So why does that distinction matter? Special titling and registration designation and recognition of specialty cars including antique, street rod, custom, classic, collector, modified, replica, and kit car vehicles, has led to an easing of certain equipment standards and exemptions from stringent emission testing-allowing rodders and restorers to enjoy the auto hobby legally and providing more business opportunities to industry. According to a recent survey, manufacture sales of street rod and custom car specialty equipment products reached $260 million, while retail sales hit the $636 million mark.

Notwithstanding, beloved street rods and customs (including kit cars and replicas) have long struggled to find their place in the law. Almost all states have processes through which antiques can be registered, but fewer states provide adequately for modified cars. Rodders attempting to title and register vehicles built from the ground up must often find loopholes in their state's code to get it out on the road. The steps can be so time consuming and confusing that many throw in the towel.

To ease the pain, for the past 10 years the SAN, with the support of its dedicated enthusiasts, has championed SEMA-model legislation to make them easier to title and register. Beginning with Illinois in 2001, versions of the model bill have been successful in helping hobbyists title their rods in 20 states to date, and SAN is working to add four more states to the list: Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio.

In Ohio, a variation of the SEMA-model legislation (H.B. 199) was introduced by Representative Kenny Yuko, a longtime ally of SAN and member of the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus.

New York Assemblyman Bill Reilich, the chairman of the State Caucus and longtime car guy, has introduced A.B. 2429, which seeks to create a titling and registration classification for street rods and custom vehicles. The bill defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom as an altered vehicle at least 25 years old and manufactured after 1948. Under the bill, kit cars and replica vehicles will be assigned a certificate of title bearing the same model-year designation as the production vehicle they most closely resemble. Caucus members in the New Jersey Assembly, including Charlotte Vandervalk, Gary Chiusano, and Alison Littell McHose, introduced model legislation (A.B. 448) similar to New York's earlier this year.

To round out the four, there is Massachusetts, which has made significant progress with its street rod bill, H.B. 4557. SAN is working with state legislators, regulators, and vehicle hobbyists (including the Massachusetts Association of Automobile Clubs) on a compromise to create comprehensive registration classifications for street rods, customs, replicas, and specially constructed vehicles.

SEMA Street Rod Custom Vehicle Bill
• Defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom vehicle as an altered vehicle manufactured after 1948.
• Provides specific registration classes and license plates for street rods and custom vehicles.
• Provides that replica vehicles and kit cars will be assigned the same model-year designations as the production vehicles they most closely resemble and allows the use of non-original materials.
• Exempts street rods and custom vehicles 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 use, such as exhibitions, club activities, parades, and tours, and not for general daily transportation.
• Exempts street rods and custom vehicles from a range of standard equipment requirements.
• Allows the use of blue-dot taillights on street rods and custom vehicles.