Yes, It’s Possible to Change Laws That Keep You from Driving Your Classic

Kyle Smith

We love driving our vintage cars, but sometimes local law says we can’t, shouldn’t, or are not welcome to do so. It’s frustrating, and the complexity of traffic law makes the situation confusing, even if those layers of legalese were accumulated over a century of incremental change targeted at keeping our roads orderly and our drivers safe.

The laws that govern driving are something that we agree to follow when we apply for and are granted our driving license. So what do we do when we want those laws changed?

The process is not simple or quick, but it is possible. Just a few weeks ago, a committed group of car enthusiasts won a long-awaited victory: The state of Michigan announced that it would alter the driving code as it pertained to the usage of vehicles with authentic or historic registrations (to qualify, a vehicle has to be 26 years or older).

The vehicle code of Michigan was written to restrict the driving of vehicles with these types of registrations to “club activities, exhibitions, tours, parades, and similar uses, including mechanical testing.” The law barred their use for regular transportation but granted a lower annual registration fee. A handful of drivers were issued tickets while at Detroit’s beloved Woodward Dream Cruise because the event did not fall under any of the approved scenarios yet drivers took their vintage rides out regardless of registration. John Russell, along with other members of the Twin Bay British Car Club, thought the situation was absurd, so they began the process of removing the restrictions.

Most states help people like you or I by giving us a roadmap to enact the change we wish to see. For example, Michigan.gov has a four-page explainer of the exact steps needed—in order, no less.

If only it were that simple. I reached out to a few of the people who were behind the recent change in Michigan, and they provided some valuable perspective. “I guess the word I would look for is perseverance,” said Dr. Fred Stoye, who worked closely with John Russell and other members of the Twin Bay British Car Club to march the path laid by the state. “We saw the need for positive change, followed all the legal steps, forged alliances in the legislature, and presented a plan that worked and was voted into law.”

The process was not quick. There were multiple dead ends along the way that put pauses on any progress and sometimes kicked them back to square one. In the end, the group persevered for ten years before they achieved the big victory. One of the tougher steps in the process was getting a lawmaker to pick up their cause. They struggled to find a sponsor who was willing to introduce the bill and to continue advocating for it as the bill stepped through committee review, which can take months to years, depending on a multitude of factors.

Even with a sponsor, and after the bill passed the Michigan House of Representatives, Russell and his compatriots had no time to relax. All the work up to that point could be done from afar, but when the bill entered the Michigan Senate, they were asked to testify at a hearing to explain why the relaxation of driving restrictions was worthwhile. Stoye, Russell, and other team members went to Lansing with a measured approach: “We expressed the need to drive our classic cars to keep them healthy and how there would be no adverse damage to our roads.” Their argument boiled down to the fact the current law was not particularly helping anything—so why did it exist?

Their argument might not apply to every change you or I would like to see regarding restrictions to the use of vintage cars, but the members of the Twin Bay British Car Club set a great example for automotive enthusiasts. What it really takes to change a law is the right group of people, motivated in the right way, who are willing to stick out the process.

If there is a restriction or driving law you think is outdated, superfluous, or otherwise unhelpful to the vintage car hobby: The power is in your hands. People just like you have succeeded in making change. Now it’s your turn.

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Comments

    At the end of the day its all about the Benjamine’s, antique plates are cheaper, so less revenue to the state. If you want freedom to drive when and where you want, you pay for regular plates.

    Yeah, came here to say the same. Just register it as a regular car if you want to drive it regularly. Can’t have it both ways.

    In Arizona I have 1931 plates on my car and it driven weekly. Why would it be otherwise. I don’t get it the restrictions in some states. Of course Arizona doesn’t have many laws that restrict what we want to do.

    Lmao.. Apparently they can, in Michigan. Why the negativity on a forum promoting the love of classic cars. In this case driving them.
    Gee wiz.

    Bull! You control freaks and thieves better relax your dark tendencies. You think its just fine until you or one of your friends become victim to stupid draconian laws being pushed and some dummy takes away what you like.

    OK. That makes sense. I am not a car guy but I imagine there cars from the 50″s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s on Michigan roads. I know there are in most states. Occasionally, cars prior to the 40’s.

    In short, I was confused about the 26 years and older. Hell, I got out of the Army 28 years ago.

    And Boom!

    Just pay to register the vehicle on regular registration & use it whenever you please.

    This isn’t complicated.

    It’s good to know that all the other crime in Michigan had dropped to 0 so the police were free to enforce this law……

    How does a car cruise not fall under “club activities, exhibitions, tours, parades, and similar uses, including mechanical testing.”? Is a cruise not a tour? Is it not “similar uses”? Can’t you join a cruise for mechanical testing since you have other enthusiasts around to help? I get wanted to change laws, but I don’t get how this wasn’t an “approved scenario”.

