The Magical SB100–Registering Your Car In California

The SB100 is THE method for Catfish registration in California, and makes 500 vouchers available every year for people who want to register specially-constructed cars.  These could be dune buggies, Cobra replicas, or your own “garage creation” that you now want to take on the road.  Or a Catfish.  The real hero of SB100 is retired State Senator K. Maurice Johannessen, who was apparently a Cobra kit car fanatic and saw the need for legislation that covered these types of cars.  He pushed through legislation that now allows us to enjoy our vehicles while at the same time support our local shops and suppliers, which helps the local economy.  Win.

Since there are many more DMV workers than vouchers, it’s very possible that you’ll take your paperwork up to the DMV window and that worker won’t have a clue where to start.  We’ve been through the process and followed a simple web PDF download that’s linked below.

The PDF has been around for a while and is very useful, but there have been a few slight changes since it has been written:

Availability–SB100 Vouchers were once snatched up on the first hours of the first day the DMV was opened during a new year.  Now because the initial demand has been met and the economy isn’t that strong, vouchers are freely available at any time of the year.

In brief, the SB100 systems means visits to the following places:

DMV–these guys control the paperwork.  They start the process, end the process, and (not surprisingly) take your money at the end.  Keep ALL of your build invoices so that California gets it’s required tax cut.  Note #1–keep ALL paperwork with the car in a waterproof bag, and make a copy of ALL in case the DMV or CHP want to take any of the copies.  All the paperwork is required at each stop.  Note #2–the DMV will give you a 1 month temporary sticker that allows you to drive your car to the appointments below.  Ask for a 3 month tag, as some appointments can be delayed 2-3 weeks.

CHP–There are specific Highway Patrol offices and specific officers who will review your paperwork.  The number one thing the CHP is looking for is are VIN numbers from stolen cars.  Please make sure you’re buying a legal donor car, as finding out it was stolen can ruin your day.  The CHP will review your paperwork, the engine and transmission numbers, and then will affix a new VIN to the car.  But there are a couple more stops needed.

Light & Brake inspection–This is a certified shop that makes sure that your lights and signals work (including reverse), and that the brakes are in proper working order.  More paperwork follows and then you’re on your way.  Interesting note:  If the DMV doesn’t write down that you need an inspection, you can pass up this step.

BAR exam–The Bureau of Automotive Repair stations are often on a college campus, and the visit is free of charge.  This used to be where they’d put the car on the dyno, take and exhaust measurement, and then give you a paper that said you are smog exempt.  Hmmm.  They’ve dispensed with the dyno (for obvious reasons), but will check to see that your valve cover vents back to the air intake and other small items.

One last note:  The SB100 was written to allow us enthusiasts to get our cars on the road.  It was also intended to make sure that our cars are safe, and have the basic items needed for road use.  A third component is liability–the person liable for a safe and working car is not the DMV, not the CHP or BAR or even your brake inspector; it’s YOU.

The download PDF to the SB100 process is HERE.


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  • Steve Rounds says:

    I went to my local CHP office and showed them pictures of the Bauer Catfish that I had taken at SEMA. They said the Catfish would NOT be legal in California because the California Vehicle Code requires “an adequate safety glass windshield and an automatic wiper”. They showed me the actual written code requirement. I tried contacting, per your suggestion, the San Diego Ariel Atom dealer about this (Ariel has an optional glass windshield), but never got a return call. Any comments?

    • Cord says:

      Steve, we try to stay within the bounds of the law, so our windshield is made from DOT legal safety glass and is marked as such. We’re working on a full-sized glass windscreen which will be backwards-compatible with our current cars sold and will include a wiper system. Our BAR referee had the same question and called the DMV headquarters, and then issued our BAR certificate. Please contact me for all the details. Cord

  • LARRY says:

    I just bought a 1965 Superformance Cobra, I bought it in Texas. It was manufactured in 2002,but it was registered in Calif 01/07/2003 under the “SB 100 SEQUENCE 2002325″ with a V.I.N. CA864908. I live in Calif. So do I have to go thru the “SB100 SEQUENCE 2002325″ process again?
    Thanks for your help LARRY

  • Larry says:

    I bought a Cobra with the #SPO1439 Registered in Calif. 01/07/2003, I would like to know the first owner so I could get the motor build sheet.
    Any help would be great Thanks Larry

    • Cord says:

      Your best shot is to call AAA and see if they can find the name based on the registration number. But only if you’re a member. The alternative is the DMV…an no one wants to go there…

  • Kalila says:

    Is there a limit on years? For example if I wanted to register a 1931 vehicle would that fall within the allowed years for kit cars? Or is there a specific body style year that is allowed?

  • Kalila says:

    Sorry, I don’t think I explained the situation very well. It is a replica of a 1931 Bentley, but a kit car. They don’t assign limits on reproduction year limits do they? Like an SPCNS must replicate the looks of a vehicle between such and such year and such and such year? I hope I made that a little more clear :)

    • Cord says:

      If you build a 1931 Bentley kit car in California, you license it as a 1931 vehicle under SPCN. You will license it under “body style” rather than engine type, which makes the whole process fairly easy.

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