Registering as a Specially Constructed Vehicle in California.

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Well-known member
Jul 31, 2010
Santa Rosa, CA.
Well, I just did it and cleared the final hurdle - BAR inspection and smog exemption! After literally years of research, I've heard all the horror stories. None of which are true! Following all the rules, this was actually a pretty simple and painless process.

This is the vehicle in question...…...

I began the process back in 2010. Here's my thread from that era...…..

The one difference is you don't have to stand in line the first business day of the year now for the Certificate of Sequence #. They're pretty much available throughout the year. Apparently, not may people are going the Specially Constructed Vehicle (SPCNS) route anymore. Possibly because of the unsubstantiated horror stories out there. One of which is a SPCNS is required to have all the current smog equipment and vehicle safety features. NOT TRUE! The whole point of a Certificate of Sequence # is that you're registering your car under the SB100 rule. Which basically exempts the first 500 vehicles from smog. My car is registered as a 2010 SPCNS and I've got basic lights and lap belts. I don't even have windshield wipers.

Along with a 'Bill of Sale' from the previous owner, you will need 4 forms from the DMV:
Form 343..........Application for Title or Registration
Form 124..........Application for Assigned VIN plate
Form 5036........Statement of Construction
Form 256..........Statement of Facts

Forms 343, 124 and 256 are fairly straightforward. The Statement of Construction form 5036 is where they'll trip you up. They'll wanna know how and where you acquired the engine/transmission/frame. I told DMV the engine and trans came from a previous car I owned and the frame was homemade. Next form 5036 asked for the total value of the vehicle, including labor. I told DMV the total was $5000 and they were fine with that. BAR however, was not! BAR wanted a dollar amount for the frame and engine along with dollar amounts for other parts not supported by invoices. In addition, they wanted proof that I owned the donor car that supplied the engine/trans. I told BAR the frame materials cost $200, the engine was worth $300, the value of other parts was $300 and the original purchase price was $1100 (supported by the bill of sale). I also showed them the title for my donor car. Apparently, that satisfied them!

But I digress. The first step is acquiring your Certificate of Sequence number.

Step 2 would be to build the car as close to California regulations as possible. I found this list of 'CHP requirements for SPCNS' on the internet and it was a huge help!! It's from 2006 but it gives you really good guidelines on what CHP, BAR and DMV are looking for. And, as I found out, not everything on the list is even required!

Once the car is built step 3 is make an appointment with the local CHP office to have a permanent VIN # assigned. Typical horror story is that CHP is booked 2-3 months out. Not true. They do VIN verifications and assignments every Tuesday and Thursday. Back to DMV for a 1 day operating permit to legally drive it to CHP. I made an appointment on Friday for the next Tuesday and drove down to the CHP office. The officer looked over the paperwork, asked me if I really built the frame and made lots of positive comments about the car. Then he attached the new VIN to my frame rail...……..

Step 4. Brake and light inspection. Again, back to DMV for another 1 day operating permit to drive it legally to brake and light inspection. Find a certified brake and light inspection station and go have a talk with the guy that's gonna do it. I did and he told me everything he was gonna do. He pulled the wheels to make sure the brake drums were within spec. Verified all lights worked. Headlights/hi-beams, taillights/brakelights, required turn signals and license plate light. Turn signals are not self cancelling (3-way toggle under the dash). Required turn signal indicators and hi-beam indicator. A back up light isn't even required. Then he took it for a test drive to verify the brakes worked. $185 later (ouch) and that step is done.

Step 5. Back to DMV with paperwork from CHP and the brake and light inspection. Now pull out your checkbook and brace yourself! You'll be paying whatever your local sales tax is on the total value of the vehicle that you filled out on form 5036 Statement of Construction. Our sales tax is 9-1/2%! You do the math. With fees paid, DMV will issue you a temporary operating permit good for 60 days.

Step 6. Make a BAR appointment. They're actually about 2 weeks out. Usually located at the local community college. The tech spent a lot of time on the computer and numerous phone calls to his higher up. He wanted pictures of the build progress. I gave him a link to my build thread. He was very pleased! He forwarded many of the pics to his higher up and 20 minutes later I was approved! Surprisingly, they're big thing is not the smog, it's does the car really qualify as a SPCNS. He said he's done 20 so far this year. Only 3 actually qualified! The cars that don't tend to be the gold chainers who simply cut a check and have a high end shop build it. Think Boyd! BAR officials tend to look at our home built cars in a much better light. Never even put my car on the dyno. Just verified a PCV valve and breather cap vented back into the intake air stream. Done! This is a one time deal. Don't even have to go in for a bi-annual smog check. Back to DMV tomorrow to turn in my paperwork and I should receive my license plates in a few weeks!
Holy Grail placed behind the seat...….

I bet that felt good to go through all the steps and come out the other side all stamped for approval [cl
Way to go and way to stay on course :cool:

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