U.S. opens garage door for replicar production

Small automakers will be able to build and sell up to 325 replica cars a year

Published: December 6, 2015, 10:15 PM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 1:20 PM

Factory Five 289 USRRC Roadster

U.S. President Obama has signed into law a broad-based highway construction bill that includes provisions permitting low-volume production of turn-key replicars.

The "Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015," introduced in June and supported by SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association), received strong bi-partisan political support and was inserted into the highway bill before its passing.

This low-volume provision allows small automakers to construct up to 325 replica cars a year subject to federal regulatory oversight.  Replica cars, by definition, resemble production vehicles manufactured at least 25 years ago. 

Veinte Victorias

"This law gives enthusiasts the opportunity to buy turn-key replica cars while preserving their option to build one from a kit," said SEMA Chairman of the Board Doug Evans.  "It recognizes the unique circumstances associated with limited production replica vehicles, such as the ’32 Roadster and ’65 Cobra." Or the Veinte Victorias '53 Studebaker replicar shown here.

The measure establishes a separate regulatory structure within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for replica car manufacturers. 

Factory Five 1933 Ford Roadster Replicar

The replica vehicles are exempt from satisfying current federal safety standards. "The exemption recognizes that it is impractical to apply current model year standards to vehicles designed decades ago (ex: 1930’s roadster) or crash a vehicle when only a few are being produced," NHTSA said in a statement.

But they must meet current model year emissions standards. They are deemed to do so if they use an engine that is currently EPA-certified, along with all its related emissions control equipment.

The vehicles are, of course, subject to licence agreements for the intellectual property rights from the original manufacturer or current rights holder, where applicable.

There's still plenty of red-tape involved for would-be manufacturers but at least they'll have the potential to build and sell such cars as complete vehicles rather than just in kit form.