November 2002

California Opens 'Specially Constructed' Class To Previously Registered Vehicles
A new California law makes previously registered kit cars and replicas eligible for the "specially constructed" designation. The law expands a California law enacted last year to provide a more accurate model year designation and emissions-system certification for these specially constructed vehicles. Last year's bill enabled only those vehicles that had never before been registered to take advantage of this classification.
SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, supported the bill sponsored in the legislature by State Senator Maurice Johannessen (R-District 4).
Under California's law, a smog test referee compares the vehicle 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.
"In years past, California kit cars and replica vehicles were assigned the current model-year for smog inspection purposes," said Steve McDonald, SEMA director of government and technical affairs. "This policy unfairly subjected kit cars and other specially constructed vehicles to more stringent smog inspection requirements. Thanks to this measure, engines and vehicles will be held to the standards of the model year they represent rather than the more sophisticated vehicles of today. In addition, car owners won't be penalized for having previously registered their specially constructed vehicle."
California exempts pre-1974 vehicles from the biennial and change-of-ownership smog check requirements. Under the new law, specially constructed vehicles designated with a pre-1974 model year will be exempted from the test. Beginning in the year 2003, all vehicles 30-years old and older will be exempted.
Vermont Scraps Scrappage
SEMA and Vermont hobbyists successfully opposed two Vermont bills that would have implemented statewide vehicle scrappage programs.
The first proposal would have created a scrappage program funded by a pollution surcharge and a diesel fuel tax. The pollution surcharge would have been tied to vehicle registrations and would be more costly on expensive-and supposedly higher polluting-vehicles. Further, a voucher system would pay owners of scrapped vehicles up to $2,000, calculated so that the state pays more for scrapping vehicles that pollute the most. These vouchers could have then been used to purchase public transit tickets or a replacement vehicle identified on a state-prepared "Clean Car List" from a dealership participating in the program. The second scrappage bill proposed to dispatch portable vehicle crushers to various locations in the state to accept vehicles for crushing.
SEMA and New England area SEMA Action Network hobbyists were able to convince Vermont legislators that these programs don't work. Noted SEMA Action Network Director Brian Caudill, "Scrappage remains a public policy fraud. These programs do little to clean the air. The only thing they do well is eliminate the availability of vintage cars for restoration projects and curtail the availability of inexpensive transportation for lower-income families."
SEMA would like to note that Vermont has seen several scrappage bills introduced in the last two legislative sessions. Each time, these bills have failed in no small part because Vermont SEMA Action Network enthusiasts like the American Truck Historical Society, Green Mountain Chapter, Champlain Valley Street Rods and the Adirondack Mustang Club and the New England Mopar Club have taken action.
The Case Against Scrappage
  • Scrappage programs ignore the fact that older, particularly classic, cars are well-maintained, infrequently driven and not a substantial source of emissions reductions.
  • Scrappage programs are unfair to low-income drivers who rely on low-cost parts and transportation.
  • Scrappage programs are difficult to operate and enforce. They are also subject to fraud.
  • Scrappage programs are inferior to other programs, such as VOLUNTARY emissions system repair and upgrade programs, which both cleans the air and keeps the cars on the road.
Vermont Anti-Hobby Inoperable Vehicle Bill Dies
Vermont area hobbyists and SEMA defeated a bill reintroduced in the Vermont legislature to expand the definition of "junkyard" to include any place of outdoor storage of four or more "junk" motor vehicles that are visible from a public highway.
Had this legislation passed, hobbyists working on multiple collector vehicles on private property would have been regulated as businesses. "This legislation showed a tremendous lack of understanding of the vehicle hobby on at least two levels," claimed Brian Caudill, director of the SEMA Action Network. "First, inoperable vehicles are not always 'junk.' A '40 Ford Panel truck parts-car is not 'junk' to a street rodder. A late '60's beater with a bashed rear-end is a goldmine for someone building a muscle car. Secondly, pursuing the old car hobby is expensive enough without the government intervening to regulate and tax what you do as a hobby the same way they would a business."
SEMA is thankful to the many Vermont hobbyists who helped kill this bill. We would particularly like to highlight the efforts of SEMA Action Network member American Truck Historical Society, Green Mountain Chapter.
Can You Believe?!
Antiques Aren't Appreciated in Burbank, California
Southern California's Mr. Bob Beck of the SEMA Action Network member club Road Kings Of Burbank has an all-too-typical story to tell.
Last year, his neighbor-who is also a car nut-was cited by the city of Burbank, California, for having "illegal" vehicles. He is lucky enough to have seven antique cars at his home, five of which are kept in his driveway. Two are daily drivers that are parked on the street. The cars are a great collection of American Iron and American memories:
  • 1935 Chevy Coupe. (In a locked garage under restoration.)
  • 1935 Chevy 1 1/2 ton dump truck. (Licensed. Insured. Drivable, not regularly driven).
  • 1940 Plymouth Coupe, (Licensed. Insured. Drivable. His back up daily driver.)
  • 1955 Chevy B/A, Coupe, (Licensed. Insured. Drivable. His wife's daily driver.)
  • 1958 Chevy Carryall (Suburban), (Licensed. Insured. Drivable.)
  • 1962 Comets (2), (His two daughters' daily drivers. Parked on the street at night.)
Of the seven cars, six are in original unrestored, but good running condition. Based on the cars' appearances, Burbank city inspectors wrote them all citations one day when he was away at work. The city graciously gave him 10 days to prove the vehicles were legal.
