July 2003

Missouri Legislature Passes Street Rod Bill
The Missouri state legislature passed by an overwhelming majority a SEMA model bill to expand the titling and registration class for street rods and create a custom vehicle class. The bill now moves to Gov. Bob Holden for his approval. If the bill is signed into law, Missouri will join Illinois among the states that have enacted the SEMA bill. New York and Rhode Island also introduced the SEMA model legislation this year.
The Missouri bill provides for special license plates, and it exempts rods and customs from the 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, owners must certify at the time of registration that the vehicles will be maintained for occasional transportation, exhibits, club activities, parades, tours and similar uses and will not be used for general, daily transportation. As part of the bill, hobbyists will be allowed to use blue dot taillights for rear stop lamps or turn indicator lights. The bill sets the fee for the plates at $15, plus regular registration fees.
“This bill recognizes the immeasurable amount of time, money and thought automotive hobbyists invest in their cars,” said SEMA Director of Government Affairs Steve McDonald in a letter to Holden seeking his support. “For many vehicle enthusiasts in Missouri and throughout America, building, main-taining 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.”
“We are extremely gratified that Missouri is poised to join the list of states that recognize street rods and customs as distinct classes of vehicles,” McDonald added. “As in Illinois, the Missouri bill offers the added benefit of also including qualifying replicas and kit cars in these specialty vehicle titling and registration classifications.”  
SEMA is working with Jim Pavelec of Old Dog Street Rods, Jerry Slover of Pete & Jakes, Springfield Police Chief Lynn Rowe and the Missouri street rod and custom car enthusiasts to finalize enactment of this bill.
Missouri Street Rod/Custom Vehicle Bill
• Defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom as an altered vehicle manufactured after 1948.
• Provides specific registration classes and license plates for street rods and customs.
• Exempts street rods and customs 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 tail lights on street rods and custom vehicles
Changing the Laws: You Can Make a Difference
Editor’s note: Gary Bohlen, chairman of the Committee to Upgrade Street Rod Laws in Illinois, is an avid hobbyist and was instrumental in working with the state to enact SEMA’s model street rod/custom vehicle bill last year. Here is his first-hand account of working with SEMA through the process that ultimately changed the laws. It can serve as a guidebook, and an inspiration, to those working on behalf of the automotive hobby.
After 30 years of turning their heads, state troopers in the Peoria, Illinois, area and other law enforcement officers throughout the state became concerned about customs and street rods. They started watching for equipment such as factory bumpers, license plates less than 12 inches off the ground, a rake of no more than 3 inches, proper turn signals and various other required items. The enforcement of these Illinois Vehicle Code violations took place largely at car shows or while traveling to and from them. Street rodding was basically shut down in the Peoria area, street rods were sold, and future highboy projects were scrapped.
First, I tried to stop the actions as profiling by the state troopers. That tactic failed since the tickets were issued for laws that were on the books. In an unusual switch, however, their supervisors were the ones who advised me to change the laws.
I had no idea how to do that, but my plan was to surround myself with people who did. I contacted Steve McDonald at SEMA, who had just completed a model bill for legislative changes such as these. We joined forces. Without SEMA’s help this process would have failed.
My first priority was to identify what needed to be done and intimately know the laws I wanted to change. I formed my committee, chose advisors, solicited petition signatures, contacted my senator, started to identify supporters and adversaries, and talked to anyone who would listen.
Steve and others in the Washington office also made countless calls. Five or six times, they drafted and amended the bill, which would become House Bill 4344.
SEMA and I contacted every state law enforcement agency, sent professionally prepared information, spoke at their association meetings and met many of them in person. At first, most were standoffish. Then we found key personnel who would help us establish a Neutral position regarding H.B. 4344. Our goal was to have no law enforcement or other state agency take an Opposed position. Our bill passed the house with no objections, and it went through the senate with only one objection.
The results? As of Jan. 1, 2003, P.A. 32-0068 states all cars (not just street rods or custom vehicles) can have license plates 5 inches off the ground; the rake restriction is 7 inches; no bumpers are required; they can display any license plates they qualify for; and with a National Street Rod Association safety check they’re legal. Also, kit cars can be titled as the year they most closely resemble. The only restriction is that these vehicles are not for everyday transportation.
The actual bill was introduced in the House and signed into law by the governor in less than a year. It took SEMA, a dedicated coalition of street rod enthusiasts and me three years to get it going and implemented.
