Race Cars are Doomed… Because Uncle

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Uncle does not want you to modify your car.outlawing lead

Even if it never gets driven on the street.

This is new.

But first, some background.

Uncle – as manifested by the Environmental Protection Agency – has long decreed that any modification to a street-driven car is illegal (under the Clean Air Act) if the modification entails the removal, disabling or “defeating” of any of the car’s factory-installed pollution control equipment. This encompasses every car built since the very first emissions devices were installed in cars back in the mid-late 1960s.

It goes even farther than that, actually.

It’s illegal to replace any factory part or system that could affect the car’s emissions with an aftermarket part not approved by the EPA – even if the car’s emissions aren’t negatively affected.

Even if they are reduced.

This happens more than you’d think.Say No To EPA!

Factory parts are – of necessity – usually compromises. A good example being a vehicle’s exhaust system. It may cost too much to fit the car with tube headers, so cast iron manifolds are used instead. These may not flow as well as tube headers, decreasing the engine’s efficiency. Replacing the manifolds with aftermarket headers – and the factory el cheapo catalytic converters with aftermarket high-performance ones – not only makes the car perform better, it lowers the emissions.

It’s still illegal – unless the headers and converters are “EPA approved.”

This has placed an onerous burden on the aftermarket parts business, which has to spend a great deal of its own money getting a given part approved before it can be legally sold. The costs associated are, of course, passed on to customers. It’s why a set of  aftermarket headers that used to cost under $100 now costs $500.

It’s also why it’s illegal – believe it or not – to retrofit an older car with a newer car’s engine. Even though the newer car’s engine emits far less pollution. For example, it is not EPA-kosher to take, say, a 1975 Camaro – originally equipped with a carbureted 350 without computer controls and a shitty pellet-style catalytic converter (and no oxygen sensor) … pull it all and replace it with a computer-controlled, fuel-injected GM crate engine and modern honeycomb cats (which all modern cars have) and 02 sensors… unless everything has the necessary prior EPA (and California Air Resources Board, a kind of mini me EPA) exemptions and approvals. Even if the car’s emissions are a fourth of what they were before the swap.EPA 2

Yes, it’s true.

You are also not allowed to have a muffler shop touch the car’s emissions equipment, either. Such as having them remove your car’s stock/factory catalytic converters and replace them with better aftermarket ones.. if they’re not EPA-approved .

And if the shop does do that, the shop can expect to be SWAT-raided by EPA goons.

None of that is news.

It’s been The Law for decades (thanks to Tricky Dick).

What is news is the EPA’s ratcheting up of things to encompass cars that are not driven on the street.

Ever, even.

Race cars, track-day cars.

Vehicles that are trailered to the track – and used only on the track.

No more exemptions or approvals.

Not if the cars were once-upon-a-time production cars, now modified for the track.  EPA CARB

These have never previously been targeted for emissions enforcement because they are race cars and track-day cars and these kinds of cars are driven on the race track, not public roads. Their numbers are proportionately tiny – maybe a few thousand of them, nationally –  the aggregate miles driven infinitesimal relative to street cars and accordingly, their “emissions” in toto are microscopic by dint of that.

They are an irrelevance in terms of air quality but are being targeted nonetheless. It appears that only built-from-scratch race cars will be copacetic henceforth. Nextel Cup teams have the resources for that. But weekend racers don’t.       

EPA flashes it doe eyes and says it isn’t so. SEMA – the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer Association – calls BS on that. And so do I.

Here is the verbatim language from the EPA:

All factory-installed emissions equipment “must remain in their certified configuration even if they (i.e., the cars) are used solely for competition or if they become non-road vehicles or engines.”

Italics added. But hardly necessary.

The meaning – the intent – is pretty clear.befehl 2

EPA denies it is targeting race cars and track-day cars and by dint of that, the entire high-performance parts aftermarket (which SEMA represents) but what else does that sentence mean? Read it again:

“…even if they are used solely for competition.”

“… must remain in their certified condition.”

That seems pretty direct. Not modified… ever, in any way. Period. How else should we interpret EPA’s befehl?

And – the important point – it will be exactly that, a befehl. The language will have the force of law if the “proposed” new regs are approved (decision expected by July).