To satisfy the city, Mr. Beck's neighbor and fellow enthusiast had to take a day off work to show a city inspector that all the paperwork was in order and that every vehicle was fully legal, fully functioning and drivable. In the end, the only thing that he had to address were the spare tires he had leaning against the garage. They had to be put in the garage because city rules state that no parts could be stored outside-even though his yard is not visible from the street or neighbors due to 8 foot tall walls!
If you have a story about the restrictions placed on hobbyists or about an unfortunate run-in with the authorities, send it to us at: brianc@sema.org or SEMA, Attn: "Can You Believe," 1317 F Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20004.
Put SEMA on Your Mailing List
Fall is here and up North and in the Midwest a lot of cars are going into garages for the long winter. Others are headed into the restoration or rod shop. Down South, out in California and in the desert Southwest it's a different story: Car shows continue throughout the winter.
We'd like to know what SEMA Action Network Clubs and enthusiasts across the country are up to; what charity events they're involved in; when and where the rod runs, car shows, trail rides, rallies and tech meetings are held; and what legislative and regulatory issues concern club members and individual enthusiasts.
One of the best ways to keep us abreast of what is going on and what is important to the vehicle hobbies nationwide is for us to receive your club newsletters and updates. Consider placing SEMA on your mailing list. Send correspondence to:
Brian Caudill, SEMA, 1317 F Street, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20004. Clubs can also reach Caudill via email at brianc@sema.org.
Hey, That's My Car!
Driving Force Wants More of Your Pictures
Thanks to all who have sent in or e-mailed us photos. Efforts to replenish our photo library and continue publishing an informative, as well as visually appealing newsletter are going well... but we need more photos!
We need MORE restoration process pictures, MORE hot rod pictures, MORE junkyard pictures, MORE street rod pictures, MORE antique/classic pictures, MORE sport compact pictures and MORE lifted 4x4 pictures.
Continue sending us photos of your trail rides, restorations in progress, rod runs, car shows, charity events and drag races. Also, if it is okay with club members and webmasters, give us permission to reproduce the images from your websites.
Submit pictures to SEMA, 1575 S. Valley Vista Dr., Diamond Bar, CA 91765. You may also send high-resolution digital pictures by e-mail to jasonc@sema.org. While we regret that we cannot return any pictures to you, the next time we do a story focusing on your segment of the automobile hobby, we may use your ride as the example.
Exhaust Noise Kudos and Questions
Congratulations to SEMA on winning the exhaust noise battle in California. When I was into the import-scene, (Yup, neon colors, tinted windows, racing harnesses, back window loaded with stickers and graphics - I was young and had never experienced V-8 power. What can I say?...) it seemed like I was pulled over twice a week for harassment. Exhaust noise was ALWAYS the reason and, while I never was cited for anything, I always kind of figured that [California's exhaust noise law] was the "excuse" cops needed to profile and pull over hot looking imports to look for other things like drugs. Maybe now the police will think twice.
By the way, my '69 Chevelle is three times as loud as my old Honda was. I wonder why I've never been pulled in THAT?!
Jake Jimenez
Oakland, CA
I see where California recently passed a gearhead-friendly law for cars equipped with aftermarket exhaust systems. That rocks! My only question is how do we get something similar passed in my state?
Virginia is tough, man. I've been nailed for ride height, window tint, racing when I wasn't, and all kinds of other stuff. My most recent citation was for having a non-stock exhaust. Duh? Almost nothing on my truck is stock!
I don't want to complain, really. It's just that I used to be a thug and the minitruckin' hobby helped pull me out by giving me something positive and creative to do with my time. What do I need to do?
Curtis "Slammaster" Field
Richmond, VA
Thanks Curtis. I think everybody in the vehicle hobby would argue that owning, customizing and caring for a minitruck is a damn site better than thuggery. As for what you can do about exhaust noise laws in Virginia, SEMA has A LOT of experience in working with state legislatures to pass more reasonable exhaust noise laws. It'll take a lot of work on your part and ours, but we can get it done. Just ask the hobbyists in California! - Ed
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
Montana: D. 538 - Prohibits cell phone use while driving.
New Jersey: AB 1531 - Would ban use of hand-held cell phones but permit hands-free cell phones. Also would require New Jersey Department of Transportation to do a two-year study on driver distraction.
New Jersey: AB 2355 - Would ban use of hand-held cell phones but permit hands-free cell phones.
New Jersey: AB 2798 - Person may be charged with reckless driving if distracted while using a cell phone.
North Carolina: HB 62 - Prohibits use of hand-held cell phones. Provides one-minute grace period to initiate or accept phone call, then terminate conversation.
Pennsylvania: HB 2828 - Would ban hand-held mobile phones.
Pennsylvania: HB 2753 - Directs Pennsylvania EPA to implement California zero-emission vehicle program.        
Michigan: H.B. 6415 - Prohibits sale of asbestos brakes/parts.
Michigan: SB 1429 - Michigan Catastrophic claims insurance would create separate insurance premium categories for historic vehicles vs. passenger cars.
New York: AB 11907 - Requires insurers to lower insurance rates if the vehicle has side and rear windows made of enhanced protective glass (laminated with plastic or film).
SEMA Action Network Club Events
November 16-17, Scottsdale
5th Southwest Nationals
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
Information: 925/838-9876
November 9-10, Pleasanton
13th Annual Autumn Get-Together
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
Information: 925/838-9876
November 16-17, Oceanside
2nd Annual Pontiac Grand Prix Pow Wow
Sponsor: Pontiac Enthusiast Magazine
Information: 760/941-9303
November 9-10, Las Vegas
Buicks at Las Vegas, Round #2
Sponsor: Buick Grand National Racing Association
Information: www.users.lvcm.com/super6/