Yes, we actually staged this shot with the help of the Polk County (FL) Sheriff's office,
The 2010 elections are here, and at no time in recent history has Washington been so divided. Less than two years ago, then Senator Barack Obama led a movement united by the desire for change. Voters wanted a new era of bipartisan cooperation, openness, and an abandonment of "politics as usual."
The realities of backroom politics quickly eroded campaign ideals. Whether President Obama and the Democratic leadership failed to deliver, or his opponents refused the invitation, the battle lines were fortified and partisan rancor is now stronger than ever.
We are again at an election crossroads in which many voters are seeking "change." That's what this issue of the magazine is about-an opportunity to consider how actions being taken by federal and state lawmakers impact you, the auto enthusiast. The need for the enthusiast community to stay informed and become involved is greater than ever. From emissions to auto equipment standards, the government is making decisions about your current and future car.
The future of our hobby depends on you. The ballot box is one venue for making your views known. We also urge you to work collectively with your fellow enthusiasts. How? Join the SEMA Action Network (SAN). The SAN is a partnership between enthusiasts, car clubs, and members of the specialty auto parts industry in the U.S. and Canada who have pledged to join forces in support of legislative solutions for the auto hobby. It's free to join, and the 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. Join now: www.semasan.com.
Although it would be impossible to cover every house bill or current law, we felt it pertinent to shed light on what we feel are some pressing issues that will affect the readers of Mopar Muscle.
Currently, "storing" an upcoming project car behind your garage is illegal in some areas,
In recent years, state and federal officials have attempted to implement emissions-reduction programs that target older vehicles. Most scrappage programs allow "smokestack" industries to avoid reducing their own emissions by buying pollution credits generated through destroying these vehicles. These programs accelerate the normal retirement of vehicles through the purchase of older cars, which are then typically crushed into blocks of scrap metal. Hobbyists suffer from the indiscriminate destruction of older cars, trucks, and parts, which anyone undergoing a restoration project can attest. America safeguards its artistic and architectural heritage against indiscriminate destruction, and our automotive and industrial heritage deserves the same protection. In other words, "smokestack" corporations are allowed to continue to pour billions of tons of pollution into the environment if they destroy old cars that in the scale of things have a minute impact.
While some legislation designed to spur sales of new and used automobiles is positive, such as vouchers towards the purchase of a new or used cars or tax credits to help upgrade, repair, or maintain older vehicles, scrappage provisions are not. Scrappage programs focus on vehicle age rather than actual emissions produced. This approach is based on the erroneous assumption that all old cars are dirty cars. However, the true culprits are "gross polluters"-vehicles of any model year that are poorly maintained. Scrappage programs ignore better options like vehicle maintenance, repair, and upgrade programs that maximize the emissions systems of existing vehicles. In the past year, scrappage initiatives have been defeated in California, North Carolina, and Washington.
Enthusiasts played a vital role in altering federal scrappage legislation in 2009 when an amendment was worked into the Cash for Clunkers program to spare vehicles 25 years and older from the scrappage heap and expand parts recycling opportunities. Cash for Clunkers operated through voluntary consumer participation, allowing car owners to receive a voucher to help buy a new car in exchange for scrapping a less fuel efficient vehicle. Vehicle hobbyists eased the program's effects by convincing lawmakers to include a requirement that the trade-in vehicle be a model year 1984 or newer vehicle. This provision helped safeguard older vehicles, which are irreplaceable to hobbyists as a source of restoration parts.
Imagine not being able to finish your rear end swap before it's time to quit for the day.
What happens when you come home one afternoon only to find a ticket on your project vehicle that's parked on your property? Sounds like a nightmare scenario, doesn't it? But in some areas of the country, it's all too real. State and local laws-some on the books now, 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 Mopar 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.
Some overzealous government officials are waging war against what they consider eyesores. To a non-enthusiast lawmaker, your diamond-in-the-rough just 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 localities currently enforcing or attempting to legislate strict-property or zoning laws that include restrictions on visible, 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: 1) inoperative vehicles are eyesores that adversely affect property values or 2) 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 the engine, wheels, or other 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:
Vehicle on blocks
Front windshield missing
Steering wheel missing
License plate with expired registration date
No license tag
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. In 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 and automobile graveyards 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.
Is that supercharger you just installed legal? It may depend on the police officer pulling
Emissions and Smog Check Programs
Many states operate their own I/M programs in areas that the 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.
To meet the EPA's emissions reduction requirements, many states are implementing more stringent emission inspection and maintenance (I/M) programs. An I/M program may be currently operating in your state, or could be soon.