    You need ‘the man’ in Government/Law Enforcement to ‘approve’ of what you’re doing, ie that cruise or parade.
    They don’t like to relinquish control or the ability to curtail your activities, hence the law stating they have the ability to monitor/disperse peaceably assembled groups of the citizenry, in an affront to the Constitution.

    Rules in Ohio are simular to Mich. I was ticketed three times by the same cop only to be told by a caring judge how to skate around these stupid laws. Throw parts in the back of your ride and admit testing brakes. Nobody in their right mind want a vehicle on the road with bad brakes, stalling engines, cars have to be proven safe. Judges usually throw charges out, mine three times

    My state has similar title and registration restrictions for special interest, vintage and historical vehicles. Without going into all the nitty gritty details, basically you can’t use your “special interest,” “classic,” “vintage,” or “historical” car, if so registered, for regular daily transportation such as to work, or for hire (e.g., Uber, Lyft, Turo or other rental purposes).

    The cost for these specialty registrations is somewhat less than for a regular vehicle registration and you only get a single license plate (although you can also get a single plate for regular registration but it costs $100 per year extra to do so). For a vintage” or historical registration you only pay the registration fee once up front when you first title and register your vehicle, and this also allows you to use a vintage or historical license plate from the model year of your classic car.

    These laws for all practical purposes are basically unenforceable and I have yet to hear of anyone getting a citation for driving their classic car to work or to Home Depot, etc. Certainly not for driving in a parade or organized car event, which are allowed uses under the statutes. I have a friend who is a retired cop and I asked him about this. He laughed and said he used to drive his 1969 SS396 Chevelle to work at his precinct regularly during warmer months and nobody cared. As he said, they have way more important things to do than trying to catch people driving their classic car to work on a nice sunny day or whatever.

    Of course, different jurisdictions may vary in their local laws and to what extent they may be enforced.

    The law doesn’t have to be “enforceable”, all it takes is a police officer to write the ticket and now you have to spend time fighting it. While the actual ticket fine here in PA might be only be $25, added fees usually bring the total cost to $200+. I don’t understand why an officer would even write a such a ticket unless you did something else as well. 30 years ago I got a ticket in my normally registered 49 Chevy because I somehow annoyed the cop. He was waiting for me outside the Home Depot.

    The other side in PA here is that regular registration requires an annual safety inspection by a state licensed shop, while antique / vintage / classic are excluded. I no longer have any shops around here that will inspect anything prior to the mid ’70s or so. As explained to me by the shop that used to inspect my TR6, the state uses metrics to determine how many times to audit a shop’s records, and inspecting older cars increases the number and complexity of audits. It’s not worth the hassle.

    Was the cop’s name Barney Fife? There are a lot of Barneys out there. Most are just jealous that they don’t have a collector vehicle.

    Reading the fine print before going to Historic Plates sounds like a smart idea. I will be keeping my regular plates.
    Freedom, baby!
    Gotta fight to keep it for everyone.

    That’s easy for you to say since it’s easy for you. But what about us guys that collect large trucks? Those registration fees come at a much larger cost and can kick us into other complicated and expensive regulations like fuel tax, etc. And since we would then be commercial vehicles some of our trucks would not even be allowed to be registered.

    Unfortunately the law and logic are not related. The energy and pollution needed to manufacture new cars especially EVs compared to keeping older vehicles is staggering. Most of all they have become unrepairable.

    Most EV’s will be unrepairable within 10-15 yrs of being manufactured. The electronics and batteries will become obsolete and not updatable just like a old cellphone!

    StewPid elected officials make the laws that restrict the Real taxpayers and contributors to society. From the state that used to be The Home of the Big 3?

    Yes you may make a change and perseverance is the most important word. You need to get the right peolke in office at the right time and push, push, push.

    For the most these plates are seldom enforced outside Barney Fife departments.

    Here in Ohio I even see the cases of abuse in work vans etc. But it is not really enforced.

    The real trouble is coming in relation to emissions. They are already talking where and when ICE cars may be driven of any age. It’s already happened in Europe.

    The best way to attack change is address it with the candidate before election and record it. Support this who support your hobby. Remove those who don’t. That is the American way.

    Absolutely!
    Elections have consequences!
    The party that holds the majority in the state legislature has the power to enact laws and regulations, often without regard to the negative impact on their constituents.
    In this case it’s classic cars vs the green agenda.

