Mon, Aug 18, 2003
The LACar Editorial Staff
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - THE NATIONAL SCENE
Missouri Street Rod/Custom Vehicle Bill
* Defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a
custom as an altered vehicle manufactured after 1948.
* Provides specific registration classes and license plates for street rods and
* Exempts street rods and customs from periodic vehicle inspections and
* Provides that vehicles titled and registered as street rods and custom
vehicles may only be used for occasional transportation, exhibitions, club
activities, parades, tours, etc. and not for general daily transportation.
* Provides that a replica vehicle will be assigned the same model year
designation as the production vehicle it most closely resembles and allows the
use of non-original materials.
* Exempts street rods and custom vehicles from a range of standard equipment
* Allows the use of blue dot tail lights on street rods and custom vehicles
Changing the Laws: You Can Make a Difference
Editor's note: Gary Bohlen, chairman of the Committee to Upgrade Street Rod Laws
in Illinois, is an avid hobbyist and was instrumental in working with the state
to enact SEMA's model street rod/custom vehicle bill last year. Here is his
first-hand account of working with SEMA through the process that ultimately
changed the laws. It can serve as a guidebook, and an inspiration, to those
working on behalf of the automotive hobby.
After 30 years of turning their heads, state troopers in the Peoria, Illinois,
area and other law enforcement officers throughout the state became concerned
about customs and street rods. They started watching for equipment such as
factory bumpers, license plates less than 12 inches off the ground, a rake of no more than 3 inches, proper turn signals and various
other required items. The enforcement of these Illinois Vehicle Code violations
took place largely at car shows or while traveling to and from them. Street
rodding was basically shut down in the Peoria area, street rods were sold, and
future highboy projects were scrapped.
First, I tried to stop the actions as profiling by the state troopers. That
tactic failed since the tickets were issued for laws that were on the books. In
an unusual switch, however, their supervisors were the ones who advised me to
change the laws.
I had no idea how to do that, but my plan was to surround myself with people who
did. I contacted Steve McDonald at SEMA, who had just completed a model bill for
legislative changes such as these. We joined forces. Without SEMA's help this process would have failed.
My first priority was to identify what needed to be done and intimately know the
laws I wanted to change. I formed my committee, chose advisors, solicited
petition signatures, contacted my senator, started to identify supporters and adversaries, and talked to anyone who would listen.
Steve and others in the Washington office also made countless calls. Five or six
times, they drafted and amended the bill, which would become House Bill 4344.
SEMA and I contacted every state law enforcement agency, sent professionally
prepared information, spoke at their association meetings and met many of them
in person. At first, most were standoffish. Then we found key personnel who
would help us establish a Neutral position regarding H.B. 4344. Our goal was to
have no law enforcement or other state agency take an Opposed position. Our bill
passed the house with no objections, and it went through the senate with only
The results? As of Jan. 1, 2003, P.A. 32-0068 states all cars (not just street
rods or custom vehicles) can have license plates 5 inches off the ground; the
rake restriction is 7 inches; no bumpers are required; they can display any
license plates they qualify for; and with a National Street Rod Association
safety check they're legal. Also, kit cars can be titled as the year they most
closely resemble. The only restriction is that these vehicles are not for
The actual bill was introduced in the House and signed into law by the governor
in less than a year. It took SEMA, a dedicated coalition of street rod
enthusiasts and me three years to get it going and implemented.
If you or your club wants to get a street rod bill such as this one through your
state, contact Steve McDonald at SEMA's Washington D.C., office, 202/783-6007,
extension 31. You can also reach him via e-mail at [email protected].
SEMA, Lawmakers Fight Illegal Street Racing
It may look glamorous and exciting on the movie screen, but street racing is a
dangerous and deadly activity. When the original The Fast and the Furious was
released in 2001, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported
that the number of deaths resulting from street racing doubled. Shortly after
the release of the sequel 2Fast2Furious this summer, the media were again full
of reports of accidents caused by illegal speed contests.
Government agencies are fighting street racers in several ways. The Los Angeles
City Council, for example, recently drafted an ordinance that would allow law
enforcement agencies to confiscate, and then sell, vehicles cited for speed
contests or illegal exhibition of speed.
Taking a more active approach, SEMA and Racers Against Street Racing (RASR) are
bringing a driver education program to classrooms all across the country to
promote legal alternatives.
"Young drivers today are surrounded by media messages that depict street
racing as glamorous and OK," said Christopher J. Kersting, president and
CEO of SEMA, which administers RASR. "We want to get a head-start on
educating new drivers about the dangers of street racing and aggressive driving
stunts that put them, and others, at risk of serious injury and death. RASR is
launching this program so that enthusiasts will take their racing activities to
organized events at racetracks."
"A lot of drivers talk about how fast their cars are, but we say it's not
legit without a time slip," said Stephan Papadakis, pilot of AEM Racing's
Honda Civic drag racer and one of many pro drag racers speaking on behalf of
RASR. "You come away from a track with that time slip proving exactly how
fast you and your car did go, so when someone says prove it, you can."
