Thursday, April 21, 2016

Coffee Brake: CA SB-1239 Moves Smog Exempt Cutoff Year from 1975 to 1980

Coffee Brake on a Thursday -- what sort of madness is this? We've got a good reason for the interruption of our normally schedule nonsense -- and bring good news for the Californians in the audience.  The CA Senate Transportation and Housing Committee passed (by 6-5 vote) SB-1239, which is a bill that will move the smog exemption cutoff year from 1975 to 1980. Meaning that 1980 model year cars will now be the newest to be exempt.  The bill was introduced earlier this year by Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado) who released a statement saying:   “Collector cars and trucks are a unique and important part of California history and need to be preserved.  Extending the exemption to 1981 is a common-sense way to encourage that these vehicles remain on display for all to see, drive and enjoy.”


The bill has passed committee and is now moving on to the next committee in Sacramento, and with any luck we will have Sen Gaines on the DT Radio Show this Friday to talk about the bill (still working on details). However, if this goes into law, it will be a game changer for the value and usability of 1976-1980 classics here in California.  Perhaps now is a good time to pick up a 1976 - 1980 model year car that has trouble passing smog. For pennies on the dollar of course -- however, you'll be stuck with the car if this bill stalls somewhere, so choose wisely.  DT's picks for 1976-1980 classics:


Poorsche 924:  The era of watercooled Porsches started after 1975, and these front engine and rear-transaxle equipped classics are notoriously complicated, particular the turbo version.  Rejoice and be glad that you won't need to replace 30 feet of brittle plastic tubing in the hope that you'll pass on the next test, and be happy that a few more of these might avoid the crusher.


Toyota "Mini Mach 1" Celica: The later 1st generation and early 2nd generation Toyota Celicas fall into the realm of being horribly slow in stock form, but they are cool looking and the ones that haven't rusted should last much longer if tightening tailpipe standards don't wipe them off the planet.


Mazda "Seal Killer" RX-7 SA/FB:  The Mazda rotary engine puts out a ton of heat and pan sears catalysts (and all manner of under hood hoses/plastic bits) for fun, so when it comes time to smog you've got a bunch of work to make sure it doesn't have vacuum leaks or anything crispy.  You'd sleep better knowing that even if the apex seals are on their last legs you'll still be able to get stickers for this thing each year.


Porsche "German Camaro" 928: Another from the files of a the front-engine watercooled Porsche era -- the 928 has an extremely complicated relay control system for the powertrain that can now be replaced with something less likely to leave you stranded in Death Valley on a hot summer morning.  I personally think these are undervalued for something with a Porsche emblem on the hood and avoiding the hassles of a smog check should keep a few more out of junkyards and on the street.


Fox Body Fords:  It isn't just the 1979-1980 Mustangs that you should consider, but also the Fairmonts, Zephyrs, Durangos, Capris, Thunderbirds, and Cougars (oh my!!).  The engine to get is the 302 cubic in Windsor V8, which was marketed as the 5.0 and produced 140 horsepower through a carburetor. Or, you know, swap in a Coyote.


Pontiac Thunder Chicken Firebird: As the gas crisis and emissions standards sucked the power out of Pontiac's massive V8 engines, the product planners did the next logical thing and added a gigantic bird shaped hood decal.  A few more Bandits on the road is always a good thing for California traffic morale.


Saab Story: A Saab 99 from the early emissions era has hard time with the biennial inspection because parts availability is nil, but the same applies to the 900.  Some random part of the plastic gas filler enclosure is cracked -- good luck passing the evap test, and forget about getting a new filler assembly.  Part of the reason I sold the Draken (a '78 99 EMS) was because I had Smogmares frequently, but this new legislation could mean a price war for anything Saab from the 70s.


CVCCCVCVVC Civic:  The guys at Honda really thought they had something special when they figured out a way to meet late 70s emission standards without a catalyst in the exhaust system, but the complex stratified charge cylinder head with compound vortex controlled combustion can be tricky to adjust and debug.


Alfa Romeo "SPICA Italian?" Alfetta:  The Alfetta GT/GTV6 was the spiritual successor to the Giulia Sprint GT/GTV and today it lives somewhere in the land of rust and amongst the fuel guys who know how to tune the SPICA fuel injection system.  Save the Alfas.


Datsun by Nissan S130 280ZX:  The S130 280ZX was the grand touring focused reboot of the original Z-car, and it may have been softer, but it was nicer on the road.  Nissan found a way to increase horsepower with each year of development, but it came at a cost of increased complexity.  Keep an eye out for the 1980 limited "10th Anniversary" edition that came with leather seats, and with black/gold or red/black paint jobs.

There are many more cars that could fit in this category -- what awesome classic from 1976-1980 did we miss?

21 comments:

  1. Tail end of the production of a lot of cars that started much earlier. Think late model aircooled VWs, all manner of British stuff (MGs, Triumphs, etc).

    I'm not sure it's entirely a good thing though, think of all the malaise era crap cans that will stay on the road as daily drivers making tons of smog.

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  2. This so needs to happen. If nothing else, it opens the door for many creative engine swaps. For example, as it stands finding the elusive 1975 Volvo 240 makes for the only reasonable way to pull off a legal Volvo V8 swap in CA, but this would provide so many more options.

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    1. It's still not legal (for the most part)... but the difference is, nobody is checking those pre-75 cars officially. I agree though, this needs to happen so they stop checking the '75 - '80 cars. Makes the 75+ 280z less undesirable (is that a thing?) as far as S30's go.