If you or your club wants to get a street rod bill such as this one through your state, contact Steve McDonald at SEMA’s Washington D.C., office, 202/783-6007, extension 31. You can also reach him via e-mail at stevem@sema.org.
SEMA, Lawmakers Fight Illegal Street Racing
It may look glamorous and exciting on the movie screen, but street racing is a dangerous and deadly activity. When the original The Fast and the Furious was released in 2001, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that the number of deaths resulting from street racing doubled. Shortly after the release of the sequel 2Fast2Furious this summer, the media were again full of reports of accidents caused by illegal speed contests.
Government agencies are fighting street racers in several ways. The Los Angeles City Council, for example, recently drafted an ordinance that would allow law enforcement agencies to confiscate, and then sell, vehicles cited for speed contests or illegal exhibition of speed.
Taking a more active approach, SEMA and Racers Against Street Racing (RASR) are bringing a driver education program to classrooms all across the country to promote legal alternatives.
“Young drivers today are surrounded by media messages that depict street racing as glamorous and OK,” said Christopher J. Kersting, president and CEO of SEMA, which administers RASR. “We want to get a head-start on educating new drivers about the dangers of street racing and aggressive driving stunts that put them, and others, at risk of serious injury and death. RASR is launching this program so that enthusiasts will take their racing activities to organized events at racetracks.”
“A lot of drivers talk about how fast their cars are, but we say it’s not legit without a time slip,” said Stephan Papadakis, pilot of AEM Racing’s Honda Civic drag racer and one of many pro drag racers speaking on behalf of RASR. “You come away from a track with that time slip proving exactly how fast you and your car did go, so when someone says prove it, you can.”
Local racetracks around the country offer “street legal racing night” programs to drivers who want to race their cars and come away with the proof of their vehicles’ performance. In Irwindale, California, the local police are giving “tickets” to go race at the Irwindale Speedway at no charge. Other venues with programs for enthusiasts include Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey; Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona; Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California; and Interstate Dragway in Moorhead, Minnesota. RASR is also working with drag-race sanctioning bodies to open up more track programs for the legal alternative to street racing.
In addition to Papadakis, pro racers active with RASR include Lisa Kubo of Saturn Motorsports, Craig Paisley of Paisley Automotive Racing, Angela Proudfoot of Angela Proudfoot Racing, Ara Arslanian of Bullish Motor Racing, Ed Bergenholtz of Bergenholtz Racing, JoJo Callos of Castrol Syntec/Team Tactics, Shaun Carlson of Team Mopar, Abel Ibarra of Flaco Racing, Len Monserrat of Team Big Len and Chris Rado of World Racing.
More information about RASR and its programs to provide legal alternatives to street racing within controlled environments is available at www.rasr.info. A list of racetracks offering street-legal programs is available at that site.
Legislative Quick Hits
Federal Scrappage Legislation: SEMA is working with a coalition of aftermarket trade associations to remove a provision in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s highway bill that would fund state vehicle scrappage programs. As currently drafted, the legislation would remove a longstanding prohibition on using federal money for state-run vehicle scrappage plans through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ). The draft legislation has not yet been formally introduced in the U.S. Congress. SEMA has received a pledge that the Senate mark-up version will not include the bill’s controversial language. SEMA is now working to obtain a similar commitment from House leaders not to pursue the proposal.
Maine Nitrous Oxide: Working with the Maine Custom Auto Association, SEMA amended Maine legislation that originally threatened to prohibit the operation of vehicles equipped with nitrous oxide on public roads. Gov. John Baldacci signed the bill into law. Under the SEMA amendment, vehicles equipped with nitrous oxide systems are permitted if all canisters of nitrous are removed or if the vehicle is en route to or from a racetrack.
Maine Exhaust Noise: In accord with similar laws enacted in California and Washington state, Maine’s governor also signed into law a version of SEMA-model legislation to create an enforceable motor vehicle exhaust noise standard for the state. Under its previous law, Maine deemed illegal all modifications that increased noise levels above those emitted by the vehicles’ original mufflers. The SEMA model maintains that an exhaust system modification is legal if it results in a sound level of 95 decibels or less as measured by the Society of Automotive Engineers test standard J1169. The new Maine law also stipulates that all exhaust sound level tests be performed by certified inspection stations.