Local racetracks around the country offer "street legal racing night"
programs to drivers who want to race their cars and come away with the proof of
their vehicles' performance. In Irwindale, California, the local police are giving "tickets" to go race at the Irwindale Speedway
at no charge. Other venues with programs for enthusiasts include Old Bridge
Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey; Firebird International Raceway
in Phoenix, Arizona; Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California; and Interstate Dragway in Moorhead, Minnesota. RASR is also working with drag-race
sanctioning bodies to open up more track programs for the legal alternative to
In addition to Papadakis, pro racers active with RASR include Lisa Kubo of
Saturn Motorsports, Craig Paisley of Paisley Automotive Racing, Angela Proudfoot
of Angela Proudfoot Racing, Ara Arslanian of Bullish Motor Racing, Ed
Bergenholtz of Bergenholtz Racing, JoJo Callos of Castrol Syntec/Team Tactics,
Shaun Carlson of Team Mopar, Abel Ibarra of Flaco Racing, Len Monserrat of Team
Big Len and Chris Rado of World Racing.
More information about RASR and its programs to provide legal alternatives to
street racing within controlled environments is available at www.rasr.info.
A list of racetracks offering street-legal programs is available at that site.
Legislative Quick Hits
Federal Scrappage Legislation: SEMA is working with a coalition of aftermarket
trade associations to remove a provision in the U.S. Department of
Transportation's highway bill that would fund state vehicle scrappage programs.
As currently drafted, the legislation would remove a longstanding prohibition on
using federal money for state-run vehicle scrappage plans through the Congestion
Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ). The draft legislation has
not yet been formally introduced in the U.S. Congress. SEMA has received a pledge that the Senate mark-up version will
not include the bill's controversial language. SEMA is now working to obtain a
similar commitment from House leaders not to pursue the proposal.
Maine Nitrous Oxide: Working with the Maine Custom Auto Association, SEMA
amended Maine legislation that originally threatened to prohibit the operation
of vehicles equipped with nitrous oxide on public roads. Gov. John Baldacci
signed the bill into law. Under the SEMA amendment, vehicles equipped with
nitrous oxide systems are permitted if all canisters of nitrous are removed or
if the vehicle is en route to or from a racetrack.
Maine Exhaust Noise: In accord with similar laws enacted in California and
Washington state, Maine's governor also signed into law a version of SEMA-model
legislation to create an enforceable motor vehicle exhaust noise standard for
the state. Under its previous law, Maine deemed illegal all modifications that
increased noise levels above those emitted by the vehicles' original mufflers.
The SEMA model maintains that an exhaust system modification is legal if it
results in a sound level of 95 decibels or less as measured by the Society of
Automotive Engineers test standard J1169. The new Maine law also stipulates that
all exhaust sound level tests be performed by certified inspection stations.
Maine Inoperable Vehicles: Gov. Baldacci also signed into law SEMA-supported
legislation to exempt certain hobbyist vehicles and activities from the scope of
the state's automobile graveyard laws. The measure exempts from automobile
graveyard laws those areas used to store, organize, restore or display a motor vehicle or parts of vehicles that are collected by an automobile
hobbyist. These vehicles must be antique autos and motorcycles, classic
vehicles, horseless carriages, reconstructed vehicles, street rods or parts of
Oregon Lighting Equipment: Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed into law a bill
concerning the regulation of motor vehicle lighting equipment. Early in the
process, SEMA amended the measure to provide for aftermarket styling
alternatives for auxiliary and passing lights. The SEMA amendments also removed
a provision necessitating added requirements for brake lights that change
original design and added a provision to allow lens covers when certain lamps
were not required to be in operation.
Ontario, Canada, Performance Equipment: Earlier this year, the Ontario, Canada,
Ministry of Transportation declared Bill 241 officially dead. The bill,
primarily directed at equipment that boosts engine performance, sought to ban
certain automotive parts, substances and equipment that the ministry
claimed were used in street racing. Recently, the measure was reintroduced as
Bill 20. Heeding the recommendations of SEMA and the performance community in
Ontario, the ministry amended some of the bill's provisions. For instance, a
section was redrafted to focus specifically on the operation of vehicles
equipped with nitrous oxide systems. SEMA and its allies in Ontario persuaded
authorities to allow nitrous systems if the system is disconnected while the
vehicle is being operated on public roadways. SEMA is working with its Canadian
counterparts, SEMA members and hobbyists to further shape the new bill.
SEMA Government Relations Office
1317 F St., NW, Ste. 500
Washington, D.C. 20004
202/783-6007 * Fax: 202/783-6024
Brian Caudill: Editor/Director of Outreach and
Steve McDonald: Director of Government and Technical Affairs
Frank Bohanan: Technical Consultant
Stuart Gosswein: Government Affairs Manager
Andrew Rasberry: Research Coordinator
For more legislative and regulatory information,
check out the SEMA consumer Web site:
Director of Public Affairs, Specialty Equipment Market Association
Contributing Editor, LA CAR