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  #1  
Old January 28th, 2015, 06:48 PM
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Neill Thornton
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Defenders in California - Everything you want to know

So you live in California, and want to own a Defender? Great!

The problem is, California has the strictest emissions regulations in the country, governed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). There is little to no room to escape these regulations, trust me people have tried.

Here are some important facts to consider:
  • ALL VEHICLES starting with Model Year 1976 have to meet California Emissions Standards to be sold in the state. Vehicles that only meet EPA (Federal, or "49 state") standards can be brought into California 2 years after manufacture, with more than 7,500 miles on the odometer. There is no "sliding window" or "25 year exemption". Since the engines used in Defenders (2.25, 2.5, Turbo, 200Tdi, 300Tdi) were never certified by California or the EPA, they are then ILLEGAL in California vehicles.

This is supported by CA Health and Safety Code sections 44201, 44202, and 44210, emphasis mine:

Quote:
44201. The state board shall adopt, by regulation, a certification
program for used direct import vehicles. The state board shall issue
a certificate of conformance to each used direct import vehicle which
meets the requirements of this program.

44202. A used direct import vehicle which was not registered in
this state prior to the adoption of regulations adopted pursuant to
Section 44201, may not be registered in this state unless it has
received a certificate of conformance from the state board, except as
provided in Section 44210.


44210. The requirements of Section 44202 do not apply to any motor
vehicle having a certificate of conformity issued by the federal
Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to the federal Clean Air Act
(42 U.S.C. Section 7401, et seq. ) and originally registered in
another state by a person who was a resident of that state for at
least one year prior to the original registration, who subsequently
establishes residence in this state and who, upon registration of the
vehicle in California, provides evidence satisfactory to the
Department of Motor Vehicles of that previous residence and
registration.
  • Emissions Compliance and a Smog Check are two different, yet related things. Every vehicle sold in California has been inspected for California Emissions Compliance. This is done behind the scenes before the vehicle is even sold, and is totally handled by the manufacturer. This is what gains you the sticker on the truck that says it meets California requirements. Smog Checks are periodic inspections to make sure your vehicle still complies with the requirements that were in effect at the time of manufacture of your vehicle. Just because an older Diesel doesn't have to have a smog check doesn't mean they didn't have emissions control requirements; it just means the state doesn't require you to prove it's still in compliance year after year. However a vehicle being imported must demonstrate it meets the requirements in place at the time of the engine's manufacture (see section 44202 above).

  • The barrier to California importation is the emissions, not safety standards. California abides by the 25 year importation rules for Safety.

There are 6 major ways people bring Defenders in California:
  1. Purchase a NAS or NAS-Possible (like Japan Spec) vehicles. This means 1993 D110s, or 1994/95/97 D90s. There are specific VIN numbers that are approved for US sale, and ALL of them have a sticker in the driver's footwell that states the vehicle "Meets Federal Safety and Emissions Regulations" or something to that effect. Since they are EPA legal (in fact, most are California legal), you have no issue other than performing a smog check. 100% legal.

  2. Sweet talk your way through DMV. This is how most imported Defenders have arrived here. DMV assumes the stickers have worn away from an off-road vehicle that's at least 25 years old. However there have been reports that the DMV is seeking out these vehicles and requiring owners to take them to a Smog Referee or CHP office for inspection, even if they have already been titled and plated. Not legal.

  3. Register it out of state, and drive it in California. This is another common tactic, since all of the states bordering California will readily register an imported Defender. However California requires you to register your vehicle within 20 days of bringing it into the state. Failure to do that can equal back fees, fines, and even jail time. The CHP has started a program called CHEATERS to find people with out of state plates, and that has netted the DMV almost $1.7M in 2013, and shows no sign of slowing. You are considered a resident of California if you file taxes here, have a California Driver's License, pay the resident rate at a California University, register to vote, or "any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents." So, not legal.

