By Vern Hance, Northen California Kit Car Club

The thought of getting your new kit car registered in California is usually one that triggers feeling s of fear and terror. This article is intended to help you break it down into bite-size pieces that can be comleted one step at a time. You should start by visiting a DMV office and requesting a packet of forms to register a specially constructed vehicle. These forms are also available for download from the DMV website. https://dmv.ca.gov click on Forms (You can also link to the DMV forms by going to "Summary of registration requirements" at the end of this web page, however you will have to search the right form by its alphabetical name.)

At your first appearance at the DMV you should have form REG 343 "Application For Title or Registration". The REG 343 form says you must fill out sections 1 through 6, which are fairly self-explanatory. Sections 7 to 9 may be used but let the DMV person guide you. Don't worry about putting anything in the VIN section, the DMV will put in a temporary DMV number that identifies the receipt showing that you gave them money to cover the fees. Section 3 can be left blank for newly completed kit cars.

Another required form for your first action appearance at the DMV is REG 5036 "Statement Of Construction". Again, this one is pretty self-explanatory and is aimed at determining the value of the vehicle so you will pay a "use tax" for its present value and then a tax upon registration every year under the "in lieu" tax on personal property. The taxable value will drop each year as the car depreciates according to the schedule prescribed by law. You should have receipts, bills of sale and any other papers that support where each of your cars components came from. (e.g. Bill of Sale from Kit Manufacturer, DMV forms showing the donor vehicle was officially "junked", bill of sale from junkyard to you for frame, engine, transmission, etc.)

To get a new California VIN number assigned you must ask the DMV to fill out form REG 124 "Application For Assigned Vehicle Identification Number Plate". This has to be signed by a DMV representative as an "authorization" for the CHP to inspect your car and assign (and affix) a VIN on the door post or cowl of your vehicle. You can't get a CHP inspection without this form. The REG124 is not available on the website and the DMV will not let you have a blank form, but they can provide a completed version which provides you the authorization to get an appointment with the CHP. I

At this point, there is a fork in the road. If your kit car qualifies (most kit cars will) under Senate Bill 100 of 2001 (See text of SB 100 shown below) AND if less than 500 vehicles in each calendar year (usually the 500 limit is reached early in a new calendar year) have been registered under SB-100 or SB-1578, then you can request a "Certificate of Sequence" and your kit car will be exempt from smog testing. Go to https://dmv.ca.gov/vr/spcns.htm for an explanation of the Certificate of Sequence.

At this point you have completed your first "action" visit to the DMV and have paid your fees and will be given a red sticker allowing you to drive the vehicle for 20 days to get finished with the additional steps described below.

The next step is to call your nearest CHP office to request an appointment to have your vehicle identified, verified and (in most cases) have a new California VIN fastened to it. Since you have a red sticker on the windshield, you can operate the vehicle legally but don't forget to get your insurance before venturing out. It's also a good idea to take your packet of paperwork that you used during your first DMV visit, just in case the CHP officer wants to look at it.

If you received a "Certificate of Sequence" your kit car will be exempt from the Smog regulations and if you didn't get one of the 500 "Certificate of Sequence" then you must meet the "old fashioned" California Smog rules, but either way you still have to visit the Smog Referee, so call 1-800-622-7733 (Air Resources Board - Sacramento) to get an appointment with your nearest Smog Referee where one of two things will happen.

(1) If you received a Certificate of Sequence your car may or may not be smog tested but is not required to meet the smog equipment or tailpipe requirements. The referee will affix a sticker to your car saying it is smog exempt under SB-100. The Certificate of Sequence will insure that the DMV does not print "Smog Check Required" on any of your yearly registration renewal forms.

(2) This can be the tough one. If you didn't get a Certificate of Sequence (e.g. if 500 cars have already used up the yearly quota) the Smog Referee will verify that your vehicle has the appropriate smog equipment and meets the tailpipe emission standards for the year of the engine. Your engine must be equipped with all smog devices (e.g. air pumps, exhaust gas recirculation, catalyst, computer, as applicable) that your engine had when it came from the factory in a new car. It must also meet the California tailpipe emision standards for that year engine and will require a smog test every two years.

