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Resource Guide
Auction Central
By Larry Edsall
Back to Community

SEMA Helps Protect Classics from Cash-for-Clunkers Jeopardy
By Larry Edsall

SEMA Helps Protect Classics from Cash-for-Clunkers Jeopardy Fear not, classic car enthusiasts, no pre-war Packards or 1957 Chevys or 1960s muscle cars figure to be destroyed as a result of the Cash-for-Clunkers legislation working its way through Congress. Such vehicles might have been in jeopardy, however, had SEMA not gotten involved.

But SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association has been involved in lobbying for auto-friendly legislation - on a national and state level - ever since its founding in 1963. Currently, SEMA has a five-person staff in Washington, D.C., that "watches every bill in all 50 states" as well as in Congress, says Stuart Gosswein, SEMA's director of regulatory affairs.

"We've been involved from the get-go," Gosswein adds. In fact, in regard to cash-for-clunkers, SEMA has been involved ever since the first such bill was introduced in the late 1980s by the late Delaware Sen. William Roth.

Gosswein says SEMA's role is helping provide the "education" legislators need when it comes to auto-related bills.

Gosswein says SEMA's regulatory affairs unit had three goals in regard to this latest cash-for-clunkers legislation:

  1. making sure no vehicles older than 25 years would be in jeopardy of being crushed;
  2. encouraging recycling rather than destruction, of vehicles and their components;
  3. convincing legislators that while the cash-for-clunkers may get as many as 600,000 older vehicles replaced by newer and more efficient vehicles, there are tens of millions of other older vehicles that could be repaired and retrofitted, cleaned up to provide much better fuel and emissions efficiency, were there some fiscal incentives for their non-auto enthusiast owners.

"Scrappage addresses 600,000 cars, but we could be providing incentives to consumers to upgrade tens of millions of cars," says Gosswein.

The goal of cash-for-clunkers, however, is only partly about upgrading the fuel-efficiency of the American vehicle fleet. The greater impetus for passage now is stimulating sales for the auto industry.

"We support spurring car sales, but don't just take everything to the crusher," says Gosswein.

This time, the impetus for passage of cash-for-clunker has been strong - and not only in the United States, where President Obama stated his support for the program on March 30, but with several countries using C4C as part of the rebuilding from what Gosswein calls the "economic global tsunami."

SEMA's mission was to "mitigate the worst aspects" of any legislation, Gosswein says, and thus the effort to limit the potential scrappage to vehicles less than 25 years old. Still, Gosswein adds, "you don't know what will become a classic" at some point in the future.

Without doing any serious research, I can think of vehicles such as the Ford Taurus SHO or the Caprice-based Chevy Impala SS or the Hemi-powered Dodge Magnum that are likely to become classics but also are eligible for the cash-for-clunkers program.

The cash-for-clunkers legislation was tied to the bill providing supplemental financing for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which may not make any sense but, as Gosswein notes, that's the way Washington works."

Recent auction highlights

NBC-affiliate KJRH of Tulsa reports that Bill Smith, who played for the Portland Trailblazer's in the 1970s, paid $1 million for Howard Hughes' 1936 Lincoln boat tail speedster at the Leake auction. Smith said he believes the car's real value is in the $3-million range and that he hopes to show the car together with Hughes' Spruce Goose airplane, which is housed at an aviation museum in Oregon.

The top sale at Bonham's Greenwich Motorcars Auction was $419,500 for a 1934 Bugatti Type 57 Stelvio drophead coupe. Also bringing more than $400K was the 1952 Fitch-Whitmore Le Mans Special, which went for $403,000 after being introduced by 92-year-old racing and auto safety legend John Fitch.

A 1963 Porsche 356 Carrera 2 convertible, one of only 28 built, brought a bid of $381,000. An ex-Clark Gable 1938 Packard Eight Victoria convertible went for $282,000. The 1928 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Phantom I Ascot dual cowl sports phaeton used in the movie, The Great Gatsby, brought $238,000. President Woodrow Wilson's 1923 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Oxford touring car got $161,000.

Mark Your Calendar

26-27 - Mecum Bloomington Gold at St. Charles, Illinois

10-12 - Kruse at San Jose
17-18 - Mecum at Des Moines
24-25 - Kruse at Denver


Click here for more articles by Larry Edsall.


These old car are driven a fraction of the time newer cars are. Their effect on the environment is negligible. Save the Classics! - John T

Most cars made before 1985 pollute 10 times more than cars with a catalytic converter.( most 1985 and newer cars HAVE catalytic converters). If we really want to clean up the air, we should allow any car to be eligible for the "Cash for Clunkers" legislation. 95% of old cars will never be "Classics". - Bill M

Thank you who had anything to do with saving our hobby, old car's, I can't say enough how much I appreciate it. I'm sure a lot of others out there feel the same way I do, you guy's are great. - Ron R

Driving an old car is like driving a lawn mower. Get rid of ‘em. – Pete S

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