  4. Be a military member with out of state plates. If you are a CAC card holding member of the Military stationed in California, you can bring whatever plated out of state vehicle you have. 100% legal. However you can't sell it to someone in the state and have them be exempt from all of the regulations.

  5. Purchase an import, and then implant an engine that is EPA or California compliant. This is the newest possibility. Especially with Nick's LS conversion kit, and the possibility of transplanting a Ford Transit Puma motor into a Defender. California requires that an engine be the same model year or newer than the chassis it is being put in to. So if you have a 1987 Defender and want to put a 2010 LS Motor in it, along with ALL of the required emissions equipment, you can take it to a California Smog Referee and have it signed off as a legal engine swap. 100% legal.

  6. VIN Swap. Have a newer Defender, but title it as something older than a 1976. This is so illegal we aren't even going to talk about it. Like felony pound me in the ass prison illegal. Don't do it. We aren't going to go down the rabbit hole of "what makes up a VIN" or "how much has to stay the same". If you are asking these kinds of questions, you already know you are on the slippery slope.


So, in short, if you want a Defender that is in California Legally, you have these options:
  1. Buy a NAS
  2. Join the Military
  3. Engine swap with California approved components

You may luck out with the following, but it's pretty much still not legal, and is no way condoned or sanctioned by anyone here:
  1. Sweet talk through the DMV
  2. Register out of state and drive it here

Don't even think about this:
  1. VIN Swap

Q & A

How does insurance work?
Insurance companies don't care about emissions laws. Short answer is most insurance companies have no problem providing coverage.

If anyone has questions, please go ahead and ask. Remember I am not a lawyer, but having gone through this process, and have talked to many others who have, I have a great grasp on what's involved.
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  #2  
Old January 28th, 2015, 06:59 PM
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David Frank
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There it is! Well said. Sticky?
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  #3  
Old January 28th, 2015, 07:00 PM
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This has mostly to do with California residents importing foreign Defenders from what I can tell. If an Oregon resident somehow owned an imported Rover would he be able to title and register it in CA if he were to move there? Sounds like you can without hassle as long as you do it with 20 days of officially living in the state to avoid fines, etc.

I recently looked up Oregon's emissions laws. It's a sliding 25 year rule for everywhere except Portland. Portland is hard capped at 1975. I guess that's why I've always owned old things.
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Old January 28th, 2015, 07:17 PM
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Yeah, but... How do you get insured?
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  #5  
Old January 28th, 2015, 07:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RBBailey View Post
I'm not seeing the part where the guy in San Diego can have a 300Tdi as listed in his signature line. There are a lot of you, how do you make it work? How do you get insured?
By joining the military note his user name.
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  #6  
Old January 28th, 2015, 07:25 PM
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Neill Thornton
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Quote:
Originally Posted by east high View Post
This has mostly to do with California residents importing foreign Defenders from what I can tell. If an Oregon resident somehow owned an imported Rover would he be able to title and register it in CA if he were to move there? Sounds like you can without hassle as long as you do it with 20 days of officially living in the state to avoid fines, etc.

I recently looked up Oregon's emissions laws. It's a sliding 25 year rule for everywhere except Portland. Portland is hard capped at 1975. I guess that's why I've always owned old things.
There was for a while a way to bring in vehicles if you were moving to California, including non-conforming vehicles. However I can't find the rules around it, and wonder if that program has expired. It was a one time move that required you prove you were a resident of another state relocating here. It would not cover non-conforming vehicles changing hands inside the state if you decided to sell it.
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  #7  
Old January 28th, 2015, 07:29 PM
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Neill Thornton
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RBBailey View Post
Yeah, but... How do you get insured?
USAA (or anyone, really) doesn't give a crap about CARB laws. They protect the vehicle from damage, and from your careless driving. Since the vehicles meet the 25 year safety exemption, insurance companies really don't care.
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Old January 28th, 2015, 07:30 PM
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Portland's rules are that you have to pass DMV. When mine passed, I had to make my stock 3.5 with dual carbs meet 1989 RRC EFI standards......