Another necesary step for new "first time registered" vehicles is to take your vehicle to a shop that can issue a "Brake and Light Certification" . These are two individual pieces of paper that say your brakes and lights are safe and properly adjusted. If you are in a remote area where there are no certified brake & light shops a REG 256 "Statement Of Facts", signed by a repair shop will meet the requirement. I suspect that the Brake & Light Certificate is not required if you are starting with a currently registered doner car such as a Pontiac Fiero if you can show that the original headlight and brake system has not been modified. Any time your kit has a junkyard chassis or a frame that comes with the kit, you will have to go through the Brake & Light inspection.

Once you have done all the above steps, then its back to the DMV (make sure you call or go to the website first to get an appointment) with all the certificates you have collected. Now you should get your official license plates. I am not sure when you can first apply for "Vanity" custom licence plates but since it is another source of State revenue, I'm sure you will get good advice if you choose to go that route. This covers the basics of getting your car registered for the first time and also applies to those that have been registered before 2002, the date when SB-1578 first became effective. This writeup has not been reviewed by the DMV office, however it might be helpful to take a copy of this article along with copies of SB-100 and SB-1578 when you visit the DMV. This is a registration procedure that even DMV people don't experience everyday. The whole process really isn't so fearsome when you know the rules.




CHAPTER 871An act to add Section 44017.4 to the Health and Safety Code, relating to emission control.[Approved by Governor October 13, 2001. Filedwith Secretary of State October 14, 2001.]

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:SECTION 1. Section 44017.4 is added to the Health and Safety Code, to read:

44017.4. (a) Upon initial registration with the Department of Motor Vehicles, a passenger vehicle or pickup truck that is a specially constructed vehicle, as defined in Section 580 of the Vehicle Code, shall be inspected by stations authorized to perform referee functions. This inspection shall be for the purposes of determining the engine model-year used in the vehicle or the vehicle model-year, and the emission control system application. The owner shall have the option to choose whether the inspection is based on the engine model-year used in the vehicle or the vehicle model-year.

(1) In determining the engine model-year, the referee shall compare the engine to engines of the era that the engine most closely resembles. The referee shall assign the 1960 model-year to the engine in any specially constructed vehicle that does not sufficiently resemble a previously manufactured engine. The referee shall require only those emission control systems that are applicable to the established engine model-year and that the engine reasonably accommodates in its present form.

(2) In determining the vehicle model-year, the referee shall compare the vehicle to vehicles of the era that the vehicle most closely resembles. The referee shall assign the 1960 model-year to any specially constructed vehicle that does not sufficiently resemble a previously manufactured vehicle. The referee shall require only those emission control systems that are applicable to the established model-year and that the vehicle reasonably accommodates in its present form.

(b) Upon the completion of the inspection, the referee shall affix a tamper-resistant label to the vehicle and issue a certificate that establishes the engine model-year or the vehicle model-year, and the emission control system application.

(c) The Department of Motor Vehicles shall annually provide an initial registration to no more than the first 500 vehicles that meet the criteria described in subdivision (a) that are presented to that department for registration.




Summary of SPCNS Registration Requirements:

A completed Application for Title or Registration (REG 343). It must include the labor cost, even if it was a vehicle that you built.

A vehicle verification. You must start your application process with the DMV prior to contacting the CHP for a vehicle verification.

A Statement of Construction (REG 5036) is used to provide information on the major component parts used in contruction of home-made, specially constructed, or kit vehicles. Proof of ownership, such as, invoices, receipts, manufacturer's certificates of origin, bill(s) of sale, or junk receipts for the major component parts (engine, frame, transmission, body).

Official brake and light adjustment certificates. When an official brake and light station that inspects specific vehicles such as motorcycles and large commercial vehicles is not located within a reasonable distance, DMV will accept a Statement of Facts (REG 256) from a repair shop attesting that the brakes and lights are in proper working order.

For information on SPCNS "Certificates of Sequence" click here.