A bill proposed in California would allow classic car owners to cut a check to the DMV for $200 to get out of the state’s notoriously strict smog test. But naturally, it’s a bit more complicated than just paying off the Golden State.

Any car in California built on or after 1976 has to undergo a smog test every two years (not so for pre-76 cars, which is one of the reasons my 1976 BMW 2002 is now living in Florida).

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AB550 seeks to amend that law to allow vehicles 30 years or older to bypass the test, but only after a series of steps. Here’s what the changes state:

44011.7. (a) The owner of a motor vehicle that is required to obtain a certificate of compliance pursuant to Section 44011 may elect to pay a smog abatement fee of two hundred dollars ($200) if the motor vehicle meets all of the following criteria:

(1) Is 30 or more model-years old.

(2) Was manufactured during or after the 1976 model-year.

(3) Fails a smog test required pursuant to this chapter.

(4) Fails a subsequent smog test after necessary repairs were made.

(b) Payment of the smog abatement fee established pursuant to this section shall be made to the Department of Motor Vehicles at the time of the registration of the motor vehicle.

(c) Fees collected pursuant to this section shall be deposited in the Air Quality Improvement Fund created by Section 44274.5.

It seems simple, but the obvious question is how the state would confirm how “necessary repairs were made.” Does that mean ensuring the car is putting out the lowest possible amount of emissions or making drastic changes to the powertrain to get inline with the sniffer test? Or can you just pay off a mechanic to say that “necessary” repairs were made and it’s still a rolling superfund site? There’s really no clarification, which doesn’t exactly bode well for the language’s passage.

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The bill was proposed by Assembly Member Marie Waldron, a Republican from Southern California’s 75th district, and has the support of the SEMA Action Network. SEMA has attempted to do something similar in the past with a bill that would exempt all pre-1981 cars from emissions inspections in California. That failed, but maybe lining the pockets of the state with a couple of Benjamins means AB550 has a shot.


Contact the author at damon@jalopnik.com.
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