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December 22nd, 2005

California Smog Law – It Stinks.

CA SmogThe California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) recently published it’s new policy for Smog Check certification of “specially constructed vehicles.” SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Organization) says the legislation is aimed at “dispelsing rumors and misunderstandings regarding California’s vehicle registration and titling process so that specially constructed vehicles, including street rods, kit cars and replicas, can become properly registered, titled and emissions certified in the state.”

SEMA Vice President of Government Affairs Steve McDonald stated, “For too long, misunderstanding of California’s complex vehicle registration laws has created confusion among state hobbyists. Certain hobbyist vehicles, including those that could be classified as specially constructed, may be erroneously titled or registered. Consequently, owners may have paid reduced registration fees and avoided emissions testing requirements. BAR’s documented policy for specially constructed vehicles should help clear the way for the many owners who fail to receive one of the 500 yearly Senate Bill 100 sequence numbers to properly title, register and smog check these vehicles.”

The added “clarity” (http://www.dmv.ca.gov/vr/spcnsreg.htm) comes in the form of these great examples:

Under the provisions of the Specially Constructed Vehicle Emission Control Program (commonly known as CA Senate Bill 100), a smog test referee compares the vehicle to those of the era that the vehicle most closely resembles to determine its model year. The vehicle’s owner can then choose whether the inspector will certify the vehicle per the year of the body or the engine. If there is no close resemblance, the vehicle is classified as a 1960 model year. The Senate Bill 100 registration program is limited, however, to the first 500 applications for registrations of specially constructed vehicles submitted to DMV per year that meet the criteria. DMV doesn’t categorize the vehicles into SB100 or not; the applicant does that.

In the second case, for specially constructed vehicles without a Senate Bill 100 sequence number, the only emissions controls required are those used when the engine was originally manufactured. For example, a Cobra kit-car using a 1968 351C Ford V8 would require all emissions equipment originally required for that model year engine. A dune buggy upgraded with a ’91 L79 TPI GM V8 would require all emissions equipment used on that engine. More generally, if a configuration precedes 1966, no exhaust emissions controls would be required. If the configuration precedes 1961, no PCV system would be required. If a range of model years applies to any particular engine configuration, vehicle owners will have the option to select the model year of emissions controls to be used. Further, according to the BAR, new and rebuilt “crate” engines fall into this “range of model years” category. As an example in this category, the use of a Chevrolet 5.7L ZZ4 V8 engine in a replica of a ’32 Ford roadster would require emissions equipment used found on the first 5.7L engines used in ’67. Finally, and in some instances, vehicle owners may be required to provide engine information to aid in the identification and inspection process.

Apparantly the California Legislature will consider legislation to provide amnesty from prosecution to vehicle owners who have mistitled or misvalued their vehicles. In the meantime, SEMA has vowed to work with all relevant parties to consider alternative approaches to protect vehicle owners who voluntarily re-register their vehicles, pay appropriate fees and fulfill BAR emissions requirements.

FordMuscle, being based in California, is particularly bothered by this continued beaurocratization of the hobby. Are Cobra Kit cars really the source of acid rain and the dingy black cloud over Los Angeles? The few kit car owners I know have immaculately maintained engines which get driven about 500 miles per year. Why aren’t our representatives, and SEMA, focussing on the millions of miles logged each year on California highways by out of state diesel trucking companies? Seriously, SEMA, grow a pair of mufflers and take a real stance for California auto enthusiasts.

By 67stang @ 8:45PM PDT.
Category: General Interest
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  • 1
    avatar JME says:

    The article about “California Smog Law – It Stinks” ended with a complaint that SEMA was not doing enough about this issue. Are you aware of the Calif. organization that IS trying to do more? This is the “Association of California Car Clubs” or ACCC. http://www.acccdefender.org. This organization actually has a paid lobbyist in Sacramento to represent the interests of the automotive hobbyist.

