It's ironic that we can be living in what's arguably the golden age of performance and horsepower with a far larger aftermarket industry with more technology and resources than ever before, and access to multiple daily driveable 500-plus horsepower muscle cars right off the showroom floor with engine technology and potential that makes our favorite small- or big-block engine look positively archaic, and yet be under the constant scrutiny of government regulators.
But that's nothing new, right? You've heard that same old thing year after year; the stuffed shirts want to take away your speed parts and good gas, and the Prius drivers don't understand you and hate your loud, smelly old car. Who cares? That stuff is usually only a problem for guys in California. Right? Not necessarily.
It's important to remember that as big as the hot rodding world seems (and it is, nearly $700 million in retail sales by some estimates), we're still the minority in relation to the general populace. Here's our favorite way to relate it: Drive around for a week and count how many vintage cars you see versus those 10 years old or less-car shows excluded of course. Small percentage, isn't it?
And that's just relating it to America, where hot rodding was born and is more widespread than anywhere else in the world. When you spread our numbers out among the rest of the global population, it becomes easy to see why our rights aren't always considered-we're not even on most people's radar.
Because of this, the hobby itself is often poorly grasped and downright misunderstood by many. While we consider hot rods and custom cars to be a unique art form-a self-expression formed in steel-most everybody else considers a car an appliance, a machine with a mission of locomotion and nothing more. They can't comprehend why on earth you would want to waste your money modifying factory engineering by adding superfluous parts.
So Why Now?
We're often tucked away in our garages or at a car show or motorsports event separated from the political world, and in many cases it's easy to just shrug off proposed legislation as if it doesn't directly affect your town or what you're wrenching on. Nevertheless, in the face of an evolving world where pollution, waste, energy geopolitics, and efficiency have necessarily moved to the forefront, we have to make sure the fingers are pointed in the right direction.
That's what this issue of PHR is about; an opportunity to bring you up-to-date on the issues and regulations the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) and the SEMA Action Network (SAN) have been addressing on our behalf, and to consider how actions being taken by federal and state lawmakers impact you and the whole hot rodding community. The need for all of us to stay informed and become involved is greater than ever. From emissions, to auto equipment standards, the state and federal governments are making decisions about your current and future car. We have to make sure our rights are represented, or we will surely relinquish them.
Registration & Titling
What exactly are street rods and custom cars, and what are the differences between the two? As SEMA has defined them, the street rods are modified vehicles with body types manufactured prior to 1949. Custom cars may have many of the same modifications as street rods, but there is a key difference; customs are based on vehicles built from 1949 through the present day. Mustangs, Camaros, as well as Shelby Cobra kit cars fall in this category.
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.
Parts car or junk? It depends...
Parts car or junk? It depends on your perception, but either way, no one should have the right to haul it off of your property simply because they don't like it.
In all of politics, vehicle scrappage programs are perhaps the most misdirected attempts at environmental protection. Most scrappage programs allow smokestack industries to avoid reducing their own emissions by purchasing older vehicles and crushing them into blocks of scrap metal. Hot rodders and restorers alike end up suffering from the indiscriminate destruction of potential projects and parts resources. America safeguards its artistic and architectural heritage against indiscriminate destruction, and our automotive and industrial heritage deserves the same protection.
Scrappage programs focus on vehicle age rather than actual emissions produced. This is based on the erroneous assumption that old cars are "dirty" simply because they are old. The true culprits, however, are gross polluters-vehicles of any model year that are poorly maintained and driven frequently. Scrappage programs ignore better options like vehicle maintenance, repair, and upgrade programs that maximize the emissions systems of existing vehicles.
In the past year, SEMA has helped defeat scrappage initiatives in California, North Carolina, and Washington, but it was enthusiasts who played a vital role in altering the federal Cash for Clunkers program in 2009. Cash for Clunkers allowed car owners to receive a voucher to help buy a new car in exchange for scrapping a less fuel-efficient vehicle, opening the door for the destruction of classic and antique cars. SEMA and concerned hot rodders were able to introduce an amendment into the legislation to spare vehicles 25 years and older from the scrap heap. This provision helped safeguard older vehicles, which are irreplaceable to hobbyists as a source of restoration parts.
Inoperable Vehicles: Don't Get Zoned Out!
Have you ever come home to find a ticket on your project vehicle that's parked on your property? Unfortunately, we have. In some areas of the country, state and local laws-some on the books, others pending-can or will dictate where you can work to restore or modify your project vehicle. Believe it or not, that project car or truck you've stashed behind your house until the new crate engine arrives, or the cherished collectible you've hung onto since high school to pass down to your kids, could very easily be towed right out of your yard, depending on the zoning laws in your area.
