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BubbaK1024

Oldsmobile 350 rocket enthusiasts

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Hello to those who are interested,

My name is Klint, and I own a 1976 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale now do to age deterioration. I am interested in any advice that i can get in regards to me wanting to get some more cheap HP output from motor. It currently has "around" 170 horsepower and only has 90,000 original miles. ( The 170 HP was at new condition ). Also need some advice on some paint schemes and interior suggestions. It is currently a Metallic Brownish color for the body and w/ wood grain and cream interior.

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You should tell us what state you live in. In California you cannot modify your engine or it's emission system in ANY way, with the exception of using some C.A.R.B. approved pieces which have a C.A.R.B. number stamped on the part. C.A.R.B is short for California Air Resources Board.

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You live in Roane county, so apparently there is no emission testing in your county at this time. That does not mean it will always be so. Think about what happens if you move, or sell the car to someone who lives in Hamilton, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson or Wilson counties where they do emission testing.

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Even if there are no state regulations, there are STILL federal statues in the Clean Air Act which prevent "tampering" with original-equipment emissions controls.

Be that as it may, the best thing would be to better fine tune the motor around factory specs. IF you put a bigger camshaft in the engine for more power, it most probably will not like the highway gears in the rear axle (possibly a 2.56) with the taller tires on the car. I suspect that at about 64mph, it's just turning over at 2000rpms! Most larger camshafts will be down on power in that lower rpm range, but have more in the 5000rpm range. You might think "What it has up top will compensate for the slower times in the lower rpm ranges", but it doesn't really work that way. It will take too long to get through that lower rpm range to where things "really cook", but in a race, the engine/vehicle with the greater low/mid-range rpm will still beat you to the finish line . . . as you're playing catch-up after he drove around you in the first part of the race.

End result is that you can also do well in freeing-up the exhaust system with some larger-pipe dual pipes (with dual converters, for good measure) of about 2.25" diameter. Maybe even 2.5" diameter, but that might be a little overkill. Then use one of the lower-restriction Walker higher performance mufflers for better flow and an exhaust sound more appropriate for an Oldsmobile (some of the middle '60s Olds cars had a distinct rumble to their exhausts).

You can then play with the ignition timing a little. A quicker ignition advance curve can help off-idle throttle response, as can an inoperative EGR valve. An adjustable vacuum advance can also let you have a little more vacuum advance sooner, too, with the proper adjustment. But if you get a "spark clatter". then you know you've gone just a hair too far and need to back it back a small bit to get rid of the clatter (whether at WOT or part-throttle).

For a car weighing over 4000lbs with a smaller engine and "highway gears", aiming for better off-idle throttle response is a far better way to go than to get all caught-up in the horsepower numbers and such--period. It's TORQUE that pushes you back into the seat off-idle and "lays rubber", NOT horsepower at 5000rpm (when the engine is in the 2000rpm range). Having what power you have being responsive to smaller throttle input will make the car more pleasureable to drive, too, as "less throttle" to get things done can also mean better fuel economy AND lessen the need for "deep throttle" situations.

For a little extra "breathing" capabilities, you might search the salvage yards for a dual snorkle air cleaner from an earlier model Oldsmobile (think 1970 or there abouts, usually earlier). Keeping the hot air function of the snorkle can be important in winter times, so adding another snorkle for air intake can maintain that function and also get more air into the motor when things warm up enough for that to happen. In the mean time, as it's going to be warmer pretty soon, you might seek out an air cleaner element that's about 1/4" taller than the one you have, with the same diameter. This will result in a gap between the lid of the air cleaner and the base, but still have all of the air going through the taller filter element.

You might also save some money for a V-6 (OEM application) torque converter for your transmission. This will allow a slightly higher stall speed to help get things moving with the current rear axle gears. NOTE: this is the first thing I've mentioned that will require some disassembly of a major component!

