Making Your Collector Car a Historic Treasure

By Carmel Roberts

August 15, 2011

HVA group seeks to extend National Historic Preservation Act to the automobile.

Should your historic vehicle have the same cultural status and favorable regulatory treatment as historic buildings? That was an intriguing question for the HVA. After taking the idea out for a test drive, it appears that the answer may hold the key to long-term, significant benefits for collector cars.

Historic buildings, airplanes, canoes, gas stations and strips of highway have all found official recognition, status and protection under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. It's an odd quirk that the most significant invention of the 20th century has yet to take its formal place alongside buildings and other transportation-related sites and historic objects.

While there are many possible reasons for the omission of collector cars in the existing framework, there is one reason that quickly comes to mind: Thinking of our "iron" as historic or culturally significant is counterintuitive to most collectors. The typical collector is more motivated by nostalgia than the thought of preserving a vehicle or being a steward of a piece of history.

We are in our early stages of exploration on this idea, but we have had encouraging dialogue and feedback from a number of prominent collectors and historians inside and outside the collector car world about the benefits of including collector cars in the National Historic Preservation Act. In our initial research we found that inclusion under the Act is always voluntary, and the rights of the property owner remain intact. We aren't interested in pursuing any initiative that would create more red tape or allow the government to tell us how to use our cars.

We will keep you updated on our progress as we develop the details of our "Drive History" initiative. In the meantime, if you or your club have feedback or comments, please submit them below.    


  1. Amos Loveday Columbus

    I saw your post - a word of caution from a former State and Federal Historic Preservation Officer -- Be very careful in your quest for National Register Status. Essentially once something is placed on the National Register the public has a say in how it can be used or changed. Preservationists will often claim that NR is honorary - what they don't tell you is that by virtue of states and communities using common terms listing under on the NR or even being eligible for listing on the NR often brings owners under local and state laws that have far reaching implications. Crudely put - list your vehicle on the National Register and you may find your self forced to get the local a preservation commission to approve your restoration, sale or even use plans. More generally preservation is the quintessentially "red tape" program. A few years ago, after involvement in a case involving mining permits, one Washington Lawyer dubbed federal preservation rules as among the most arcane of Washington's creations - high praise or damnation depending on your perspective. Others compare federal preservation rules and to IRS regulations when it comes to the average person understanding them. Bottom line be very careful - in particular don't take the preservationists word at face value. Amos J. Loveday Atchley Hardin Lane LLC

  2. Bart Evans towanda pa

    I Would like more information on this as it may help non car people to understand why we care about saving OLD CARS &TRUCKS that they may see as eye sores . Bart

  3. Kris Schumacher Neenah, WI

    I think the inclusion of collectable vehicles into the National Historic Preservation Act is a great idea.

  4. Kris Schumacher Neenah, WI

    I think the inclusion of collectable vehicles into the National Historic Preservation Act is a great idea.

  5. Kris Schumacher Neenah, WI

    I think the inclusion of collectable vehicles into the National Historic Preservation Act is a great idea.

  6. Chuck McDonald Rockville, Maryland

    Tired of more laws when will it end? I own a original Model A Ford sedan and there are many in my club that have original cars. The majority of the Hot Road people I know will not chop up a decent car and will only make a Hot Rod out of a basket case, the Hot Rodders are solid gear heads and also have respect for original iron. If they build a new Rod most use a fiber glass body or a new steel. So my feeling is a law will not be needed.

  7. JOHN KESSLER Taylorsville, Md.

    I'm fearful that the old saying "Be careful what you wish for, you just may get it" might apply in this case. Once the Govt. gets its foot in the door, there's no stopping it. I wouldn't want to take the chance of having the Govt. tell me what I could and Could not do with my Classic Car.

  8. bernard starikoff arizona

    I have a 1969 Ford truck and would like to know if it has any value as an historic vehicle. It is good condition , but it needs some cosmetic work