If you have done anything to your car or have an interest in motorsports, you might be impacted by a new piece of legislation.
In 2015, the latest form of the Clean Air Act was passed. As necessary as it is to take action to protect the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency barked up the wrong tree when it decided to go after motorsports.
A 2019 amendment called the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act was proposed to ensure racing culture in the U.S. could be protected. It died in the previous Congress.
The RPM Act started to gain a lot of attention again as the EPA placed priority on restricting any vehicle modification for motorsports purposes. People would no longer be allowed to convert street cars, motorcycles and trucks for “dedicated racing.”
This is currently legal. The EPA is worried about emissions since most full-fledged race cars remove any obstructions in the exhaust, such as catalytic converters. The thing is, you cannot drive them on public streets once this is done. Not that you would want to anyway.
A modified car loses a lot of its drivability. Simply too much power is made for it to sit in traffic, and you still have to pass emissions tests almost everywhere, modified or not.
According to the Specialty Equipment Market Association, a trade association composed of aftermarket parts manufacturers and other automotive-affiliated businesses, the sale, manufacture and installation of parts for a racing conversion would be a violation of the EPA’s ruling. The aftermarket-parts industry is huge —worth several billion dollars — and anything that shuts it down would have severe implications. The response from the car enthusiast community has been significant, but I am not sure if it is enough to do anything.
The problem is hurting the aftermarkets-part industry doesn’t just prevent people from “cheating emissions.” Modification is a spectrum, and a lot of everyday cars have a few performance parts in them. Chances are almost all Subaru WRX/STI models, Ford Mustangs and Nissan 370Zs have had some mild or significant work done to them at some point in their lives, and their owners probably could talk about it for hours.
Amateur and professional racing teams use modified street cars in series such as formula drift, rallycross and time attack. A significant part of racing would be killed off along with any entry-level opportunities if the RPM Act fails to become law.
This is why the RPM Act is so important. We risk losing an entire culture, not just a few fanatics. Tuning has been a part of American culture for the better part of a century, and only Japan and Australia have as rich a culture associated with automobiles. The freedom we have to modify our cars is part of what’s appealing about the U.S. The car culture in Europe declined after heavy regulations, and I do not want that to happen here.
A lot of the arguments against the RPM Act point to the modifications to diesel trucks so they can belch black smoke. If there is a downside to car modification, this is definitely it. I would be all for banning people from doing this because it is bad for the engine and the environment, and it doesn’t do anything apart from being obnoxious. But a few distinctions need to be made between that and what SEMA advocates. What practical purpose or performance reasons does belching black smoke have? Obviously, it is a violation of emissions. Enforce that and leave the rest of us be!
I am unsure if politicians can make the proper distinction between redneck stupidity and someone’s project car. That understanding is essential. Someone, somewhere is failing to consider the whole issue or is taking the easy way out. The blame is being placed onto the most convenient scapegoat without actually addressing the real problems at hand.
Pollution from the few modified race cars is negligible compared to the issue of commuter congestion in big cities. How about we create good public transportation to cut down on the number of vehicles on the road? Sure, it requires a lot of work and a lot of money, but if the government can spend billions on the military each year, there is no reason to believe this more effective solution cannot be achieved instead of meddling into trivial stuff.
Pass the RPM Act and make some serious moves to deal with pollution.