New Michigan historical plate law gives cruising cars freer rein

With one pass of the pen, Gov. Rick Snyder changed the history of historical license plates in Michigan.

Now, vehicles with historical license plates can be freely driven anywhere during the entire month of August, to the delight of those sporting them at the Woodward Dream Cruise.

Previously, those vehicles could be driven only directly to and from festivals, tours, car club activities, parades or exhibits.

That meant anyone just out for a cruise, including before or after the day of the Dream Cruise, could be ticketed for driving with illegal plates.

Lapeer resident Mike Woody has historical plates on his 1927 Pontiac two-door sedan and 1961 Pontiac Tempest four-cylinder, two-door coupe.

“I’ve always had historic plates on them,” said Woody, 68, a member of the Michigan Widetrackers car club. “I was stopped once while driving the Tempest to my mom’s nursing home because she wanted to see the car.

“The trooper ran a check on the plates and said they weren’t in the computer. We talked back and forth and he let me go.

“I’m happy about the change in the law; it makes it a lot easier to go cruising.”

The bill, signed last month, allows cars with historical plates to drive freely during August. It was sponsored by state Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, with the approval of Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.

Historical plates cost $30 and are good for 10 years.

To qualify for a historical plate, a vehicle has to meet the following qualifications:

More than 25 years old.

Owned solely as a collector’s item.

Used only for events such as club activities, parades and car shows and cannot be used for routine, day-to-day transportation.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, the number of vehicles with state-issued historical plates has steadily increased over the years.

Driving with special plates has been such a hassle that Troy resident Joseph George carries a letter from the SOS explaining the historical-authentic plates law when he cruises in his 1977 Chevrolet Corvette.

“It recently helped me avoid a ticket for improper plates while I was parked at a restaurant on Woodward,” said George, 57. “The officer read all three pages line for line and ended up taking back the ticket.

“It’s like I told the officer: I’m not here to cause trouble. I cruise until 10 p.m., go home, take my Lipitor and go to bed.”

Tom Greenwood
Tom Greenwood has been up to his neck in concrete and asphalt since starting his column in December 1997. He generally looks at commuting from the driver's point of view and centers itself on subjects such as road construction (when, where, why and how long), gas prices, traffic laws, seat belt use, safety issues, question and answer columns and the occasional oddball story from readers.