Then my insurance company was all in a hissy about it. They wanted to know why I was importing illegal vehicles, etc... etc...

In fact, they reported me to the state, and the state got all upset and was sending me letters about how my VIN does not match my vehicle.....
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  #9  
Old January 28th, 2015, 07:46 PM
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Neill Thornton
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RBBailey View Post
Portland's rules are that you have to pass DMV. When mine passed, I had to make my stock 3.5 with dual carbs meet 1989 RRC EFI standards......

Then my insurance company was all in a hissy about it. They wanted to know why I was importing illegal vehicles, etc... etc...

In fact, they reported me to the state, and the state got all upset and was sending me letters about how my VIN does not match my vehicle.....
Wow. Well, I don't know anyone in CA that has had a problem getting insurance. The problem only seems to be on coming up with a value for the vehicle in the case of a loss.
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  #10  
Old March 17th, 2015, 03:05 AM
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Great info. Being a mil guy helps me somewhat in my 110 search but still stuck at the diesel issue. Mine is reg'd in Va but was in CA before.
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  #11  
Old March 17th, 2015, 07:56 AM
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Kevin Keith
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Quote:
Originally Posted by navydevildoc View Post
There are 6 major ways people bring Defenders in California:
[LIST=1][*] Purchase a NAS or NAS-Possible (like Japan Spec) vehicles. This means 1993 D110s, or 1994/95/97 D90s. There are specific VIN numbers that are approved for US sale, and ALL of them have a sticker in the driver's footwell that states the vehicle "Meets Federal Safety and Emissions Regulations" or something to that effect. Since they are EPA legal (in fact, most are California legal), you have no issue other than performing a smog check. 100% legal.


[*] Purchase an import, and then implant an engine that is EPA or California compliant. This is the newest possibility. Especially with Nick's LS conversion kit, and the possibility of transplanting a Ford Transit Puma motor into a Defender. California requires that an engine be the same model year or newer than the chassis it is being put in to. So if you have a 1987 Defender and want to put a 2010 LS Motor in it, along with ALL of the required emissions equipment, you can take it to a California Smog Referee and have it signed off as a legal engine swap. 100% legal.
Just thinking about these two points. Couldn't someone install an engine plus all the emissions from a 1993 D110s, or 1994/95/97 D90s or the same size engine from a RRC or D1 into their import since those engines are EPA legal? Much easier & cheaper over a 2010 LS swap. Or even a 3.5 EFI from an 88 RRC which has very little emission parts.
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  #12  
Old March 17th, 2015, 09:17 AM
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So all you need is a mailing Service in Vegas to open an account for you so you have residency in Nevada? Seems like a pretty cheap loophole.
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  #13  
Old March 18th, 2015, 03:12 PM
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navydevildoc

That is a shame, but thins the mud a little for me when I eventually get there, thank you. Looks like some will have to dream of Californication, and others will have a Defender.

Just curious, California doesn't have an EU equal or cross over Emissions Standard. If a a 1994 Tdi 300 is EU2, 1999 on Td5 was EU3, 2007 on 2.4lt Tdci are EU4, 2011 onward 2.2lt Tdci is EU5. Then a US compliment 1993 D110 surely should beat the path for the others. I have assumed however the 1993 D110 is dieseling not gas however.

