October 2002

SEMA Bill to Create California Exhaust Noise Testing Program Becomes Law
Thanks to a new SEMA-sponsored law, California automobile hobbyists are now better equipped to fight unfair exhaust noise citations issued by state law enforcement officers. Legislation recently signed into law by Governor Gray Davis to provide for a statewide exhaust noise testing program will allow motorists to prove their vehicles comply with state noise standards.
The new law requires smog check stations that provide referee functions to facilitate the test. These referee stations will issue 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. Only those vehicles that have received a citation for an exhaust noise violation will be permitted to submit their vehicle for the test. 
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. Fees charged to motorists for the certificates of compliance will pay for the testing program.  
"The new law forces compliance with an objectively measured standard in a fair and predictable test. Through this procedure, motorists who drive vehicles legally equipped with modified exhaust systems can confirm that they comply with California's exhaust noise standards," said SEMA Director of Government Affairs Steve McDonald. "For years, the enforcement policy used by police officers deemed nearly all exhaust system modifications illegal, even where the noise levels were not excessive or unusual. That policy left exhaust system manufacturers, dealers and their customers without recourse." 
Last year, Governor Davis signed into law another SEMA-sponsored bill to compel law enforcement officials to tie exhaust system noise citations to the 95-decibel limit and to make clear that aftermarket modified exhaust systems are legal if they comply with the standard. However, exhaust noise citations were still primarily prosecuted solely based on the officer's subjective judgment. The new law should be a powerful aid for improving motorists' odds of beating a ticket in court.
"Motorists who modify their vehicles for durability, appearance and performance prefer aftermarket exhaust systems," McDonald added. "By establishing this evenhanded testing process, this law will serve to benefit consumers who favor these state-of-the-art products, the aftermarket industry which markets them and even police officers who are charged with enforcing the law."
California Specially Constructed Vehicles Could be Relieved of Extra Burden
The California Legislature passed a bill (S.B. 1578) to allow vehicles previously registered under other classifications to be eligible for a "specially constructed" designation. The designation is currently limited to first-time vehicle registrations only. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.
Last year, the state passed a law to provide a more accurate model year designation and emissions-system certification for specially constructed vehicles, including kit cars. In previous years, specially constructed vehicles were assigned current model years for smog inspection requirements, subjecting kit cars and other specially constructed vehicles to more stringent emissions inspection procedures.
Under the new law, to determine model year the inspector compares the subject vehicle to those of the era that the vehicle most closely resembles. If there is no close match, it is classified as a 1960 vehicle by default. Only those emission controls applicable to the model year, that can be reasonably accommodated by the vehicle are required.
California's specially constructed vehicles and kit car enthusiasts are encouraged to let Governor Davis know that this bill should be signed into law. For more information, please visit SEMA's Web site at www.enjoythedrive.com and refer to SEMA's "Your Car and the Law" section.
New York Jumps on 'Greenhouse Gas' Bandwagon
Following California's lead, a bill (A.B. 11895) has been introduced in the New York Assembly to reduce "greenhouse" gas (GHG) emissions from new vehicles sold in the state of New York. The bill provides that the regulations must be consistent with California's newly enacted GHG restriction law and pending regulations and, like California, the bill will apply to 2009 model year and later vehicles. There has been no action on this bill to date.
The good news for New York motorists is that, like in California, New York regulators are prevented from reducing speed limits, restricting vehicle size or imposing new taxes or fees in order to meet new GHG standards. The bad news is that CO2 is given off whenever gasoline is burned, therefore the only way to cut emissions is to make vehicles that burn less gasoline. As such, this legislation is yet another illegal state effort to regulate fuel economy, a strict Federal government prerogative addressed through national Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.
SEMA understands that automakers are filing suit to strike down the original California GHG law, and we fully support these efforts. If left unchallenged, nationwide state-level GHG laws could easily result in the downsizing or underpowering of popular performance cars, light trucks and SUVs despite consumer demand for better-performing, larger and more utilitarian vehicles. Further, GHG restriction laws could effect the custom car community by potentially limiting the sale and use of specialty automotive parts designed to increase vehicle horsepower and performance, simply because they may increase GHG emissions.
Can You Believe?!
Driving Force Wants to Hear Your "Horror Stories."
The automotive hobby, from street rods to lifted 4x4's and every vehicle type in-between, is subject to a nationwide hodge-podge of silly laws, weird regulations and chaotic enforcement. Most hobbyists have a story to tell about their experiences. Here are some regular occurrences:
A nosy neighbor peers over a privacy fence and reports someone to zoning officials for having a project car in their backyard.
Street rodders pulled over for being "unsafe" or for using "non-stock" parts.
Antique car owners ticketed for not wearing seatbelts when the car was never originally equipped with them.
Import-performance riders pulled over and cited because they have a modified exhaust, or it "sounds too loud."
Lowriders ticketed for using hydraulics at a designated car show (not while driving).
Lifted 4x4 owners cited because, well, "Man, that thing is just TOO tall."
Garage owners forced out of business because of overreaching government regulations.