Ignition components . . . the GM HEI is a good unit, but you can add some different modules in it for possibly better sparking, plus a higher-performance cap and rotor. Find some Borg-Warner CoolWire magnetic suppression spark plug wires (less resistance in the wire, but still enough for a quiet radio, with the hood down). Then some NGK V-power spark plugs gapped to about .045" (generally a little closer than the orig spec of about .060"). Make sure the QJet's accel pump has strong shot, too.

The Olds 350 motor is a pretty dang FINE engine, no matter how much horsepower the factory claims it might be producing. Take care of it and things will be fine. If it's had reasonably good care, you might discover that it's ultimate horsepower might be greater than what it was when it left the factory. Think "clearance increase with use", which means that everything's working "slicker" together than when the engine was first assembled.

Put some RXP Gas Additive in the gas tank, possibly two treatments, back to back. This will get the carbon, if there is any, out of the combustion chambers. The Lucas "greet stuff" Ethanol Fuel Additive (to deactivate the issues with ethanol fuels), is a good fuel additive too. Also, don't use anything heavier than 5W-30 in the engine. The heavier-viscosity oils we used to think we had to have might help, but they also eat up horsepower and fuel efficiency. I'd always used Castrol GTX 20W-50 in my '77 Camaro with no problems or anything. But when it got replaced with a 355, after the initial break-in period on 30W oil, I put the 25W-50 in it and I could feel the difference . . . less power and response. I went down to 10W-40 and things felt better, again. I ended up using 5W-40 Rotella T synthetic in it, for the additional zddp and the fact it was a synthetic that was reasonably-priced.

Just some thoughts,

NTX5467

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As said before legally you can't do very much with your car. In fact legally you can't even improve your vehicles emissions. Adding dual exhaust even with dual cat's is also illegal. I know Pontiac engines internally much better than Olds with regards to camshafts and cylinder heads, rods and pistons etc. So if I wanted to make a camshaft selection for a 1976 Olds 350 I would get into a Olds book that will tell me every profile for that year. That will tell me if there is a slightly more aggressive cam that say a 76 Cutlass 442. Also the Pontiac Trans Am's in the later 70's use the short deck Olds 403 which is a blood brother to the Olds 330 and 350. That cam that will fit right in and pass emissions with no problem, and that engine and it's cam are low to medium rpm setup so no worries-just compare the profiles of what you've got to it. I wouldn't worry about the stock HEI ignition as it is more than adequate for jumping 8-12 KV. In fact stock GM HEI was designed to jump 60+KV to safeguard catalytic converters from a misfire. I have seen stock HEI cars that the owner never changed plugs and the car was running fine without a misfire, only the scope told the tail that something was wrong with the sparkline and it's exceptionally high discharge voltage over 30KV on one of the cylinders. Removal of the plug revealed that the electrode and ground strap was missing, but the HEI was doing it's duty and firing off of something saving the catalytic converter. Always carry a extra module you can get from the junkyard and keep it in the glove box along with dialectic grease that you coat the mating surface of it and the distributor. You need to do this once a year because the grease must not get hard and dry up, but you will need to get in there once a year anyway to inspect the cap & rotor and to lube the mechanical advance weights and check the vacuum advance diaphragm and it's linkage to the what we once called the breaker plate. This is all part of what we call routine service.

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Sometimes these older models like a higher octane gasoline. compare gas mileage with lower octane and the higher, I`ve found that if you get better performance with the higher octane, you will usually get better mileage as well. That helps offset the higher price. Sometimes the performance is allmost free. In Missouri most gas is an ethanol blend. In cooler weather( below about 50 degrees), count on losing five percent on your gas mileage. Plus carburetors hate the stuff. Some stations here carry 91 octane ethanol free gas. It`s worth the price difference ,especially if the car will sit over 90 days or so without being driven.

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Wow. While I agree that you need to be aware of all laws associated with modifying your car, the reality is that no private citizen has ever been prosecuted for emissions tampering under federal laws. The feds only go after shops and businesses.

