By Eric Peters at Eric Peters Autos:
Apparently, old cars now threaten the “homeland” (every time I hear that word used I feel as though I’ve been inserted into a black and white movie from the ’30s about Nazi Germany and trench coat-wearing Gestapo agents… then realize it’s our living color reality here, today).
Anyhow, this couple in Statesville, N.C. got Hut! Hut! Hutted! by a gaggle of heimatsicherheitsdeinst (that’s “Homeland Security,” in the native tongue) agents on account of their possession of an old Land Rover Defender whose papieren were not in ordnung.
Bill and Jennifer Brinkley – along with about 40 others, maybe more – were SWAT-swarmed by the Hut! Hut! Hutters! – who stormed the property of these evildoers in order to protect the Homeland from dangerously “noncompliant” older vehicles.
“ICE (oy vey) Homeland Security Investigations special agents served court-ordered seizure warrants on approximately 40 Land Rovers in various locations around the country,” announced Vincent Picard of tough-guy acronymed ICE HSI. “The seizures were made pursuant to an ongoing criminal investigation involving the unlawful importation of vehicles from Great Britain… ”
And here’s the punchline, folks – the thing to focus on: “The Land Rovers, which do not meet federal safety or emissions standards, cannot be lawfully operated in the United States.”
Like VW – which was forced to stop selling the original Beetle in the land of the “free” back in the late 1970s – Land Rover had to stop selling the Defender 90 in the United States because it lacked the required cocoon of air bags, did not comply with rollover and other “safety” requirements.
The last year it was “legal” to sell a new one in the heimat was 1997.
Now, it’s well-known that new cars must comply with all the orders of the riegierung. But what’s alarming here is the Hut! Hut! Hutting! of old cars.
The Brinkleys, for example, assumed they were ok because their Land Rover was more than 25 years old – and thus, ought to have been exempt – as an antique vehicle – from all the federal folderol. Ditto Danny Harrington of Albany, NY – who was also the object of a thug scrum over his possession of a 1983 model Land Rover 110.
1983 was 31 years ago.
That year, most new cars still came from the factory with carburetors – and none were required to have any air bags at all. Relative to now, both “safety” and “emissions” mandates were minimal. In any event, the deal to date has been that a given vehicle is only required to comply with the “safety” and “emissions” ukase in force at the time of its manufacture.
Not subsequent to its manufacture.
And that no matter when it was made, after a defined number of years elapse from the time of manufacture – 21-25 is the norm – a vehicle may be registered as an antique and at that point is exempted from both “safety” and “emissions” inspections.
This grandfathering clause is part of what makes it feasible (that is, affordable) to keep decades’ old vehicles. No more worries about having to spend wads of cash to fix stuff that the owner doesn’t regard as worth fixing. For example, one could elect not to replace a faulty ABS pump (if the car had one) and just drive with normal (non-anti-lock) brakes. Or pull the fuse for the air bags, eliminating any threat that the 20-plus-year-old components might fail while you’re driving 65 MPH.
And it would be legal to do so.
What’s scary about this “ICE Homeland” Hut! Hut! Hutting! is that the vehicles seized were not new.
Indeed, they appear to be very old – as in the case of both the Brinkleys’ and Danny Harrington’s Land Rovers. Harrington told a Jalopnik reporter that the M16-toting, body armor-clad Hut! Hut! Hutters! claimed his vehicle’s paperwork had been diddled with to make it appear older than it actually was. But Harrington insists his vehicle is “clearly a 1983″ model, as evidenced by not just its condition – in Harrington’s own words, the truck was a “mess” in need of a major makeover – but also by its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) as well as its ’80s-era equipment and trim.
Regardless, it’s disturbing that the Hut! Hut! Hutters! were involved in this at all. When did sweating whether an old car has air bags and a catalytic converter become a matter of “homeland security”? Weren’t we assured that only evildoing terrorists were the object of this exercise?
Mission creep, anyone?
And there’s the bigger worry – if you own an older car. It is that the regierung will announce that all vehicles must be “compliant” with current “safety” and “emissions” laws. No more exemptions. No more grandfathering. No matter how old the car happens to be.
It is not hard to imagine this happening.
Indeed, it is surprising it hasn’t already happened.
Any vehicle made prior to say 1990 or so – before the air bag mandate, when only a handful of cars had ABS or even four-wheel-disc brakes – is arguably (by Clover standards; see here for more) egregiously “unsafe”… as measured against current standards.
If it’s a federal case – literally – to buy/possess an older vehicle sans all the modern “safety” stuff… then every old car (and owner thereof) is potentially a future target of a SWATfest by the Hut! Hut! Hutters.
Which, I suspect, is precisely what’s going to happen. The seizure at gunpoint of the Brinkleys’ (and Harrington’s) Land Rovers was the proverbial toe in the water. A test run. Let’s see how it feels – and see what happens. If people accept this, they’ll accept more of this.
Keep in mind: The old car hobby is not what it used to be; it’s smaller – and it’s older (herewith my piece on that). And worst of all, the culture has shifted. Cry “safety” – and let slip the dogs of ICE Homeland.
Older vehicles without air bags, without computers (and most definitely without data recorders) are in the process of being anathematized. It is probably only a matter of time before they’re decreed “noncompliant” – and ushered to the crusher via the Hut! Hut! Hutters.