Why is the long arm of the law reaching into your backyard? Some zealous government officials are waging war against what they consider "eyesores." To us, of course, these are valuable ongoing restoration projects. But to a non-enthusiast lawmaker, your diamond in the rough looks like a junker ready for the salvage yard. If you're not careful, that's exactly where it will wind up.
Hobbyists are becoming increasingly concerned about the many states and municipalities currently enforcing or attempting to legislate strict property or zoning laws that include restrictions on visibly inoperable automobile bodies and parts. Often, removal of these vehicles from private property is enforced through local nuisance laws with minimal or no notice to the owner. Jurisdictions enforce, or seek to enact, these laws for a variety of reasons, most particularly because they believe inoperative vehicles are eyesores that adversely affect property values, or inoperative vehicles pose a health risk associated with leaking fluids and chemicals. Many such laws are drafted broadly, allowing for the confiscation of vehicles being repaired or restored.
For the purposes of these laws, "inoperable vehicles" are most often defined as those on which enough parts have been removed, altered, damaged, or allowed to deteriorate so that the vehicle cannot be driven. The following are some common conditions that cause vehicles to be in violation of these laws: missing tires, vehicle on blocks, front windshield missing, no engine, steering wheel missing, license plate with expired registration date, or no license tag. Which one are you guilty of?
In the 2009-2010 legislative session, hobbyists defeated bills in Hawaii, Kansas, Nebraska, Virginia, and West Virginia that would have established unreasonable restrictions on backyard restoration projects. In response to these and other anti-hobbyist efforts, SEMA has drafted its own inoperable vehicle bill that's fair to restorers while still considerate of neighbors who don't want a junkyard operating next door. The SEMA model bill simply states that project vehicles and their parts must be maintained or stored outside of "ordinary public view." States can adopt this model legislation as their own; in 2005, Kentucky did just that. This past session, Vermont also chose to protect hobbyists from a bill that was targeted at salvage yards. The new law increases the regulation of salvage yards in the state, but includes a provision stipulating that hobbyists are not to be confused with the owners of automobile graveyards. The new law defines an "automobile hobbyist" as a person not primarily engaged in the sale of vehicles and parts or dismantling junk vehicles. Further, the definition of "automobile graveyard" does not include an area used by an automobile hobbyist for storage and restoration purposes, provided their activities comply with federal, state, and municipal law.
Emissions & Smog Check Programs
Many states operate their own smog check programs in areas that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated as a "nonattainment area," meaning that the area has not attained the EPA's required air quality. The EPA checks for carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide when designating these areas, and when an area does not meet the standard for any individual pollutant, or any combination of the pollutants, then it is placed on the list of nonattainment areas.
Many states have incorporated the OBD testing method as part of the vehicle emissions inspection for 1996-and-newer vehicles which replace tailpipe tests by identifying emissions problems through information stored in the vehicle's onboard computer system. Some states have even proposed only testing vehicles with the OBD test, limiting the vehicles that need to be tested to those manufactured in 1996 and later. The Inspection and Maintenance (I/M) 240 is an enhanced emissions testing program, with "240" indicating the number of seconds that the tailpipe portion of the test lasts. I/M 240 tests require visual inspection of emissions control devices, an evaporative emissions test, and a transient drive-cycle exhaust emissions test performed while the vehicle is running on rollers. Due to improper training or unclear legality, many state programs mistakenly fail vehicles in the visual test based on the presence of aftermarket engine products, or force older collector vehicles to undergo some type of testing.
To remedy this situation, policy makers must properly focus inspection procedures and not confuse legitimate aftermarket parts with emission defeat devices and tampering violations. The hobby must also pursue proactive legislative initiatives to establish exemptions from inspections for low-mileage vehicles, classic vehicles (defined as 25 years old and older) and newer vehicles. It is useful to remind legislators that the emissions from this small portion of the vehicle fleet are negligible. This is especially true when you consider the low miles typically driven by hobby vehicles and the excellent condition in which these vehicles are maintained.
CAFE and CO2 Standards
Greenhouse Gas Regulation...
Greenhouse Gas Regulation at the Federal and State (CA) Levels
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards strive to achieve reduced greenhouse gas emissions through a reduction in the amount of fuel new vehicles burn. Manufacturers are given a fuel economy rating, measured in miles per gallon (mpg), that their fleet as a whole must average in a given model year. Congress passed a law in 1973 directing the EPA to set CAFE standards, making these standards a tool exclusively wielded by the federal government. The federal government finalized new fuel-economy standards as well as a national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions tailpipe standard in April 2009. The two issues are related, since CO2 is released in direct proportion to the amount of carbon-based fuel that is burned. Under the new rules, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has set CAFE standards for model year 2012-2016 vehicles, and the EPA has established corresponding CO2 emissions standards. The combined action would match CO2 emission standards previously adopted by California and 13 other states.
