California S.B. 1224 -move emissions exemption from 1975 cut-off year to 1981

This will mean less to the rest of the world than it does to us here in California, but the state senate is voting March 27th on a bill that would move the exemption cut-off year from 1975 to 1981.  I read about it here. This is BIG news if you are a vintage car enthusiast in California.  If it passes, it will have some interesting ripple effects.  The obvious change is a greatly reduced stress level if you happen to drive a car from this time period.  Getting 75 – 81 cars to pass emissions is notoriously draconian and expensive.  More subtle effects include: registrations of cars that were previously PNO’d or just plain off the record should increase -adding revenue for the state;  the value of some cars from this period will increase (78 Ferrari 308, Lotus Esprit or Alfetta GTV anyone?); there will probably be an uptick in local repair businesses when these cars begin to filter back out onto the road.

A 1976 Lancia Beta coupe in the Italian countryside.  In California, it used to be that if you wanted one of these you searched, (usually in vain) for a 1974 or 1975 model – or deal with the heavily painful emissions tax and hoop jumping.  Now, if this bill passes, just about any Beta coupe you find will be a no-smog deal.  Don’t get me wrong -I grew up in California in the 70’s and remember driving in San Bernardino when the mountains a few miles north were not visible through the brown smog -emissions standards are great, and have done a wonderful job of cleaning things up.  

What would I buy from this era?  Lancia Beta coupe, Alfa Giulietta 1.3 (the one with the GTAJ style over-square engine), Lotus Esprit, Porsche 928, Alfetta GT or Sedan, Ferrari 308 GTS, Fiat 131 or X1/9, Jaguar X? many VW’s etc.

If you are in California and the idea of this bill passing excites you -get the word out and write to your senator or who ever it is that votes in these committees.


5 thoughts on “California S.B. 1224 -move emissions exemption from 1975 cut-off year to 1981

  1. Speaking from experience, it would be hard to beat a carbureted 308 B, S or -4, if you can afford the maintenance. These benefit greatly when all the smog plumbing is off and a decent set of (non-cat) exhausts is added. In 1988 got a really nice first-owner carbed steel coupe in Newport Beach for about $30k; today- same car/ same $. I will be quite awhile before these appreciate, probably never like 206/246 Dinos, but for the dollar, what a GREAT value- classic PF styling, balanced handling, and old-world Ferrari ‘feel’.

  2. Did it already! Needless to say, I have a vested interest. You must have had my specific domain of automotive insanity in mind when you mentioned both the beta and the alfetta.

  3. Currently in the Great State of California for older cars is a more relaxed emissions requirement. Most cars that are running close to proper will pass. The most common failure (in my experience) is the NOx, because back when these cars were new, it wasn’t measured.
    I’ve written all the senators on the transportation committee asking for their support of SB 1224. One argument is that the looser emissions levels, and eliminating testing would not increase emissions much more than is permitted anyway. Obviously having fewer cars today (thanks to the cash for junkers campaign) has a lot to do with the total potentials as well.

    Sure hope this passes, there are a bunch of cars that enthusiasts would get back on to the road. Yep, pursuit of happiness and flailing economy will both be boosted.

  4. I’ve been checking up on this on the CA gvmt site and wrote a nice email to all the senators on that list – as I hope all of you reading have also done…

    Meanwhile, it looks like it’s been delayed for a bit. Not sure when it’s going to get voted on. Meanwhile, I’m holding off on paying to get my ’79 BMW smogged. I suppose that’s wishful thinking?

  5. It’s been postponed to April 9th. Apparently they don’t read emails much, so send your comments to their fax machine. I did that this morning.

    Here is what the ARA Pres had to say after a guest speaker came to the monthly meeting:

    Hello ARA Members

    Had a great turnout at last night’s ARA General Meeting. Due to timing, wanted to get this information out ASAP. Rex Roden from the Association of California Car Clubs (ACCC) gave a great presentation. He mentioned several proposed bills in Sacramento that could actually HELP classic car owners like us regarding smog rules. One, SB 1224 (La Malfa) would exempt all cars prior to 1981 from smog inspection (the current cut-off is 1975). Another, AB1613 (Donnelly) would eliminate the need to smog a car when selling it. These two and some other “car favorable” bills need public support to hopefully move forward. While our club doesn’t take positions on political items, you as members can certainly do as you wish. The SB 1224 proposal I mentioned comes up for initial votes by the Senate Transportation Committee next week on April 9th. Rex indicated that that the more people that weigh in on this to legislative officials, the better. Phone calls, faxes, and hard copy “snail mail” letters are best. Apparently emails don’t get read and are useless in this process. Since April 9th is next week, phone calls and faxes are best at this point regard SB 1224. According Rex, here are the Senate Transportation Committee members that are most likely still on the fence and could use persuading:

    Mark DeSaulnier
    Christine Kehoe
    Alan Lowenthal
    Fran Pavley
    Michael Rubio
    Joe Simitian

    If you’d like to help, please visit the ACCC website for more information: ,click on the “March Legislative Report” link, and look for contact info for members of the Senate Transportation Committee. Also available is a sample support letter for AB 1224, as well as info on the Assembly Transportation Committee for other measures like AB 1613.

    Again, as ARA club members, we are all free to do as we wish. No one has to do anything about this, but it sure would be great if Sacramento heard support from Italian car owners like us about some positive smog law changes.

    Thanks and Ciao!
    James Treadwell
    Alfa Romeo Association of Northern California

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