    ACCC publishes a newsletter, “The DeFender” that lets members know what is going on legislation wise. Clubs, businesses and individuals can join this organization. ( I am both a club and individual member.) The membership money goes to funding the lobbyist. In Calif., this organization understands the old car hobbyist, and works to protect it from the Legislators. This is the only California organization I know that does this.

    ACCC is also a member of SEMA, and actually had its last bi annual meeting as a guest of the SEMA Las Vegas show. At that meeting, several members of the SEMA legislative branch gave talks as to what is happening nationally to issues that can affect the car hobbyist, and the aftermarket parts industry. SEMA does have a stake in the old car industry. So do not put them down. And please join and publicize the ACCC. Your magazine should also be a member of SEMA. That way you all could go to the SEMA Las Vegas show. And as a member, you could work with them to do more in CA.


    John M. Elko
    Red Bluff CA.

  • 2
    avatar HitmanKB says:

    This bothers me, I dont seem to understand the logic behind all of this! I mean if a car can pass the “sniffer” with flying colors, Just as the origional care that it came out of OR as well as the current year of the car (if swapping an older engine into a newer body, IE. 95 5.0 into a 96 Mustang) why should we care about a visual test? It should be about emissions and not about political hubris!!


    Kenny B
    LA, CA

  • 3
    avatar Langley says:

    While I agree that the tailpipe test should be enough, there is a valid reason for the visual test. The current smog tests only test limited operating conditions. Since they do not test cold start-up, at verying temperatures or load conditions, at different altitudes, etc. Since the emmissions systems are designed to control output under any and all driving conditions, the stations have to verify the legal are parts are all in place and not tampered with. Face it- we can make our hot rods pass at the pipe under the narrrow conditions used in smog tests. It’s a lot harder to have a highly modified powerplant that meets OEM emmissions standards under ALL driving conditions.

  • 4
    avatar carl g. redidng ca. says:

    Just like sand sport areas have been cut to almost nothing, now the liberal goverment of california is going to ruin the classic car hobby. The above activities generate income for not only for the companies that sell these parts and the related, but also the towns that cater to the hobbiests. I have a 70 nova in restoration will I have to smog my car in 2006? May be I’ll move to Oregon.

  • 5

    […] … policy for Smog Check certification of “specially constructed vehicles. … The article about “California Smog Law – It Stinks” ended with a complaint that … Read This […]

  • 6

    […] ” California Smog Law – It Stinks. ” fordmuscle.com … policy for Smog Check certification of “specially constructed vehicles. … The article about “California Smog Law – It Stinks” ended with a complaint that … […]

  • 7
    avatar Carthan Davis says:

    I agree that if a car can pass a sniff test that should be enough!! Is all this about “clean air” or just another way to keep raising more tax dollars on the backs of hard working americans? Why are govenrment vehicles exempt from smog checks? do the spew toxins into the air and are able to get away with it?

    I think the bar should lay off, 1000 s.c.v.’s are not causing the issues that are smog related-big brother at work

  • 8
    avatar Norm says:

    the Ca.smog law is a joke
    why are they so heads up about car emissions and doing nothing about big rigs and motercycles boats so on..i mean were will it stop? will we have to take the jet ski to the smog shop befor we can go to the lake? oh yes sir i will smog my lawn mower (in a pigs eye)..
    the state is just showing off ….
    i will only drive pre smog cars and trucks as i dont belive what the state is doing is right…
    why dont all states have the same smog laws? is Missouri better than California? or how about Idho??
    i have lived in other states and never been told i must pass a smog check befor i can regester my p/u..
    i drive older stuff pre 1975 in order to avoid this stupidity..
    if you take care of you car ..tune ups oil change so on you shouldnt need to smog it..
    i dont know about the rest of the world but i had to pay alot of money for my stuff and the up keep of it …i dont need to pay the state to tell me it runs clean…
    i have taken my 1962 ford f100 down to the smog shop and had him run a check on it to see how it was doing.
    it cost me $65.00 to have this done and the test said it ran cleaner than a 1992 p/u did.now why is that?
    does a 62 without a smog pump or EGR or CAT. burn the gas better than a 1992?
    lets see the 62 has a carb. and a pcv was set up to run on leaded gas..
    1992 has Cat EGR PCV smog pump computer and injution.set up to run low comprition for unleaded..
    so why with all that extra stuff dont it run cleaner??

