The SEMA Action Network issued the following clarification regarding a recent April Fool's Day prank involving an alleged The New York Times article indicating that legislation was being drafted in the U.S. Congress to create a federal tax on collector cars.
SEMA Action Network Members:
Some of you may have received notice of an alleged The New York Times article indicating that legislation was being drafted in the U.S. Congress to create a federal tax on collector cars. Hopefully, most of you know by now that the article was an April Fool's Day prank. The author has indicated his regrets for any confusion or embarrassment to automobile collectors and enthusiasts caused by the prank. Below, we have included the full text of his letter revealing the hoax.
Please contact me if I can be of additional assistance.
Vice President, Government Affairs
Specialty Equipment Market Association
The Shelby American Automobile Club’s (SAAC) annual April Fool’s gag reached a much wider audience than anyone could have predicted. Initially a four-page newsletter was e-mailed to every member. It contained stories about a perpetual motion ’68 Shelby, a ’69 GT350 that supposedly got 40 miles per gallon and a bogus front-page recreation of The New York Times, dated March 28, that had two stories. One was a hoax about purported tax legislation being prepared by Sen. Charles Schumer, which would tax every collector car, antique, hot rod and race car in the country. This was, of course, concocted out of thin air. But it was, on the surface, believable and it hit numerous hot buttons of car owners.
As soon as some SAAC members read this, they immediately went into full “Paul Revere mode,” posting the article on a wide variety of Internet car forums. Once on those forums, readers swarmed like angry killer bees, both posting angry comments about the unfairness of the concept and spreading parts and pieces of the original article in e-mails and postings. It was the classic definition of something “going viral.”
When readers on some forums recognized the whole thing as an April Fool’s joke and posted this, other readers seemed to look right past the warnings. We now know how Orson Wells must have felt after his 1938 “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast resulted in traffic jams as panicked people tried to flee New Jersey.
While we enjoy a good April Fool’s prank as much as anyone, we never envisioned that this one could spread so quickly or so widely beyond the Shelby American Automobile Club. We deeply regret if taking this story seriously has caused anyone any undue distress or embarrassment. To keep more of that from happening we would greatly appreciate it if you could forward this message to as many car enthusiasts as possible. If they forward it to others who can forward it to even more people, maybe this second message will catch up with and overpower the first one.
And, finally, please do not contact Senator Schumer’s office. He already has his hands full with real issues of importance.
Shelby American Automobile Club