28 June 2010

Top 7 issues for the Historic Vehicle Association

It’s rare that collector vehicles are the direct target of legislation. The majority of legislative and regulatory issues faced by collectors of historic vehicles are the side-effects of laws and regulations aimed toward the larger vehicle population. Here are seven issues facing collector car enthusiasts and that the Historic Vehicle Association plans to tackle.

The federal Clean Air Act provides the regulatory framework and standards for air quality. This framework is then adopted and modified by states through state implementation plans, or “SIPs.” As a result, many states require that cars of a certain vintage be tested as a means of achieving SIP goals for ambient air-quality standards. There is a profound inconsistency among the states in the treatment of historic vehicles and the enforcement of exemptions where they exist. For many owners, keeping a 20-year-old vehicle in “like-new” operating condition is prohibitively expensive.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing revisions to the National Renewable Fuel Standard program, or RFS. These revisions are required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The revised statutory requirements establish new specific annual volume standards for various types of ethanol and non-ethanol-based alternative fuels.

The EPA recently announced it is delaying until August 2010 a decision on a controversial waiver request to allow the use of E-15 blends in conventional fueled vehicles. The waiver was filed by ethanol producers last April. The EPA said the delay is necessary to complete vehicle testing which, thus far, supports a partial waiver allowing the use of E-15 blends in model year 2001 and newer conventional fueled vehicles. A partial waiver would create two ethanol blends for distribution, E-10 for older vehicles and E-15 for newer vehicles. If the EPA approves a partial waiver, it will not require an E-15 blend, but simply approve its use. The ultimate decision on whether E-15 is made available would be left to refiners, who are likely to have major concerns with a two tier ethanol blend distribution system.

In either event, the continued push toward greater production of alternative fuels and increased blends beyond E-10 creates on uncertain future for collectors were safe, accessible fuels supplies are concerned.

Equipment and Safety Restrictions

When states introduce new safety or equipment related enforcement laws, this sometimes leads to the erroneous belief that historic vehicles need to retrofit non-original equipment, or even park or trailer the vehicle to comply. This has resulted in a patchwork of state safety laws and inconsistency in their enforcement.

Scrappage/Crusher Laws

Programs that encourage owners of older vehicles to turn their cars in to the government in exchange for cash or a voucher for a new car are commonly introduced, but until the recent federal “cash for clunkers” program, they were rarely implemented. It’s unclear whether budget restrictions at the state and federal level will functionally prohibit another round of “cash for clunkers,” but widespread use of this regulatory technique could be viewed as historic vehicle genocide.


Many states’ titling and registration systems are not designed to accommodate nuances associated with the historic vehicle hobby. This is especially true for vehicles of ambiguous origin. It’s often difficult for owners to obtain the documentation needed to operate their vehicle.


Virtually every state provides for special registration for historic vehicles. These registrations are often less costly than standard registrations, but require that vehicles only be operated under a very limited set of circumstances.

Inoperable Vehicle/Zoning Laws

It is common for cities and towns to set limits on where and how vehicles may be stored on one’s own property. Historically, it’s been surprisingly difficult to handle these issues when they arise. Local governments rarely have the expertise necessary strike a successful balance between the interests of the collector and the community at large.

For more information on the Historic Vehicle Association, visit www.historicvehicle.org.

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