    Lots of people woth the
    Give up and pay virus !
    If I dont drive my 64 TBird daily why would I pay for regular plates ?
    Its not about money but maybe ypu have to own one to get ot ??? Just sayin !??!

    That law is similar to Pennsylvania’s law regarding classic or antique plates. The vehicles registered as such are not held to inspection requirements, and registration fees are reduced. In turn, there are restrictions on when and how the vehicle may be operated.

    You are always free to register your classic or antique car as a regular vehicle in any state.

    No state does emissions testing on vehicles manufactured before 1975.

    Safety inspections are limited to equipment installed on the vehicle. If the vehicle didn’t come with it, and nobody added it aftermarket, it can’t fail for the lack of it. Only two mirrors, no seat belts, no turn signals, no power brakes? If it never had them, no problem.

    It’s like farm tags. There are limitations on how you can use the vehicle in exchange for reduced registration and inspection requirements.

    Interesting that you mention “farm vehicles”. In Michigan, and many other states, farm vehicles can be driven on public roads and highways without any registration or plates, including those monster spraying devices that take up 1 1/2 lanes. Some states even allow kids under 16 to legally drive them on public roads. Often they don’t have lights and late harvest season will result in them driving at twilight. The strength of the farm lobby shows that common sense and safety can be bypassed with $$$.

    gli48, those farm vehicles are feeding us. We’re just swanning around in old vanity cars. Roads cost money, so do sewers, waste water treatment plants, public schools, while the US K-12 trails that in at least 16 other modern industrial nations. Priorities.

    Terry Kale’s “Classic cars are part of history” is comical. What’s “Classic?” According to Hagerty, playing on your egos, “classic” is anything no longer in the current Kelley Blue Book.

    This is hilarious. The same dullards who stand around at a cars and coffee droning on and on about how much money they’ve “invested”/sunk in their “numbers matching” automatic transmissioned, power braked, power steering “muscle car,” egregious Motown slam bam, thank you, ma’am mid-sized car with station wagon engine and teenage suspension with dopey factory decals, are the ones whining about paying extra for a license plate that proclaims to strangers who could care less that you’re driving an “historic” jalopy.

    “farm use” does not apply to agriculture equipment that was never designed or manufactured to be operated on the highways as a full-time vehicle.

    “farm use” tags are for pickup trucks, grain trucks and semi tractor trailers that are designed and manufactured for highway use, and used in agricultural industry to transport supplies and equipment over the US national road system.

    From the PA DOT regarding special tags: “The use of antique, classic and vintage registration plates is governed by Section 1340 of the Pennsylvania
    Vehicle Code, which states: “It is unlawful for any person to operate a motorcycle or vehicle with antique,
    classic or vintage registration plates for general daily transportation. Permitted use shall be limited to
    participation in club activities, exhibits, tours, parades, occasional transportation and similar uses.”
    Occasional transportation and similar uses is defined as one day a week.”

    Now, surprisingly for Pennsylvania, that is reasonable. I have been using Classic Car tags in PA for over 40 years on a number of vehicles without issue. I don’t abuse it.

    Older than 1975 is exempt from emissions in every state? Wrong. Nevada requires yearly emissions testing for all1968 model year and newer gasoline-powered cars and light trucks if you live in a higher population county.

    Nevada does have “classic” plates that exempt emissions testing, but they cost significantly more and have several restrictions.

    I have three classic cars with classic plates in Nevada. You must have classic insurance on each car. You may drive them up to 500 miles per year. There are only two counties in the state that are required to have smog checks, Clark County (Vegas) and Washo County (Reno). Classic cars with classic plates are exempt from smog checks.

    Here in NC, if you own a vehicle 35 years or older you can apply for an antique auto plate and display a period correct tag as long as you have AA tag/registration in the car. This action places the tax value on any car at $500. I pay $84.62 annually for registration renewal and property tax on all of my collector cars, regardless of market value, thanks to an NC Statute that was adopted in 2004 to encourage Classic car ownership. Frankly, I could not afford the over $10,000 in annual fees on my collection had this law not been adopted. I just hope nobody messes with it going forward!

    Just out of curiosity (and my ignorance on the subject), in NC would it be possible and/or easier to form an LLC for your collection and use dealer plates on whichever vehicle you are driving? Or is it more prudent to keep individual registrations on each vehicle? Certainly $3k a year for fees on your fleet sounds much better than $10k ~

    I’m in NC – I support raising the vehicle price valuation to match true market value of the vehicle.

    Here in Michigan you were able to drive your classic & antique cars during the month of August.
    Now the club got it so we can drive our cars from memorial day to labor day whenever and for whatever we want to.

    The main reason I run classic plates on my NA Miata in Texas is so I don’t have to run a front plate.

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