  • 9
    avatar chris says:

    I believe it is 80% of the emmisions life of a vehicle is used up during the manufacturing process. That made in america 1962 P/U cost far, far less emmisions wise than any “made all over the world car”, and sinse it last so long you are doubly helping the environment. They should test the manufacturers instead of the buyer, that would make far more sense. In the meantime I’m going to go out and buy a new gun!

  • 10
    avatar JOE PELLAND says:


  • 11
    avatar Robert Waller says:

    Whether you agree or not, this is the truth about the California emissions program.

    Many people, both customers and technicians, seem to think that a simple 2 level tailpipe test is more than enough. It’s not. The most important part of an emissions inspection is the Visual Test and here is why. The OEM’s have to prove to EPA and sometimes CARB that their vehicles will pass the Federal Test Procedure, or FTP. Otherwise, they cannot be marketed. The factory adds emissions systems in various forms to their vehicles to accomplish this, not because they want to otherwise. This ensures that the vehicle will stay clean during ALL different driving conditions it would normally be subjected to during it’s emissions warranty period. A huge amount of expensive R&D goes into each model from the factory. It’s not practical nor feasible to duplicate their level of emissions testing in the field. So, if all of the OEM controls are in place, or CARB approved systems are present, then a quick 2 part tailpipe test checks the vehicle in 2 small ranges of operation while the various onboard systems covers what is not checked at the tailpipe.

    More HC pollution can come from a vehicle with a missing gas cap in a day then it could put out in months from the tailpipe, but the tailpipe check won’t see that.

    If the rules were totally reversed, such as “Do whatever you like under the hood, as long as the tailpipe is clean”, then how many self-appointed “experts” would yank every smog control off of their cars, thinking they can out-do the OEM factory engineers who had to sweat bullets just to get the vehicle to market legally? I’m sure that the air wouldn’t get any cleaner with that approach.

    If California cannot continually prove to the EPA that the smog program is actually working (lookup SIP, or State Implementation Plan), then the EPA will divert millions of $$$ away from the state in highway & building money in response. California simply will not allow that to happen anytime soon.

    The 60’s are long over. Gotta just deal with it. There is a much larger picture here than those expensive OEM cats on your Mustang that you think steals HP. In sanctioned racing events, anyone can win by cheating the rules. To say that you have 500 HP without any smog controls is the same thing. The challenge in racing is how to win within the rules. That’s where street-legal performance comes in. Show me 500 HP with the factory smog controls in place. Of course it can be done. For too many, it really comes down to the extra costs involved and the “rules are for sissies” attitude that seems so prevalent these days. Most (not all, but most) other arguements are just excuses.

    I fully back the survival of the SEMA in counterbalancing too much regulation from EPA & the like, however the rules will not go away, either. It’s all in the balance nowadays. But any Federal agency, such as the EPA, who has enough clout to dictate to the oil companies (to some degree, at least) is no weakling and they will generally get their way with things.

  • 12
    avatar Joe Kotlar says:

    If the goverment and the oil companies were really serious about the oil and the pollution problems, Why don’t they use Propane gas which has been around for some 80 years. Propane is still being used today in warehouses in forklifts with have parishable foods. You could sleep in your car with the motor running all night in a closed garage and wake up in the morning. it runs 100% clean. I ran my Pick up on Propane for 5 years, I got 10% more gas milage and more power and ran so smooth I could hardly tell the engine was running at idle. Propane can be made from human waste and garbage. But I guess that woulld solve too many problems. Joe Kotlar 827 Maud Ave. San Leandro Ca. 94577