Which, by the way, EPA – an unelected federal bureaucracy – gets to do on its own say-so. It legislates. It decrees. Which unelected bureaucracies have no authority to do under the Constitution… if anyone paid attention to that “god-damned piece of paper.”

The EPA is also unaccountable.

You cannot vote out the EPA administrator or his (or her) legions of bureaucrats… who have guns (or can get men with guns to do their enforcement). You have nothing to say about it.

So much for “representation” and “consent of the governed.”

The bottom line here, despite the EPA’s cooing, is that we ought to take the EPA at its word. What it has explicitly proposed. And what will soon be the law, unless it’s put a stop to.

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55 COMMENTS

  1. Lets see if I’ve got this right. “Uncle” and all other militaries have many thousands of aircraft, many of which burn fuel at the rate of a 747 on takeoff and climb out, thousands of ships and other watercraft, hundreds of thousands of wheeled and tracked vehicles, none of which have environmental equipment, and other oil powered stuff. But I can’t modify my car? What’s wrong with this picture?

  2. Living in a non-smog instpection county has its advantages. WHen the cat gets hoplessely plugged and wholesale replacement cost is $1500, pull the stupid thing, get out a long piece of one inch steel pipe, a four pound hammer, and “fix it”.

    I’ve wondered about what it would take to “fix” the DEF systems on the newer cars……. as far as I know, the system simply feeds some urea compound into the exhaust at some point. What happens when the DEF runs out? Probably some sensors etc will trigger some maniacal response mechanism and shut the stupid engine down…. must be a way to trick the silly mess……

    • You can totally trick it, but it’s not very simple.

      Given working catalysts, the ECU expects a certain difference between the pre-cat and post-cat O2 sensors. You would need to read the pre-cat O2 sensor to figure out the O2 level, then generate another signal that looks like a smoothed version of that signal, and feed that back as the post-cat O2 reading. If you aren’t close enough to what the ECU expects, it will flag this as failure. I’ve been playing with this stuff recently, and realized there’s no easy bypass, you do have to fake a complex input into a complex control system.

      When you run out of the DEF, the law says the car has to go into limp mode, severely limiting speed and power. They had to account for things like pump failures, though, and maybe that won’t trigger limp mode. Wonder what would happen if you faked the DEF level to always read full. The ECU would notice for sure that the catalyst isn’t working and it will light up the MIL, but maybe it’ll let you keep going.

      • I’ve never heard of pre and post catalyst sensor signals being compared in form. Under OBD2 so long as the post catalyst sensor showed the catalyst did something the computer was happy. The signal didn’t have to be replicated. If someone actually tried that I think it would lead to a lot of false errors.

        Faking the DEF level to always be full would probably result in some sort of damage because it would still do the fuel dump to burn off what was in the trap but without the DEF….

        • The catalyst efficiency check is actually mandated to work a certain way. Older cars only cared if the catalyst did something. Emit a flat-line and you’re probably fine (use a resistor).

          Newer cars send rich mixture bursts periodically to make sure the catalyst works, and they’re looking for a very specific spikes in O2 readings after they do this, so you need a “smart” fake O2 sensor, and you can deduce that the rich burst is happening from the pre-cat O2 sensor, because the pre cat sensor will basically read MIN. When it’s rapidly oscillating between MIN/X, you basically want to lowpass filter that, meaning send the average over the last couple of seconds.

          This stuff is getting harder to spoof.

  3. If the dummies at EAP realy wanted to DO something about pollution, they’d come up with some plan to help cities synchronise their traffic signals. It is a rare stretch of urbanb arterial that does not make the motorist stop at every other signal light ti sit there on the tickover for the cycle of the lignt gettinb ZERO mpg, then accelerating away only to have to grab a bucketload of brakes to stop for the next one. The ones that drive ME barmy are the signnals for the shopping malls… spaced abut halfway between the steet intersections, but demand actuated…. and sure enough, forty cars travelling at 35 mph have to come to a screeching halt to let one Minivan exit the mall car park… onto the arterial. WHY not time that one in with the rest on the arterial? Stupid….. but their cure is to install red light cameras, to catch the one that get SO frustrated at stopping for the last fifteen yellow lights, they finally blow one.. barely… and get the payoff envelope in the post….. revenue generation at its finest. A driver shouild be able to travel at the speed limit and never hit a red or orange, after the first one. TIME the stupid signals…. it ain’t rocket science, And this all does not even take into consideration the “environmental load” of producing a new car for those that get pranged into oblivion when the light changes and Charlie opens the throttle to run the light, rather than punches the brake to stop…..

