California owners of “specially constructed vehicles” such as specially tuned aftermarket "hobbyist" cars and hot rods can rest easier now thanks to the efforts of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). It has worked with California state agencies to come up with a procedure “to avoid the pitfalls of a previously muddy process for legally registering and titling such vehicles in California,” said Steve McDonald, SEMA Vice President of Government Affairs.
Owners can now avoid legal action and/or confiscation of their vehicles by demonstrating state emissions-rules compliance. They can voluntarily re-title their vehicles and pay any necessary back taxes/fees in a registration-amnesty program in effect for 2010. A process was also established to then allow vehicle owners granted amnesty to pursue emissions compliance of their unique vehicles.
While details still need to be worked out, SEMA has reached a tentative agreement with the state to provide for three methods to achieve compliance.
An owner can apply for one of 500 smog-check exemptions for specially constructed vehicles available each year on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Recognizing that the demand for the exemptions will greatly exceed supply, SEMA has configured a kit, under the GreenRod Project banner, of emissions-related aftermarket parts that meets California standards. The retrofit kit of parts includes an aftermarket electronic fuel injection system with controller, exhaust headers, camshafts, mufflers, and catalytic converters. It was tested on a high-mileage 1980 Chevrolet El Camino fitted with a carbureted 1986 5.7-L Small Block V8—one of the most widely used engines in specially constructed vehicles.
“While the engine SEMA used to develop the kit was considered a worst-case configuration, it still passed smog-check requirements,” said McDonald. “The retrofit kit actually improved performance and drivability while not limiting power in a full acceleration mode, compared to a carbureted engine. It was perhaps the first time a package of specialty aftermarket parts has been assembled for the purpose of reducing tailpipe emissions which did not reduce power or performance.”
Under the third option, vehicle owners can choose to install approved OEM engines and related powertrain components, along with an approved fuel tank and delivery system, to meet California emissions compliance requirements.
General Motors, through its Performance Parts Division, is the first OEM to offer such a solution, said Steve Felix, Engine Group Manager, GM Powertrain, the lead engineer on the project. At the 2009 SEMA Show, the company showcased the emissions-compliant engine in a concept car called the E-ROD '55 based on a 1955 Chevrolet. The E-ROD package includes a complete LS3 engine, emissions equipment, and supporting components that enable classic cars to pass CARB’s emissions standards.
“E-ROD represents a revolution in hot-rodding by offering an unprecedented, emissions-legal engine and emissions system that carries approval from the influential California Air Resources Board (CARB),” said Dr. Jamie Meyer, Product Marketing Manager for GM Performance Parts (GMPP). “This is how modern hot rods will be built. They’ll have the efficiency of a modern GM high-performance vehicle, be environmentally conscious and emissions-compliant—all while providing the owner with a smaller carbon footprint.”
The standard E-ROD kit uses the 6.2-L LS3 engine found in the Chevrolet Camaro SS and Corvette rated at 430 hp (321 kW) and 424 lb·ft (575 N·m) along with GMPP engine wiring harness and engine control module, exhaust manifolds, and catalytic converters. Also included are the oxygen and mass airflow sensors and sensor bosses, fuel tank evaporative emissions canister, accelerator pedal with the LS3’s electronic throttle, and an air filter.
A builder will need to source additional components to complete the assembly and get the vehicle running, including fuel components, air induction system, exhaust system behind the catalytic converters, and a front-end accessory drive suitable to the vehicle. To complete the powertrain, GMPP recommends a GM Hydra-Matic 4L60-E four-speed automatic and transmission controller.
The proof of concept for the package is the E-ROD '55 concept vehicle, which blends basic restoration and modification details. “There are not many custom features that required labor-intensive fabrication; our goal was to depict how the E-ROD system could be incorporated in any classic vehicle, whether it’s a '55 Chevy, street rod, or '69 Camaro,” said designer Dave Ross.
The exterior of the 1955 Chevrolet E-ROD features chrome Bel Air trim and custom PPG colors. The interior has original-style upholstery and other restoration parts from CARS Inc. Wheels are 18-in steel wheels from the base Camaro.
The list price for the LS3-based E-ROD package is $9375. Additional engine choices, including the LS7 and LSA, are planned for future E-ROD engine packages.