EPA Seeks to Ban Conversion of New Street Cars Into Race Cars

By Bradley Iger

February 09, 2016

As part of the EPA’s proposal for its upcoming regulatory update, the Environmental Protection Agency has stated that it intends to remove emissions exemptions that are in place for motorsport participants who seek to turn vehicles designed for public use into track-dedicated race cars.
As you might imagine, this is highly problematic for a number of reasons – chief among them the fact that a large amount of the race cars used in club racing across the U.S. fall into this category, with everything from ChumpCar and LeMons to Spec classes and nearly all amateur drag racing series currently running afoul of this proposed provision. 
As the provision is used currently, owners are not allowed to modify emissions equipment on a new vehicle that’s certified as emissions compliant unless it’s being modified for competition use – in other words, it cannot be registered as road-going vehicle. This new proposal would remove that caveat and simply make new road-going vehicles ineligible for competition-only conversion altogether.
The EPA’s intentions are spelled out here:
“In particular, we generally consider nonroad engines and vehicles to be ‘‘used solely for competition’’ based on usage characteristics. This allows EPA to set up an administrative process to approve competition exemptions, and to create an exemption from the tampering prohibition for products that are modified for competition purposes. There is no comparable allowance for motor vehicles. A motor vehicle qualifies for a competition exclusion based on the physical characteristics of the vehicle, not on its use. Also, if a motor vehicle is covered by a certificate of conformity at any point, there is no exemption from the tampering and defeat-device prohibitions that would allow for converting the engine or vehicle for competition use. There is no prohibition against actual use of certified motor vehicles or motor vehicle engines for competition purposes; however, it is not permissible to remove a motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine from its certified configuration regardless of the purpose for doing so.”
It's worth noting that while this proposed ban would affect all new cars sold from the 2018 model year and beyond, it is not retroactive, so vehicles that would fall under this category which have already been converted would not be outlawed if the proposal were to be implemented.
"Through our partners and industry experts, the SCCA has been aware of the proposed regulations since the beginning of the year," says Jim Llewellyn of the Sports Car Club of America. "We are working closely and diligently with those experts and associations to determine the best course of action for our members and motorsports." 

has also released a brief statement on the matter, essentially stating their opposition to the proposed changes, which you can read below. Stay tuned for updated as we have them.
UPDATE 2-15-16: Automotive News has spoken with the EPA to clarify what their intentions are. The government agency said that modifications to emissions-certified cars have always been banned under the Clean Air Act, as passed by Congress. However, the EPA says their concern is about Volkswagen-style emissions defeat devices, and wanted to make it clear that an exemption for vehicles created for non-road use, such as snowmobiles, was not meant for cars and trucks that are certified for on-road use. The agency also said that racing has never been “an enforcement priority.”
EPA Seeks to Prohibit Conversion of Vehicles into Racecars
SEMA To Oppose Action As Threat to Modified Racecars and Parts Suppliers
Washington, DC (February 8, 2016) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a regulation to prohibit conversion of vehicles originally designed for on-road use into racecars.  The regulation would also make the sale of certain products for use on such vehicles illegal.  The proposed regulation was contained within a non-related proposed regulation entitled "Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles—Phase 2."
The regulation would impact all vehicle types, including the sports cars, sedans and hatch-backs commonly converted strictly for use at the track.  While the Clean Air Act prohibits certain modifications to motor vehicles, it is clear that vehicles built or modified for racing, and not used on the streets, are not the "motor vehicles" that Congress intended to regulate.
"This proposed regulation represents overreaching by the agency, runs contrary to the law and defies decades of racing activity where EPA has acknowledged and allowed conversion of vehicles," said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting.   "Congress did not intend the original Clean Air Act to extend to vehicles modified for racing and has re-enforced that intent on more than one occasion."
SEMA submitted comments in opposition to the regulation and met with the EPA to confirm the agency’s intentions.  The EPA indicated that the regulation would prohibit conversion of vehicles into racecars and make the sale of certain emissions-related parts for use on converted vehicles illegal.  Working with other affected organizations, including those representing legions of professional and hobbyist racers and fans, SEMA will continue to oppose the regulation through the administrative process and will seek congressional support and judicial intervention as necessary.
The EPA has indicated it expects to publish final regulations by July 2016.
About SEMA


SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association founded in 1963, represents the $36 billion specialty automotive industry of 6,633 member-companies. It is the authoritative source for research, data, trends and market growth information for the specialty auto parts industry. The industry provides appearance, performance, comfort, convenience and technology products for passenger and recreational vehicles. For more information, contact SEMA at 1575 S. Valley Vista Dr., Diamond Bar, CA 91765, tel: 909-610-2030, or visit www.sema.org.