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Q&As: Specially Constructed Vehicles

1. What is a specially constructed vehicle?

A specially constructed vehicle (SPCNS), as defined in Section 580 of the California Vehicle Code, is a vehicle which is built for private use, not for resale, and is not constructed by a licensed manufacturer or remanufacturer.

Specially constructed vehicles may be built from any of the following:

1. A kit;
2. New and/or used parts;
3. A combination of new and used parts; or
4. A dismantled vehicle which, when reconstructed, does not resemble the original make.

A specially constructed vehicle does not include a vehicle that has been repaired or restored to its original design by replacing parts. Additionally, a vehicle that has been modified, but still resembles the original make is not a specially constructed vehicle.

Example: A Volkswagen "Beetle" with modified fenders, engine compartment lid, and front end that is still recognizable as a Volkswagen is not considered a Specially Constructed Vehicle.

2. Are specially constructed vehicles subject to Smog Check inspections?

Most gasoline, hybrid, and alternative-fuel vehicles that are model-year 1976 and newer and most diesel vehicles that are model-year 1998 and newer require a Smog Check. Since specially constructed vehicles do not have a manufacturer-assigned model-year, they must be initially inspected by a State-authorized Referee. Upon completion of the inspection, the Referee will establish the model-year of the vehicle and affix a tamper-resistant label specifying the vehicle's emissions control system requirements for future Smog Check inspection purposes.

To learn more and/or to schedule an inspection with the Referee, visit www.asktheref.org.

3. What paperwork does the Referee require when inspecting specially constructed vehicles?

All documents required by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for registration of a specially constructed vehicle, including the Certificate of Sequence, should be presented to the Referee at the time of inspection. Visit DMV's website for information on all registration requirements.

4. How is the model-year of a specially constructed vehicle determined?

As required by Health and Safety Code section 44017.4, a specially constructed vehicle must be inspected by the Referee to assign the vehicle model-year and to determine the emissions control system requirements. The vehicle owner has the option to choose whether the model-year is based on the engine model-year used in the vehicle or the vehicle model-year.

If the owner chooses to have vehicle's model-year based on the engine model-year, the Referee will compare the vehicle's engine to engines of the era that the engine most closely resembles. Similarly, if the consumer chooses to have the vehicle's model-year based on the vehicle body, the Referee will compare the vehicle to vehicles of the era that the vehicle most closely resembles.

If the engine or vehicle body does not sufficiently resemble a previously manufactured engine or vehicle body, the Referee will assign the 1960 model-year to the specially constructed vehicle.

5. Can the owner of a currently registered specially constructed vehicle apply for a new certificate of sequence from DMV?

Yes. As permitted by Vehicle Code section 4750.1 (b), an owner of a specially constructed vehicle may apply for a new certificate of sequence. This would allow the owner to establish a different model-year for the vehicle and potentially different emissions control system requirements. Visit DMV's website for more information.

6. Can the owner of a specially constructed vehicle that cannot pass a Smog Check apply for a new certificate of sequence from DMV?

The owner of a specially constructed vehicle that is unable to pass a Smog Check may consider registering the vehicle for non-operation until a new certificate of sequence is issued. Visit DMV's website for more information.