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Registered User
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Philly, PA
Posts: 60
Shipping a car to California - smog compliance

Question for you guys. I have a potential buyer for my 1981 Euro 930. Title history shows it was originally titled in TX in 1982, OK in 1985 and then again in TX in 2010 before I purchased the car and brought it here to PA in 2011. My question is how hard will it be to make this CA smog legal, and what's involved in doing so? Anyone that has been through this with a euro car please chime in. Even though this should have had all EPA/DOT Certs, those papers are now lost in time.

Thanks for your help.


Chris Murphy
Old 10-07-2014, 11:16 AM
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Registered User
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: wisconsin
Posts: 2,539
Most states require the buyer to make sure the car passes smog. If I am not mistaken, Califonia requires the SELLER to do this. I do wonder how this works with an out of state seller.

From what others have posted, making a porsche pass emmissions is not easy. Even tougher in California. Most of these cars have had their smog equipment removed or bypassed.

Living in Wisconsin is different than California, but thank God cars 15 years and older aren't tested . Makes owning classics way easier.
Old 10-07-2014, 11:36 AM
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Registered User
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Philly, PA
Posts: 60
Shipping worries

Does anyone else have experience with shipping Euro Cars to Cali? Any successes?
Chris Murphy
Old 10-08-2014, 08:42 AM
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Noah930's Avatar
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 14,738
No experience in shipping a Euro car to a CA buyer. But your CA buyer will have 2 hurdles. The DMV and the smog check.

The DMV will need the federalization paperwork. Plus, IIRC the DMV will look for 4 stickers on the vehicle: the VIN, some sort of 50-state compliance, a catalytic converter/emissions sticker, and I can't recall the 4th one. If any of that is not present, then you get sent to the CHP. Make an appt with the CHP to get the vehicle checked out. While the CHP is checking out the paperwork (and entering the VIN into some computer database to make sure the car wasn't stolen), they'll casually look over the rest of the car to make sure nothing is a vehicle code violation (window tint, cracked windshield, aftermarket exhaust, etc.). After passing the CHP step, back to the DMV you go to complete the paperwork to get a CA title. Note that may be at least 3 visits to various offices to get this stuff done.

Then there's the smog test. CA tests not only the sniffer, but also a visual check. So all smog-compliant equipment that was on the car back in 1981, should still be on the car (and operating) now. How strict the visual test will be is up to the skills of the tech doing the test. They may not know 1981 Porsche 911s, but they do this stuff for a living so they're not total bozos, either. So the smog pump, catalytic converter, and stock exhaust should be in place. Technically, anything not stock has to have a CARB exemptions sticker on it (i.e. including the intake side of things). You can argue that a K&N filter doesn't alter the particulate emissions of a vehicle, but he might punt and make you take your argument to the smog referee. Everything must look stock in the engine compartment. If so, then the tech puts the car on the rollers to do the sniffer test.

Technically, it's the seller's responsibility to make sure the car passes smog before a sale. But at the same time, if it doesn't there's no penalty written into the vehicle code as to what happens next if the buyer can't get the car to pass smog.

Best of luck.
1987 Venetian Blue (looks like grey) 930 Coupe
1990 Black 964 C2 Targa
Old 10-08-2014, 09:56 AM
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Registered User
Join Date: May 2001
Location: S.F. North Bay
Posts: 1,315
Long term Californian. This is a real PIA. However, you are out of state, selling a car out of state. Your requirements should be limited to whatever the laws in YOUR state are. Personally, I would seek some professional advice. I highly doubt that you could get into a "situation" with a new owner having problems registering it here [and it probably will be a PIA]. It will be required to have either all the USA/CA spec emissions related, etc parts or get clarified/certified by a State Bureau of Auto Repair Inspector in order to be street registered.

If that wasn't clear. If you were in CA and selling the car within CA, you would be responsible for insuring it will pass an emissions test. That means a buyer would have legal recourse against you if it would not pass both the visual and tail pipe tests.

If you were in CA and selling it out of state.. it is up to the buyer to figure it out and ask appropriate questions, etc.

With you being in PA, it is probably prudent for you to advise the buyer in writing that you make no guarantee about the car passing CA emissions testing. I would sent this along with other important documents via certified mail and make sure you have copies of all.

This is probably a non-issue in terms of your liability but once you ask, you open a can of worms. I promise you a new CA owner will be jumping through hoops and will be spending $$ to get it correct here. Depending on how factory stock it is, or isn't, this can become very expensive.

GL to all
Old 10-08-2014, 09:59 AM
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Registered User
Join Date: May 2001
Location: S.F. North Bay
Posts: 1,315
BTW, with both the info Noah930 and I posted, the DMV as well as the CHP can be extremely erratic and uneven in how they apply compliance. Go to 2 different people and get two different results.

There may still be people who will help with the paperwork process for a fee.

Also, the per-1986 US 930s did NOT have cats. I have yet to visit a smog tech who understood this. The state has recently started supplying online images of what various emissions systems look like for various cars. I don't think they are anywhere near to supplying this for 930s. Again, the B.A.R. Inspector can approve whatever, but a later visual inspection by an inept smog tech will almost always result in head scratching. [My 930 has a BAR Inspector issued BAR sticker on the B pillar stating what equipment is needed for my specific car but it is only when I insist that the smog guys ever look at it. They just look at their books and insist it should have the same equipment as a regular CA 930 otherwise.]

We are getting deep into what a new owner might want to know rather than what your obligations might be selling it out of PA. I doubt it has any equipment unless PA is stringent. My last comment is that someone trying to smog one of these could find a factory 86-89 exhaust- that has a combined cat/muffler, and it is factory and will help it pass.. but is very restrictive. It does make the smog techs happy though.
Old 10-08-2014, 10:13 AM
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Rocket Scientist
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Detroit
Posts: 948
The following applies to vehicles that have NEVER been registered in California:

1. If the grey market car has been federalized for sale in the US, documentation and photographs of the compliance test, and a disclosure of all emissions control devices and settings is presented to CARB ( not the DMV). CARB will produce an inspection sheet and compliance form which can then be used to obtain a title and bar sticker. Subsequent emissions tests at the DMV will require the documentation to perform the visual and smog inspections.

2. If the grey market car has no documentation, it will have to be tested at the buyers expense for compliance at a CARB authorized independent laboratory. The test results are then submitted to CARB and the rest of the process is similar to case 1.

Be aware that the compliance testing costs in the 2K-6K range. Also, a 1981 Euro car will not pass, unless it has been modified to do so.

The requirement of the seller doing the testing applies only to a seller in CA selling to a buyer in CA.

Old 10-08-2014, 10:49 AM
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