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Low-Volume Manufacturers Law Is Set, Now Where Are the Engines?

  • Congress enacted a bill in 2015 that allows manufacturers of low-volume motor vehicles to begin selling replica cars that resemble vehicles produced at least 25 years ago.
  • The law remained intact until this January, pending specific regulations on how the law should be implemented.
  • Unfortunately, “at this time, there are no engine packs available for use in replica cars”, leaving third-party engine installations as the only route.

“…and there was much rejoicing.”

at least there was for a while.

Reading: Is set rule car production

sema sent a celebratory press release Jan. on January 21, it announced that the long-awaited law allowing low-volume automakers to build cars with complete transmissions was finally ready.

“nhtsa completed a regulation that allows manufacturers of low-volume motor vehicles to begin selling replica cars that resemble vehicles produced at least 25 years ago,” the sema said.

if you recall, congress enacted a sema-led bill in 2015, thanks to the work of congressman john campbell. The law was part of the Quick Act (Fix the United States Surface Transportation Act). the law was voted into law and signed by president obama later that year, but then once in a new administration it sat on transportation secretary elaine chao’s desk, or sat somewhere in nhtsa, waiting for someone will draft specific regulations on how the law should be implemented. he waited so long that sema finally sued the nhtsa to come up with the rules. that has happened, more or less, and now the law, which streamlines requirements for small automakers, could mean cobras, ’32 ford roadsters and even deloreans and allards must be available for sale with engines and transmissions in them, right on the showroom floors. Previously, companies could manufacture or import “rollers”, finished cars except engines and transmissions, the latter that the law required third parties to install. of course that setup was idiotic, but that’s why we have laws.

“We’re really excited about this,” said Lance Stander, a major supplier of high-performance Cobras, the incredible sequel to the Ford GT40 and many other great cars through Hillbank Motor Corp. in Irvine, Calif.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Roger Allard, whose company, Allard Motorworks, has been building the J2X Mkiii, a modern, hand-built version of the famous British racing roadster.

“sema applauds the nhtsa final rule allowing companies to market classic-themed cars,” said sema president and chief executive officer christopher j. Kersting “Regulatory barriers have previously prevented small automakers from producing traditional cars for eager customers. road blocks have been removed. companies will be able to hire workers, start manufacturing the necessary parts and components, and produce and sell cars.”

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so let’s all party in the streets, right? well, not yet. According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), responsible for clean air in California and other states that adopt its standards, it says no. Some of the low-volume automakers assumed they could use so-called “crate engines” from GM, Ford, and Mopar in their builds. but carb says that any engine installed in a “new” car, even a replica of an old car, must meet current emission standards, which seems directly contrary to the law that was just passed and is now being enacted in your whole.

“the new nhtsa rule is really about exempting these low-volume, special-build cars from safety standards, not emission standards,” carb spokesman stanley young said by email. . “It opens the door for them to legally sell complete cars instead of just DIY kits to build their own. carb adopted a regulation in 2018 to adopt a set of standards for engines used in these types of vehicles.”

young explained: “Simplified, it allows for the certification of a modern engine with all its emission controls, to a slightly less stringent set of emission standards so that it is more likely to function properly in a wider range of engine sizes. vehicles, shapes and weights.

“epa permits the use of an engine that is: (a) certified to the aforementioned carbohydrate regulation; or (b) is a modern engine with all of its emission controls that was certified by an oem in a new oem car in the same model year that the small volume car was made (for example, if you are building a my small model 2021). volume car, it has to use an engine and emission controls from an oem car that was certified for 2021my).

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but what about crate engines, mate?

“crate engines, also known as modern or performance engines, without a full suite (or any) of emission controls, are not legal anywhere in the us. uu. or ca for use in these cars.”

The last automaker had its hopes up for the gm e-rod v8, but it hasn’t been certified for years.

“The gm e-rod engine, which is a hybrid of a modern crate engine, but with a full suite of modern emissions controls, is the kind of thing that can meet carb standards. but gm only certified it once, several years ago. it is currently only approved for use in existing pre-1995 light vehicles as a replacement. it cannot be used in any new build cars.”

