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Little Friday Fun at the DMV


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Finally decided to go down to the DMV and try to apply for historic plates for my 76. It did not take long for things to go south. Apparently when I paid my registration a few years ago but never passed smog my car was put into some sort of DMV limbo. It had been on PNO before that and when I paid the registration a few years back I was suppose to pay registration every year or put it back on PNO. Well, that is fair enough but being in the limbo state I was in meant I never got any notices to renew. Had it in my head I was still on PNO so didn't really think about. Fine, whatever, at least they waived the penalties but for some reason I can't pay the fees and go back on PNO until October when the reg is due again......whatever

Back to the historic plates, they would not do anything for me without passing a smog test, sighting the 75 cutoff. First person handed me off to a supervisor after the second time I stated that I did not think I need to get the car smogged.

So what to do?

Planning to wait until the car is back on PNO and all paid up before I make another attempt. Any suggestions when I attempt it again? They said they would not "send it off to Sacramento" without a passed smog test. Do I just insist they send it anyway? The vehicle code section that I found for historic plates does not specify a smog cert is needed but does specifically say one is not required.

Not quite ready to give up on my 76 but I am getting worn down.....

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I can't suggest anything that doesn't involve more work then it is worth and won't suggest anything illegal.

Bringing it back to original smog specs is out of the question? That would probably be the path of least resistance.

See if you can find the smog test procedure for your car. It will detail just exactly what equipment is looked at i.e. air pump, plumbing et cetera. Take it to someone who has never seen a 2002 to get it smog tested. I have done this with cars that were clean enough to pass the test but technically modified with things like cam and Weber throttle body. If they can't see it or don't know what is original they will probably pass it.

There are services I have used to clear title. If you have some out of state friends it could save a lot of money over the professional services. You may want to see if this will work by asking what the status will be in California: Transfer the car to a friend in Washington or Oregon. Have them register the car in that state, then have them transfer the title back to you. You are allowed a grace period before you have to register it in California. At least one person I know decided to do this for the same car for years and eventually the DMV caught up with him, it wasn't pretty. He was just using an empty lot in Oregon as an address so he lacked plausible deniability.

I think the car will have to meet California specs eventually if the car was first sold in California. If it was a good enough friend you could say you were just borrowing the car but the out of state plates will put you under suspicion. Given the choice between stripping and crushing the car or driving it for a couple of months with out of state plates, I would go with the plates.


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live in California and be a car guy...

Ohio procedures for historic plates: take title to local tag agency; they verify the car is 25 years old, give you a form to complete, take your $15 and in a few days you have a historic plate. Fill out another form, make a xerox copy of your year-of-manufacture license plate, send to the DMV in Columbus and you get a (free!) registration showing your Y-O-M tag number...


'69 Nevada sunroof-Wolfgang-bought new
'73 Sahara sunroof-Ludwig-since '78
'91 Brillantrot 318is sunroof-Georg Friederich 
Fiat Topolini (Benito & Luigi), Renault 4CVs (Anatole, Lucky Pierre, Brigette) & Kermit, the Bugeye Sprite

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If you're not 100% attached to this car, sell it to someone out of state and use the money to buy a '75 or below. Owning a '76+ car in CA absolutely sucks and it's just not worth the hassle unless you absolutely love this specific car.

If you are 100% attached to it but don't need to keep it stock, be aware that in CA you can swap in a later motor with all its emissions equipment (usually just the cat. converter on a BMW) and pass smog as that year. I've known people with E12's who did that (E28 or E34 3.5L with Motronic) to keep their cars on the road and passing smog easily (and running better, with more power, in general). Doing this requires a CARB "referee" process but it's not that hard from what I've heard.

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