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Old 09-21-2016, 07:54 PM
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Default My Recent Experience with SB100 & Bringing a Used Cobra into California

Hi everyone. I wanted to share my experience with buying a used ERA 289 FIA Cobra and bringing it into California. If you are considering buying a Cobra and bringing it into California and registering it with DMV through SB100, I hope this will help you streamline the process a bit.

My car was originally bought from ERA in 2004, and was registered and titled in another state as a 1965 Shelby Cobra Replica, back in 2009. When I looked at it for sale, it had only 3,100 miles on it. Armed with this information, I read up on some of the threads in this forum, got a bit confused by all of the info that's out there, and decided to call DMV to see if I could bring a car into the state with so few miles (I read here that cars needed at least 7,500 miles) - but DMV said that wouldn't be a problem with a 2009 title. So I asked, how should it be registered? As a special construction SPCNS vehicle via SB100? Or since there was already title from another state, as a 1965 Shelby Cobra Replica? The person I spoke with at DMV didn't seem all that familiar with the issues involved, and said it probably depended on who I got at the counter that day.

Thinking this might be easier than others online had made it out to be, I went down to AAA to try the registration there, bypassing DMV altogether. To my amazement, they processed the car, entered it into the DMV system, asked me for payment via check, then gave me a registration card and license plates, and sent me on my way! "Boy, was that easy!" I thought.

However, a few weeks later, AAA called me, saying the registration had been rejected by DMV and that I needed to come back in. They gave me all my paperwork back, and there was a note handwritten on it from DMV saying that as a replica 1965, it would have to be a SPCNS vehicle. Interestingly, AAA didn't ask for my plates back, and they didn't give me a refund, either. Instead, they said DMV would apply my payment, and the license plates would stick with the car throughout the process.

So I made an appointment with DMV, and in the meantime, contacted the original owner/builder to collect all of the paperwork on the build I could get my hands on. Thankfully, he had lots of receipts (ERA Purchase Receipt, Manufacturer's Statement of Origin, Engine Purchase Receipt) plus photos of the build he very kindly sent to me. I filled out a new Application for Title or Registration (DMV REG 343) and a Statement of Construction (DMV REG 5036). I also called DMV to make sure there were still some of the SB100 numbers left for the year, since they only allow 500 per year.

At DMV, it all went smoothly. The guy at the counter was vaguely familiar with the process, and he got some help from his supervisor. Together, they got my car into the system and submitted for SB100 consideration. Note that they still give you a Certificate of Sequence number while you're there at DMV, but the actual validated certificate you need only comes later, from DMV headquarters. They also confirmed that my payment via AAA earlier was still good, so I didn't owe any additional money, and they gave me a Temporary Operating Permit, and a referral to CHP for the next inspection (you need a DMV referral to get the CHP appointment scheduled).

CHP is really, really backed up, so it's important to call to schedule something right away. The first CHP location I contacted near my home said they weren't taking any more appointments - they were all booked up. I had never heard of such a thing - couldn't they go just one page further in their calendar to write something down? But I've found it best not to disagree with CHP, so when they suggested another office quite a bit farther from my house, I simply scheduled a time with that branch.

While waiting for the appointment, I took care of the Closed Crankcase requirements. California will let you have your replica car registered as a 1965 equivalent for smog purposes, but that means it has to have all of the stuff a real 1965 car in California would've had. And essentially, that's a closed crankcase. Not being a gearhead, I read as much as I could about it, and was relieved to see that my 351W car had a simple 4-bbl carb, with a PCV valve and hose going from one valve cover back to the carb, and the other valve cover just had a simple push-in valve breather cover. So all I had to do was get a new push-in valve breather cover built with a hose attachment, and a new air cleaner assembly also built with a hose attachment, and a hose to connect the two. Easy peasy.

A few months later, I drove to the CHP branch with all of my paperwork and receipts. Here, it's my understanding that they are looking for possibly stolen cars, parts, engines, components, etc. So they wanted receipts for the build parts, and to see the Statement of Origin, the metal serial number on the frame that matched the ERA number, and things like that. However, their actual inspection is done in private, and you are not allowed to watch. So after a few hours of idle waiting, I got my car back from the very polite officer who complimented the car, signed off on the paperwork I needed, and showed me where he had stamped a new California VIN into the frame for identification purposes. Another success, and next stop was the BAR referee!

After making my appointment - you need the DMV paperwork, the CHP paperwork, and the actual, stamped Certificate of Sequence from DMV headquarters in Sacramento to get one - I waited a few weeks then headed up to the closest BAR referee for what I thought would be the final inspection.

However, at the BAR inspection, the BAR referee was a humorless fellow who took a few pictures of my car, took a quick look at the PCV system, and then took all my paperwork. In going through all of the paperwork and receipts, he got fixated on one early receipt from ERA that said the car was anticipated to have an engine in it from them, as opposed to a later receipt from the engine builders who actually supplied the engine for the car. So after waiting an hour for this referee to go through the paperwork, he didn't actually examine the car, and instead just sent the paperwork up to Sacramento - again. I offered to answer any questions and to talk with the guy he was sending the paperwork to, but he wouldn't let me. I told him, "I could have just sent the paperwork from home." But he said that's not the way it works out here - it had to come from him.

Of greater concern was the fact that he said, "I don't know if the car will qualify for SB100 with this paperwork." I said that the car had already qualified - that's how I got the stamped Certificate of Sequence from DMV headquarters in the first place! He said that was only a preliminary examination, and that it would now be examined more carefully. Ugh!

As a parting gift, he also said that the PCV system was a fail because I had used a heater hose, and not the proper PCV hose. I laughed and said I could fix that in five minutes - but what about the paperwork?! He said, "We'll see what they say," and that was that. (Note to readers - there's a post in this forum from a guy saying he used a heater hose for his PCV system and it wasn't a problem. But if you do that and get my referee, it's a fail. Use PCV hose.)

I got home and on the following Monday called the BAR appointment people and went up the ladder to the regional manager, and then up to the state manager of the Special Construction Vehicle Department, who called me back the next day. She seemed to get it and said she would review the paperwork and let me know. A few days later, she called saying it was all good with the paperwork and that I just needed to make another BAR appointment for the physical inspection. Whew. This time, I opted to drive a little farther to a different station just in hopes of getting a different referee!

So after a few more weeks, I had that appointment. This different BAR referee just looked at the car, saw that I had the proper PCV system (I had changed the hose), took a few photos of the whole thing and the engine, then disappeared for about 30 minutes into the back office. Thankfully, he said it all went through and looked good, and he put the SB-100 Smog Exemption sticker in the engine bay. Then he gave me a bunch of paperwork completed by him and said, "Just take this all back to DMV and you should be done."

I made an appointment with DMV and a week or two later went down there for that. This time, the DMV guy went through all of the paperwork and started asking, "But where is your brake and light inspection?" I seriously thought of killing him on the spot. But remaining calm, I told him that as a completely assembled replica car I had bought used, that had previously been registered and operated in another state, DMV had earlier said those separate inspections wouldn't be required. He said he didn't know about that, and went to get the supervisor. Thankfully, she said the paperwork was all correct. I was excited, and thanked them and asked if I was done. But alas, no. They had to send all of the paperwork up to Sacramento for it to be reviewed and signed off on - again. I reminded them that it had all been sent up to Sacramento about five times already and they just shrugged and told me that's the way the system works here.


Several weeks later, I finally received my California registration. I won't say it was especially hard, because it wasn't. But it was time-consuming, frustrating and confusing!

If you're thinking about doing it, hope this helps!

Last edited by Cobalt289; 02-17-2017 at 02:55 PM..
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