Registering an imported diesel G in CA
There has been a lot of discussion on this forum about laws and headaches when trying to register a diesel G in California. My friend Fedor bought a 1984 300GD Kastenwagen from Canada last year and I thought I'd share the process that was required in his case.
This G arrived as a non-running rust bucket. I will spare the details but we spent a great deal of time making it safe and road-worthy (well, for the most part) before attempting to register it. You should expect to have a safety inspection, verifying the operation of brakes, lights, wipers, mirrors, seat belts, etc. In Fedor's case, none of this was necessary; I have no idea why not.
1. We took the G to the DMV for a VIN verification - be prepared in advance to demonstrate matching VIN numbers in TWO locations, agreeing with your documentation.
2. You will need to prove that the vehicle entered the country legally via an appropriate customs form. Fortunately, we used a customs broker to handle this stuff. As it turned out, they got one of the forms wrong but took care of it within a few days. If it had been our own mistake, no one would have been able to "take care of it" for us. In Fedor's case, form #7501 was needed, but the DMV has a list of about 5 acceptable form numbers.
3. You need the fully released and lien-free title signed over to you. In Fedor's case, the G came from an area where they did not use titles, only registration papers. At first the lady at the DMV didn't know what to do, but finally figured it out and everything was fine.
4. You must prove that the vehicle is exempt from federalization by proving the manufacture month and year. We had a copy of the original Swiss title, so no problem here.
5. You must prove that you are exempt from emissions compliance using the appropriate EPA form that explains why your vehicle is exempt. This is filled out by you and then customs at the border where it will get their stamp. The DMV insistently told us we needed a smog-check, but I was more stubborn. Finally they did some research and figured out that diesels need to be smogged only starting in the 1997 manufacture year (I believe).
6. Pay your registration, title transfer, and other fees, and leave with your CA-legal G!
This took us 4 trips, but it could have been done in 2 - we just couldn't carve enough time into each of our schedules to make it all happen. If you have the right ORIGINALS of the forms ready, it could be done in one trip. Knowledge is power here, but accurate information is tough to find. I helped Fedor gather all of the correct paperwork, and still missed an error on one of the customs forms.
If you are thorough and check your import documents repeatedly, you CAN register an out-of-country 25-year old diesel G in CA, period. If it was previously imported to another state and you don't have the ORIGINAL documents, good luck to you.
----------------------------------EDIT & UPDATE -------------------------
As much as I hate to quench people's hopes, I wrote this post before actually receiving the final documentation on Fedor's vehicle. It turned out that after the DMV approved everything, he got a letter from Sacramento stating that his 1984 300GD needed to have a California BAR sticker to be legally registered. They never even hinted that there could be a problem when we completed the in-person title-transfer & registration process. Thank you to the employees of the CA DMV.
His G is now in line for a Washington registration, when his 602a engine swap is complete. You may alternately choose to pay for the certification shop to apply the $7500 compliance sticker