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Thread: Your old car in the gun sights

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    Your old car in the gun sights

    What do "assault weapons" and your classic car have in common? More than you might think. Just give it another couple of years.

    Maybe less.

    The same form of attack used to justify bans on certain types of firearms is almost certainly going to be used to justify restrictions - and maybe even outright bans - on older cars.

    Someone is going to come forward - maybe a politician looking for a cause to milk, maybe a hater of cars; probably both working together. They will argue that any car built before the introduction of modern emissions control technology - especially modern "tamper proof" computer controlled engine management systems - is a threat to the environment because it pollutes and because it can be fiddled with by its owner to pollute even more. The "carbon footprint" of a 1970 Hemi 'Cuda simply cannot be tolerated upon the public roads.

    The second prong of the attack will revolve around safety.

    Older cars don't have air bags ABS or traction control. That means they must be dangerous - especially for the children. Something must be done!

    If you think such a possible future is unlikely, you ought to give it another thought. This is not a debate in which reason and common sense will carry the day. As with anti-gun measures it will be decided on the basis of emotion - probably with lots of "moms" leading the way.

    It doesn't matter that the number of cars more than 30 years old in regular use accounts for less than 1 percent of the total number of cars in service (and hence, their supposed "carbon footprint" is actually very small in the grand scheme of things and irrelevant to either global warming or air pollution).

    In fact, a few hundred thousand out of tune recent-vintage Corollas pour a lot more noxious pollution - and together emit far more carbon dioxide "greenhouse gasses" - than a garage-kept antique car that's fired up maybe once a month or so and sees less than 2,000 miles annually.

    But none of that will matter. What will count is the emotive image of an "old clunker" spewing blue smoke - against the backdrop of coughing kids and wilting flowers and poor old polar bears paddling desperately in the open ocean because all the ice floes have melted.... .

    Can't you picture it?

    If "assault weapons" are dangerous because of how they look (bayonets, military-style stocks, high-capacity magazines) what will they say about snorty old muscle cars with 400 horsepower V-8s and no ABS or stability control? Doesn't the very existence of such irresponsibly high-powered and uncontrolled machinery threaten the safety of everyone?

    Keep in mind we live at a time when most states have imposed laws requiring that every motorist buckle-up for safety - or face the consequences of a fat fine, even "points" for a moving violation. Does it take any great leap of imagination to conjure a scene in the not-too-distant future when some lawmaker or "concerned mom" asks why the law requires everyone to buckle-up but doesn't (yet) require that those nasty, dangerous old clunkers be retrofitted with "modern" safety equipment - or be taken off the road entirely?

    Since it is a virtual impossibility (technically as well as economically) to update an older, pre-emissions, pre-safety era antique vehicle with modern emissions control equipment and safety features, the result will be a de facto ban on cars built before the advent of modern emissions controls and safety equipment.

    If you're allowed to keep an old car at all, it will probably have to be rendered inoperative. Special licenses (along with expensive licensing fees) will be required.

    An additional push will come from the auto industry - which wants you to buy a new car, not keep your old one. General Motors has no interest in your '66 Chevelle.

    GM wants you to buy an '09 Cobalt.

    It would be a dream come true for an industry suffering calamitous drops in profitability/sales to see legislation passed - in the interests of "the environment," of course - requiring that cars become disposable appliances with "closed" hoods that we simply replace every six to eight years or so. Maybe a system of perpetual leasing would be good. Instead of buying a car, we'd simply pay a monthly fee (forever) and every so often exchange our current car for a another one.

    Change is already in the air - but it's not change we can believe in, unfortunately.

    Several states - California and Virginia among them - have recently passed draconian restrictions on older cars. California used to exempt cars more than 30 years old from emissions testing - on a rolling basis. No more. The exemption now ends for cars built after 1975. Even if your car is 35 years old - a "for show only" antique that's taken out a handful of times per year for a Sunday drive or to attend an old car show - it must be taken in for a smog check just like a brand-new car.

    If it fails, sayonara registration.

    In Virginia, a new law empowers police to impound cars with "antique vehicle" tags if they believe the car is "unsafe." Even though cops are not trained state safety inspectors, probably not experts about what is and isn't "correct" in terms of the equipment that should be present in a 35 year old car - and may not have any more technical/mechanical knowledge than your Aunt Minnie May. If the cop wants to, he can have your car hauled away just like that.

    Ostensibly, this was done to deal with people who abuse the "antique vehicle" law - which permits owners of cars more than 25 years old to get a special license plate and permanent registration not subject to annual renewal as well as an exemption from annual state safety checks required of cars with normal registrations. A handful of people would get these plates and hang them on the bumper of some old junker they'd then drive every day, avoiding the safety (and emissions) checks.

    It's a legitimate problem - but it could have been handled without strong-arming legitimate classic/antique car owners. The state could simply have required that any person applying for antique vehicle tags present proof of an antique vehicle insurance policy. Such policies are restrictive (most usually stipulate the car be driven no more than about 2,000 miles annually) and often involve a physical appraisal of the car.

    Instead, Va's lawmakers went after older cars (and their owners) as a class.

    This trend will only gather steam as politicians scrounge for causes to ride into office - and the ever-vigilant cadres of "concerned moms," "environmentalists" and "safety" advocates train their sights on vintage vehicles.

    In the near future, owning an air bag-free, catalytic converter-less muscle car may become the four wheeled equivalent of toting an AK-47 "assault rife" - even if the car, like the AK, is no threat to anyone or anything.

    Except, perhaps, someone's feelings.

  2. #2
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    Feb 2007

    Re: Your old car in the gun sights

    This article has been posted on the main site with pictures:

  3. #3
    Senior Member J. ZIMM's Avatar
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    Mar 2008

    Re: Your old car in the gun sights

    > Dang, Here we go again. California tried this thirty-forty or so years ago. they wanted to get the older cars off the highways for the same reasons. They said they were polluters, unsafe, and bad to be behind on the road. But they would give you $750.00 toward a new car. Bless their lil' pee picken hearts. Most people that do drive collector cars, are more concerned over the safety of their older investment than they do of their new car. The frontend don't have the wobblies, the brakes work, tires are good, You can see though the glass, And all the lights work. People that have these so called clunkers, have more money wrapped up in them than what they were worth brand spanking new. Just because you have a new or newer car does not mean you have a safe car. Take a good look at some of these wrecks. People still park by sonar. Hit speed bumps hard enough to jam the wheels into the fenders, cutting the tire. Make stops at 140 Miles per hour, ten feet from the sign. And don't try to make a left turn, they'll take the door handles off the right side of your car just going around. New car safer? When the moving parts that keep it between the lines ( the suspension) aren't being lubed any more, like my rig with 53K that has had the tie rod ends replaced three times already, at $300.00-$500.00 a pop, i could buy a lot of grease for that. Gee I wonder what a 1956 Gull Wing is worth? $750.00..... :

  4. #4
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    Re: Your old car in the gun sights

    "Most people that do drive collector cars, are more concerned over the safety of their older investment than they do of their new car. The frontend don't have the wobblies, the brakes work, tires are good, You can see though the glass, And all the lights work."

    This is an excellent point. You're absolutely right that most people who own an antique/classic car are fastidious about maintenance and tend to take much better care of the vehicle than the typical owner of a late model car.

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