The CAFE rating will be 35.5 mpg in 2016, based on a combined 39 mpg rating for passenger cars and 30 mpg for light trucks. The EPA's CO2 emissions standard is 250 grams per mile for vehicles sold in 2016, roughly the equivalent of 35.5 mpg. The automakers supported and helped formulate the rules since they provide a reasonable national approach to regulating CO2 emissions rather than a patchwork of state rules.
NHTSA will use an attribute-based system, which sets CAFE standards for individual fleets of vehicles based on size, taking into account the differences between cars and light trucks (SUVs, pickups, and vans). Individual car companies will have flexibility on how to achieve the rules, whether placing more emphasis on hybrids or reducing vehicle size and weight. Nevertheless, a standard based on each vehicle's footprint should force automakers to increase the efficiency of every vehicle rather than downsizing some vehicles in order to offset the sale of bigger cars.
While the new CAFE and CO2 standards for 2016 are reasonable, the Obama Administration announced plans to put in place stronger rules for 2017 and beyond. In May, President Obama directed the EPA to also reduce emissions of conventional pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides. The president also instructed regulators to establish fuel economy and CO2 standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks for the first time beginning in model year 2014. Since the government is to regulate CO2 emissions from automobiles, it should do so through the CAFE standards and not allow any individual state to set overly harsh standards.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is also pursuing CO2 standards for model year 2017-25 cars and trucks. CARB intends to coordinate its action with the EPA and NHTSA, along with the automakers and other stakeholders, with the goal of setting a single national standard. Federal regulators intend to issue a "game plan" for model year 2017-25 light-duty vehicles by September 2010, and adopt a final rule by mid 2012, while CARB officials want to complete action on the CO2 standards by the end of 2010.
While we're all for ensuring everyone has clean air to breathe, drastically increased CAFE potentially limits consumer choice if manufacturers are forced to make smaller, less powerful and less useful cars and light-duty vehicles in order to meet government fuel economy demands. Market-based solutions must be employed, which allow the consumer to participate in and respond to national energy policies.
Equipment Standards & Inspections
Ironically, most custom-fabricated...
Ironically, most custom-fabricated equipment is stronger and better designed than many OEM parts.
We're certainly not against proper quality and performance standards; no one wants poorly engineered, dangerous parts on their car. Understanding how vehicles and car parts are regulated can be a bit confusing, however. The simple explanation is that the federal government, through the NHTSA, has the right to set, enforce, and investigate safety standards for new motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment. These Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) are performance-based; they do not dictate design elements. For example, the federal lighting standard describes the photometric requirements for a headlamp, but does not dictate shape or size. The FMVSS covers basic types of equipment like tires, rims, headlamps and taillights, brake hoses, and more, and establishes vehicle crashworthiness requirements for front and side impact, roof crush resistance, and fuel system integrity to name a few.
Emissions and emissions-related parts are regulated by the EPA and various state agencies, primarily CARB. For products sold in California (and states that have adopted the California standards), manufacturers must conform to certification processes established by CARB. For those seeking CARB exemption status, SEMA has even created the Black Book, which explains the requirements and identifies ways to minimize both cost and time in reaching compliance status. That's especially useful since a CARB EO number usually qualifies the part for 50-state legality.
Federal law prohibits states from issuing motor vehicle safety regulations that conflict with federal standards, referred to as federal preemption, however, states are free to enact and enforce safety and equipment regulations which are identical to the FMVSS or, in the absence of a federal rule, establish their own laws and regulations. The most frequent examples of individual state rules cover parts like accessory lighting equipment, noise levels for exhaust and stereo systems, suspension height, and window tinting. States also establish rules on how a vehicle is titled and registered, and they have authority to regulate inoperable vehicles or determine whether an enthusiast is engaged in a business versus a private activity.
While some laws are better than others, there is a constant need to remind state policy makers not to be biased in favor of the vehicle's original equipment, such as lighting, tires and wheels, suspension components, and bumper/frame height. Opposing arbitrary and unnecessarily restrictive equipment and inspection laws is a constant challenge, and that's where SEMA and SAN come in. They're working on both the state and federal level to ensure your ability to lift or lower your rod, swap the suspension, or otherwise use aftermarket parts to tailor your car for its intended use.
Exhaust: How Loud is Too Loud?
States that have quantifiable...
