Bad climate for hot rod registration in California
In December 2005, the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) published its Smog Check policy for vehicles that are specially constructed. The publication came from discussions with the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and officials from the office of the state Attorney General. SEMA has been actively seeking a solution that allows a reasonable period of time for vehicle owners to re-title their cars and pay the proper fees.
For more than a year, SEMA had been working with specific agencies to squelch misunderstandings and rumors about registration for specialty vehicles such as kit cars, street rods and replicas. These vehicles needed to be emission tested and properly registered. Emission controls are determined by:
- Configuration of the installed engine or the model year
- What the vehicle engine or body most resembles
- Vehicle engine or body
When the emission control is determined by what the engine or body most resemble, it is under CA Senate Bill 100. In this case, a smog test referee compares the specially built vehicle to those from the era it resembles the most. The owner of the vehicle then has to decide if the referee will certify the vehicle by year of the body or engine. If the specialty vehicle has no resemblance to any previous model, it will be classified as a 1960. However, under Senate Bill 100, registration is limited to the first 500 applications to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of specially constructed vehicles in the specific year that meets all of the criteria.
Configuration of engine or model year
In this case, the specially constructed vehicles do not have a Senate Bill 100 sequence number. The required emission controls only consist of those specified at the time the engine was produced. If an engine configuration precedes 1966, there won’t be any exhaust emission controls required.
When an engine is configured with an expanse of model years, the owner of the vehicle has a choice of which model year he wishes to be used for emission controls. Both new and rebuilt crate engines are in the range of the model year category. In some instances, vehicle owners will be required to provide information on their vehicle’s engine in order to determine identification in the inspection process.
Determination of specially constructed vehicles
The DMV defines specially constructed vehicles built for private use with a mixture of new and used parts, or if they are built from a kit. These cars are not assigned a model year. Instead, the vehicle is determined to be the year in which the DMV received the submitted application for registration.
California's Complex Vehicle Laws
Steve McDonald, SEMA's Vice President of Government Affairs, 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 many owners who fail to receive one of the 500 yearly Senate Bill 100 sequence numbers to properly title, register and smog test these vehicles."
Amnesty from prosecution
SEMA has been actively seeking a solution that allows a reasonable period of time for vehicle owners to re-title their cars and pay the proper fees. The California Legislature is considering legislation that provides owners with amnesty from prosecution if they have mistakenly titled or valued their specially constructed vehicles. It is expected that the bill will be considered during the 2006 legislative session. SEMA has promised to work with vehicle owners in the meantime and to take into consideration an alternative that will protect them if they pre-register and pay the proper fees voluntarily.
General emission control requirements
Emission control requirements for specially constructed vehicles are based on:
- Certification type (State or Federal)
- Engine model year
- Classification (Light truck, passenger car, etc.)
Emission controls for previously certified configurations have to be functioning and in place. This includes both chassis and engine components.
When final configuration is complete, the vehicle must pass an official Smog Check inspection. These must be completed at a Referee Station before the Referee Label or Certificate of Compliance will be issued. Smog Check inspections do not apply to diesel powered, electric powered, hybrid vehicles or motorcycles at this time.
The final result of the “clarification” of the DMV rules is likely to be fewer cars than ever being built by hot rod enthusiasts and more cars being brought into the state from states with more favorable rules.