What would the EPA proposal really mean for crapcan racing?
Explained by the Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court
So, many of us are freaking out as we imagine federal marshals swarming on our local race track and fining everyone $37,500 for each individual equipment violation on their race cars. I don't know any more about those angles that anyone else, but I have been working as an official with the 24 Hours of LeMons crapcan racing series since 2008, I've inspected cars at more than 120 races by now, and I can tell you how certain types of proposed carbon-reduction legislation might affect this sort of racing.
The worst-case scenario, for me, is informed by two things: my experiences growing up in California and experiencing the first 25 years of draconian tailpipe emissions testing (to be fair, this program really cleaned up the air, especially in Southern California), and my experiences putting on LeMons races in New Jersey, where the state inspects racing seat harnesses and police can give racers moving-violation tickets for things that happen on the track. In this scenario, officers of the Suede Denim Secret Police show up at your crapcan race, inspect your 1967 Pontiac Executive wagon race car that's missing its PCV system, compares its emissions-related equipment to a gigantic database, and feed the car into the Porta-Crusher right on the spot when it turns out to be modified. Anyone who has ever tried to get a mid-1980s Honda CVCC engine (with its Map of the Universe vacuum-hose system) through the California emissions test knows what it's like to be faced with a Kafka-style inquisitor who wants to see every single component with any emissions-related function (i.e., just about anything having to do with ignition, fuel-delivery, or exhaust) exactly as the factory installed it way back when.
That's unlikely to happen, of course, given the gigantic hassle of enforcement, bands of guerilla racers taking to the hills and plotting revolution, etc., but let's say it did. First of all, due to the "just leave the computer stuff alone" mentality among most crapcan racers when it comes to EFI-equipped race cars (i.e., just about every vehicle sold in the United States in the last 25 years), a surprising number of these race cars still have fully intact emissions hardware, down to the air-cleaner lid and factory catalytic converter. You start removing or disabling any of this stuff from cars made fairly recently (we see a lot of 10-year-old cars in LeMons racing) and they don't run right, the instrument panel lights up like the Three Mile Island control room when the core melted, and everything goes downhill from there. I'd say that at least half of the cars in LeMons have 100 percent of the original hardware that the EPA cares about here, or at least are close enough that they could be made compliant with a trip to the junkyard and half an hour of work.
For the rest, the crazy engine swaps, the junkyard turbocharging, and all the other nowhere-near-factory-equipment stuff that makes LeMons so great, there would be trouble. But wait! California, the strictest state in the country on smog-related matters, allows engine swaps on emissions-test-required vehicles as long as the new engine is no older than the recipient vehicle and retains all the original emissions-related equipment of the swapped engine. Engine swaps on race cars under the iron heel of the Suede Denim Secret Police might be possible, though difficult.
If no enforcement mechanism is put into place, then business as usual in crapcan racing will continue; with no Suede Denim Secret Police to swarm the paddock with their Landmasters and start checking under hoods, the racing of ex-street cars will continue as before. BMW V12s with ammo-can-and-Holley intake manifolds will continue to roam our tracks, and freedom will ring. In addition, this proposed legislation, if it becomes law, doesn't take effect until 2018 and— apparently— will not be retroactively applied to older vehicles. However, new licensing requirements for any competition vehicle, mandating some sort of federal inspection, might be brought to bear, or another means of clamping down on racing in general.
What to do? No matter what is going on here, if you enjoy watching or participating in any form of racing based on former or current street vehicles, you might consider abandoning your blowed-up race car on the lawn of your nearest elected representative. No, wait, scratch that — just go ahead and contact your senators and congresshumans, and let them know you take a deep interest in this subject and would like to see the EPA's proposed regulations clarified and competition vehicles exempted from its provisions.
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