States that have quantifiable noise standards on the books are shaded red in the map above, those without are shown in yellow. Green identifies the three states that have enacted SEMA model legislation that establishes a 95dB exhaust noise limit based on an industry standard adopted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
Most hot rodders can agree that exhaust shouldn't be obnoxiously loud, but the problem is that loud is subjective, and vague legal language doesn't set a clear and objective standard for aftermarket exhaust. On exhaust noise levels, states can generally be divided into two major categories: those with quantifiable noise standards and those without. Often those with regulations are not properly enforced because they are based on noise measured while a vehicle is in motion on the highway, usually from a distance of 50 feet from the center lane of travel. Typically, vehicles are divided into classes and decibel standards are set-one for driving on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, and a second for driving on roadways with a speed limit greater than 35 mph. Other states choose not to specify a quantifiable noise standard and simply prohibit "excessive or unusual noise." But who's to say where that level is?
Under this standard a sound...
Under this standard a sound meter is placed 20 inches from the exhaust outlet at a 45-degree angle and the engine is revved to three quarters of the maximum rated horsepower, and the highest decibel reading is recorded.
Worse than that are statutes that effectively limit the use of all aftermarket exhausts, such as "no person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in any manner which will amplify or increase the noise or sound emitted louder than that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle." While that doesn't specifically prohibit all modification, it also doesn't provide any means of measuring whether a vehicle has been acceptably modified. Such language also negatively affects the aftermarket industry by placing the noise limit authority in the hands of the OEMs and ignores the fact that aftermarket exhaust systems are designed to increase power and make vehicles run more efficiently without increasing emissions.
Previous California law allowed modifications so long as the noise levels did not exceed the 95dB limit, however, the roadside enforcement of this limit was chaotic, leading to subjective, selective, and improper enforcement. Enforcement resulted in many drivers being pulled over by state and local police and cited for improper modified exhaust systems despite having what they believed to be legal aftermarket exhausts. To illustrate the issue, SEMA conducted a series of exhaust noise tests in April of 2001. First they contacted California SAN members to see how many had received citations for excessive or modified exhaust and then invited them to have their cars tested to see if they actually complied with California law. Working with a board-certified acoustical engineer and performing the test according to the standards set out in California law, SEMA discovered only one of the cars actually exceeded the 95db legal level.
To remedy this problem, in 2002 SEMA helped enact a new procedure in California that uses an objectively measured standard in a fair and predictable test. The result was that those with legally modified exhaust systems can confirm that they comply with California's exhaust noise standard at the 40 smog check stations statewide that provide referee functions provided that they emit no more than 95 dB during the SAE test procedure. A similar standard was enacted in Maine in 2003, and Montana in 2007. Nevertheless, only those who have received a citation for exhaust noise violation can submit their vehicle for the test.
Tires & Fuel Efficiency
It's no secret that the choice of tires can alter a vehicle's rolling resistance, but those same choices can also result in a more responsive and better handling vehicle with increased wet and/or dry traction and safety. Currently, both California and the federal government are pursuing regulations to rate replacement tires for fuel efficiency in an effort to influence consumer choice. In theory, if a tire is more fuel efficient, less gas is burned, and therefore less CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere.
The NHTSA is drafting a consumer information system to rate the fuel economy, safety, and durability characteristics of most replacement tires. NHTSA has established test procedures for determining tire ratings, but is still considering options on how to convey the information to buyers. In the current proposal, companies that produce 15,000 units or less in a tire line (mostly classic, antique, or off-highway tires) are exempted.
"...California and the federal...
"...California and the federal government are pursuing regulations to rate replacement tires for fuel efficiency in an effort to influence consumer choice."
The premise for the new program is to allow consumers to compare ratings for different replacement tires and determine the effect of tire choices on fuel economy or the potential trade-offs between tire fuel efficiency (rolling resistance), safety (wet traction), and durability (treadwear life). The information would be conveyed in the form of a rating system for each category, which appears on a label affixed to each tire.
California is pursuing a variation on the federal program whereby state regulators could assign a "fuel efficient tire" ranking to the top 15 percent of tires with the lowest rolling resistance within their size and load class. All other tested tires would be ranked as "not fuel efficient," however the 15,000 or less exemption would still apply.
That opens the door to a slippery slope, however, as some state lawmakers have shown by attempting to go one step further. For example, a bill has been introduced in New York to mandate that replacement tires be as energy efficient as tires sold as original equipment. To date, the bill has been rejected, since it would essentially set a 50-state standard, potentially imposing substantial redesign costs on tire manufacturers, and conflict with the federal/California programs-not to mention eliminating the ability to alter the width, height, or treadwear of your tires. Say good-bye to wide and sticky, or all-terrain tires.
