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“Historic” Win for Dream Cruisers

New Michigan Law Opens New Opportunities for Vintage Vehicles

Remember the days when roadways were jam-packed with cars sporting whitewalls, tailfins and chrome bumpers? It was a time when disc brakes, power windows and air conditioning weren’t standard equipment and rock bands sang about Little Deuce Coupes, GTOs and Hot Rod Lincolns. Well, welcome to Michigan in August!

In a day and time when miles per gallon often trump miles per hour in automotive conversation, the rules of the road generally aren’t intended to favor vintage vehicles. However, a new Michigan law not only benefits classics but encourages their use. Just in time for the famous Woodward Dream Cruise, Senate Bill 1146 will allow registered historic motor vehicles (more than 25 years old) unlimited use as “exhibition” vehicles the entire month of August each year. Sponsored in the legislature by Senator Mike Kowall, the bill was signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder. The new law providesMichigan historic vehicle owners the opportunity to enjoy recreational driving in the month of August in addition to the other sanctioned uses. By implication, the law also acknowledges the immeasurable time and money automotive hobbyists, especially historic vehicle owners, invest in their cars.


Senator Kowall and two young constituents standing in front of his ’36 Plymouth.


While, in recent times, some states have sought to restrict the usage of “historic” vehicles, toughen eligibility criteria and target old cars as a revenue source, Senator Kowall has stood up for them with this and other legislation. Kowall is a dyed-in-the-wool gearhead. Born into a family of automotive enthusiasts, he became disheartened by citations being issued to drivers of “historic” vehicles in his area. To combat this activity and help ensure another spectacular Dream Cruise, S.B. 1146 was introduced. Major groundwork for this bill had been laid by Senate Resolution No. 159 which commemorates August 2012 as Automotive Heritage Month in the state of Michigan, of which Kowall was also a sponsor.

Automotive enthusiasts everywhere can look to this law as another example of an informed state government working effectively on our behalf. Upon being introduced, S.B. 1146 moved through the Michigan state legislature with a speed akin to a racing vehicle hitting its top end. In one month’s time, the Senate Committee on Transportation (of which Kowall is vice chair) quickly passed the bill to the entire Senate, then the House Transportation Committee and full House of Representatives before reaching the governor’s desk.

Not only is Kowall a long-time member of the SAN-supported State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus, a bipartisan group comprised of state lawmakers whose common thread is a love and appreciation for automobiles, but his wife Eileen who serves in the Michigan House of Representatives is a member as well. Although she is not nearly the automotive aficionado that her husband is, Eileen helps maintain the couple’s own classic car collection. However, they are not the only partners to share membership in the caucus. Others include Senator Ted Gaines and Assemblymember Beth Gaines, both in the California legislature, as well as New Hampshire Senator Andy Sanborn and Representative Laurie Sanborn.

Credit for the victory of S.B. 1146 is owed in no small part to the passionate Michigan hobbyists who answered the call and participated in letting lawmakers know their feelings about this issue. We encourage SAN members to continue to make in-roads with legislators in their state so that the network can report more successes like this. “Spend eight hours getting to know your legislators, and follow their progress,” Kowall advises. “Offer your special car to them for a parade appearance. This small investment could pay off 10-fold!” Hobby-friendly lawmakers in your state, members of the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus, can be found on the SAN website at www.semasan.com.