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  3. Perhaps the smart thing would be to exempt cars before a certain point from the visual test. If you can pass the sniff test, who cares what's under the hood.

    Semi-modern engine swaps with aftermarket EFI would be so much cleaner than a fully intact 1978 emissions carb mess.

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    1. But you forget who we are dealing with here...

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  4. Well, no matter what, congratulations to California car people, for a rare IMPROVEMENT in their situation. For all of us, it is a rare moment when we are not treated as pariahs who are likely to dump crude oil into nature preserves, and then wipe it up with baby seals.

    Up here in Ontario Canada, we used to have a 20-year rolling cutoff for emission testing requirements. Some do-gooder member of the legislature made that a fixed cut off, at 1988 a few years ago. There have been strong arguments recently that the entire program is no longer serving any purpose, since failure rates are so tiny. But the gov't is afraid of looking soft on the environment, so the best they could do was to stop charging for the test. But the garages are not doing this for free, so no doubt my tax money is still paying for it, through a back door.

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    1. Thankfully we still have a 25 year rolling for emissions as well as 2009 and newer never needing them. Plus we have a collectible vehicle exemption for newer than 25. At least for now. The legislature rolled the 25 year or older collector plates back to 30 a couple of years ago...

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  5. Jag XJ-S and '75-78 S30 280z and that's about all I can come up with (outside of your list) from '75-'80 that aren't utter garbage. Maybe the Camaro version of the 2nd gen F body Firebird you posted?

    Otherwise, I'm struggling to find a 5mph bumpered, smog choked, malaise era car that's also desirable...

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  6. F'ing great new. Toyota fj40 for sure.

    I can just see all the dudes with these years of cars out in the garage ripping out smog pumps, charcoal cans, sawzall off cats, pulling miles of vacuum lines. So great.

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    1. I daily drove a '74 /6 Dodge Dart in the 90s when the cutover was I think 72. It ran so crappy with all the smog stuff hooked up. Dirtier on a 4 gas analyzer, and worse gas milage. I'd put all that crap on and tune it to run as best I could for the test, then strip it all off again afterwards.

      So annoying, particularly because it was so much dirtier with the vacuum amplifier and all the misc crap. 6 months after I sold it they moved the cutover to '75.

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  7. The last of the RWD X-bodies (Nova, etc.)

    Most E12 BMWs, the first of the E24 6-series and E23 7s, the unloved E21 3.

    VW Rabbits, Sciroccos.

    The first year of the Renault 5 Turbo (not like you're gonna find one everywhere...)

    BMW M1 (ditto).

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  8. Good for CA, bad for the rest of the country. We enjoyed your cheap post 75 rust free classics that failed CA smog and became cheap.

    Seems like this will throw the market askew. Maybe we can sell some back to you.

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  9. This just sucks. It means I could have gotten a LOT more for the mint 1976 2002 I sold last year. @#$@#$ Story of my life---crap timing.

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  10. Tonight I will be convincing my wife that offloading my '73 Datsun 620 for a '76-'78 S30 or '79 S130 is sound decision.

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  11. Careful guys because this isn't set in stone - the law hasn't yet been changed. We just wanted to give everyone fair warning that it (hopefully) is coming.

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    1. You are correct, Sir. never underestimate the ability of the Cali Legislature to do something completely assbackwards. That said, I must say there is NOTHING from the mid to late seventies , save perhaps the Honda CVCC, which I had in a pocket rocket form in 1979, that I would EVER want to own. But to younger folks who know what they know, some of these might be the equivalent of what a '47 Ford Woodie is to me. Though I find that hard to believe. Plastic is plastic. Power choking smog equipment is power choking smog equipment.

      On a related note pointing up the absurdity of the law and CARB rules, if you are as fortunate as I am to live high in the pristine mountains of California, in certain counties ALL VEHICLES are smog exempt. That's right. Where the air is cleanest you are allowed to pump all the noxious gases into the air you wish. This explains the prevalence of huge diesel puking mid seventies dually pickups driven by grizzled old men with handicapped placards hanging from their rear view mirrors. Watching them take the closest handicapped parking spaces at any big box store and climb down as if the had been hunting moose, and are not in fact on their way to buy diapers, is hilarious.

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  12. A few interesting big Benzes in that era including, notably, the 6.9.

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  13. For some reason I have a fetish for the '75-79 Nova sedan. It was an attractive shape clearly BMW-derivative with a real Hofmeister kink, in fact it ended up looking a whole lot like the E23 7-series. Gen 2 Camaro front suspension mated to Gen 1 Camaro/Nova rear so it's rudimentary but tweakable. Room under the hood for anything your heart desires short of a CF6-50.

    They were a little short on rear seat space, but that was a GM design decision; the cop-car version had a rear seat that had much more legroom for two, but pushed back between the rear fenderwells so tighter laterally for three.

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  14. Did somebody say black gold?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWF-hH1nloo

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  15. The people of California should reinstate the 30 years exemption from smog that Schwarzenegger removed in 2004.

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    1. If the people of California - enough of them, anyway - wanted to do that they could start voting for different officials who might clean out the bureaucracy and do something about nonsensical feelgood garbage like the state's carbon taxation which as implemented is just another welfare program.

      Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go laugh a while. Or possibly cry.

      Delete

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