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The owner of a 1993 Ford Probe, or other 25-year-old model of vehicle, won't be able to slap an "antique" license plate on it next year, if legislation that won a House committee endorsement Thursday becomes law.

Under House Bill 1547, the owner of a 1993 vehicle would have to wait until 2038, when the vehicle is 45 years old, to license the vehicle in Arkansas as an antique.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jack Fortner, R-Yellville, a 70-year-old radio personality and NASCAR tire specialist who also happens to own more than a dozen vintage automobiles.

He said it "bothers" him that someone in a 1992 Chevrolet pickup now can put an "antique" license plate on what amounts to his daily-use vehicle. An "antique" license plate costs a one-time $7, versus the $23 a year that owners of vehicles younger than 25 years old pay.

"It was never intended to be a license plate to allow someone for a $7 fee for life" to drive their daily vehicle, Fortner said. "That's what is being abused. I would like to correct that."

The "antique" license plate law was enacted in 1957, when vehicles didn't last as long in daily use as they do now, Fortner told the House Public Transportation Committee.

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"The intent then was to honor and respect the collector-car hobby and vintage cars," he said. "It was not meant to be a one-time license plate for a car of a certain age. I'd just like the intent of the law to be honored as originally written."

The intent of many current owners of vehicles with "antique" plates is to merely drive the vehicles until they fall apart, Fortner said. "It's not their intention to restore" them.

The bill would grandfather in vehicles that currently sport such plates, but for future vehicles, the "antique" license plates would be reserved for vehicles that are at least 45 years old.

Why 45 years, asked Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley.

"I don't think anything good happened in the auto field after '72," Fortner said, quickly adding that he was joking. "I thought it [45] was a reasonable number."

The state has almost 156,000 "antique" license plates in circulation now, according to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. Of those, 66,000 are on vehicles that are 1973 models or newer.

A Section on 02/17/2017

Print Headline: Bill sets age for 'antique' license plates at 45

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