Another concern is whether consumers could be dissuaded from buying tires that may have improved performance, handling, or appearance, based solely on a rolling resistance rating. Additionally, the program could distract attention from more important safety and efficiency issues such as proper tire inflation and choosing correct tires for the vehicle's intended use.
Lighting Equipment & Government Regulations
Lighting technology has entered a new dimension. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are blazing a new path, and headlights can now produce light beams that follow the car's path around corners, and even lengthen the area of illumination proportionate to speed. Seems like an ideal update for older cars for increased visibility, safety, and styling alternatives. SAN is working with federal and state authorities to keep laws current with these advances.
The NHTSA is the federal agency that regulates original and aftermarket motor vehicle lighting products. NHTSA focuses on standard equipment required on all new cars, like headlamps and taillights. For this equipment, agency rules establish permissible limits for light intensity, color, and range. For example, in recent years enforcement officials have pursued non-compliant High Intensity Discharge (HID) conversion kits that may produce glare, and restyled combination lamps that are missing required functions existing on the original equipment lamps. Certain clear taillight covers, marker lamps, certain "blue" headlight bulbs, and other equipment have also been subject to scrutiny, since they can alter what other drivers perceive. The object is to ensure upgrades don't endanger another driver's ability to recognize what a vehicle is, or is not doing, at night.
States can enact their own vehicle equipment rules when there is no federal regulation. For instance, some states have issued regulations covering "optional" or "accessory" lighting equipment. A few states prohibit a vehicle from being equipped with a lamp or lighting device unless such lamp or lighting device is expressly required or permitted by law or regulation. Other regulations may include maximum candlepower, location and placement, aim of light beam, and the times, places, and conditions under which the lamps or lights may be used. For example, most states prohibit the use of flashing, oscillating, modulating, or rotating lights of any color while the vehicle is being operated on a public highway, to eliminate confusion with emergency vehicles.
While those standards are typically understandable and based on safety concerns, some states have poorly drafted laws which restrict equipment to that which came with the original vehicle. This may prevent the consumer from installing a range of cutting-edge equipment, which complies with a performance standard, but may not match the car's original design specs. SAN is working to make sure there is no unfair bias against the installation and use of aftermarket lamps so hot rodders can legally and correctly retrofit modern lighting into vintage cars.
Ethanol: My Engine Is Not Vegetarian -It Wants Gas.
There is a battle raging in Washington that may force you to put ethanol in your car, whether you want to or not. The EPA currently allows gasoline to include up to 10 percent ethanol (E-10), a fuel additive made from corn or other biomass sources. The ethanol industry wants the EPA to increase the amount to 15 percent.
Who would object? Millions of owners of high-performance engines and older cars who fear corrosion and other nasty side effects. Many newer engines and parts that have been designed to be more compatible with alcohol fuels and E-15 will not have issue, but E-10 has already been a problem for some current and older models, and E-15 may be worse. Ethanol attracts water and the resulting condensation can corrode the fuel lines, fixtures, and tank components (steel, rubber, aluminum, and more). We're talking rust, clogging, and deterioration. For some modern cars, the oxygen atom in the ethanol molecule may confuse the exhaust sensor when measuring the air/fuel mixture going into the cylinders. The mixture may be too lean, producing a hot exhaust capable of damaging the catalytic converter. The end result may also be more nitrogen oxides, a building block for smog. There's definitely an education curve here, and many in the auto industry have cautioned the EPA to do more testing before it rules on the request.
Why does it matter? Because this is a nationwide debate, and gasoline without ethanol could eventually become scarce or nonexistent. SEMA and SAN are working to make sure that those potential effects are taken into consideration before any sweeping changes are made
A Primer On Paint Regulations
There are two main issues with respect to paint regulatory oversight: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). VOCs include both man-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds that are released into the atmosphere as a gas. They are found in oil-based paints, adhesives, and cleaning supplies, and may trigger respiratory irritation, headaches, or other health concerns. VOCs also react with nitrogen oxides and sunlight to form smog. Both federal and state regulators have imposed limits on VOC emissions, primarily at the manufacturer, and there has been an effort to switch the public from oil-based paints and cleaning solvents (enamel, lacquer, mineral spirits, and others) to water-based paints like latex. Usually it's not a voluntary switch; a number of states and urban areas have banned retail sales of certain oil-based products in an effort to combat smog.
