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Washington State Enacts SEMA Street Rod/Custom Vehicle Bill Into Law


  Bill sponsor Senator Mike Carrell (left) and Art and Craig Morrison (center) of SEMA-member Art Morrison Enterprises join Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire as she signs into law SEMA-model legislation to create a vehicle titling and registration classification for street rods and custom vehicles. 

Washington joined the growing list of states to enact SEMA-model legislation to amend the vehicle titling and registration classification for street rods and create a classification for custom vehicles. The bill was approved by the Washington State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire. Under the new law, a street rod is defined as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom as an altered vehicle at least 30 years old and manufactured after 1948. Importantly, kit cars and replica vehicles will be assigned a certificate of title bearing the same model-year designation as the production vehicle they most closely resemble.

Washington joins California (2001), Illinois (2002), Missouri (2004), Rhode Island (2004), Hawaii (2004), Montana (2005), Maine (2005), Colorado (2006), Arkansas (2007), Virginia (2007), Nevada (2007), Florida (2007), Idaho (2008), Iowa (2008), Tennessee (2008), Wyoming (2009), Utah (2009), North Carolina (2009) and  Massachusetts (2010) as states that have enacted similar bills into law.

The new law allows for the use of non-original materials, provides for special license plates and exempts street rods and customs from the law requiring vehicles to be equipped with a hood and bumpers. The law also exempts street rods and customs from emissions test requirements. Vehicles titled and registered as street rods and custom vehicles may only be used for occasional transportation, exhibitions, club activities, parades and similar functions.  

“As in the other states that have enacted the SEMA model, the new Washington law recognizes the unique nature of these vehicles as hobbyist cars,” said SEMA Vice President of Government Affairs Steve McDonald. “For many vehicle enthusiasts in Washington and throughout America, building, maintaining and enjoying their vehicles is a favorite pastime. This law represents an opportunity to acknowledge their commitment to the hobby and to protect it for future generations.”

The new law is the product of months of consultation with state legislators, regulators and the local hobbyist and business community, including Art and Craig Morrison of SEMA-member Art Morrison Enterprises in Fife, Washington. “It was an honor being involved in the political system to create positive change and to give back to the automotive enthusiasts of Washington state,” Craig Morrison said. “The SEMA-model legislation that Senator Carrell sponsored should definitely make it easier for enthusiasts in the Evergreen State to get their vehicles out on the road.”

Washington State Senator Mike Carrell, the bill’s sponsor, remarked, “I couldn’t believe how important this bill had become to those in the hobby-car community. I’ve received dozens of e-mails, phone calls and letters—one from as far away as Paris, France—thanking me for sponsoring this bill. There’s a huge groundswell of support for this legislation, and as a car collector myself, I’m very proud to have sponsored it.”

The model bill will continue to be pursued by SEMA in states that either don’t have registration classifications for these vehicles or have laws that are lacking in some way. SEMA efforts are ongoing this year to work with the state legislatures in New York, New Jersey and Texas on this initiative and to add others to that list in the coming legislative sessions.