California Compliant diesel swaps?

turnerc7

Member
Greetings All,

I was wondering about the specifics of a pre-1990 diesel g wagen in CA, I know its a long shot as I'm sure you all can attest. Specifically, I watched the Fast Lane Truck video at Mastadon Motors on youtube and the owner(?) was talking about swapping in US spec diesel motors from vehicles sold new with diesel motors in the US. Is this a viable option in California, I am not holding my breath but its worth asking!

Cheers,

here is the video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC604Eta2b4
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
It's possible, but there's a lot to negotiate.

There are a few basic rules for Engine swaps in CA:
* Engine must be from same year or newer vehicle.
* ALL Emissions components (or their equivalents) must be transplanted. In CA this means computers, cats, EGRs, carbon canisters, etc. - anything that was on the original that CARB deems affects the emissions.
* Engine must be from same "class" of vehicle (passenger/light truck or heavy duty). Given the size/weight of the G, I suspect it's classed as a "passenger vehicle/light truck", this means you can only swap engines from other passenger vehicles and light trucks. This is the one that paints a lot of people into corners. For example, the V6 in my "light truck" Astro is basically a Chevy 350 w/ two cylinders lopped off, so LT V8s are a popular swap for some people because everything tranny/accessories-wise just bolts up. However, my van is a 2003, and in 2003 and later, Chevy only sold the LT motors in HD trucks, which isn't a valid swap option. (They'd moved to the LS motors in passenger vehicles, and that's not as easy a swap.) No dice pulling a 4BT out of a big truck and jamming it into a light truck.

If you're serious about a re-power project, the single best thing to do is to reach out to the California Air Resource Board (CARB) and find your local referee. Become his friend. Listen to everything he has to say, and follow it to a "T", as he will be the one who signs off on the conversion. Even a relatively "simple" swap like late-model Honda motor into early Honda CRX earned my buddy no less than six visits to his local referee to get all the details sorted.

In some ways, though, diesel will be easier, as the computers tend to be simpler and have fewer sensors, as long as you don't pick the absolute newest donor vehicle.
 
Ummm pretty sure anything diesel pre 1997 is smog exempt so why anyone would want to use something newer and have to deal with smog would be mind boggling to me
 

turnerc7

Member
Thanks for the info, that gives me a lot to go on. So perhaps circumventing the whole swap issue would be to import a G that is already a diesel and meets the time requirements for importation(25 years). I assume there would still be issues with registration?
 

haven

Expedition Leader
"import a G that is already a diesel and meets the time requirements for importation(25 years). I assume there would still be issues with registration?"

California has its own rules about emissions and safety equipment for older vehicles. Proceed with caution.
 

atg

New member
Any gray market car, even if diesel, will not be able to be imported directly unless prior to 1979. I am standing at chp inspection right now and that is what the guy told me about a 1983 300td wagon. Mine is apparently swapped to a cdi motor, so I will reach out to local CARB and see what they say.
 

billiebob

Well-known member
Ummm pretty sure anything diesel pre 1997 is smog exempt
Yes, so in CA you could put a '97 diesel into a '97 or older, but not into anything new than '97
But every year the world moves closer to flat out banning older engines. In Europe many cities have banned diesel engines period. Same in some cities in India and China. No matter if it is less than a year old.

I hear in CA you cannot change the exhaust on a motorbike. I would not call swapping in a diesel a good investment.
 
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Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
Any gray market car, even if diesel, will not be able to be imported directly unless prior to 1979. I am standing at chp inspection right now and that is what the guy told me about a 1983 300td wagon.
Beware taking the word of one officer as gospel. Often they aren't well versed in the finer points of import laws. I imported a Canadian-market GMC Safari for a project and the US CBP guy at the Vancouver port of entry tried to tell me it couldn't be brought to US "because it has a kilometer speedometer". :rolleyes:
You gotta know your stuff - and preferably have all your paperwork done ahead of time. After talking to his supervisor and pointing out the exact clauses on the forms that made the van kosher, I was on my way after paying a tiny duty fee.
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
Beware taking the word of one officer as gospel. Often they aren't well versed in the finer points of import laws. I imported a Canadian-market GMC Safari for a project and the US CBP guy at the Vancouver port of entry tried to tell me it couldn't be brought to US "because it has a kilometer speedometer". :rolleyes:
You gotta know your stuff - and preferably have all your paperwork done ahead of time. After talking to his supervisor and pointing out the exact clauses on the forms that made the van kosher, I was on my way after paying a tiny duty fee.
This! After spending almost 1/2 of my career in compliance focused roles, I can tell you that there is power in knowing how to read and interpret regulations. Most are written so poorly that nobody can reasonably get the full understanding at first glance, but that first glance is almost all that any sort of individual enforcement official ever gets, or, if given a class/training, they focus on the individual interpretation and opinion of the trainer. Being able to reference code sections and point things out calmly, smoothly, and without making the individual look like a moron can get you really far when facing a bureaucracy. Also remember that bureaucrats are extremely risk averse, they can often agree with a point of view if there is a written reference to codes and standards that they can use to avoid being responsible personally for the decision.

I will always remember a really in-depth technical argument I was having with a local air inspector. He had the citation book out and was ready to write. As he explained his viewpoint to me I said something like “I can see how you would believe that is the right way to interpret that section of code, but my job is to advocate for my employer, and we interpret it in this (other) way.” He put the book away and told me he liked working with me because I stood up to him, and that he always felt that companies who had compliance people that never argued with him weren’t getting good value for their money spent on people. I lost as many as I won, but I always had an argument... and still do.

Note, YMMV... I do not recommend applying that philosophy to a spouse interaction!
 

billiebob

Well-known member
Thing is, no vehicle in Canada has been built without both Metric and Imperial speeds on the speedo since we went Metric.
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