By now all of us realize, "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto." Our way of life (family, job, et al) has changed. The new year is going to hold a great deal of uncertainty but at the same time will be filled with challenges and, if used properly, will yield new hope. Those of us who see the glass as "half full" will seize what life gives and treat it as an opportunity. Those who don't, well you get the idea.
For starters, in our world of hot rodding we are preparing ourselves for the NSRA Street Rod Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, to welcome post-'49 rides for the first time. Well, maybe not everyone is welcoming the change but it is going to change so why not sample it and then make a decision? I have never been one for a change for change sake but I can see the advantage of allowing the Nationals to "grow."
Later in this issue you will see the first of several stories on the State of California versus hot rodding. It may sound funny but it isn't. There are approximately 17 states (and growing) that have enacted street rod and custom vehicle laws. This law (or laws) is intended to define those cars or trucks as the following: "A street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom vehicle as an altered vehicle manufactured after 1948." I should point out this takes into account classic trucks ('49-54 Chevy pickups for instance), the traditional kit car (replica Cobra, etc. ...), and modified passenger cars of an era such as '58-64 Chevys and others. California has opted to take the long, winding, and less-traveled road that is surely to be chock full of ruts and cavernous potholes.
As of this writing, Wyoming has joined the ranks of states wishing to work with hot rodders and not against them. The new law also includes designer license plates and provides that replica and kit cars will be assigned the same model-year designations as the production vehicles they most closely resemble and exempts them from periodic inspections. Congratulations to Fred Williams, division director for the NSRA, and Stan Goodwin, president of the Wyoming Street Rod Association (WSRA). Their allies in the state legislature who made the achievement possible are Representative Pat Childers, who sponsored the bill, and key supporters Representatives Stan Blake and Mike Gilmore.
But I don't live in Wyoming; nope my state opted to place a lump of coal in my Christmas stocking. Let me put it bluntly: California has opted to be confrontational rather than diplomatic.
If the poor economy isn't enough, we now have the State of California taking aim on our hobby. Mind you my state ranks 48 in quality of roads, is $21 billion in debt (and growing), and many businesses have opted to flee for other states wishing to work with them.
While the STREET RODDER staff has often accused me of not being the sharpest tool in the shed, or the brightest blub in the garage, I know when something is askew. Have you ever stopped to just understand what a billion of anything really is, much less 21 billion? Wrap your brain around this, a billion seconds ago it was approximately 1960, a billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age, a billion days ago no one walked on the earth on two feet (of course that's still a challenge for some of the staff!), yet the State of California can spend $1,000,000,000 in less time than it takes the staff to produce an issue of SR.
I am reminded of a quote from former Prime Minister of England Tony Blair: "A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in ... And how many want out." (The complete Tony Blair quote is worth reading and appreciating.)
I would like to apply that same principle to California. For years California was the state everyone wanted to move to, now it is the state everyone wants to move away from. By July 2009, California was the biggest population loser of the 50 states, with a negative loss of 98,798 residents. (In 2006 the population dipped by 313,081.)
So what has California gone and done now? Well, apparently the state believes it is filled with crooks and criminals who have registered their street rods (and other modified cars) erroneously-by accident or on purpose. The state has enacted a one-year amnesty program to correct these previously misguided attempts. (More later in the issue.) In the state's wisdom, the way out for many hot rodders will be to literally spend thousands of dollars on sales tax and registration fees in order to become compliant and not in the crosshairs of the state's legal system. Did you think it would be any other way? Ironically it was because of the state's lack of data and confusion that got us here in the first place.
I have found myself speaking to various car clubs trying to help rodders navigate these muddy and very dangerous waters and believe me when I say dangerous.
One last parting shot: The state has for the last 37 years conducted voluntary roadside smog checks. According to Angelo Sardo of the Bureau of Automotive Repair, "It's totally at random." There is no pass or fail and no cars are being towed. But it begs the question, "Where does the data go that is gathered?"
There isn't a day that goes by that I ask myself, "Would you want to live somewhere else?" In the past the answer was always a resounding, "No!" It is becoming increasingly difficult to say that in light of the most recent attacks by the state on my hobby.