Many states have incorporated the OBD testing method as part of the vehicle emissions inspection for '96 and newer vehicles. These OBD tests replace tailpipe tests by identifying emissions problems through information stored in the vehicle's on-board 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 I/M 240 is an enhanced emissions testing program, with "240" representing 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. 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.
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.
Modifications: Legal or Not
State laws have evolved over many generations and they continue to change. Some laws are better than others, and 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. For example, some state laws allow motorists to be ticketed when an officer has made a subjective noise level determination that the exhaust system is "louder than what came with the car." To cite another example, bills have been introduced in state legislatures to ban spinners even though they are legal at the federal level. Opposing arbitrary and unnecessarily restrictive equipment and inspection laws is a constant challenge.
The hobby must work with legislators to mitigate legislation that would ban the installation of power booster systems, including nitrous oxide systems intended for off-road (track) use. The SEMA model bill aims to do just that with language that provides for the operation of a vehicle equipped for nitrous oxide, so long as the nitrous oxide is disconnected from the engine when the vehicle is anywhere other than the track.
Racing is a dangerous activity that should take place at a track. Many states have increased the penalties for involvement in street racing, such as Florida, with the Luis Ortega Street Racing Act, in an effort to cut down on street racing related deaths and injuries. The Racers Against Street Racing (RASR) is a coalition of auto manufacturers, aftermarket parts companies, professional drag racers, sanctioning bodies, racetracks, and automotive magazines devoted to promoting safe and legal alternatives to illegal street racing on a national level. The goal of RASR is to provide a professional controlled environment in which today's sport compact enthusiasts can safely participate in automotive-related events throughout the United States.
My Engine Is Not a 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 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (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.
Ethanol attracts water. In turn, the resulting condensation can corrode the fuel lines, fixtures, and tank components (steel, rubber, aluminum, etc). We're talking rust, clogging, and deterioration. For modern cars, the oxygen atom in the ethanol molecule may confuse the exhaust sensor when measuring the fuel/air 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.
Many newer engines and parts have been designed to be more compatible with alcohol fuels, and E-15 will not be an issue. But E-10 has been a problem for some current and older models, and E-15 may be worse. Many in the auto industry have cautioned the EPA to do more science before it rules on the request.
Why does it matter? The fact is gasoline without ethanol may eventually become scarce or non-existent when you pull up to the pump. We also face an education curve. For many people who already ignore the "contains 10 percent ethanol" sign will not understand that 15 percent may cost them a pretty penny in repair bills.
Engine Swaps Made Easier
Engine swapping activities are bound by specific state laws that may vary from state to state. Having said that, there are some general guidelines one may consider. This article will cover the rules for switching the engine in production-type vehicles (but not specially-constructed vehicles, street rods, kit cars, and the like). The basic rule of engine switching (as opposed to installing a "replacement" engine) 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. Several requirements may define clean for the purposes of engine switching:
- Model Year: The engine to be installed 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 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and/or the California Air Resources Board. This essentially means that the required emissions parts must be present on the engine.
- Certification Level: The engine to be installed 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 must not be used 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. The vehicle will likely run more efficiently with a full transfer of the system and shouldn't cause any undue heartache.
The U.S. EPA and many states have enforceable policies and guidelines on how to perform legal engine changes. For further information, please consult the EPA and California Bureau of Automotive Repair at: www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/policies/civil/caa/mobile/engswitch.pdf
How Loud is Too Loud?
Imagine driving down the road and getting stopped because of the modified muffler on your restored '72 Charger. Now imagine sitting on the shoulder, receiving a citation from local law enforcement, while a stock Ferrari overtakes your car and drives on. This is the scene being played on state highways across the country, the result of poorly drafted or ineffective state laws and regulations. The laws on the books in these states frequently cite the manufacturer's specifications or a factory installed muffler as the basis on which vehicle exhaust noise is measured.
On this topic, states can generally be divided into two major categories: states with noise standards and states without noise standards. Of the states with a test standard on the books, many ignore guidelines when handing out citations. Most states that have chosen to go the route of setting specifications choose to measure a vehicle's noise by decibels. States that have quantifiable noise standards on the books are shaded red in the map. These standards often go unenforced. One reason these regulations are not enforced is that they are based on an in-use standard-exhaust noise is measured while a vehicle is in motion on the highway. The states that employ these operating standards typically divide vehicles into classes and then set separate standards: one for vehicles while driving on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, and a second standard for vehicles driving on roadways with a speed limit greater than 35 mph. The measurements are to be taken while the vehicle is in motion on the road, usually from a distance of 50 feet from the center lane of travel.
