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New EPA rules to affect amateur racing

by Bill Cawthon on

The Environment Protection Agency is proposing a rule change that would outlaw modifications to production cars and trucks, preventing their conversion to “track-only” racing vehicles.

The change is inside a larger document on “Control of Emissions from New and In-Use Heavy-Duty Highway Engines” — on page 35 of the 378-page file.


The actual text is:

Certified motor vehicles and motor vehicle engines and their emission control devices must remain in their certified configuration even if they are used solely for competition or if they become nonroad vehicles or engines; anyone modifying a certified motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine for any reason is subject to the tampering and defeat device prohibitions of paragraph (a)(3) of this section and 42 U.S.C. 7522(a)(3).

This would not apply to most professional motorsports (such as NASCAR, IndyCar, or drag racing), because they use custom vehicles that were never certified. It is also not likely to affect Mopar’s Drag Pack for the Dodge Challenger, unless the EPA judges that it is built as a certified vehicle and then modified.

The new rules would apply to someone with a factory vehicle (e.g. a Hellcat Challenger) they wanted to turn into a pure racing car.

Some modifications and parts would become illegal; racing organizers could, however, create new classes for racing with fully emissions-compliant vehicles. There does not appear to be any provision to certify a modification that might affect the certified configuration. The California Air Resources Board certifies aftermarket parts to be legal in California but those exceptions would not be valid under more stringent EPA rules – even in California.

The Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) wrote that it had verified that this restriction is indeed the agency’s intent, and that it would lobby against it. A final decision on the new rules could come as soon as July of this year.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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