Two Midwestern senators, one a Republican and one a Democrat, have re-introduced The National Historic Vehicle Register Act (S 2455) that would elevate the status of the Historic Vehicle Association’s documentation of culturally important vehicles.
Senators Gary Peters (D-Michigan) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are co-sponsors of the bipartisan legislation that would require the Department of the Interior “to create a register administered by the Library of Congress to safeguard the innovative feats of American engineering by documenting historically significant automobiles, motorcycles, trucks, and commercial vehicles.”
Peters sponsored similar legislation when he served in the House of Representatives. He was elected to the Senate in 2014. He and Portman also recently introduced legislation to improve transparency in federal spending.
To date, the new legislation has been referred to the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources committee.
The current National Historic Vehicle Register is part of Interior’s Historic American Engineering Record.
“The National Historic Vehicle Register Act will create a standalone register to preserve the records of historically significant vehicles including short narratives, photographs, and engineering drawings of each vehicle,” according to a news release from the senators. “To be eligible for the register, vehicles must be connected to a significant person or event in American history, have a unique design or be a rare model.”
Senator Peters is quoted in the news release: “Ever since the first cars rolled off the assembly lines, generations of innovative automobiles have helped power our economy and redefine our culture,”
“I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation to preserve Michigan’s rich automotive history and recognize the significance of automotive innovation towards transforming everyday life in America.”
Sen. Portman noted: “Ohio is the second biggest car producing state in the Union and more than 300,000 Ohioans work in the auto industry. Making cars is part of who we are.
“At home in my garage, I have a Model T Ford with its original 1917 Ohio license plates: the same model and year that my Dad drove to high school in Cincinnati. I’ve bought two Ohio-made cars in recent years, but that Model T will always be special to me.
“This bipartisan bill would hold up the American craftsmanship that produced historic motorcycles and cars like the Model T that changed our economy and changed the way we live in such important ways.”
Diane Parker, vice president of the Historic Vehicle Association, said, “We are grateful to Senator Peters and Senator Portman for championing the reintroduction of the National Historic Vehicle Register Act.
“This bi-partisan legislation would fill a long-neglected gap in recognizing the automobile as part of American technological and engineering legacy, along with its cultural impact over the past 120+ years.”
The HVA already has documented 18 vehicles that have become part of the National Register. The most recent are a 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray originally owned by Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean and a 1966 Volkswagen Microbus used during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and donated by the family of Esau and Janie B. Jenkins to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“These stories are not just for car guys and girls,” Parker said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. “These are American stories.”