I spent the last day of September at the Lee County Courthouse, trading
in all my old "Historic Vehicle" tags for the new "Vintage Vehicle" tags.
But I bought a regular tag for my old Chevy pick-up, even though it's almost
forty years old. (I might want to use it for light hauling on occasion.)
And for my 1970 Volkswagen Van, I had to forego Vintage Vehicle tags in
favor of Vietnam Veteran tags. (All the double Vs on my application form
were a source of much confusion.) It sure didn't seem right that the state
of Alabama would change the cut-off from 25 years to 30 years without grandfathering
in the vehicles that were already licensed as antiques. But I guess I'll
have to wait til the new millennium to have a valid Vintage Volkswagen
When the sun rose on my rolling stock the next morning, I was all legal--assuming that the Auburn Police Department intends to enforce a compliance with the spirit rather than the letter of the new law. I took part of the day off to attach the new plates to the old cars. I was just finishing with the last one when my new mother-in-law arrived for her first visit. She was surprised to see so many vintage vehicles but seemed to have great interest in them, insisting that I take her for a ride in my favorite one.
It was late afternoon when we headed out for a spin in my 1947 Crosley convertible. I have an old Crosley refrigerator too, which I use to keep my bait cool, and several an old Crosley radios. And I used to go to games at Crosley field in Cincinnati--and listen to the games on Crosley's radio station WLW. It's all the same Crosley family. Powell Crosley, Jr. built automobiles from 1939 to 1952. You could buy the convertible in 1947 for about $950.00.
Anyway, maybe we should have waited until those storm clouds blew over before trying out these new "Vintage Vehicle" tags, but I didn't want to risk being out after dark.
Our outing was going just fine until the old Crosley overheated in rush hour traffic and finally stalled out in the left-turn lane at the corner of University Drive and Auburn-Opelika Road. I raised the hood to let it cool down and then got involved directing traffic. I was about to get the traffic under control when the rain came--which had a cooling effect on the engine but not on my new mother-in-law. When I noticed that it was already starting to get dark, I got my mother-in-law to take charge of the traffic directing while I ran across the way to Sears to try to buy a couple of six-volt headlights and some fuses. (The Crosley's lights had burned out last spring when I had some trouble with the voltage regulator.)
The salesman at Sears, the same guy that sold me the red paint for the wheels, was eager to help. And while he was looking for headlights, he discovered that the seventeen-inch wide whites I'd ordered for my Packard coupe had already come in. Well, that sure was a pleasant surprise. I got everything paid for and headed back to the intersection, where the traffic problem was getting worse because my mother-in-law had quit directing. I put three of the Packard tires in the back and wedged the fourth one between the front seats. I installed the headlights and fuses without any trouble at all. Enjoyed it.
I hoped to be able to close the hood, crank the Crosley, and get out of there without any more commotion, but as I tried to crank it, the rainwater, which had evidently already fouled the distributor, shorted out my horn. I got out and raised the hood again to see if there was anything I could do. I couldn't hear what my mother-in-law was saying because of the horn, but I could see two Auburn police cars coming up Auburn-Opelika Road. I started directing traffic again while I was trying to think of what to do next.
Well, I could see how things were developing, so when a ton-and-a-half flat-bed rounded the corner (headed in the direction of my house) I hopped up on the back. It was just instinct, I guess. But I wanted to explain to my wife what had actually happened before she heard some distorted version of it. The driver motioned an acknowledgment of his extra passenger, and I sat down on the edge of the spare tire to think some more.
There were lot's of issues to think about--family matters, recognizing individuality, and mutual respect--but the question that I couldn't get off my mind was "Am I in violation of the new law that governs the use of those "Vintage Vehicle" tags? A conviction is punishable by a fine of not less than $100, forfeiture of the tags, and a barring from reapplication for three years!
As it turned out, I had a copy of the new law in my pocket. Someone at the DMV had given it to me when I was at the Courthouse yesterday. I could read snippets of it as we passed under the street lights.
Section 1(b) refers to a "Vintage Vehicle" as one that is "owned and operated primarily as a collector's item." It didn't seem right to refer to a Crosley convertible as an "item," and there was no specific mention of what would constitute a legitimate secondary use. Was today's use of the Crosley primary or secondary?
Section 1(d)(iii) indicates that a "Vintage Vehicle" is to be "operated as a collector's item, including participation in club activities, exhibitions, tours, parades, and not used for general transportation purposes." Well, there seems to be a lot of scope for different uses between "parades" and "general transportation purposes."
Section 1(c)(2) indicates that a "Vintage Vehicle" cannot be used for "transporting passengers or property." Would those Packard tires have to be considered "property"? I suppose they would. We didn't actually transport them, though. I guess my mother-in-law could testify that we didn't. But it's also illegal to transport passengers. I don't know what she could say about that.
Oh well, there was no use worrying about any of this now. So I just sat there. In the dark. In the rain. On the spare. And then all the sudden it hit me about how I'd really messed up: I forgot to order a spare tire for the Packard coupe!