Can You Buy a Replica Car in the U.S.?

No, you can’t buy a replica car today – but you should be able to soon since a law which would allow you to buy a replica car was signed into law in 2015. Are you scratching your head and wondering how? You’re not alone. Here’s what we know:

It’s been several years since the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015 (aka the Replica Car Bill) was signed into law, but companies specializing in producing replicas of vehicles that are at least 25 years old aren’t yet able to legally sell them in the U.S. The holdup is at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). After nearly six decades, the new law established a separate way to oversee low volume manufacturers who, until now, were subject to a one-size-fits-all regulatory framework intended for companies that mass-produce millions of cars.

Lawmakers understood that a car produced in 1931 is different than a 2015 vehicle, and therefore adopted the kit car approach that treats the car as automobile equipment. The law also addresses supply/demand realities – a limited supply of vintage vehicles and a much larger enthusiast base. The law will spur job creation and help preserve America’s automotive heritage in the United States and abroad. Nationwide, the law could create $120 million-$150 million a year in United States sales and several times that much from exports, according to the Specialty Equipment Market Association, which represents parts and vehicle makers for classic and modified cars, trucks and motorcycles.

The replica car differs from the restoration car, because it doesn’t start with a previously assembled automobile that was previously issued a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Also, unlike kit cars that require a builder to finish assembly, these replicas would be sold as new, fully functional cars ready to be driven at purchase. This bill would allow small automakers to sell up to 5,000 replica vehicles per year, with as many as 325 of them earmarked for customers in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already performed its duties by passing regulations covering the powertrain and emissions packages that could be used in these replica cars and trucks, but rules from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) covering safety aspects have stalled. One could argue that bringing a classic car into rough compliance with modern standards isn’t easy. Some experts say the EPA’s half of the process was simpler than NHTSA’s. Emissions standards are a measurable goal. Safety is a fuzzier concept. The NHTSA is working on issuing any necessary regulatory documents for implementing the program. When will they finally release this highly anticipated document? Well, that’s unclear – the document was due in 2016 and there are currently lawsuits that have been filed against the NHTSA. The idea here is to force the NHTSA’s hand into releasing the document. So far there’s been little success.

I for one, cannot wait until this is settled because there are several replicas I’d love to get my hands on. Below are my seven favorites:

  • DMC DeLorean: Thanks to a warehouse packed with original parts, roughly 350 DMC DeLorens will be built and sold by the DeLorean Motor Co.
  • Superformance: planning on starting production on Daytona Coupes and Corvette Grand Sports for sales overseas
  • Factory Five Racing: also ready to start work on the Factory Five Cobra, ’33 Hot Rod and the Shelby Coupe
  • Race Car Replicas: working on the RCR40

So what about you? What’s your take on replicas? Is it ever okay to buy one? Let us know in the comments.

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