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Smogging A 1976 Olds

California Smog Certification
Posted October 26 2010 07:47 PM by Johnny Hunkins 
Filed under: Car Initiative

1976 Olds Cutlass

Before buying a classic car, check with your DMV to find out what your responsibility will be.

We get letters concerning smog registration quite often, particularly in California where our editorial office is located. We recently got this letter from a California resident who just picked up one of our favorite rides: a '76 Olds Cutlass. Here's what he had to ask us:

I recently bought a ’76 Oldsmobile Cutlass on eBay. I paid for it, had it delivered, and tried to register it. I was told that this almost-four-decade-old vehicle had to pass smog emissions here in California. This is impossible, because the exhaust system was completely rusted away from salt and corrosion, and the single exhaust with catalytic converter was replaced with an efficient free-flowing dual-exhaust with glass pack mufflers. The 455 V-8 sounds nice! The smog guy told me that the car will not pass smog because of missing emission controls, all of which are unavailable. (The dealer says it’s obsolete, and the junkyards have no 36-year-old Oldsmobiles.) If this was just an isolated incident it would be no big deal, but I also found out that my 1971 Duster, 1970 Challenger, 1971 Challenger, 1969 Chevy work truck, and 1969 Charger would all have to pass 1966 smog, starting in 2011. Impossible. I cannot register nor drive any of my classic historic vehicles next year and far into the foreseeable future. Any chance there is a loophole for antique cars? Can you help or direct me to someone who can?

Captain Dan Stillmunks
Hesperia, CA


Congrats on your purchase, Dan. The ’76 Cutlass was the last model you could get the optional 455. Having registered a ’76 Camaro project car here in California, we’re pretty familiar with the registration process. Here are a few things to remember: in California, the seller is responsible for providing a current smog certificate (good for up to 90 days prior to the date of resale), not the buyer. It’s a consumer protection law for situations just like yours. You didn’t, however, require the inspection from the seller, so you’re back to square one. If you want to be legal, you’ll need to restore or replace the factory smog gear to get it smogged. Cars built before 1976 are not required to get a smog inspection, however, they are required to meet the smog rules for the year they were made. The pre-’76 situation is essentially not enforced, but you’re still on the hook, and the state can decide at any time they want to enforce it. At this time, there is nothing on the website warning of any changes to current smog certification, but that can always change! We’ll keep an eye on it for you, Dan, but it looks like your older cars are safe for now.



Here is the live link to the legislation mentioned below in the first comment:


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