As for your D88, the reality is that you have a car that weighs as much as some SUVs. The easiest way to improve performance is to swap the 350 for a 455. If you wish to keep the 350, you'll need some significant mods. There's no "cheap" way to gain 50 HP. Your focus needs to be on improved breathing, starting with a true dual exhaust system. You'll likely need the "double hump" transmission crossmember from a 71-74 full size to allow clearance for the second pipe. I assume your car has a 4bbl now. If so, an aftermarket intake will help. Don't go crazy, this is a heavy car. Get something like a Performer 350. Your stock Qjet will be fine if rebuilt properly. You can probably improve on the advance curve in the stock distributor. You'll need an advance curve kit that includes weights and springs.

Mods beyond these require tearing into the engine. The two things to consider are earlier heads for higher compression and a different camshaft. The heads from a 1968-72 Olds 350 (casting numbers 5, 6, 7, or 7A) have chambers around 64 cc. Your current no. 8 heads have about 80 cc chambers. Do not confuse the 1972 7A heads with the 7A heads used on the 1985-90 307 motors. Yes, the size of the letter "A" is what you need to look for. In any case, you'll want to install the W-31 sized valves (2.000 intake, 1.625 exhaust). Yes, these are more involved, more expensive upgrades and frankly, by the time you price them, a 455 may be cheaper.

Finally, don't overlook gearing. A change to 3.23:1 or 3.42:1 gears will wake the car up. Unfortunately, your rear axle is not well supported in the aftermarket and gear sets will be difficult to find. Also, this change will hurt gas mileage unless you also change to an overdrive transmission.

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There is a lot that can be done to that engine to improve performance but not with 90,000 miles on it. They are a tough motor but the extra stress of performance parts can blow an old motor sky high in a month, that would have gone on for years if you baby it. I have seen this happen more than once.

I have a few suggestions. I will list them in order of cost effectiveness, in other words, getting the most results for the least work and expense.

1) Tune up the engine and learn to enjoy it for what it is. First step is to do a compression test and find out where you stand. The engine could be down on power due to normal wear. It might be that a valve job and tuneup will give you all the power you need.

2) Sell the car and buy a smaller car with a bigger engine like an Olds 442. A Cutlass with a 350 or a Delta 88 or other large model with a 400 or 455 might also suit you better.

3) Install lower ratio gears in the rear axle. This will give you more "go" off the line and in traffic situations up to 60 or 70 mph. It will also reduce your gas mileage a little. At the time your car was built they were using VERY high gears in an effort to improve mileage. It is probably around 2.5 or 2.75. A ratio of 3.5 or so, as used in older model Oldses will liven it up quite a bit.

4) Rebuild the engine with a few hop up goodies like a hotter cam, headers, intake and 4 barrel carb. It should be possible to get 25% more HP with a few simple changes and not hurt driveability or mileage. If you chose to go this route Joe Padavano is an Oldsmobile expert.......

5) Find a 455, rebuild it and put it in place of the 350. A 455 will fit in your car, it was a factory optional engine. The tricky part may be finding all the correct brackets for air conditioning, alternator etc.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)

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Joe, I don't know of any private citizen going to jail either, but my state has a prison that has station owners and tech's that are serving time. The removal or adding of non CARB approved parts by a private citizen usually ends with not even hooking the car to the analyzer. The tech will first look under the hood and the car won't get past the visual inspection. Swapping in a 1976 Olds 455 is not a issue nor a newer engine like a 78-79 403 as long as the 455 has everything that came on it for 1976, the 78-79 403 must meet emission exhaust and visual for 78 or 79 year of emissions. Under the car the exhaust must be how the car came from the factory. If a car came with a single cat which I think all of them did in 76, that's what it must have. Changing the rear end ratio also effects emissions.

Even though there is no emission testing in the county where the author lives someday he may move or worse sell the car to a unsuspecting person who does live in one of those counties creating a whole other mess for the new and former owner. Basically we are dealing with two laws. One is a federal EPA law and the other is a state emission mandated law tied to the EPA mandate on states. I would suggest all of you look them up and see for yourself if you think I'm giving misinformation. The EPA fine for a citizen is only $2,500 dollars

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5) Find a 455, rebuild it and put it in place of the 350. A 455 will fit in your car, it was a factory optional engine. The tricky part may be finding all the correct brackets for air conditioning, alternator etc.