    • Tionico, I remember synchronized lights from my driving youth (late ’70s early ’80s). The traffic lights on Broad Street in Richmond, Virginia were synchronized. You could pull away from the light, hold the speed limit and if you were careful drive nearly to the West End before you’d have to stop at a light again. Since that system was probably based on electromechanical timing relays and your car’s speedometer, you would eventually get out of synch. But I’ve succeeded in clearing downtown Richmond on more than one occasion without ever hitting a red light. I don’t recall that working in the ’90s before I moved out of the Communistwealth of Va. Maybe it was just me, because it should have been much more accurate if the system was upgraded to networked microprocessors (timing relays were 1950s tech). I suspect that system cut severely into revenue and was replaced with a demand based system that generates more payin, paper.

      • Unless someone in a big city central control finds a reason to do it at a particular moment in time it just doesn’t happen now. The new regime wants to make driving difficult and their cries about CO2 and pollution are only to those ends. They refuse to take the steps that would make driving easier and reduce fuel consumption because there are goals and then their excuses to implement the steps to reach those goals.

      • ” You could pull away from the light, hold the speed limit and if you were careful drive nearly to the West End before you’d have to stop at a light again.”

        Nowadays it’s a 10 minute drive on Broad from 2nd street to Willow Lawn. You’ll stop at every light between 2nd and Staples Mill, guaranteed.

  4. And for an added kick in the gut, I watched Greg Anderson win NHRA Pro Stock at Pomona, Sunday February 14th.
    Don’t get me wrong, Greg is a bona fide champ, but his Summit Pro Stock Camaro won it without dual quads. No Holley Dominators, no hood scoops. The new cowl induction look is pretty cool, though..

    “I feel honored to be the first winner of the fuel injection era and get the first trophy”

    I reckon we’ll get used to it, eh?

  5. so my 74 bronco with a EFI from a 90 mustang is illegal?
    even though it pollutes about 1/4 of the original carbed engine.

    and my 76 chevy with TBI from a 1990 also?

    its gonna be really illegal when i install the 2004 5.3 LS EFI engine.

    the feds will go after white working people who break some silly fed reg, but ignores and in fact ASSISTS illegal immigrants break fed regs.

    if the illegal mexicans dont have to obey fed regs, why should I?
    the feds claim 11 million illegals are far to many to do anything about, but if it was 11 million white male natural born citizens who refused to file and pay taxes this coming April you can bet your bippy that the feds would be rounding em up and tossing them in jail in front of lots of TV cameras.

    • That was a CA thing. CA has changed a bit and allows updating only. Other states won’t even know what you have under the hood. IM240 never checks. Sniffer never checks. OBD2 checks never go under the hood either.

      In Illinois everything made before OBD2 isn’t even called for tests any longer so it’s moot.

      • I could turn the wife’s car into a full on drag car replete with slicks and tubs, full frame and a home made driveshaft tunnel and get it inspected. The only problem I’d have would be getting away from the guy who owns the shop. After a few runs with him driving he’d be satisfied enough and I could leave there with him sporting a grin you couldn’t slap off his face.

        • Did you catch the story about the guy who was arrested because the government claims he neglected to pay a $1500 student loan from 30 years ago? There are different accounts of what happened, but it doesn’t matter which one or what combination is true, the simple fact is that eventually everything is backed up by violence and all one has to do to see it is to ignore them.

    • Hi Justn,

      If you have to go in for emissions, it probably will fail unless you got an exemption. They demand that all factory installed emissions systems be intact and operational. That’s the “visual” part of the smog check. Then you must pass the actual smog test. Fail either and your car fails.

      On the rest: Sam Francis described it as “anarcho-tyranny.” What he meant was endless petty harassment of people like you and I but coddling/”understanding” and even outright assistance (at our expense) of society’s true ne’er do wells.

