After years of waiting, road-legal turn-key replica cars are open for business. Small-volume manufacturers are now able to start selling replicas constructed to resemble the make and models from 25 years ago or longer.
Replica Cars Could Be A Whole New Industry
According to Hagerty, a law was written back in 2015 called the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act. The act was designed to protect small automakers by providing regulations that would allow them to build and sell replicas of older vehicles that don’t meet ordinary federal safety laws. Unfortunately, the paperwork then stopped there, passing its December 2016 deadline until litigious action by SEMA jumpstarted NHTSA in October of 2019. Finally, after around two years, the regulations were finalized to implement the law, and now the wait is finally over.
Low-volume manufacturers will now be able to make, import, and sell up to 325 replica vehicles per year, making this new law a massive win for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and car enthusiasts. Additionally, the law creates a second road of government oversight designed specifically for replica manufacturing.
Of course, it’s not a total free for all, and replicas made and sold must yield to modern emission standards, according to NHTSA. All low-volume manufacturers must register with NHTSA, EPA, and CARB before selling any vehicles. According to SEMA, the process could take several months to get done, and approved manufacturers will be required to submit annual production reports.
The final ruling also states that registrants will no longer have to submit documentation and possess a license to the intellectual property necessary to make a replica vehicle but simply certify to the fact. Additionally, replicas won’t be required to maintain the exact dimensions of the original car but rather maintain a 10 percent over/under.
Different Than “Kit Cars”
What we think of “replicas” from companies such as Superformance or Classic Recreations are actually known as “kit cars.” Which, while much of the final product would be what many of us are considered to be replicas, they are actually sold as incomplete builds, often pre-assembled, and the engine/transmission installation is often done by somebody else, such as Shelby American or Lingenfelter Performance Engineering. This loophole kept the NHTSA from considering these vehicles to be replica cars, and thus not regulated to current roadworthiness standards, which no classic vehicle would pass today.
What makes this new legislation different is that now these kit cars can be sold as finished, turn-key builds from a manufacturer.