Classic cars have been going head-to-head with industry regulation since the 1970’s. The historic fuel crisis directly shifted the focus from high power to high fuel economy. Soon catalytic converters and other emissions components became a mandated requirement for anything coming off the assembly line. But as much as it pains big power fans, it was a necessary evil to combat fuel-supply woes and growing pollution concerns.
Impressively, today’s automakers are pushing out 700 horsepower straight from the factory. And they’re leaps and bounds more emissions-friendly than in previous years. But a sticking point keeps popping up around the topic of modifying vehicles built before the industry had to answer to the watchdogs.
Classic Cars, Contemporary Regulation
There’s no denying that government agencies have made enormous strides in clean driving throughout the past four decades. And power-hungry revheads can still get their trigger finger on a slick ride with a lot of oomph under the hood, all while complying with those conservation efforts. So, then why do classic cars—an arguably small piece of the pie—consistently see their very existence being threatened by strict scrutiny and modern regulation? August Cederstrand of Edelbrock has a few provoking thoughts about this particular topic. And they’re based on the merit of an industry veteran who’s been directly impacted by mounting regulation since childhood.
“The problem comes from the majority of people in charge of making the regulations. They don’t understand what they’re regulating. In the car hobby, (which encompasses just about anything you can do to a car) sometimes these regulations can greatly impact or even destroy … In the past, California had the Cash-for-Clunkers program. How many now-valuable cars were destroyed because some bureaucrat thought it was a good idea?” said Cederstrand.
Regulators Paint with a Wide Brush
When it comes to daily drivers, it’s important–and necessary–to set standards. According to the EPA, “New passenger vehicles are 98-99% cleaner for most tailpipe pollutants compared to the 1960s.” Those progressions, as well as enforcement of the Clean Air Act, have had incredibly positive impacts on the environment, the economy, and frankly, human life expectancy.
It should be reinforced that no one denies the benefits we’ve reaped from the hard work it took to implement thoughtful conservation efforts. The issue arises when those large-scale applications threaten to destroy a small sector that should be exempt, or even protected, for its historical significance.
“While we enjoy modifying automobiles, when compared to the rest of the population of daily drivers, we are a small minority. Most people buy a car, use it for several years, then sell it or trade it back in for another one and repeat this cycle their entire life. They could care less about car regulations and how they affect our car hobby. The problem as I see it is this: regulators aren’t educated at all when it comes to the automobile aftermarket and all its facets. Neither do they use logic and reason to look at potential areas to regulate. Rather, they just make bans and large sweeping moves that [have the potential to] ruin everything,” continued Cederstrand.
“Like anyone else, maybe something they regulated didn’t need it, or they went too far. But they never back up or admit that maybe they did something wrong. The public ends up getting the shaft and having to abide with some nonsensical law that shouldn’t be there in the first place,” he finished.
So, who is threatened by this? Not only classic cars, but also the small business owners relying on parts and service sales to earn a buck. Lawmakers are clearly displaying preference for autonomous and electric vehicles as a regular means of future transportation. And though the intentions may be good, we have to ask the million-dollar question. “What will happen with classic cars and trucks?”
Under the guise of environmental regulation, anything 1976 and earlier seems to be a direct target. For these models fail to meet emission standards of today’s day and age. Also, modifications to 4-stroke engines is in danger of being outlawed entirely. If either one of these restrictions are successfully enforced, thousands of businesses would suffer. And, in truth, there wouldn’t be a community across America left unaffected. Local auto parts suppliers, raceways, and even major chains would take massive hits. All of these businesses have a hand in jump-starting their local economies and keeping the overall wheel of the industry moving. All of them stand to be affected by emerging regulations.
To question the ingenuity of the automotive industry is insulting. And if, or when, it is affected by increasing regulation, major players like automakers, aftermarket manufacturers, and auto shops will evolve and dedicate their time and talents to emerging trends that keep the doors open. But one has to question if all the political red tape is helping or hindering American car culture.