicle a Class B infraction with a fine of $1,000.
Vermont SB 199: Prohibits use of a hand-held cellular phone while a vehicle is in motion.
Missouri SB 894: Allows vehicles with a gross-vehicle-weight rating of 9,001 to 11,500 pounds to have a front bumper height of up to 29 inches and rear bumper height of up to 31 inches