The brackets are the easy part. For model years 1968-1976, Olds used accessory brackets with two sets of holes to fit both the small block 350 and the big block 400/455 motors. The only external difference between the 350 and the 455 is the deck height, so there is a lot of easy interchangeability of accessory parts.

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Joe, I don't know of any private citizen going to jail either, but my state has a prison that has station owners and tech's that are serving time. The removal or adding of non CARB approved parts by a private citizen usually ends with not even hooking the car to the analyzer. The tech will first look under the hood and the car won't get past the visual inspection. Swapping in a 1976 Olds 455 is not a issue nor a newer engine like a 78-79 403 as long as the 455 has everything that came on it for 1976, the 78-79 403 must meet emission exhaust and visual for 78 or 79 year of emissions. Under the car the exhaust must be how the car came from the factory. If a car came with a single cat which I think all of them did in 76, that's what it must have. Changing the rear end ratio also effects emissions.

Even though there is no emission testing in the county where the author lives someday he may move or worse sell the car to a unsuspecting person who does live in one of those counties creating a whole other mess for the new and former owner. Basically we are dealing with two laws. One is a federal EPA law and the other is a state emission mandated law tied to the EPA mandate on states. I would suggest all of you look them up and see for yourself if you think I'm giving misinformation. The EPA fine for a citizen is only $2,500 dollars

After moving to Tucson, AZ in 2005, I got burned when trying to register my '84 Toronado. Many years earlier while living in NJ, I removed the entire A.I.R. system. It really cleaned up the engine compartment and didn't affect the 'idle only' emissions testing in NJ at that time (CO & HC). At least until 2005, NJ didn't do a visual inspection. Because Metro Tucson & Phoenix, AZ both do a visual, they saw the A.I.R. system removal as tampering and I couldn't even register the car. Two different inspection stations quickly caught it. Fortunately, I was able to find the tough items (air pump brackets, correct pulley, switching valves, etc) at my local U-Pull yard. I was able to buy the other necessary items new or reman'ed. After a month of completely restoring the A.I.R. system, I was good to go...

I learned my lesson (couldn't obtain a wavier for tampering or fight city hall).

As others have said, I would urge BubbaK1024 to carefully consider modifications which are not legal in the strictest state (CA ??). Emission testing with visual inspections may arrive in his county or a future potential buyer's county...

Paul

Edited by pfloro (see edit history)

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I, too, have not known of Federal EPA fining individual owners for non-compliance with the "tampering" situation . . . BUT I've known of plenty of state vehicle inspection stations (who DO get audited by the state operatives!) that would refuse to "pass" a vehicle with some significant equipment "not being there". One year, the "trigger" was open element air cleaners where a "hot air" snorkle originally came. There are "safety" sections of the state inspection and "emissions" sections of inspections, which can depend upon how old the vehicle might be.

When the DFW area originally came under the "non-attainment" status for ground level ozone, the state environmental agency held some town hall meetings over the state on what was getting ready to happen . . . centralized emissions testing. Their comments were, basically, "If what comes out of the tail pipe matches the model year of the vehicle, everything's fine. If the exhaust is non-compliant in what's in it, for that model year of vehicle, then we open the hood and start making a list . . . "

Most states now have the "Newer engine/Earlier chassis" orientation . . . if the engine is from a newer vehicle than what it was transplanted into is, then the older vehicle must be fitted with every emissions-related item from the later model vehicle the engine came out of. For example, one man had installed a small block Chevy V-8 in his 1954 Chevy sedan. At the inspection station, it would not pass the visual inspection for the model year of the donor vehicle, so he had to add an aftermarket cat converter to get it to pass. Similarly, putting a TPI Small Block Chevy V-8 in an earlier vehicle would mean all of the emissions hardware from the "donor" 1986 Z-28 would need to be on the older vehicle (including street rods/street machines). But if you might go the other way . . . a 1962 Chevy 348 in a 1976 Caprice, the 1976 Caprice would be the defining model year in that case.