      • I’ve failed CA smog inspection for having a completely stock engine except for aftermarket air filter. That air filter was CARB certified too, just not specifically for my car, even though it was the same shape, so it fit.

  6. The EPA put this language in a document for heavy trucks. SEMA and others didn’t read it because it was for heavy trucks. This is what the EPA is falling back on now that they have been caught. Although it is too late because nobody noticed in time because nobody who cares about racing cars reads their mutterings on heavy trucks. So now the EPA to deal with the political backlash must be talking about dump truck racing or something. Now why would it have ever been concerned with driving these big trucks in competition? They say it’s to prevent the sale of DEF eliminator kits and the like. Maybe. Heavy handed and ham fisted way of doing it.

    • Until they bleed, they “lead.”

      I’m afraid that’s true. If they force us resort to violence to make them stop trying to run our lives, they are the ones to blame.

    • Actually the US could do with a few ‘leaders,’ i.e., people out in front, showing the way, like old time military commanders. Not ordering us around, but exempting themselves from what they require of us. (As in Congress and Obamacare)

  7. They have been pressing aftermarket parts builders already the last couple of years over things like the diesel DEF delete kits. They have bankrupted a couple already with huge fines.

    And its not just the auto industry. The FBI got a court order to force apple (since the FBI can’t seem to do it on its own) to break into the iphone of the late California terrorist. Apple is balking, at the moment, but they will have to bail on it once it finds itself arrayed against the hugeness and relentless federal government.

    • “The FBI got a court order to force apple (since the FBI can’t seem to do it on its own) to break into the iphone of the late California terrorist. ”

      Terrorist? In what court were they convicted. They weren’t killed at the scene, in the act.

      I guess that means if you are accused and killed while being taken into custody you are automatically guilty. Gee, what a cost saver, for the price of a few bullets we can eliminate the court system. What efficiency! Why, I’ll bet the trains will even run on time.

    • > The FBI got a court order to force apple (since the FBI can’t seem to do it on its own) to break into the iphone of the late California terrorist.

      I have been listening to the idiot “talking heads” like Hannity and O’Reilly who bring in political hacks to express their view points on this issue. Not a one of them has a clue as to the nature of encryption. Apple would have to crack the encryption on the iPhone in the same way a hacker would, i.e., brute force. However, the iPhone allows 10 attempts at a password before it erases all of its data. So, these “talking heads” suggest Apple make a new OS with a back door into encryption. There are two problems with this. First problem: to place this new OS onto the terrorist phone would require they get access to the phone, i.e., get past the password. Remember, 10 tries at it self destructs. The second problem is if Apple could succeed with a back door into encryption, every phracker would look for this back door and once discovered, all secure stuff, like your bank account, is wide open. The gubermint should demand Apple paint the sun green.

      • Right. Once the software exists and is shown to work on that model iPhone, all the other millions of iPhones that were sold are now at risk (since they came off an assembly line and are identical).

        From what I can tell, the government doesn’t even need the info on the phone to convict them (them being already dead and all) — they want it to possibly identify any co-conspirators. Personally, I doubt there are any strong links to other terrorists – this feels like they acted alone.

        • Whether there is any useful evidence on that phone is besides the point. The FBI wants to set a precedent where they can bypass encryption and get our private information whenever they want.

          • Government already has that ability. An article I read states that some units of government already have the ability to crack at least some Iphones all their own. The law no longer stops the government from doing these things. So the issue here is one of power, compelling others to do it for them.

  8. So basically the EPA is trying to convince people into thinking that modifying the exhaust on these race cars was illegal ALL ALONG.

  9. Tracking cars in CA is very tedious due to rules like this.

    I have one car which is still street legal, but sees a lot of track driving at HPDE events. Due to the way ECU’s work, this thing eats catalysts. When you’re running full throttle for 6 hours a day, the ECU is often in open-loop mode, meaning, it’s using pre-programmed fuel injector maps, and it runs a little rich to protect the engine. This extra fuel is burned off in the cat, heating it up, and making it fail. If I want to run this car on the street, I have to treat the catalyst as a consumable, a very expensive consumable. I can’t de-cat the car because CA’s roadside emissions monitors would catch me, then I’m in deep trouble.

