If you visit North Carolina, you will likely come across some trucks that look like the front end is pointing toward the sky. This design, which originated in the West, is called the Carolina Squat. It is a common modification style used by local motorists to either prepare their trucks for racing or just to make them stand out. But what exactly is the Carolina Squat, and is it legal in the United States? Read on to find out the origin and legal status of this auto concept.
Origin of the Carolina Squat
The Carolina Squat is a modification technique where an SUV or truck’s rear is lowered or its front axle lifted to make it look like the front of the vehicle is facing upwards. The concept is usually applied to trucks and SUVs, although some coupe and sedan owners have also adopted it. Essentially, the back of the vehicle is lowered several inches, and the front is raised by three or more inches. This helps shift the center of gravity to the back wheels and create better landing conditions on uneven surfaces. The Carolina Squat is said to have originated in the Baja racing circuit in California. However, even automobile owners who don’t know the practice's origin do it for the aesthetics. There is no debate over the fact that trucks with this modification tend to stand out of the crowd.
Curtis Owens, a South Caroline truck customizer, admits that the Carolina Squat was started as a way to redirect a vehicle’s weight away from the engine. In an interview with WPDE, Owens explained that the modification was primarily applied to two-wheel-drive trucks where the rear end would be weighed down to shift the truck’s weight during drag races. In another tale, the Carolina Squat is said to have originated from the Baja races in California. Here, the trucks were heavily modified to adapt to irregular terrain and harsh conditions. The changes were supposed to improve the trucks’ ability to survive jumps during races. Dustin Korth, another customizer, said in a YouTube video that the Carolina Squat gave the trucks ‘the clearance and suspension travel so that the rear lands before the front when you launch it off of a jump.” More recent followers of the movement, however, modify their trucks for the look.
Carolina Squat: An Accident Risk?
The Carolina Squat has many fans, especially truck owners living in rough-terrain areas. However, the practice also has detractors, with many people complaining that the modifications are dangerous. One concern of this group is that lifting the front of the vehicle changes the focus of the headlights so that they are pointing up instead of toward the road. This angle reduces the driver’s visibility. Some auto experts also say that the Carolina Squat creates instability in trucks, increasing the driver’s risk of getting into an accident. In a petition filed on Change.org, petitioners claimed that the trucks “…blind people with their headlights pointed to the sky.” Additionally, some mechanics complain that the design is likely to damage a truck by directing oil away from where it is supposed to go and draining it from the drivetrain. This re-direction could harm a truck’s transmission and engine, reducing its lifespan.
Is the Carolina Squat Legal?
Whether or not you like the Carolina Squat design is no longer relevant because it recently became illegal in the United States. Lawmakers in North Caroline passed House Bill 692, banning the practice in the state. The bill, which was signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper, states that: “A private passenger automobile shall not be modified or altered by elevating the automobile more than 3 inches from the manufacturer’s specified height in the front and lowering the automobile more than 2 inches from the manufacturer’s specified height in the rear. A private passenger automobile modified or altered in violation of this subsection shall not be operated upon any highway or public vehicular area.” The bill was passed after a petition filed on Change.org that garnered over 70,000 resident signatures was submitted to the North Carolina House of Representatives. The lawmakers found that the trucks – although aesthetically pleasing – were hazardous.
Legal Repercussions of Using the Carolina Squat Design
After the Governor signed the bill into law in August 2021, the Carolina Squat effectively became illegal in the state. Law enforcement officers in North Carolina now have the grounds to stop vehicles with this design that are found driving in the state. If a driver is found to be in breach of the new law, they could face a fine of up to $50. Repeat offenders might lose their license for a year. Amid these changes, truck owners that had previously adopted the Carolina Squat design for their vehicles are now looking for ways to adjust. Mechanics suggest that truck owners use large airbags to balance out their trucks so they look more level and less squat.
The Online Petition That Started It All
As mentioned, the law that was passed in August 2021 banning the Carolina Squat started with an online petition. The petition was filed by North Carolina residents that found the modifications dangerous and as posing a risk to other road users. However, while tens of thousands of state residents agreed with the petition, another group stood in defense of the California Squat. A rival petition filed by this second group defended the practice calling trucks that had been customized this way “sexy.”
The Carolina Squat has grown in popularity over the years, with truck owners posting their mean-looking trucks extensively on YouTube and Instagram. Despite their aesthetic appeal, however, lawmakers in North Carolina have ruled that the Carolina Squat – sometimes called the Tennessee Tilt or Cali Lean – is dangerous. The state’s Governor signed House Bill 692, which makes the modification illegal in the state. Drivers found driving a truck with the Carolina Squat design now risk paying a fine and losing their license.
Written by Benjamin Smith
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