replica vehicles and kit cars have long been a way for enthusiasts to get a piece of some of the greatest examples of automotive unobtainium. thanks to the efforts of the sema (formerly known as the specialty equipment market association) and its partners lobbying congress, the replica market is about to get a lot bigger. customers in the united states will now be able to legally purchase turnkey, factory-assembled replica vehicles, based on designs more than 25 years old, now that the national highway traffic safety administration (nhtsa) has officially implemented the low volume motor vehicle manufacturers act.
according to this new policy, low-volume vehicle manufacturers will be able to construct up to 325 replica vehicles a year—anything from old-school hot rods to midcentury muscle cars and more modern classics. these vehicles will still be required to comply with some level of federal oversight, but not at the level of modern mass-produced vehicles. this should allow small manufacturers that don't have the resources of a legacy automaker to build limited-production replicas that comply with the new law.
that said, these replica vehicles will still be required to meet current model-year emissions regulations, and all replica manufacturers must register with nhtsa, the epa, and the california air resources board in order to build and sell street-legal vehicles. the process of verification with these entities may take several months, according to sema. that means we still likely have a way to go before we start to see an influx of new pseudo-vintage machines powered by modern emissions-compliant engines. for those who don't want to wait, we should note that this new policy has no impact on your ability to build a traditional kit car.
it seems like automotive enthusiasts don't catch many breaks these days, especially as our zero-emission future draws ever nearer. this is a win we can all get behind, and one that could help get some seriously cool cars on the road in the near future.