Editorial: Emissions Laws

As Goes California, So Go The Other 49

By Ken Smith

Recently, we had occasion to write to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (aka “The Terminator,” “The Governator”) to ask for his assistance in terminating Assembly Bill 2683, which constitutes a direct attack on the future of the old-car hobby. Jay Leno even made a personal call to the governor, asking him to veto this bill.

As background, legislation authored by Senator Quentin Kopp that exempted cars over 30 years old from California’s biannual emissions test was passed a few years ago. Initially, pre-1974 cars were exempt from smog-testing, and the cut-off would roll forward one year annually.

However, despite our entreaties, AB2683 passed, repealing Senator Kopp’s bill and effectively ending the 30-year rolling exemption. Now, all cars from 1976 models onwards are subject to smog-testing.

Apparently, legislators and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) are determined to eliminate older cars from our roads through continuous attempts at punitive legislation, in spite of the popularity of the hobby in this state and the fact that California has one of the best climates in the country for preserving automotive history.

Despite efforts from automotive industry lobbyists such as SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association—www.sema.org), California legislators failed to consider all the economic and emissions ramifications: Collectible cars are insured, driven with care, involved in very few accidents, accumulate low annual mileage, and are often as well maintained as possible (given their age and parts availability). We ourselves know of at least two MGBs, three Triumphs, a Jaguar XJS, and several others that will now be laid up for lack of registration, off the road as a result of this legislation passing.

For our part, removing hundreds of our classic cars from the roads likely means that the necessary supply of spare parts, on which enthusiasts depend, might dry up—a shrinking market might not make some parts worth the cost of reproducing. And moreover, a laid-up car has no need of the many parts available from Moss Motors, and therefore we lose overall sales. Fewer sales equal less sales tax going into the state’s already-thin coffers…

However, all is not lost. The good news is that the Association of California Car Clubs (ACCC) sponsored a bill that defines in the Vehicle Code what a collector car is. The bill passed and was signed by the governor. This, and additional future legislation, may well be a foot in the door to make older, low- annual-mileage hobby cars emissions-exempt in the future. Owners of classic special-interest cars need to be distinguished from those who drive (often uninsured) clunkers instead of everyone being lumped in a general “old cars” category. The primary goal is emissions-test exemptions based on low annual mileage. The ACCC has also hired John Dunlap, former head of the California Air Resources Board, to act as lobbyist. He knows his way around Sacramento and the inner workings of CARB.

Non-Californians shouldn’t be complacent. History shows that California emissions regulations have a way of being adopted in other states. Do not think for one minute that this couldn’t happen in your neck of the woods, be it Alabama or Alaska. The threat is a real and present danger! We urge all California car-club members and anyone who owns a classic/special-interest vehicle to join The Association of California Car Clubs, 10820 Holmes Ave., Mira Loma, CA 91752, www.acccdefender.org.

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