Latest Reader Question (Feb. 16, 2018)

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Here is the latest reader question, along with my reply:

Brennan asks: Do you foresee any companies like Dodge building a car like the Challenger or Charger without the engine and then selling the engine separately as a way to avoid the taxes/penalties imposed to keep the fleet average high enough? Would this be a viable way to get around Uncle’s laws?

My reply: That is an interesting idea! And it might be legal – for the moment. Kit car manufacturers are exempted from many of the mandates that apply to production cars; for example, they are not required to meet the same federal saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety standards that apply to “production cars.”

You can buy a kit AC Cobra without air bags, etc.

However, these are kit cars as defined by law – and I am pretty sure there is a restriction on volume; that is, how many may be produced/sold before it becomes not legal to produce/sell them.

A major automaker such as FiatChrysler relies on volume – mass production – to make a profit. For the scenario you describe to become feasible, the company would have to scale down to a fraction of its current output – and that isn’t tenable for a variety of reasons, including the need to amortize the massive investment in tooling, facilities and so on they’ve made.

The more likely scenario I foresee is that small operations will crop up that specialize in restoring older, pre-computer cars for use as daily drivers. These would be brought back to good mechanical order, perhaps updated here and there (for example, replacing a carburetor with a simple TBI injection system) and not as show cars. These would be ordinary older cars – not high-value collectibles.

For instance, a  ’70s-era four door Malibu or similar.

My next car will probably be something similar. I have always liked mid-late ’70s El Caminos and one of those would serve the same purpose as my little truck, but without the computer and the air bags and all the rest of it!

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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4 COMMENTS

  1. well it sounds like a brilliant idea, but here in the UK, the powers that be are set to ensure it doesnt catch on – how – via the insurance racket.

    Any car that has been modified / customised has to be declared at the time insurance (even if say you change the rims). Once you say that they either take the pleasure of shafting you themselves, or refuse to insure and refer you to a “specialist insurer” where you will be shafted even more thoroughly…..

    Every effort has been made to ensure the market for what people want doesnt function, and when it doesnt it gets blamed on the free market 😛

  2. eric, I need to replace the floor panels on our Elco and rebuild it. I have new everything for it nearly including the only NOS front SS grille that was found in Canada. I’d simply build a TBI small block and probably go back with the new springs I already have and the WS 6 components and add a rear roll bar. Since it’s a towing package it worked well for things like a big bass boat. I have one of the few Rangers that’s a triple digit boat……on the trailer.

  3. Kit cars and sandrails are a wild-wild west because of varying state laws. Check out the SEMA action network for state laws and registration processes for kit cars. To my best knowledge, they are’nt exempt from federal motor vehicle saftey standards, except for in some states that choose to look the other way.
    Sure you can make a kit body as a small manufacturer, and someone will buy it and build it, but you can’t drive your creation out of state, or the same rules as antique cars (cannot use for the purpose of general transportation, 5k miles a year max). Even SEMA SAM model legislation proposes this proposterous affront to your natural right to transportation by sugguesting that unified kit car laws include this “not for the purpose of general transportation.” They mean don’t you dare drive it to work to make a living.

  4. I think there was a bill in Congress that would “allow” for small output car makers. But it was for volumes under 500 vehicles a year, which is nothing. Wouldn’t really allow for the development of new cars for the masses. Just more choices for wealthy people (like many government employees now are). hmmmmmm

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