The federal government has national registries for historic buildings, boats, airplanes, railways -- you name it. But not for cars. And the Historic Vehicle Association is trying to change that.
The association, which was founded in 2009 by Hagerty Insurance on behalf of its vintage car collector clients, is pushing for legislation that provides federal protection for vehicles in the way that historic buildings are preserved.
A concern among enthusiasts is that government initiatives -- such as the 2009 federal cash-for-clunkers incentive -- could send many vintage cars to the crusher. Legislation might prevent cars from being destroyed. Or it could allow gas guzzlers to remain on the road if other laws preclude them.
What would qualify? Is a split-window 1963 Corvette discovered in a barn more worthy of protection than a mint-condition 1977 Caprice? After all, both have historic value.
What if you change the paint color on a 1962 Lotus Elite from green to blue after it has been registered, or put a Chevy small block in a Jaguar E-Type?
"We don't have all the answers, but we are expanding the dialogue," said Carmel Roberts, director of government relations for the association. "We're looking at how things are treated, everything from a Marmon Meteor to a milk truck ... it's all possible."
Cars could be deemed historical because of who owned, designed, built or engineered them, or if they were tied to a significant event, Roberts said.
Insurance magnate McKeel Hagerty, who supports the movement, says: "People assume we're talking about cars that should be in the Smithsonian, but that's not the case. These cars are used, and they are required to be used. Just like historic homes allow upgrading from knob-and-tube wiring, we allow upgrading of classic cars."