    I do also drive a completely stripped out track only-car. It has no emissions equipment and so, it’s reliable. It’s perfectly tuned for track operation, and runs a race ECU which stays in closed-loop mode so it emits a whole lot less bad stuff than a street car with a burned out catalyst. This is the kind of car illegal modification they’re talking about.

    If they really cared about addressing pollution, they’d actually target where it comes from. The old cars on the road emit far more than all the cars built post OBD-II put together.

    Race cars are so few, that they’re a rounding error.

    • They can leave my pre-OBD II rides the hell alone!

      They should “target” themselves and all of the unnecessary air travel and other waste that government agencies thrive on before “targeting” anyone else.

      Let’s see some real world numbers on emissions comparing a family of 4 driving my dream car (57 Fairlane Skyliner) from DC to Disneyland vs Obama taking the family to LAX on Air Force One (we won’t even factor in the ridiculous motorcade, limos to and from the airport, and other ancillaries). The family in the ’57 (in addition to having a hell of a lot more fun) is going to win that one hands down.

      (For any billionaires interested in said experiment, I would be willing to perform this testing in exchange for title to said Skyliner – I prefer the supercharged 312, and the “Coral sand” over white color scheme. Period correct whitewall bias plies would probably give more authentic numbers)

      Once one of these bureaucrats manages to show me that they have achieved the faculties for critical thought possessed by the average 2 year old, I will consider taking them seriously. Until such time, I will consider them as what they are – ineffectual, power hungry weaklings seeking to leave their mark on history through forcing the agendas of their political heroes down the throats of the populace.

      If anyone is weak minded enough to think that legislation or governmental diktat is going to solve ANY sort of problem, that person is little more than an example of the complete and utter failure that our indoctri………education system has come to be.

      • Hey El Guapo – I don’t know what else we have in common (other than EPAutos) but we seem to share a dream car. But I prefer blue to coral. In fact, I know it’s not ‘stock’ but I would really like the 63-64 Ford turquoise. Gotta have that 3-speed and overdrive trans, too.

        • Nice Ed, thanks. I actually like the ‘blue on blue’ that I don’t recall seeing before to the blue and white of my memory.
          Of course the turquoise 56 Nomad parked behind it in one shot was nice as well.

        • Someday, someday…….

          I’ve actually got a 57 Tudor scouted out – not as cool with the hardtop and a 223, but I can’t be too picky I guess.

          I’d like to drop in a EFI 351W and a Richmond 5 speed, upgrade the suspension and add A/C to make a “pro touring” ride out of it. I guess that would be politically incorrect according to the Waffen-EPA but I suppose I’m just an incorrigible rebel.

    • My Nissan pickup with a 2.5L 4 got run full out everywhere. There were days pulling trailers or just having it loaded to the max or just flat out with the Passport keeping me safe it never got off the floor except to shift or a stop. After a while it started rattling, something underneath. I finally found it was the cat with stuff banging around inside it. Kudo’s to Nissan for making the ends unbolt. What I found was a small part of the honeycomb stuff that was rattling around. I poured it out, re-installed it and never thought of it again….well, not quite. Before that I’d be going down the highway, flat out as usual, and see something flickering in the night. It would be a big clump of grass and weeds from the pasture burning to beat the band. Since I didn’t want to set off the rest of the country I’d pull over and pull it out with my welding gloves. I’m trying to think of something the govt. has done that I approve of or respect…….nope, no luck.

    • “If they really cared about addressing pollution, they’d actually target where it comes from.”

      That’s just it, they DON’T care about addressing pollution. Just as the welfare departments don’t give a hoot about poverty. If pollution went away they’d have to find real jobs because their department would not be needed.

      This isn’t about controlling pollution, it’s about controlling people.

      • ” If pollution went away they’d have to find real jobs because their department would not be needed.”

        Yes, indeed. Job-holders, as HL Mencken called them, care about keeping and expanding their jobs. An EPA drone (or any other bureaucrat) may go in search of ways to enforce the broadly written edicts that empower them in order to expand their departments and increase their own pay grade. They may also push for expansions of those written edicts in order to make their “jobs” easier.