  • 13
    avatar green says:

    i work as mechanic like 30 yrs , the way dmv and usa gov dealing with smog problem list to say . without knowing what the doing ,like in other field ,fighting crime ,education.fire , and the other field they failed .
    instead to come with smog station ,they and the car manufactured have just to make , minor change, like add turbo to each engine . another small change put two spark plug in each cylinder . or even three .this two small change will increase.the power reduce the smog .
    electric car are coming this is good . but without nuclear power elecricity will be expensive as gas are .the goverment has some plan for nuclear power; no.
    we need in usa 400 nuclear power plant this is big step and start . and this will make huge change becuase in anyway oil and fussil fuel going to dry out . in closing i can say that arnold scwrtznger and the whole american goverement faild in many field.
    arnold scwrtznger has big promise. to found overselves that the idustrial structure of usa not as good as the think . and more to come.
    meir greenfeld

  • 14
    avatar bassman97 says:

    Since when did Ford make Clevelands in 1968?

    Also, the visual test is pointless. One can argue that yes, you need it because testing only accounts for certain driving situations but the solution is to modify the test. Instead of having the car tested so limitedly, have the dyno put various loads on the engine and have the operator vary the throttle and rpm. Problem solved. Also, one major problem w/ the visual test is the law that backs it up. For example, if you have long tubes but put cats on (and kept the EGR), your car is still illegal because you have long tubes, even if you pass the tail-pipe test. Also, you can fail for consolidating the number of cats you have. For example, an owner of a 96 Mustang can’t go from 6 to 2 cats even though the 05+ Mustangs have 2. Unfortunately for you CA guys, NJ has it easy since there is no tail-pipe test for OBDII cars since they just do a computer check, which one can pass w/ emissions components missing (and also pass the visual).

  • 15
    avatar run hard says:

    looking at these smog laws and for what its worth the ones doing all the bitching are the ones doing all the modifing
    found you leave it alone just drive it and maintain it it runs cleaner and last longer . these after market companies like eldelbrok and mallery well do they spend as much $$$ on developement as the car companies ? hell no
    look at harley davison . perfect bike till someone buys it then add screaming eagle pipes yet dont reprogram the computer to run with those pipes or on carbreted bikes they dont rejet . so it sounds like shit . soon motorcycles will be checked . very soon guys giving you all heads up . the smog laws are set up to force people to maintain there cars . every 2 yrs a tune up . for many of us we drive over 24k miles in 2 yrs , for many thats when they have the oil changed . you hear cars squealing brakes hey they stop ya right . rims and boom boom radios are more important than safty
    only time general public who are not into hotrods do any repairs on there cars is when it breaks down , the smog laws was not against hot rodder but for those who dont do any pm . hot rodders now theres a difference between the strip and the street . last yrs fuel prices shoulda tought us much , im a hotrodder but i read my spark plugs . proper burn is a key . hc = cyclender wash down unburn fuel thins the oil layer on cylender walls hi co = better burn there is a balance you cant have one with out the other . adding second turbo good more air = more nox . ca is going after the nox
    the more efficiant we can make our cars the cleaner the air and less profits for oil companies
    now with electric cars what to do with these batteries when they well rip ? batteries is a hazzardouse waist
    hydrogen cars cool hi pressure cylenders and good driver hehe ya right in the 1970s people well then was like whats an oil change . so smog laws in ca but other states has safty inspection for tires brakes and lights
    there hitting the truckers here now new laws calling for replacement of older trucks 14k gvw and above . tell you this if wasnt for inspection stations trucks would do 0 maintainance at all . id stay away from container haulers if i was you . there among the worst offenders 2010 ca wants any big rig older than 1993 off the road yet it would kill the trucking industry so they wait till 2014 and it will be a done deal . ca is going for fuel economy . over the next 10 yrs laws gonna get lot tougher . there gonna smog bikes . too many out there not to . off road equipment diesel powered will under smog test opacity testing . jesse james paid big time fines there will be more . the more i read the more challenging the laws will be . in the 1990s guys didnt know how to check cars of the 60’s and 70’s with these new cars well the ecu takes lots of thinking away
    fuel economy is the key get the most hp per gallon . thank you hey keep you eyes on california laws cause feds will fallow
    heres one for you new cars already have ca smog

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