Other states choose not to specify a quantifiable noise standard. These states are shown in yellow in the map above. Typical language in these states' statutes includes prohibitions on "excessive or unusual noise" from a vehicle's exhaust system. While most motorists believe that exhaust systems should not be used in a way that causes overly loud or objectionable noise, these vague provisions fail to provide a clear and objective standard for those seeking more durable exhaust systems that enhance a vehicle's appearance and increase performance.
Language that effectively limits the use of aftermarket exhausts can be found amongst both yellow and red states. Such language includes sentences 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 such language does not specifically prohibit all modification, it does not 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 make vehicles run more efficiently without increasing emissions.
Green on the map identifies the three states that have enacted SEMA model legislation to provide enthusiasts and law enforcement officials with a fair and enforceable alternative. The model legislation establishes a 95-decibel exhaust noise limit based on an industry standard adopted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Under this standard (SAE J1169), 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 maximum rated horsepower. The highest decibel reading is then recorded.
Previous California law allowed modifications so long as the noise levels did not exceed the 95 decibel limit. However, the roadside enforcement of this limit was chaotic, leading to subjective, selective, and improper enforcement.
Lobby for the Hobby
"We the people of the United States" are not just words from the first line of an old document. We are the people who love muscle cars, hot rods, street rods, tuners, replicas, off-road trucks, and many other varieties of automotive pursuits that are as diverse as the country in which we live. We are also the people who have to work to protect our automotive passions from unnecessary, unfair, or well intentioned but poorly written laws and regulations. Fortunately, we the people live in a country where we can still make a difference in how we are governed.
Our greatest tool in making that difference is our voice. By speaking out on issues that concern the automotive hobby, contacting our 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, so hit the gas and keep your foot down!
To get you started, we have prepared 10 tips you can use when contacting your representatives:
1. Develop and Maintain Relationships with Your Legislators and Their Staff
Make contact and develop productive relationships with individual legislators. It is the most effective form of grassroots lobbying. It's also important to develop a relationship with their staff who monitors ongoing legislative and community initiatives.
2. Educate Legislators About Our Hobby and Our Issues
Educate your legislator about the hobby and emphasize the positive impact it has on the community.
3. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Develop a positive relationship with your legislator. 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. Share this information with fellow enthusiasts.
5. Get Involved in the Community
Join with other community groups to build positive exposure. Holding charity runs and fundraisers provides 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, etc.
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. Share this information with other enthusiasts who are willing to help lobby for the hobby.
10. Register to Vote
Exercise your right to support pro-hobby candidates. 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.
State Legislators Who Support the Hobby
In its efforts to promote and protect the specialty equipment industry and the automotive hobby in the states, SEMA partners with state lawmakers from across the country through the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus. Formed in 2005 to supplement the work of our grassroots hobbyist network (SAN), the Caucus is a bi-partisan group of state lawmakers whose common thread is a love and appreciation for automobiles. Supported by SEMA's Government Affairs office in Washington, D.C., the Caucus is serving to raise the motor vehicle hobby's profile in the state legislatures and in the eyes of the public. Working in state capitals, many of these legislators have sought to preserve and protect the hobby by improving existing motor vehicle statutes and creating new programs to safeguard and expand the hobby.
Over the past several years, the work of these lawmakers has brought a series of significant legislative accomplishments for the vehicle enthusiast community and specialty equipment industry on issues ranging from equipment standards to registration and titling classifications, and from emissions test exemptions to the rights of hobbyists to engage in backyard restorations.
"The automobile is part of our culture and history," said New York Assemblyman Bill Reilich, the current Caucus Chairman. "I am extremely pleased at how the membership numbers have increased, however, our work is not done. I will continue to work with the SEMA Government Affairs staff to help educate and encourage participation by our state governmental leaders and work toward our goal of having at least 500 members actively participating in the Caucus."
The work of caucus members has brought a series of significant legislative accomplishments for the vehicle enthusiast community. By joining the Caucus, these legislators have demonstrated their commitment to upholding the rights of vehicle enthusiasts. In addition, hobbyists are able to quickly identify which state legislators have chosen to be recognized for their support of this great American hobby. Approximately 450 state legislators from all 50 states are involved in the Caucus.
The Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus
You might be surprised at the number of car guys and gals in Washington, D.C. working on behalf of hobbyists like yourself. These are senators and congressional representatives who, as enthusiasts, are interested in protecting and expanding our hobby.
The Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus is now nearing 100 members and pays tribute to America's ever growing love affair with the car and motorsports.
In Washington, SEMA works in partnership with Caucus members to amplify the message among national policy-makers that the automotive performance industry is a vital engine in today's economy, employing more than a million Americans and generating $32 billion in sales annually.
For a comprehensive list of auto-friendly caucus members both on a state and federal level, check out www.moparmusclemagazine.com