Aerosol can spray paints rely on VOC-emitting propellants, which expand and force out the paint, typically a variety of hydrofluorocarbons today. To address VOCs in aerosol paints, both the EPA and California have limited the amount of propellants that can be used in spray paint. As with paints purchased in cans, the issue is largely being addressed at the manufacturer level through product reformulation. HAPs pose a separate concern since they are hazardous metal compounds that become airborne during paint stripping, surface coating, and autobody refinishing, and the EPA has taken steps to regulate them as well.
"When the EPA first proposed its regulation, SEMA expressed concern that it would have a drastic impact on the ability of individual hobbyists to purchase and use paints containing HAPs," says Steve McDonald, SEMA's Vice President for Government Affairs. "Through discussions with the EPA, SEMA was able to convince regulators that a rule could be produced that would develop 'best practices' for business operations while exempting hobbyists who infrequently paint their personal vehicles. As a result, the rule doesn't apply to individuals working on their personal vehicles so long as those activities don't exceed the equivalent of two motor vehicles a year. The EPA also exempted painting done with an airbrush or aerosol cans."
The EPA rule effectively requires all shops to have a filtered spray booth or prep station, and use high-volume low-pressure or equivalent spray equipment, and spray guns are required to be cleaned manually or with an enclosed spray gun washer. According to the EPA, if new equipment is required to meet the requirements, the costs should be recouped through a more efficient use of labor and materials.
Regulating paint has been a balancing act, making sure hobbyists and commercial entities have access to affordable, quality paints while protecting health and environment. It has also been a moving target, since there is always the chance rules put in place today may not be deemed adequate upon further review. One of the best sources for further info is http://www.CCAR-GreenLink.org/paintrule.html.
Engine Swaps Made Easier
There's nothing more at the core of hot rodding than swapping an engine, but swaps are bound by specific state laws that may vary from state to state. Having said that, there are some general guidelines for swapping engines in production vehicles (not specially constructed vehicles, street rods, kit cars, and the like) that can keep rodders out of trouble. The basic rule of engine swapping is that the change must do no harm. This means that the engine being installed must theoretically be at least as "clean" as the one taken out.
Model Year: The engine being swapped in must be the same age or newer than the one being replaced. Crate engines can be used if they are configured to resemble an engine that was certified by the EPA and/or CARB. This essentially means that the required emissions parts must be present on the engine.
Certification Level: The engine being swapped must come from a vehicle certified to meet the same or more stringent emissions standards than the one replaced.
Vehicle Class: An engine from a vehicle class such as a motor home, medium-duty truck or marine application can't be used in a passenger car since these engines were certified to different types of emissions standards using different tests.
System/Equipment: When swapping in a newer engine from a later-model vehicle, all of the relevant emissions control equipment must be transferred as well. This includes the carbon canister, the catalytic converter(s), and even parts of the on-board diagnostic (OBD) system. Some states have exceptions to this requirement, but the general rule is that as much of the donor vehicle's emissions system as possible should be transferred.
Still have questions? The EPA and many states have enforceable policies and guidelines on how to perform legal engine changes. For further information, check out EPA and California Bureau of Automotive Repair at: www.EPA.gov/compliance/resources/policies/civil/caa/mobile/engswitch.pdf or www.BAR.ca.gov/80_BARResources/07_AutoRepair/Engine_Change_Guidelines.html.
What Can You Do?
So can they kill hot rodding? Only if we let them. Is the hobby doomed? Not by a long shot, but they can legislate it nearly out of existence if we stand idly by and just assume someone else will watch out for our rights.
Much like the lobbyists that, for better or worse, watch out for the interests of other large industries in Washington, the best possible way for hot rodders to ensure that we're given fair and equal treatment is to gather together and stand behind our own watchdog group. SAN is a partnership among enthusiasts, vehicle clubs, and members of the specialty automotive parts industry in the United States and Canada who have joined forces to promote hobby-friendly legislation and oppose unfair laws. With nearly 40,000 members, 3 million contacts, and an ability to reach 30 million enthusiasts through print and press, SAN has the experience, resources, and the dedicated network of enthusiasts to stop unreasonable bills in their tracks and keep the hobby free from overly restrictive government regulation. You can, and should, be a part of it.
Who's On Our Side?
Glad you asked, because the good news is that rodders have made it into high places, and often work with SEMA and SAN to make sure your rights are considered. It's not just lip service for constituents either; many of them have their own rods. Go to www.PopularHotRodding.com
for a full list of House and Senate members in the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus, and also members of the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus, broken down by their respective state.
Remember, the future of our hobby depends on you, and the ballot box is one of the best venues for making your views known. We also urge you to work collectively with your fellow hot rodders. How? First and foremost, join SAN at www.SemaSAN.com. It's free to join, and SAN keeps you informed about pending legislation and regulations-both good and bad-that will impact your state or the entire country. It also provides you with action alerts, speaking points, and lawmaker contact information if you want to support or oppose a bill.