Maine Inoperable Vehicles: Gov. Baldacci also signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to exempt certain hobbyist vehicles and activities from the scope of the state’s automobile graveyard laws. The measure exempts from automobile graveyard laws those areas used to store, organize, restore or display a motor vehicle or parts of vehicles that are collected by an automobile hobbyist. These vehicles must be antique autos and motorcycles, classic vehicles, horseless carriages, reconstructed vehicles, street rods or parts of these vehicles.
Oregon Lighting Equipment: Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed into law a bill concerning the regulation of motor vehicle lighting equipment. Early in the process, SEMA amended the measure to provide for aftermarket styling alternatives for auxiliary and passing lights. The SEMA amendments also removed a provision necessitating added requirements for brake lights that change original design and added a provision to allow lens covers when certain lamps were not required to be in operation.
Ontario, Canada, Performance Equipment: Earlier this year, the Ontario, Canada, Ministry of Transportation declared Bill 241 officially dead. The bill, primarily directed at equipment that boosts engine performance, sought to ban certain automotive parts, substances and equipment that the ministry claimed were used in street racing. Recently, the measure was reintroduced as Bill 20. Heeding the recommendations of SEMA and the performance community in Ontario, the ministry amended some of the bill’s provisions. For instance, a section was redrafted to focus specifically on the operation of vehicles equipped with nitrous oxide systems. SEMA and its allies in Ontario persuaded authorities to allow nitrous systems if the system is disconnected while the vehicle is being operated on public roadways. SEMA is working with its Canadian counterparts, SEMA members and hobbyists to further shape the new bill.
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:
Alabama S.B. 473: Establishes a periodic motor vehicle emissions inspections program on a county-by-county basis.
North Carolina H.B. 1287: Establishes the North Carolina Clean Vehicles Program to adopt rules established under the California low emissions vehicle program. Establishes the North Carolina low emissions vehicle infrastructure fund.
Inoperable Vehicles
North Carolina H.B. 1299: Requires an additional $3 vehicle registration fee in order to fund the abandoned and junked vehicle abatement program.
Tennessee H.B. 2126: Prohibits the storage of any wrecked, dismantled, junked or inoperable vehicle for more than 72 hours in Macon County. Exempts vehicles housed within an enclosed structure from the definition of a wrecked, dismantled, junked or inoperable vehicle.
Plates and Registration
New York A.B. 8596: Requires only a rear license plate for historical motor vehicles.
Nevada A.B. 239: Permits the DMV to issue vintage license plates to vehicles made prior to 1942 that closely match the Nevada plates that were originally issued to the car at a cost of $35.
Connecticut S.B. 942: Requires an additional $25 fine to be added to any fine assessed for racing in order to fund the brain injury prevention and treatment account.
SEMA Action Network Club Events
August 2-3, Prescott
PAAC Car Show and Swap Meet
Sponsor: Prescott Antique Auto Club
Information: 928/778-5386
August 22-23, Pleasanton
17th Goodguys West Coast Nationals
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
Information: 925/838-9876
July 5, Kokomo
American Pride Car Show
Sponsor: Pioneer Auto Club
Information: 765/459-9170
July 31-August 3, Louisville
34th Street Rod Nationals
Sponsor: National Street Rod Association
Information: 901/452-4030
July 13, Brookeville
13th Annual Car Show
Sponsor: Early Ford V-8 Club, National Capital Region
Information: 410/560-0237
July 19, Damascus
Celebrate Damascus Cruise-In
Sponsor: Heart of Maryland Classic Chevy Club and Late Great Chevys of Maryland
Information: 301/829-0171
July 1-4, Dearborn
Model A Restorer’s Club National Meet
Sponsor: Model A Restorer’s Club
Information: 248/887-3226
August 22-24, Springfield
36th Annual Swap Meet and Car Corral
Sponsor: Ozarks Antique Auto Club
Information: 417/993-4660
August 24, Gresham
18th All Pontiac Car Show and Swap Meet
Sponsor: Pacific NW Pontiac Club
Information: 503/668-5416
July 13, Centralia
14th 442 & Cutlass Picnic
Sponsor: S. Sound 442 Club and 442 Club of Oregon
Information: 253/847-0737
July 18-20, Puyallup
16th Goodguys Pacific Northwest Nationals
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association  
Information: 925/838-9876
July 17-19, Lansing
American Motors Owners Association National Convention
Sponsor: American Motors Owners Association
Information: 616/527-0477
July 15-19, Calgary
NW Model A Ford Club Regional Meet
Sponsor: Stampede City Model A Club
Information: 403/282-9655