Arkansas law targets younger car enthusiasts

Once-defeated legislation that targets younger car collectors in Arkansas came back after backlash in 2017 ended its progress towards becoming law. The new legislation, now dubbed Act 368, was signed into law by Governor Asa Hutchinson after passing the Arkansas House and Senate.

Currently in Arkansas, anyone can register a secondary vehicle as a collector car if it is at least 25 years old. The vehicles receive an Antique Car license plate and aren’t subject to yearly vehicle registration, just a one-time $7 fee. The new law changes the requirement for antique car eligibility to vehicles that are at least 45 years old.

Arkansas State Representative Jack Fortner, himself a classic car enthusiast, authored both the  current and 2017 version of the bill. One implication of the bill is that there aren’t any collector-worthy cars built since the end of the muscle car era.

Jim Rowland, a 36-year-old Arkansas native, has been vocal in the fight against both Arkansas HB 1547 back in 2017, and now HB 1496 (which turned into Act 368). The 2017 version of the bill was brought to Rowland’s attention by the SEMA Action Network, a group of automotive enthusiasts who spread awareness of legislation that could impact the hobby. It spurred Rowland to create the Facebook group Arkansas Car Enthusiasts Against HB 1547. A grassroots campaign demonstrated the widespread unpopularity of the bill, leading Fortner to withdraw it. Nevertheless, in February 2019 Fortner was back with an identical bill.

“youngtimer” dream garage
RM Sotheby’s

Rowland has been active with the Sports Car Club of America since he was 16, and has competed in 24 Hours of Lemons, telling Hagerty, “If there is racing or automotive history involved, I’m in. Cars that I remember from Car and Driver 10 Best Lists in elementary school are literally sitting in my garage with Antique plates today.” His fleet includes several that are 25 or more years old, like his Mazda Miata and his NIssan Sentra SE-R. His collection is representative of his generation, and ‘80s and ‘90s cars are quickly becoming more popular just as muscle cars became popular when their fans became financially stable enough to go after the cars they couldn’t afford in their youth.

Fortner’s renewed push to alienate younger gearheads led Rowland to publish an editorial listing the myriad reasons why Act 368 is a bad idea. In speaking with us, Rowland made another great point that seemed obvious as soon as he said it. “If 25- to 44-year-old vehicles aren’t maintained by a core of enthusiastic owners, there won’t be any 45-plus-year-old cars left to preserve.”

SEMA told Hagerty that there aren’t any similar pieces of legislation anywhere else in the country quite like Act 368, but it does keep tabs on legislation that can affect our hobby. Keep informed by checking the SEMA Action Network website.

If you’d like to voice your concern over Act 368, let SEMA know you support its effort to repeal the law during the next legislative session.

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