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SEMA Sponsored Bills Making the State Rounds

Words: Mike Aguilar   Images courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Legislation that the SEMA Action Network (SAN) has crafted and sponsored has gained traction around the country in the last two decades. The legislation is designed to ease the registration and titling process for street rods and customs. The bill model upon which the legislation is based is called the SEMA-Modell Street Rod/Custom Vehicle Bill.


SEMA-Sponsored Legislation Defines “Street Rod” and “Custom”

A number of years ago, SEMA’s SAN staff noticed that owners and builders of kit cars, street rods and customs were having problems getting titles and registration for their vehicles. State employees tasked with accomplishing this process were also having problems: Was this a ’50 Ford or a ’37 Ford? Or was it a ’73 Chevy?

Staff spoke with members of the industry, hobbyists, legislators, administrators and regulators to craft a piece of legislation that defined what street rods and customs are. The model legislation defines a street rod as a motor vehicle that is either a vehicle built before 1948 or a vehicle that was built to resemble a vehicle manufactured before 1949, and which either “has been altered from the manufacturer’s original design, or has a body constructed from non-original materials.”

The legislation also addresses the custom vehicle segment of the hobby. These are vehicles that are “at least 25 years old and of a model year after 1948, or were manufactured to resemble a vehicle 25 or more years old and of a model year after 1948.”

The vehicle must also have been altered from the original factory design or be built of non-original materials. This would be the ’69 Camaro frame/chassis that has a complete fiberglass body attached. Again, the years used on the title shall be those of what the car resembles.


Legislation Defines What Model and Manufacture Year Is Used for Registration

Many times a street rod or custom is 100 percent composed of components that were manufactured decades after the year the car was designed to resemble. This is especially true of kit cars. Sometimes part of the car was manufactured in, say, 1947, but the majority of the car was manufactured much later, such as 2012.

Owners/builders/hobbyists and administrators and regulators in most states couldn’t come up with a decision on how to treat these vehicles, so the legislation specifies how these vehicles are to be treated when titling and registering. In states that have passed this model legislation it doesn’t matter if everything in the car was made yesterday or back in the year the car looks like - the year of manufacture and model year on the title/certificate “shall be the model year and year of manufacture that the body of such a vehicle resembles.”


Legislation Also Places Restrictions on Both Parties

Most states require periodic emissions or smog testing when renewing vehicle registrations, although many do exempt some older cars. However, most street rods and customs are significantly newer than what they resemble. The legislation provides for a one-time registration/titling fee and no periodic emissions inspections. It also specifies that the safety equipment that was installed at the factory in the vehicle’s model year is all that is required for titling.

Those looking to register a rod or custom will have to provide a certificate of safety inspection prior to registering and titling the vehicle according to the SAN bill and the corresponding laws that have already been passed. Most state laws also specify a unique plate for rods and customs. The legislation also restricts the use of these vehicles to be occasional - they are not to be daily drivers.


22 States Already Have Legislation on the Books

The move to get legislation introduced and passed started more than two decades ago. Washington was the first state to pass a law based upon portions of the SAN model legislation back in 1999. It was amended in 2011. A total of 20 other states have passed laws that are at least based upon portions of the model legislation. These states are:

·         California in 2001

·         Illinois in 2002. Amended in 2009

·         Hawaii, Missouri, and Rhode Island in 2004

·         Maine and Montana in 2005

·         Colorado in 2006

·         In 2007, Arkansas, Florida, Nevada, and Virginia

·         Idaho, Iowa, and Tennessee in 2008

·         North Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming in 2009

·         In 2010, Massachusetts

·         Texas in 2011

In addition to these, SAN was able to get the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to publish new regulations for the state that exempt custom cars, street rods, assembled vehicles and replicas from having to undergo mandatory emissions inspections. New York and New Jersey legislators are currently considering bills that use part of the SAN model legislation language.