CC Clipping: Illegal Mufflers and Lights in 1952

The thoughtless; the selfish, and the attention-starved tampered with their vehicles in unsafe, antisocial ways seventy-one years ago, as they still do now. In that foreign country known as The Past, though, enforcement was more widespread and aimed at public peace and safety, rather than just selectively applied as a convenient excuse to hassle certain kinds of people. Also, tossing hazardous toxic waste in the bay was considered nothing but appropriate and convenient.

Here’s an article in the Salinas Californian from 31 October 1952, about the scourge and menace of illegal lights and mufflers. Yes, before the 1968 advent of Federal (i.e., national) vehicle equipment standards, each and every lighting device on each and every vehicle had to be approved by each and every state! The text is small and hard to read, so I’ll transcribe it. And it’s poorly written; the errors of phrasing; spelling; typography; relevance, and punctuation you’re about to read are authentic originals. I’d say fasten your seat belt, but don’t bother; there’s no such thing in 1952, so more like smoke ’em if ya got ’em, I guess. Now then:

Beware of improper or defective auto equipment. That is the advice of the California highway patrol and Salinas police department.

“Illegal mufflers, tail lights and headlight covers on cars are a direct violation of the California vehicle code,” said Capt. Gerald E. Page of the highway patrol.

When a motorist gets a citation from police or patrol officers for having an improper muffler on his car he is required to appear at the Salinas municipal court if he is guilty. Judge J. A. Jeffery imposes a fine. In addition, the court requires the illegal muffler be surrendered to the patrol for destruction. Finally the vehicle must be checked to insure that proper equipment has been installed.

‘Illegal’ Mufflers Defined

What constitutes an illegal muffler? According to Section 673 of the California vehicle code, “Every motor vehicle subject to registration and operated on a highway shall at all times be equipped with an adequate muffler in constant operation and properly maintained.” The section requires proper maintenance to prevent any excessive or unusual noise. It also states that no such muffler or exhaust system shall be equipped with a cut-out, bypass, or similar device. The secotion requires that no person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of such vehicle except that allowed by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle. Such original muffler must comply with all the requirements of Section 673, the law adds.

Shown in above photo are the more than 50 illegal mufflers turned into the local California highway patrol office on Abbott street within the yast few weeks. These mufflers were thrown in deep water of Monterey Bay yesterday. Capt. Gerald E. Page, at left, holds one of the illegal mufflers. Sgt. Charles Garcia holds the “ram-rod” used to check mufflers to determine if they have been “de-gutted” or contain steel wool or other illegal parts.

Officers at the CHP office on Abbot street are expertly trained in spotting an illegal muffler. A stack of more than 50 mufflers has been collected at the CHP office over the last few weeks. They were disposed of in a deep area of Monterey bay yesterday, Cpt. Page related.

“Blue dot” or even solid blue tail lights are illegal in this state, Capt. Page explains. “They never have been approved by the state, he adds. California law requires that specific colors are used for definite aims, such as red for stop, yellow for caution and green or white for go signals.

Captain Page holds a “blue-dot” tail light lens which is illegal to use in California. A warning to motorists has been made by the highway patrol, local police department and municipal court that use of blue tail lights are illegal in this state.

Must Be Approved

Tail lights and stop lights may be tied in together in one unit if previously approved by the state. Also, tail lights and turning lights may be operated from one unit, if approved, the law states. It is the manufacturers’ responsibility to submit devices on new cars to the California highway patrol for tests and approval, Capt. Page says.

Section 645 of the CVC states, “No person shall sell or offer for sale for use upon or as part of the equipment of a motor vehicle, trailer or semi-trailer, nor shall any person use upon any such vehicle any lamp or device referred to in this section unless of a type which has been submitted to and approved by the department.”

This section also lists such lighting devices to which the law applies. It includes headlamps, passing or fog lamps, rear or tail lamps, license plate lamps, clearance lamps, reflectors on vehicles of all types as well as warning or signal devices.

Legal Lights Defined

Captain Page explains the law specifically states white lights are to be used on the front end of vehicles and red or amber for the rear. White lights maybe used in the rear of a vehicle for use as back up lights, he says. But, he adds, they may be used only when backing the vehicle, according to the state code. They are not to be used when the vehicle is travelling forwards.

Fog lights on the front end of a vehicle are permissible when properly mounted and adjusted, Captain Page points out. They ust be mounted below the level of the head lamp centers and not ness than 16 inches above the roadway. Fog lights must be aimed so that no part of the main beam shall be higher than the fog lamp centers at a distance of 25 feet ahead of the vehicle, he relates.

“All lights must be kept in proper adjustment at all times,” Captain Page warns. Lighting devices are tested by the state to insure their compliance with California law and to determine their fitness for intended purposes.

Headlight covers also are illegal, Captain Page warns further. He says the so called “glare reducers” found on some vehicles actually cuts down about 60 per cent of the light. No additions or alterations to a device that has been previously approved are allowed.

Capt. Gerald E page of the local highway patrol office places one of the illegal “glare reducers” on a headlight to show how it would cut down 60 per cent of the light.

When vehicles are found using illegal mufflers, head or tail lights, Captain Page warns that the proper steps will be taken to insure proper equipment be installed. “A life may be saved by using proper equipment which can cut the accident rate. That life saved may be your own,” Captain Page concludes.