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?