Paul Jackson Rice, Esq.
Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn, PLLC
1050 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-5339
Re: Request for Interpretation
Dear Mr. Rice:
This is in reply to your letter of May 2, 2001, requesting an interpretation on behalf of your client, Feel Good Cars Inc. (FGC) of Ontario. Specifically, you would like to know whether "under Federal law and applicable NHTSA regulations the FGC Renault Dauphine would be considered a restored antique vehicle excepted under 49 U.S.C. Sec. 30112(b)(9) or a newly manufactured vehicle subject to current applicable motor vehicle safety standards."
To assist us in our reply, you enclosed a copy of a "Recommendation Report" prepared for FGC and titled "Restoration and Conversion of Renault Dauphines to the Optional 1959-1961 'Henney' Electric Propulsion Package" (the Report) dated December 4, 2000, and a copy of a letter from Transport Canada dated March 20, 2001, advising that the FGC vehicle would be an "antique vehicle" under Canadian law, and therefore outside the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Canada).
We have no definition of "restored antique vehicle." Section 30112(b)(9), which you cite, allows importation of "a motor vehicle that is at least 25 years old" without the need to conform the vehicle to the Federal motor vehicle safety standards that may have applied to it as of the date of its manufacture. Thus, the issue is whether we can regard the FGC Renault Dauphine as a motor vehicle that is more than 25 years old.
I am enclosing a copy of our letter of September 29, 1999, to John Harland of HarLand Rover Restorations. Mr. Harland described the modifications he made to Land Rovers as "restorations." We defined a restored vehicle as one that has been returned to its "former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition." We concluded that Mr. Harland's operations were sufficiently extensive that he was not a restorer but a "manufacturer" of motor vehicles, and that "the extent of disassembly of the original vehicle, the substitution of equipment not used in the original vehicle such as the engine and frame, and reassembly with certain items of new equipment" resulted in a new vehicle, one that could not be regarded as 25 years or older.
Similarly, given the overall operations being conducted by Feel Good Cars, including but not limited to the extent of disassembly of the original vehicle, the substitution of a new and different type of power plant, and reassembly with certain items of new equipment, we do not regard these cars as 25 years or older.
You may also wish to call your client's attention to the possibility of obtaining a temporary exemption for its low-emission motor vehicle (49 CFR 555.6(b)).
If you have any questions, you may call Taylor Vinson (202-366-5263).
Acting Chief Counsel