California Publishes Smog Check Certification Policy For Specially Constructed Vehicles

Diamond Bar, Calif. (Dec. 6, 2005) - The California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) has published its policy for Smog Check certification of specially constructed vehicles (See attached).  Publication was prompted by discussions with SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, and officials with the state Attorney General's office.  For the past year, SEMA had been working with appropriate agencies to dispel 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. Under the BAR policy, the emissions controls of specially constructed vehicles are determined by one of two separate processes; (1) based on what the vehicle body or engine most resembles, or (2) model year or configuration of the engine installed. 
In the first case, 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.
Currently, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registers "Specially Constructed Vehicles," which are by definition built for private use, from a kit or some combination of new and used parts. The DMV does not assign a model year to these cars.   Rather, the vehicle is assigned the year in which the application for registration is submitted to DMV.  A "Specially Constructed Vehicle" application submitted to DMV today would not have a model year, but would have 2005 assigned as an asterisk year [*YR 2005].  However, this designation does not relate to the emission control requirements for the vehicle.  The DMV's website has a detailed explanation of the process for registering "Specially Constructed Vehicles" ( The website provides general emission control information and also outlines the previously mentioned Specially Constructed Vehicle Emission Control Program (Senate Bill 100 program). Consumers with questions regarding the Smog Check program may contact the Department of Consumer Affairs' Consumer Information Center at 800/952-5210.
"For too long, misunderstanding of California's complex vehicle registration laws has created confusion among state hobbyists," said SEMA Vice President of Government Affairs Steve McDonald.  "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."
SEMA has also been actively pursuing a solution that provides these vehicle owners a reasonable period of time to voluntarily retitle their vehicles and pay appropriate fees.  The California Legislature will consider legislation to provide amnesty from prosecution to vehicle owners who have mistitled or misvalued their vehicles.  This bill will likely be considered in the 2006 legislative session.  In the meantime, SEMA has vowed to work with all relevant parties to consider alternative approaches to protect vehicle owners who voluntarily reregister their vehicles, pay appropriate fees and fulfill BAR emissions requirements.
Founded in 1963, SEMA represents the $32 billion specialty automotive industry of 6,466 member companies.  It is the authoritative source for research, data, trends and market growth information for automakers and the specialty auto products industry.   The industry provides appearance, performance, comfort, convenience and technology products for passenger and recreational vehicles.   For more information contact SEMA at 1575 S. Valley Vista Dr., Diamond Bar, CA 91765-0910: call 909/396-0289; or visit and
Section 580 of the California Vehicle Code says:
A “specially constructed vehicle” is a vehicle which is built for private use, not for resale, and is not constructed by a licensed manufacturer or remanufacturer. A specially constructed vehicle may be built from (1) a kit; (2) new or used, or a combination of new and used, parts; or (3) a vehicle reported for dismantling.…which, when reconstructed, does not resemble the original make of the vehicle dismantled. A specially constructed vehicle is not a vehicle which has been repaired or restored to its original design by replacing parts.”
Specially Constructed Vehicles are commonly known as “Kit Cars”. Upon initial registration, the DMV assigns a vehicle make abbreviation of “SPCNS” to identify a Specially Constructed Vehicle, and an Asterisk Year (*Year) instead of a model year. The “*Year” assigned by DMV will be the year in which the initial DMV registration transaction took place.
In determining emission control requirements for Specially Constructed Vehicles there are two inspection processes:
  1. In the conventional process, the emission control requirements are based on the model year and configuration of the engine installed in the vehicle.
  2. Under the Specially Constructed Vehicle Emission Control Program (commonly known as the Senate Bill 100 requirements), the vehicle owner may choose to have the vehicle configuration inspected based on what the body most resembles, or what the engine most resembles. Section 44017 of the California Health & Safety Code (as amended in 2002) provides a procedure for the registration of up to 500 Specially Constructed Vehicles annually. See the chart that compares the two sets of requirements for emission controls on Specially Constructed Vehicles.
Below are some general emission control requirements for Specially Constructed Vehicles under the conventional inspection process.
  • Emission control requirements shall be based on the engine model year, certification type (California or Federal) and classification (Passenger Car, Light Duty Truck, etc.). Any model year engine (as determined by engine numbers or other means) can be installed.
  • Vehicle and engine classifications (Passenger Car, Light Duty Truck, etc.) must be certified to the same or a more stringent new vehicle standard. Typically, passenger car standards are more stringent than light-duty truck standards, which are more stringent than medium-duty truck standards, which are more stringent than heavy-duty truck standards. For example, a light-duty truck engine certified to less stringent standards cannot be installed in a Specially Constructed passenger car.
  • All emission controls for the previously certified configuration must be in place and functioning, including engine & chassis components.
  • The final configuration must pass an official Smog Check inspection at a Referee station before a Certificate of Compliance or a Referee label can be issued.
(Identified as “SPCNS” by the Department of Motor Vehicles)
  Specially Constructed Vehicle Emissions Inspection Process
Condition Conventional (Non-SB 100) SB 100
Vehicle type limitations No limitation Limited to passenger
vehicles & pickup trucks
Allowed quantity No limit 500 per calendar year. 
Owner must be issued
a sequence number by 
DMV to qualify for this 
Basis for emission
control requirements

Emission controls are based
on the engine installed in the
vehicle. BAR Referee 
inspects engine to determine 
model year & configuration
using engine or casting
numbers. When not
available, Referee relies
on existing emission controls
and customer information
to find a model year that
matches the existing

Emission Controls are 
based on the model 
year. The vehicle owner
may choose the model
year determination by
what the vehicle body
resembles, or by what 
the engine resembles.
Default is model year
  If the identification results
in a range of possible
model years, the customer
must choose a configuration
& equip the vehicle
accordingly. New or rebuilt
“crate engines” often apply
to a range of model years.
Specific emission 
control requirements
Engine must meet a known 
emission certification
configuration of any model
year. It must have all engine
& chassis systems
operational, including all 
required computer-
controlled systems.
Requirements are 
based on the 
determined model year
and are limited to what
the engine or vehicle
will accomodate.
Final result

Once the vehicle passes
an inspection, Referee
attaches label identifying
the engine and required
emission controls, and 
transmits a Certificate of 
Compliance to DMV.

Once the vehicle passes
an inspection, Referee
attaches label identifying
the determined model year,
any required emission controls,
and transmits Exempt
information to DMV.
Future smog check status Smog Check Program 
requirements (Biennial and/or
change-of-ownership) apply,
depending on location where
vehicle is registered.
Vehicles become exempt
from further Smog Check

Smog Check inspection requirements do not currently apply to motorcycles, diesel-powered, electric-powered, or hybrid vehicles.