Just a thought on engine swapping for a Duratorque.
I'm no mechanic but I could not imagine transplanting my Tdci into the dirty ol Tdi. Obviously it will fit, but I think you would have to do the dash as well. The electronics are on the simple end of the scale, but they were complex enough to have LR stumped for 8 weeks when I first bought the 2.4 Tdci. In the end the fix was replace just about everything but the harness and hope they got it. Thankfully time as proven they did.
I have meet a character who also has a Tdci, which has intermittent engine failure. Just stops unexpectedly or randomly won't start as mine did. Between the immobiliser, instrument cluster, the configuration of how it all works together had LR replace his wiring harness, instrument cluster, and a great deal his electrics as well before it became reliable.
If an engine swap is contemplated, I'd be buying a written off whole vehicle and making sure the motor and supporting electrics including dash did all that was meant to before removal. Just my 10c.
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  #14  
Old March 18th, 2015, 03:17 PM
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So I can sell my pre 76 vehicle to a California resident free of any fear of rejection and at a HUGE profit....
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  #15  
Old March 22nd, 2015, 02:01 PM
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Are these new laws that are going into effect this year? I brought a Defender in from Withams in 2013 with no problems.
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  #16  
Old March 22nd, 2015, 09:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin88RRC View Post
Just thinking about these two points. Couldn't someone install an engine plus all the emissions from a 1993 D110s, or 1994/95/97 D90s or the same size engine from a RRC or D1 into their import since those engines are EPA legal? Much easier & cheaper over a 2010 LS swap. Or even a 3.5 EFI from an 88 RRC which has very little emission parts.
Actually, that's a great point. If you have a California Compliant rover engine, along with all of the required emissions components, you could go to a Smog Referee and they would likely consider it legal.

Why no one has really talked about it is kind of amazing. I am guessing because the Rover V8 isn't exactly a marvel of reliable engineering.
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Old March 22nd, 2015, 09:15 PM
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Originally Posted by o2batsea View Post
So all you need is a mailing Service in Vegas to open an account for you so you have residency in Nevada? Seems like a pretty cheap loophole.
Until you get pulled over in California with a Nevada plated vehicle, and get nailed under the CHEATERS program.
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  #18  
Old March 22nd, 2015, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by newhue View Post
navydevildoc

That is a shame, but thins the mud a little for me when I eventually get there, thank you. Looks like some will have to dream of Californication, and others will have a Defender.

Just curious, California doesn't have an EU equal or cross over Emissions Standard. If a a 1994 Tdi 300 is EU2, 1999 on Td5 was EU3, 2007 on 2.4lt Tdci are EU4, 2011 onward 2.2lt Tdci is EU5. Then a US compliment 1993 D110 surely should beat the path for the others. I have assumed however the 1993 D110 is dieseling not gas however.
Unfortunately California does NOT reciprocate with any other standard. The state even went to the US Supreme Court over it (State of CA v. US Environmental Protection Agency) to make sure they could set higher emissions standards than the Federal government. The court agreed with California, and here we are.

Quote:

Just a thought on engine swapping for a Duratorque.
I'm no mechanic but I could not imagine transplanting my Tdci into the dirty ol Tdi. Obviously it will fit, but I think you would have to do the dash as well. The electronics are on the simple end of the scale, but they were complex enough to have LR stumped for 8 weeks when I first bought the 2.4 Tdci. In the end the fix was replace just about everything but the harness and hope they got it. Thankfully time as proven they did.
I have meet a character who also has a Tdci, which has intermittent engine failure. Just stops unexpectedly or randomly won't start as mine did. Between the immobiliser, instrument cluster, the configuration of how it all works together had LR replace his wiring harness, instrument cluster, and a great deal his electrics as well before it became reliable.
If an engine swap is contemplated, I'd be buying a written off whole vehicle and making sure the motor and supporting electrics including dash did all that was meant to before removal. Just my 10c.
This is one of the current options... but keep in mind the engine you transplant had to come off of a California legal vehicle. So the Duratorq needs to have a VIN with it as well.
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  #19  
Old March 22nd, 2015, 09:19 PM
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Originally Posted by brody View Post
Are these new laws that are going into effect this year? I brought a Defender in from Withams in 2013 with no problems.
Then you fit into the "Sweet talk your way through the DMV" Category. These laws have been in effect since 1976, if not earlier. Unless of course, you bought a NAS defender, which is totally legal.
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  #20  
Old May 3rd, 2015, 04:56 PM
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So, the Ford Puma motor seems interesting as a retrofit (as I contemplate a rebuild of my 300TDI). Has anyone done this? I did a quick search of the forum and nothing jumped out.
Sooner or later I'm going to have to rebuild or replace my motor.
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