Meet HVA Member and State Representative Jim Gotto
The HVA’s first Registered Member is also the man who successfully championed an emissions exemption for historic vehicles through the Tennessee state legislature. Check out what Representative Gotto has to say about his passion for old cars and how best to protect the rights of historic vehicle owners.
Q: Do you own any historic or collector vehicles? If so, please tell us about them.
A: I currently own a 1970 Dodge Charger that belonged to my father. The color is Sublime (lime green) and it has the original engine, interior (except the carpet) and vinyl roof. It has had one repaint. I also have a disassembled 1973 Corvette coupe and I am hoping to have the rolling chassis completed by January. I have restored a 1971 Chevrolet pickup, a 1979 Chevrolet pickup, a 1975 Triumph TR6, a 1971 Corvette LT1 convertible, and a 1963 Corvette convertible. I no longer own any of these vehicles.
Q: What made you decide to become a paid member of the HVA and where do you think the organization can make the biggest impact in preserving the future of the hobby?
A: I was born in 1949 so I am the classic baby boomer. I became interested in cars when I was seven or eight years old, and I still remember the eager anticipation of seeing the new models every fall. I was a teenager during the height of the muscle car era and my interest in cars and horsepower continued to grow. I still love the smell of high-octane fuel and the sound of unrestricted exhaust on a high performance V-8 engine.
Aside from all of this testosterone talk, the cars of the past were an art form that reached its zenith in the 50s and 60s. The greatest impact the HVA makes is carrying the message that preservation of this piece of our history is as important as the preservation of historic buildings. Henry Ford introduced the assembly line to make his Model T and it revolutionized manufacturing of all types. The allies’ victory in World War II was in no small part due to the ingenuity of the automotive industry, which played a huge role in growing the American economy into the biggest and most robust the world has ever seen. Those entrepreneurs, engineers and stylists responsible for all this commerce, technology and art deserve to be remembered along with their creations.
Q: In regard to your work championing emissions exemptions for historic vehicles in Tennessee, what is the most important political lesson you learned that could help historic vehicle owners faced with similar legislation in other states?
A: Staying current on legislation and the latest news about our hobby is a must. The HVA is an excellent source for information that is always factual and accurate, which is of paramount importance when you’re working for legislative reform.
A good example is the list of facts I used to pass the recent legislation in Tennessee:
- There are relatively few vehicles still in service that were produced before EPA standards began in the early 70s.
- In Tennessee, vehicles must be 25 years or older to qualify for exemption. In addition to vehicles manufactured prior to emissions equipment, those produced from 1974 through 1986 currently qualify for antique status and are equipped with anti-smog equipment. The vast majority of antique vehicle owners are meticulous about their appearance and operation so it’s reasonable to conclude that the emissions equipment on the 1974-1986 vintage cars is functioning properly.
- There are significant restrictions on the usage of vehicles registered as antiques.
Given these facts, it is a reasonable conclusion that antique vehicle registration results in lower emissions. It should therefore be encouraged, and removing emissions testing requirements is a definite incentive.
Q: Many people believe the gas-powered automobile—and future ownership of these vehicles—is headed the way of the steam engine and the horse-drawn plow. What do you think the historic vehicle scene will look like in the next 50 years?
A: We are moving toward a replacement technology for gasoline-powered, internal combustion engines. It is unclear what the final technology will be or how long this process will take. As baby boomers like me disappear from the scene, there will most likely be fewer individuals involved in our hobby. However, there will always be some that maintain an interest, as is currently the case with the steam engines of the past. The biggest challenge we face 50 years from now may very well be the affordable availability of suitable gasoline. This could be the result of high prices due to market factors, government legislation or a combination of the two.
Q: Historic vehicle owners number in the millions in this country, but they tend to be more "hobbyist" than activist. What is the best way to motivate historic vehicle owners into a more organized voting block?
A: Keep hobbyists informed of the dangers and laws that threaten our hobby. Many times an activist is just a mad hobbyist.