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so what does that mean?

“At this time, there are no engine packages available for use in replica cars,” Young said. “Manufacturers wishing to supply engines to replica car builders will need to be certified like other light vehicle manufacturers. with the enactment of the nhtsa standard, we expect the industry to submit applications for certification.”

sad trombone.

While the manufacturers I spoke with appreciated sema’s efforts to finalize and implement the law, they were disappointed that the engine problem persisted.

“I am proud to see the federal government really moving forward and taking action, albeit years overdue, in a way that will enable and empower small businesses to exist, thrive, grow and expand offerings to consumers. , and by doing those first two things, accelerating technology, both in the ev space and beyond,” said jonathan ward of icon 4×4, who has built some great cars over the years, including ford broncos and toyota fj40s as well. from a lot of reimagined old American sedans and coupes at his Chatsworth, California store. “however, given california’s increasingly anti-business attitude, it is my understanding that california has yet to let the ink dry on what its standards and processes are. last time i saw them they were saying things like the gm e-rod engine doesn’t meet such a scenario, and required shed testing and full emissions certifications, for which the time frame is so long, the costs are extreme, and every year is ripe for reinterpretation or forwarding. that will basically prohibit any company proud and dumb enough to be based in california from being on an equal footing or possibly even creating a viable economic model to be able to do so.”

Surely there must be something that can be done, right? maybe.

ford, which unveiled its crate coyote engine to much fanfare at a sema show just a few years ago, gave a wonderfully noncommittal response when asked about the availability of its crate coyote engine.

“At this time, Ford Performance Parts (FPP) is actively working to determine whether or not it should obtain certification for its 5.0-liter Coyote Mustang crate engine for Special Build Low-Volume Cars. it is a complex application with many additional requirements (warranty on all emissions parts, serviceability, installation parameters) so fpp is thoroughly investigating the feasibility of applying for certification.”

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the gm performance parts team, which oversees gm’s crate engine business, has not yet contacted me.

in the aftermarket, edelbrock and roush are said to be working on not just an engine package, but the entire engine and emissions enchiladas. I left a couple of messages on roush and never got a response, but did manage to get through to william philippin, product manager for crate motors at edelbrock.

“we would like to offer a full integration package,” said philippin. “Because to make it all legal, that’s the engine, but it’s also the catalytic converters, the evaporative emission system, everything. and all this type of components with the original calibration that has already been approved.

“so what i think we can offer, we have a full package with one of the oems, or the ability to do a full package with one of the oems, because that’s how it would work. at least initially. try to do All the emissions testing and everything else would be astronomically expensive, so we’re working with OEMs to put together integration packages that can work for these vehicles.”

some low-volume manufacturers are less optimistic that such a deal will ever work out.

“That’s basically a passive-aggressive way of putting up enough financial and time hurdles to, as I see it, pretty much ensure that no one in California can do it,” Ward said.

“the problem with that plot, and I talked to dr. (jamie) meyer (sema board of directors) when i was still at gm about it is that fuel tank evaporation system design with differential ratio, fuel mapping, weight class of all the various potential customers for , let’s say, an edelbrock, let’s say the design systems are so varied, that I don’t think edelbrock can ever pave the way to certify anything. you know, let’s say I need rear discharge manifolds. and that is the only difference. and someone else needs a standard dump manifold. guess what? full retest, full protocol.”

yes, ward is down.

“I gave up on the possibility that this was really viable for me. I am very, very disappointed. again… the state of california.”

sema still thinks it can be fixed.

“a motor is coming. Let’s hope that several engines come. I can’t mention any names or anything,” said Washington, D.C. SEMA man Stuart Gosswein. gosswein has spent the last two decades trying to make this seemingly complex law and all of its regulations work, so we need to be a bit more flexible.

In the meantime, you just need a little more patience. yes, a little longer, six years after the fast law was enacted.

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