For many vehicle enthusiasts throughout America, building, maintaining, and enjoying their vehicles is a favorite pastime. The SEMA-model legislation represents an opportunity to acknowledge their commitment to the hobby and to protect it for future generations. As market trends come and go it seems the street rod, classic truck, and custom car segment remains a consistently "hot" segment of the automotive aftermarket. Participants on both sides of the counter are driven by passion and enthusiasm. After all, what could be better than going for a cruise in a cool classic pickup or a shiny deuce coupe on a Saturday morning? To the citizens that the street rod and custom bill would most benefit, not much.
So, what exactly are classic trucks, street rods, and custom cars, and what are the differences between them? The street rod group is made up of vehicles with body types from manufacture years prior to 1949. Unlike antiques or vehicles found in the restoration niche, street rods have been altered with new equipment and usually take advantage of the many technological advances and upgrades. Street rod builders also commonly use other make or model components to tweak existing parts. Although custom cars and classic trucks are modified with similar materials as street rods, there is a key difference: Custom trucks and cars typically start-and finish-with the same base model vehicle, typically from the '40s-60s, though the SEMA-model designates customs as an altered vehicle manufactured after 1948.
According to a recent survey, manufacture sales of street rod and custom car/truck specialty equipment products reached $260 million, while retail sales hit the $636 million mark. The growth of the street rod and custom car market can in part be attributed to America's fascination with its own recent history. For the most part, these vehicles are pampered and coddled, buffed, shined, and meticulously cared for. They are the pride and joy of those who own them.
However, beloved street rods, customs, and classic trucks (including kit cars and replicas) have long struggled to find their place in the law. Almost all states have processes through which antiques can be registered, but fewer provide adequately for modified cars. Hobbyists attempting to title and register vehicles that they have built from the ground up must often find loopholes in their state's code to get it out on the road. The steps can be so time-consuming and confusing that many throw in the towel.
Summary of the SEMA Street Rod Custom Vehicle Bill:
Defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom vehicle as an altered vehicle manufactured after 1948. Provides specific registration classes and license plates for street rods and custom vehicles. Provides that replica vehicles and kit cars will be assigned the same model-year designations as the production vehicles they most closely resemble and allows the use of non-original materials. Exempts street rods and custom vehicles from periodic vehicle inspections and emissions inspections. Provides that vehicles titled and registered as street rods and custom vehicles may only be used for occasional transportation, exhibitions, club activities, parades, and tours, and not for general daily transportation. Exempts street rods and custom vehicles from a range of standard equipment requirements. Allows the use of blue-dot taillights on street rods and custom vehicles.