Lobby for the Hobby
Fortunately, we live in a country where we can still make a difference in how we are governed and our greatest tool in making a difference is our voice. By speaking out on issues that concern the automotive hobby, contacting representatives, and working constructively with government officials, we have the power to protect our passion and keep it safe for future generations of auto hobbyists and enthusiasts. When legislatures are out of session, representatives are in their home districts and typically have more time to meet casually with their constituents. They are also planning for the next legislative session and deciding which bills to introduce. Contacting them can have a tremendous impact by raising their awareness of issues that could impact our hobby during the next session. That is what makes right now the perfect time to get involved and build relationships with your legislators.
10 Best Bills of the 2009-2010 Legislative Session
California S.B. 232/A.B. 1740
California currently provides for the emissions-system certification and model year designation for specially constructed vehicles, including kit cars. Vehicle owners choose whether a smog test referee certifies the engine model year or the vehicle model year. To determine model year, inspectors compare the vehicle to those of the era that the vehicle most closely resembles. Only those emission controls applicable to the model year and that can be reasonably accommodated by the vehicle are required. The DMV provides a new registration to the first 500 specially constructed vehicles per year that meet the criteria. These bills seek to remove the 500-per-year vehicle limitation and allow for an unlimited number of specially constructed vehicle registrations.
Washington S.B. 5246 & Michigan S.B. 590
Crafted after SEMA model legislation to provide for the hobby of collecting and restoring vehicles, these bills prohibit cities or towns from enforcing any restrictions that prevent automobile collectors from pursuing their hobby. Junked, wrecked, or inoperable vehicles, including parts cars, stored on private property would only require screening from public view.
New York A.B. 10698
Under current New York law, a historical motor vehicle is either a vehicle manufactured more than 25 years ago, or one which has unique characteristics and determined to be of historical, classic, or exhibition value. This bill creates a $100 one-time fee that would replace the current annual fee of $28.75 for the registration of these vehicles.
Ohio H.B. 199, New York A.B. 2429/S.B. 3547, New Jersey A.B. 448/S.B. 687 & Massachusetts H.B. 4557
The SEMA street rod and custom model bill seeks to create vehicle registration and titling classifications for street rods and custom vehicles, including kit cars and replicas, and provides for special license plates. These bills define 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. Kit cars and replica vehicles would be assigned a certificate of title bearing the same model year designation that the body of the vehicle was constructed to resemble.
West Virginia H.B. 2775/H.B. 3243/H.B. 4222/H.B. 4575
Recognizing the historical importance of antique vehicles, these West Virginia bills aim to reduce the financial burden placed on antique vehicle owners by reducing the taxes and fees that they must pay on these vehicles.
Idaho H.B. 591
In order to direct finite resources, this bill seeks to exempt vehicles driven less than 1,000 miles per year from the state's mandatory emissions inspection program, regardless of the vehicle's age.
Iowa S.F. 2035
Establishing reasonable fees for the operation of a vehicle that is only driven occasionally is the goal of this bill. Allowing any antique motor vehicle to be registered as a "limited use" antique vehicle, the bill opens up the limited use classification for an annual fee of $5. "Other occasional use" is added to the purposes for which a limited use antique vehicle may be driven. "Other occasional use" is defined as driven not more than 1,000 miles annually.
Maryland H.B. 252
Recognizing that it is not an effective use of resources to perform emissions tests on newer vehicles, this bill exempts these vehicles from the state's mandatory emissions inspection program for the first four years after production.
Vermont S.B. 237
For the purpose of regulating salvage businesses in the state, this bill includes a provision stipulating that hobbyists are not to be confused with the owners of automobile graveyards. It includes a definition of an "automobile hobbyist" as a person not primarily engaged in the sale of vehicles and parts or dismantling junk vehicles and excludes from the definition of an "automobile graveyard" an area used by an automobile hobbyist for storage and restoration purposes.
Louisiana H.B. 118
Current Louisiana law exempts vehicles that are 40 years old and older from the state's inspection requirements. This bill exempts all antique vehicles, defined as 25 years old and older, from the motor vehicle inspection requirements, which include equipment inspections and emissions inspections in certain areas.
10 WORST Bills of the LAST Legislative Session
California A.B. 859
Instead of having to undergo a smog check inspection every other year, this bill would require an annual smog check inspection for all cars 15 years old and older. Ironically, the bill would also require that funds generated through the additional inspection fees charged to vehicle owners would then be used to scrap older cars.
