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How to register a “Special Construction” Car in California

Step one: Take the car to Department of Motor Vehicles [DMV] for a simple VIN inspection. This establishes whether the car has a VIN and if not, starts the procedure to issue one. At this inspection you will be given a temporary tag for use until the full VIN is available. At the same time you may request a Smog exemption number if any are available. Please note there are only 500 per year issued starting January 1. An exemption is not necessary to register your car. The entire process is free, takes about 15 mins and no appointment is necessary. You will be issued with a form to take to the California Highway Patrol [CHP] for further inspection and approval.

Step two: The CHP has a lift carries out a more detailed VIN inspection. They are checking to see if a car has been constructed from more than one vehicle and is carrying more than one VIN. They need to check any VIN numbers they might find. BSC use all new parts so there are no existing VIN's but the CHP still need to look. When they are satisfied they put an official VIN plate on the car and refer you to the nearest smog referee. The CHP check is free, takes about 15 mins and requires an appointment. You may need to contact Bureau of Automotive Repair - Sacramento [1-800-622-7733] to get a smog referee appointment.

Step three: If you have an exemption number the smog referee will sign off that the car needs no smog and send you on your way. If you don’t have an exemption number they will check the ID # on the engine block to find out the year of the engine. The vehicle will then be expected to meet smog regulations that applied in the year the engine was manufactured. A 1966 engine has to meet 1966 smog laws, 2004 motor needs to meet 2004 smog laws. All of the engines we supply have pre-1966 numbers. If you choose to fit your own motor then you must make sure it meets the appropriate regulations. The smog referee is only involved for the initial inspection to establish which regulations, if any, apply. The car must of course be smog tested every two years or when ownership changes by a regualr smog check station, just like any other car. The smog referee inspection takes around 30 minutes and requires an appointment.

Step four: Take all your paperwork back to DMV and get your license plates.

The whole process is very simple. A common myth is that ONLY the 500 cars allowed “exemption” can be registered in CA each year. This is simply not true. Any car can be registered provided it meets the smog regulations applicable for the year of the engine's original manufacture. Regulations can be confirmed by visiting California DMV site. Look up “Special Construction” and read carefully. Smog is only ever an issue if if the engine you are using is not equipped with original parts. In this case the exemption is a good option. All the engines we recommend are equipped to pass.

You may find that other companies use the original VW title from the VW pan they use to get around the Smog. This is not entirely legal. All kit cars or specially constructed cars are required to follow the procedures listed above. If a driver is relying on an old VW title and is stopped by law enforcement, there is a real risk of being charged with fraud and your car impounded. You as the owner are responsible. We recommend you follow the procedure.

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