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The EPA Is Not Going to Ban Your DIY Race Car

April 16, 2016, 8:10 PM UTC
Acura reveals its new NSX at The North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, on January 12, 2015. Evoking the memory of Formula One legend Ayrton Senna and boasting of G-forces similar to the sport he graced, the $150,000 Acura NSX supercar made its global bow Monday in Detroit. The annual car show takes place amid a surging economy, more jobs and cheap gas, a trifecta of near-perfect conditions for the US auto industry. AFP PHOTO/JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Jewel Samad — AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has removed controversial language buried in a proposal to regulate emissions of heavy duty trucks that critics feared would make modifying a car for racing illegal.

The issue, however, is far from resolved.

The proposed legislation, which was submitted in July 2015, included language that would prohibit conversion of vehicles into race cars and make the sale of certain emissions-related parts for use on converted vehicles illegal. It didn’t receive any attention though until February when the Specialty Equipment Market Association trade group began lobbying against it. A month later, a new bipartisan bill was introduced in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to clarify the Clean Air Act and explain it has always been legal to modify a street vehicle into a race car.

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The outcry from motorsports enthusiasts and SEMA, and more importantly, pressure from Congress appears to have prompted the EPA to drop the language altogether.

The EPA issued a statement Friday explaining its decision to eliminate the proposed language from the final rule, which is to be submitted this July.

EPA’s focus is not on vehicles built or used exclusively for racing, but on companies that don’t play by the rules and that make and sell products that disable pollution controls on motor vehicles used on public roads. These unlawful defeat devices pump dangerous and illegal pollution into the air we breathe.

The proposed language in the July 2015 proposal was never intended to represent any change in the law or in EPA’s policies or practices towards dedicated competition vehicles. Since our attempt to clarify led to confusion, EPA has decided to eliminate the proposed language from the final rule.

And yet, this issue doesn’t appear to over because the EPA has said that it’s always been illegal to tamper with or defeat the emissions controls systems on vehicles.

You can legally drive this single-seat race car on the road:

SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting says confusion remains and that only clarifying legislation would confirm these modifications are legal.

“The agency continues to assert new-found authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate modification of vehicles for use in competition,” Kersting said in a statement. “This means that those converting and racing competition vehicles, and the parts and services industries that support them, do so under new EPA policy that considers the activity illegal.”