        FDA drones get backup from DEA FLEAs to seize shipments of kratom, an Asian jungle herbal medicine, which isn’t illegal or restricted by any federal law or regulation. They don’t admit to any limits on their authority. This does make the Henry Bowman solution seem attractive to some people.

        • Vast reductions in the emissions of genuinely harmful combustion byproducts – and great leaps forward in fuel economy – could be achieved by leaving the automakers free to build very lightweight and very high-efficiency cars. These would not be “unsafe” in terms of their roadworthiness. Merely that if one has the bad luck to drive into a tree, the results will not be as favorable as they might have been had the person been driving a 4,000 pound “safety” car.

          But everyday 70-80 MPG (and almost nonexistent emissions) would be a real benefit, while being able to walk away from a 70 MPH impact into a tree is merely a possibility that may and probably never will happen.

          I’m willing to accept the trade off.

          To enjoy driving a 70-80 MPG capable car that costs me almost nothing to operate as a result of that; and which produces virtually no exhaust emissions… accepting the very small risk that I might be in a major accident at some point and in that event, be less protected than I would have been had I been driving a car three times as heavy.

          PS: I don’t walk around wearing a bulletproof jacket, either.

          • Engineering is the art of balance and optimization. Politics is the world of extremes and compromises leading to extremes.

            Every customer has a different balance point but politics doesn’t allow for individualism. It’s one size fits all. They want to manage everyone’s life and the only way to accomplish that is to force people into the same path.

          • “PS: I don’t walk around wearing a bulletproof jacket, either.”

            Good – there’s an effort to outlaw those, as well.

            As to the rest, the current world doesn’t want those kinds of cars. And there’s a reason for that, too.
            Imagine a tank. Do you imagine a Sherman, a Panzer, an M1-A1?

            Probably an M1-A1.

            If everyone is driving an M1-A1, most people will want that. Shermans can’t compete. Not in armor, not in speed, not in maneuverability, not in firepower, and IIRC, they’re barely better on fuel economy.

            So, Sherman = SmartCar, and M1-A1 = your average SubUrban assault Vehicle, and … Well, what happens when SUV hits SmartCart? Lots of mess, and maybe a SmartCart fatality.

            Unless EVERYONE is willing to work on this, you’d never get the better (lighter, more efficient, more nimble) car on the road. You’re asking someone to run amongst the M1-A1s while wearing a cardboard box…

            No (“reasonable”) person would do it… They’re afraid. Of “what if.” It’s “Watership Down,” the snares… the price for living in paradise. (The snares exist anyway, to us – call them Police, call the DHS or TSA or drunk driving checkpoints, it doesn’t matter. The snare doesn’t differentiate, like a landmine: whoever steps on it gets killed. Friendlies included.)

            Clover thinks it’s only the bad people over there that get hurt….

            As a parallel, the cage drivers are lousy about paying attention to motorcycles, too. They’ll drive you off the road “just because” they didn’t see you. And they won’t care, either. If you were SMART (by their definition), you wouldn’t ride one of those deathtraps.

            But if were smart by their definition, we’d probably eat our own turds, too…. (Even wonder why dealing with clover leaves a bad taste…?)

            If you really wanted to dig into the high efficiency methods, I’d suggest a gyrocopter or a WIG (Wing In Ground effect) airplane. Scoot along over the cars, minimal weight, low risk, aside from highway signs and maybe trailers. MUCH faster and more efficient. Problem is staying off the radar, literally. 😉 Note that fixed-wing approaches offers higher speed and better concealability… The old “MASK” cartoon had some great concepts.

    • ” I can’t de-cat the car because CA’s roadside emissions monitors would catch me, then I’m in deep trouble.”

      How do these work? Do they actually target individual cars?

      • Yeah, I had an old cammed Omni GLH turbo with straight pipes that got kicked out of Houston TX due to getting a notice in the mail for failing roadside mobile inspection, I had 60 days to get it passed or show them it was transferred out of state. I sold it to a friend out of state. I still miss that car.

  10. I saw some posts about this on Instagram within the last week or two and everyone had a link to the petition to repeal it. The petition got over the required 50,000 signatures so I hope it will help in some sort of way.

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