If you have a similar tale to tell, we want to hear it! Write to SEMA with your experiences, tales of woe, accounts of silliness and narratives of the bizarre. We'll do our part by publishing them in a semi-regular column in the Driving Force called "Can You Believe?!" Perhaps though a little publicity, we can inject a little common sense into how vehicle laws are developed and enforced.
Submit stories, pictures and background, etc. to "Can You Believe?!," Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA),1317 F Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20004, 202-783-6024 (fax), brianc@sema.org.
Rhode Island Governor Says No to Rod/Custom Legislation
Rhode Island's Governor vetoed SEMA's model legislation to create vehicle registration classifications for street rods and custom vehicles due to budgetary and election-year politics. Similar rod and custom classification legislation was signed into law in Illinois last August.
The Rhode Island bill, which passed overwhelmingly in the legislature, provided for special license plates for rods and customs, included appropriate and traditional year-break definitions for street rods, provided for the use of non-original materials and created tilting criteria that would have assigned these vehicles, including replicas, the year of manufacture that the body of the vehicle resembles.
"The Rhode Island legislation should have been a slam-dunk. It would have provided specific registration classes for street rods and customs, and would have only required them to comply with those equipment standards on the books during their year of manufacture," said Brian Caudill, SEMA Action Network Director. "The bill would have even permitted blue dot taillights and exempted street rods and customs from emissions inspections. Needless, to say, we are disappointed with the outcome."
SEMA would like to thank the members of the Rhode Island Street Rod Association for working so hard to get this legislation to the Governor's desk. SEMA and Rhode Island hobbyists vow to pursue the bill again in 2003.
Illinois Hobbyists Defeat Goofy Operable Vehicle Removal Legislation
Illinois SEMA Action Network clubs and contacts were able to defeat truly "extraordinary" Illinois legislation (H.B. 3399) that would have allowed county boards to declare certain operable vehicles on private property a nuisance and order their removal. Only vehicles registered as "historic" would have been exempt. Under current Illinois law, only inoperable vehicles can be targeted for removal.
Had H.B. 3399 passed, owners would have had only seven days to remove a vehicle before facing stiff fines. If the owner could not afford to move it, the vehicle could have been removed by the local law enforcement agency. 
SEMA and Illinois hobbyists successfully argued that H.B. 3399 would grant county boards subjective and unchecked authority to label legally registered vehicles - including project vehicles - as nuisances, based solely on their appearance. This would make it increasingly difficult for hobbyists to work on collector vehicles on private property and would be unfair to low-income vehicle owners, many of whom depend on the low-cost transportation that older, and naturally less pristine, cars provide.
Without question, H.B. 3399 was overreaching legislation that could have trampled on the rights of Illinois vehicle collectors, customizers, restorers, and shade-tree mechanics. SEMA would like to highlight the efforts of the following Illinois SEMA Action Network member clubs in defeating this legislation: Northern Illinois Impala Club, Allante Appreciation Group, Southern Illinois Street Machines, Heartland Vintage Truck Club, Chicagoland Buick Club, Prairie A's Antique Ford Club, Model A Ford Club of America-Salt Creek Chapter.
October 18-20, Palmdale
14th Annual Buick Shootout and Team Challenge
Sponsor: Buick Grand National Racing Association
Information: 714/772-6201
October 27, Upland
17th Annual Car Show and Picnic
Sponsor: Early Ford V-8 Club, Baldy View Region
Information: 909/984-1051
November 1-3, Bakersfield
4th Fuel and Gas Finals
Sponsor: Good Guys Rod and Custom Association
Information: 925/838-9876
November 2, Westminster
Westminster Buick Car Show
Sponsor: Buick Grand National Racing Association
Information: 714/841-2231
October 12-13, Columbus
Columbus' Cloverleaf Connecticut Tour
Sponsor: Connecticut MG Club
Information: 860/886-2158
October 11-13, Tampa
15th Annual Southeast Street Rod Nationals
Sponsor: National Street Rod Association
Information: 303/776-7841
October 12, Tampa
21st Annual Mustang, Shelby and Ford Roundup
Sponsor: Classic Mustangs of Tampa
Information: 813/920-4310
November 2-3, Ocala
15th Annual Mopars with "Big Daddy"
Sponsor: Florida Mopar Association
Information: 321/729-6236
October 12, Barrington
5th Annual Buick, Olds, Pontiac Classic and
Antique Cars Show
Sponsor: Chicagoland Buick Club
Information: 630-860-2021
October 11-13, Kansas City
Mid-Western Nationals
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
Information: 925/838-9876
October 26, Stevensville
9th Annual Halloween Show
Sponsor: Kent Island Cruisers
Information: 410/643-2817
October 25-27, Charlotte
9th Southeastern Nationals
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
Information: 925/838-9876
October 20, Macungie
Rod and Custom Show IV
Sponsor: Endless Summer Rods and Customs
Information: 610/381-6250
October 13, Reedsburg
7th Annual Fall Color Cruise
Sponsor: Wizards of Rods Car Club
Information: 608/985-8040