Detroit Free Press: The stories behind historic vehicles get their due in proposed law
Historic cars, trucks and motorcycles could soon have the same official recognition as some of America’s most significant planes, boats and buildings.
Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters and Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman have introduced a bill to create a national register of information, photos, documents, engineering records and more for vehicles with unique and significant stories.
“Vehicles are central to our history,” Peters said. “It’s important to have a dedicated central register to document historic vehicles.”
Each vehicle must have a unique story. You can’t simply say, “The Mustang is historic, we should have Mustang in the register.” The only Mustang to make the list out of the 10 million Ford has sold is the green ’68 fastback Steve McQueen drove in “Bullitt” for the greatest chase scene of all time.
Vehicles need unique, thoroughly verified histories to make the cut, and they need to have played a role in American culture, like the 1940 engineering prototype — also built by Ford — that’s the most direct surviving ancestor of the WWII Jeep and modern SUVs.
If the bill becomes law, the Department of Interior will create a register, starting with 18 historic vehicles that have been verified and documented by the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA). The Library of Congress will keep the documents, including detailed specifications, photos on long-lasting acid-free paper and more.
“The automobile has profoundly transformed America,” HVA vice president Diane Parker said. “The legislation formalizes recognition of how vehicles have shaped our culture.
Vehicles can be modified
The register doesn’t prevent the vehicles from being sold, driven, or — heaven forbid — modified. They remain in private ownership, but the details of every nut and bolt, every colorful incident, will be in the public record, and occasionally displayed at the Library of Congress.
The privately funded HVA has been building verifying and recording cars since 2014. Vehicles it has certified are generally connected to important people, events or both. HVA events include Cars and the Capitol, a display of two different vehicles every year on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
“These stories are not just for car guys and girls,” Parker said. “These are American stories.”
Peters sponsored a similar bill as a congressman, but he’s “cautiously optimistic” this one will become law. It’s already had a committee hearing in the Senate. The next step will be attaching it to a larger bill, or bringing it up for a vote on its own.
“I haven’t heard any objection to the bill,” Peters said.
Vehicles already certified by the Historic Vehicle Association:
1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona coupe CSX2287
Auto legend Carroll Shelby’s first prototype of an American racer built to challenge Ferrari.
1964 Meyers Manx “Old Red”
Legendary dune buggy based on a VW Beetle chassis.
1938 Maserati 8CTF “The Boyle Special”
The most successful Indy 500 car, with two victories, two third places and a fourth.
1918 Cadillac U.S. 1257X
The only known Cadillac with a service record of its participation in a war. A rare surviving vehicle U.S. forces used in WWI.
1947 Tucker 48 Prototype “The Tin Goose”
The first prototype built by legendary startup Tucker Corp., the model for all 50 cars Tucker would produce.
1940 GM Futurliner No. 1
Aerodynamic bus General Motors used for its “Parade of Progress” mobile science and technology exhibition.
1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL
The 300 SL was the first foreign car mass-produced car built for American customers. This was the first one imported to America.
1940 Ford Pilot Model GP-No.1 (Pygmy)
The first prototype Ford built for the U.S. Army, Pygmy has many features associated with the production Jeep that served around the world in WWII and for decades after.
1909 White Model M steam car
The first presidential limousine, President William Howard Taft used it to promote the auto industry.
1962 Willys Jeep CJ-6
Almost entirely unrestored, for decades the Jeep was President Ronald Reagan’s personal vehicle at his beloved Rancho del Cielo.
1911 Marmon Wasp
Winner of the first Indianapolis 500 race, the Wasp is believed to be the first car with a rearview mirror.
1907 Thomas Flyer
Winner of the first transcontinental race, a 169-day marathon across the United States, Canada, Russia and Europe from New York to Paris, in 1908.
1906 Anderson Six convertible
A rare car by an automaker based in the American South, the Anderson Six featured hickory wood trim from South Carolina.
Created by legendary GM designer Harley Earl, the Y-Job was the first concept car, a vehicle designed to test styling and engineering concept.
1967 Chevrolet Camaro
The first Camaro built, the car set the tone for a design theme that continues to today.
1932 Ford Roadster (McGee Roadster)
WWII vet Bob McGee turned an inexpensive ’32 Ford into an icon and archetype of performance and enthusiasm.
1951 Mercury Sport Coupe (Hirohata Merc)
An early masterpiece of the style and engineering of 1950s customs.
1964 Chevrolet Impala (Gypsy Rose)
A landmark of East L.A. paint trends and low-rider style.
1933 Graham 8 sedan “Blue Streak”
One of the first Streamline-design cars, the Blue Streak was a sensation.
1896 Benton Harbor Motor Carriage
One of the earliest American automobiles.
1968 Ford Mustang Fastback (Bullitt-559)
The hero car used for photography in the film “Bullitt,” including the famous chase scene.
1985 Modena Spyder “Ferris Bueller” Ferrari
A replica featured prominently in the hit teen movie.
1927 Model T Touring
The 15 millionth Model T built, this was the symbolic end of the historic model’s 19-year production run. Edsel and Henry Ford drove it off the assembly line in Highland Park on May 26, 1927.
1984 Plymouth Voyager
The first minivan, the Voyager set the tone for decades of American family transportation. Minivans remain a cornerstone of Fiat Chrysler.
1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
This was astronaut Alan Bean’s car, one of many that established the Corvette as heroic space travelers’ car of choice.
1966 Volkswagen Type 2 Station Wagon
Better known as the microbus, this VW belonged to civil rights pioneers Esau and Janie B. Jenkins, who used it in their work.
By: Mark Phelan
Source: Detroit Free Press
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