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See ya, ’17! A quick look back at some of the biggest old-car stories of the last year

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Vespa taillamps. Photo by Hugo Cardoso.

Every day of the year we’re pounding the pavement to dig up the most informative, newsworthy, and entertaining stories from the collector-car scene, so after a year, it all becomes a little bit of a blur. Still, as we take a moment to review headlines from the year that was, several stood out for one reason or another, so let’s take some time to revisit them before we jump right on in to 2018.

1. Route 66 resuscitation in the works. The movement to preserve Route 66 in some way or another ramped up this year, prompted in part by its placement on endangered lists and in part by the pending conclusion of a funding program. To address the latter, we’ve seen a number of proposed solutions, including the Route 66 Centennial Commission Act, a proposal to recommission Route 66, and legislation aimed at making Route 66 the next National Historic Trail. Expect to see more action on the National Historic Trail designation next year.

2. Significant cars see the sun again. While this list doesn’t necessarily rank our most-read stories from the year, it does keep them in consideration, and two of our most-read stories concern long-thought-lost significant—or potentially significant—vehicles that automotive sleuths turned up. One, a 1951 VW Microbus Deluxe, sat in a German field for 50 years before a German collector determined it was the second-built Samba; it’s now under restoration. The other, a 1968 Ford Mustang, appeared in Mexico with enough clues to reportedly identify it as a car used in the filming of Steve McQueen’s Bullitt; it too is now under restoration.

3. Dune-buggy owners take on Texas ban. The roots of this story date back to 2013, but dune-buggy enthusiasts in Texas began sounding the alarm about the state’s DMV revoking titles for their dune buggies, sand rails, and kit cars earlier this year. The Texas DMV subsequently scheduled a briefing on the issue and discovered that it’s a thorny, complicated issue, one that may have national implications. A working group is expected to hammer out some solutions early next year.

4. Auto racing in Europe faces big challenges. Another story that’s been brewing for a few years concerns the EU Motor Insurance Directive and a 2014 court ruling that may cause EU residents—including those in the UK, for now—to get insurance for any motor vehicle, regardless of whether it operates on public roads. The British tabloids reliably freaked out about nan’s mobility scooter requiring insurance, but motorsports organizations also saw an existential threat in the court ruling’s implications. Both the EU and the UK concluded consultations on the issue this year, but a recent UK court ruling seems to indicate that things are as dire as European motorsports enthusiasts have warned.

5. U.K. gives classic cars an official cutoff age. Also across the Atlantic, the EU, and the UK have been figuring out exactly how to define historic cars, which is not as trivial an issue as it first sounds. A vehicle’s historic status may, for example, exempt it from city-wide old car bans, or exempt it from roadworthiness testing. And those definitions aren’t just based on a vehicle’s age, as we saw with the release of the Charter of Turin Handbook.

6. The coming of the electric collector car. Perhaps our April 1 story was more predictive than preposterous? With plenty of governments across the world setting sunset dates for the internal combustion engine and with electric vehicles capturing headlines left and right, perhaps we should expect more EV conversions of classic cars or more manufacturers to launch electric-powered replica/continuation/homage vehicles as Jaguar did this year with the E-Type Zero?

7. We go deep on ethanol, the Darien Gap, and more. One addition we made to the Hemmings Daily this year was the Sunday Hemmings In-Depth series, in which both Hemmings editors and contributors spend a little more time than normal exploring an issue. Matteo Giacon has made good use of the series to enlighten us about Italian cars while Jim Van Orden has used it to tell some tales from his youth that many can identify with. We’ve also used the series to do some mythbusting—specifically of John D. Rockefeller’s relationship with ethanol and whether Henry Ford designed the Model T as a multi-fuel car—to tally up all the various adventurers who have crossed the uncrossable Darien Gap on both two-wheels and four, and to list all the vehicles definitively lost to history.

8. Explosions of feedback. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise at all that the two Hemmings Daily articles that garnered the most comments in 2017 were Open Diff pieces—designed specifically to start conversations and get reader opinions. It’s also unsurprising, knowing our readership, that Kurt’s question about what modern carmakers just don’t understand and Joe Essid’s question about the most archetypal car song would generate the most discussion.

Speaking of feedback, we’d like to hear from you. Did this list cover it, or did we write (or not write) about a significant issue of concern to the old-car hobby not included above? And while we’re at it, let us know how we can improve over the next year.