Colorado S.B. 95
Current law in Colorado only requires that vehicles from model year 1976 and newer undergo emissions testing. This bill would reset the model year target to include all model year 1959 and newer vehicles, including seldom-driven collector items, for required emissions testing.
Hawaii H.B. 1878
Tort law is seldom codified into state statute, but this bill aims to do just that by creating a cause of action (basis on which an individual can sue another individual) for maintaining an inoperable vehicle on private property. To succeed in such an action, the inoperable vehicle must directly or indirectly "injure" the person bringing the suit, possibly by decreasing their property value.
Michigan H.B. 5897
Michigan historic vehicle owners must pay a registration fee of $30 every 10 years to operate on the state's roads. Historic vehicles that use an authentic Michigan license plate from the vehicle's model year are required to pay a one-time registration fee of $35. Under this bill to pad the state coffers, both registration fees would become due annually at a rate of $30 per year. This fee increase ignores the fact that these older cars are driven about one third of the miles each year as a new vehicle.
Nebraska L.B. 688
This bill would expand the definition of "abandoned motor vehicle" to include project cars and trucks that are left unattended for only six hours on private property without valid plates, title, or permit, or that are inoperable, partially dismantled, wrecked, junked, or discarded. You heard that correctly! Six hours. In Nebraska, motor vehicles are defined as abandoned for the purpose of allowing state and local authorities to remove them from private property.
New York A.B. 1235
This bill provides that no automotive refinish material labeled "for professional use only" can be sold unless the purchaser demonstrates and meets all local ordinances for the use and application of the material. Bad luck for amateur hobbyists who want to paint their own hobby cars.
New York A.B. 2800
Commonly referred to as "gas-guzzler" legislation, this bill would charge higher toll and registration fees for vehicles based on the vehicle's weight, emissions, and fuel-efficiency ratings. If enacted, a consumer's ability to purchase their vehicle of choice, not to mention vehicle safety, would be dramatic.
Virginia H.B. 462
This bill would ban the sale of "any aftermarket exhaust system component" that would cause the vehicle to produce "excessive or unusual noise." Since no definition exists in Virginia for what qualifies as "excessive or unusual noise," this prohibition would effectively ban the sale of any of these parts, generally purchased for their durability, performance, and appearance.
Washington H.B. 2059
Implementing a vehicle scrappage program, this bill would provide sales tax incentives (for the first $2,000 of tax paid) for trade-in vehicles more than 15 years old that do not comply with emissions standards. All trade-in vehicles would be destroyed, regardless of their historical value or collector interest. Scrappage programs such as these destroy key pieces of America's automotive and industrial heritage, and inhibit restoration projects that rely on these vehicles as a source for parts that are no longer being manufactured.
West Virginia H.B. 3087/S.B. 456
Can operating a vehicle with an exhaust system that may be annoying to some be considered a crime against the state? These West Virginia bills endeavor to include vehicles with exhaust systems deemed disturbing or loud in the definition of "disturbing the peace," a crime that carries a fine of up to $1,000 per occurrence, jail for six months, or both. West Virginia currently has no standard on which to base whether an exhaust system is disturbing or loud, and these judgment calls would be left to a law enforcement officer's subjective opinion.
SAN's Top 10 Tips For Getting Involved
1. Develop and maintain productive relationships with your legislators and their staff: This is the most effective form of grassroots lobbying. It's just as important to develop a relationship with your rep's staff since they monitor ongoing legislative and community initiatives.
2. Educate legislators about our hobby and issues: Inform your legislator about the hobby and emphasize the positive impact it has on the economy and community.
3. Maintain a positive attitude: The next time an enthusiast-related issue comes up, that same legislator may be needed to support your cause.
4. Stay informed: Keep up-to-date on the legislative issues that affect the hobby in your state and share the info with fellow enthusiasts.
5. Get involved in the community: Join with other community groups to build positive exposure. Holding charity runs and fundraisers provide a great opportunity to show local residents and politicians that auto clubs are a positive community force.
6. Build relationships with the local media: Contact local newspapers and radio/TV stations to publicize car shows, charity events, and the like.
7. Invite officials to participate in your events: Give legislators a platform to reach an audience of constituents.
8. Build an automotive coalition: Create coalitions to add strength in numbers and ensure that the rights of all vehicle enthusiasts are represented. Actively participating in regional and statewide councils will develop a unified message to lawmakers. These types of pro-hobbyist groups can be an influential political force.
9. Spread the word: Take this information to your next club meeting, cruise night, or post it on your online forums.
10. Vote: Constituents are an elected official's number one priority. Without you and your vote of support, they would not be in office, so make sure you're registered and get out and vote.