Since 1966, more than 80,000 buildings deemed important to the history of the United States have been preserved through their inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. And now, a similar process is being applied to historic automobiles as the Historic Vehicle Association has worked with the Library of Congress and the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service to create and to populate a National Historic Vehicle Register.
It was in January 2014 that the HVA announced that the 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, the American racer that finally beat Ferrari at Le Mans and won the world manufacturers’ GT championship, would be the first car included in the new register.
At the time, HVA president Mark Gessler noted, “It has been nearly 120 years since the first automobiles were produced in the U.S. During that time, we have implemented national programs to recognize our historic buildings, airplanes, spacecraft and vessels but not our historic automobiles.
“Through our work, we hope to celebrate the contribution of the industry’s pioneers, the vehicles they produced and the preservation efforts necessary to ensure future generations appreciate the unique roll of the automobile in shaping America.”
Since the register was launched, four other vehicles have been added to that register. They are the 1964 Meyers Manx dune buggy, the Indianapolis 500-winning 1939 “Boyle Special” Maserati 8CTF, a 1918 Cadillac Type 57 (still carrying a bullet hole from its service with American troops during World War I), and “The Tin Goose,” the 1947 Tucker 48 prototype. Early in 2015, a General Motors Parade of Progress Futurliner will join that group.
Gessler has explained that one reason for the register is to demonstrate that classic vehicles are more than a hobby for thousands of Americans; they are an important part of the American heritage and culture, and need to be cherished on a much wider basis than by their current caretakers and those who see the vehicles at car shows or in museums.
Another aspect of the effort is to find, document and preserve all sorts of historic vehicles that otherwise might join the list of those already lost, a list that includes, for example, all 21 of the cars that participated in the first Glidden Tour in 1909.
The HVA, founded in 2009 to serve the historic vehicle movement in the U.S. and Canada, hopes to accelerate the pace of vehicles joining the register.
As part of its preservation and recognition effort, the HVA has created videos highlighting the cars’ significance: