The cover asks the question, "Can they kill hot rodding?" To read that, you might think this is just another ploy to sell magazines. Now check the rest of the newsstand and look at some of the other covers. You'll notice many of them have a similar theme. That's not by accident. Those of us in the industry see the dark regulatory clouds on the horizon, and we're circling the wagons. The subject won't necessarily be popular or upbeat, but we've decided to unite so that we can make sure all hobbyists get the message, no matter what magazine they read or what kind of car they drive.
Let me be the first to say I don't think government action (or hobbyist inaction) will actually kill hot rodding. I do, however, believe that an overgrown or insensitive government can make things so difficult that a lot of folks will simply-over time-throw in the towel. That's a shame, because the long-term human and historical cost is huge.
More than any other country, America has been admired for its creativity. Whether it's the field of art, music, design, architecture, engineering, science, high-tech manufacturing, pop culture, sports, or just homegrown tinkering, we have been and are still the envy of the world. Notice something about that list? Hot rodding spans the gamut of those fields. Take away hot rodding and everything suffers.
The roots of hot rodding come from our insatiable desire to build on and improve things. Hot rodding is an outgrowth of the notion that necessity is the mother of invention. Not having much cash but wanting something unique and fun to drive, the post-WWII American saw an engine from a wrecked car, an abandoned jalopy, a stick welder, and he saw an opportunity. That's the kind of unfettered drive and ingenuity that built our country. He did not have to stand in line for one of 500 permits, read (and understand!) a statute book, apply for a special plate, install a government-approved crate engine, endure senseless inspections, pay fees and fines above and beyond the norm, limit his yearly mileage, write his congressman every six months, or worry if his "gow job" would be towed off by the HOA. I wonder: If our hot rodding forefathers had to deal with all that, would they still have built them? The sad part about being a modern hot rodder is that you're actually a leg up on everybody if you're a lawyer instead of a fabricator.
The late Boyd Coddington comes to mind as a clear-cut example of what big government is capable of doing to a hot rodder. To all of us, Coddington was an artist, a fabricator, an inventor, a visionary, and an entrepreneur. But to the state of California, he was a common criminal. Why? Because he did what he thought he had to do to make automotive art. As culturally relevant as his work was, he wasn't a lawyer. So I have to ask, do you think you're smarter than Coddington? Because you damn well better be.
So how bad can it really get? Europe is a great example, as hot rodding is mostly illegal and was never allowed to flourish. Europe does, however, have exotic, high-powered supercars! Bugattis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis-the list goes on. That's great, except that regular guys can't own them because they'd have to be rich. That's the thing about America and hot rodding-it's inclusive of all socioeconomic levels, not just rich playboys. The lesson here: The more rules that obstruct our hobby, the more expensive and exclusive it will become. I'd also argue, the less American it becomes.
Hopefully, you'll be motivated to do something about it. For starters, you can read Christopher Campbell's story, "Can They Kill Hot Rodding?" starting on page 44. If you want to know what lawmakers are proposing in your state, you should log on to www.SEMASAN.com and become a member of the SEMA Action Network (SAN). It's free. You'll be informed automatically whenever anti- or pro-hobby legislation is being proposed in your state, and what you can do about it. If you're inclined to take your convictions with you to the ballot box this November, SAN also has a list of hobby-friendly legislators (both republican and democrat) who are on the Congressional Automotive Performance & Motorsports Caucus. They also have local legislators broken down by state in their State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus listing.
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