I suspect that every state's vehicle inspection rules are now on the respective state websites. Possibly a downloadable manual of sorts, too? Each state can be different!

As to the original inquiry . . . I tend to concur that the '76 D88 is a little too big and heavy to really be a "hot rod" of sorts, BUT it can be made to perform a little better with the existing equipment it has. Additionally, there's no reason why an older vehicle can't be made "greener" than it originally was . . . with aftermarket self-learning fuel injection, full dual exhaust (with dual converters, the honeycomb versions . . . which might need some additional ThermoTec wrap for heat insulation from the underbody), multi-strike ignition systems (items added to the existing HEI or an HEI-replacement with them already in it), and a few other tweaks. But some of those things are somewhat pricey, all things considered.

The other thing is that if very many "mods" are made, with larger cams and such, it might detract from the original character of the vehicle, unfortunately. Igcotnito horsepower and torque will always make the Mustang GT drivers "leave late" when you catch them unaware that they might be challenged -- as the challenger rather than the challengee. LOL Some of those people are so easy to bait! Doesn't take a rip-roaring torque monster to do that, either!

Just some thoughts . . .

NTX5467

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I, too, have not known of Federal EPA fining individual owners for non-compliance with the "tampering" situation . . . BUT I've known of plenty of state vehicle inspection stations (who DO get audited by the state operatives!) that would refuse to "pass" a vehicle with some significant equipment "not being there". One year, the "trigger" was open element air cleaners where a "hot air" snorkle originally came. There are "safety" sections of the state inspection and "emissions" sections of inspections, which can depend upon how old the vehicle might be.

When the DFW area originally came under the "non-attainment" status for ground level ozone, the state environmental agency held some town hall meetings over the state on what was getting ready to happen . . . centralized emissions testing. Their comments were, basically, "If what comes out of the tail pipe matches the model year of the vehicle, everything's fine. If the exhaust is non-compliant in what's in it, for that model year of vehicle, then we open the hood and start making a list . . . "

Most states now have the "Newer engine/Earlier chassis" orientation . . . if the engine is from a newer vehicle than what it was transplanted into is, then the older vehicle must be fitted with every emissions-related item from the later model vehicle the engine came out of. For example, one man had installed a small block Chevy V-8 in his 1954 Chevy sedan. At the inspection station, it would not pass the visual inspection for the model year of the donor vehicle, so he had to add an aftermarket cat converter to get it to pass. Similarly, putting a TPI Small Block Chevy V-8 in an earlier vehicle would mean all of the emissions hardware from the "donor" 1986 Z-28 would need to be on the older vehicle (including street rods/street machines). But if you might go the other way . . . a 1962 Chevy 348 in a 1976 Caprice, the 1976 Caprice would be the defining model year in that case.

I suspect that every state's vehicle inspection rules are now on the respective state websites. Possibly a downloadable manual of sorts, too? Each state can be different!

As to the original inquiry . . . I tend to concur that the '76 D88 is a little too big and heavy to really be a "hot rod" of sorts, BUT it can be made to perform a little better with the existing equipment it has. Additionally, there's no reason why an older vehicle can't be made "greener" than it originally was . . . with aftermarket self-learning fuel injection, full dual exhaust (with dual converters, the honeycomb versions . . . which might need some additional ThermoTec wrap for heat insulation from the underbody), multi-strike ignition systems (items added to the existing HEI or an HEI-replacement with them already in it), and a few other tweaks. But some of those things are somewhat pricey, all things considered.

The other thing is that if very many "mods" are made, with larger cams and such, it might detract from the original character of the vehicle, unfortunately. Igcotnito horsepower and torque will always make the Mustang GT drivers "leave late" when you catch them unaware that they might be challenged -- as the challenger rather than the challengee. LOL Some of those people are so easy to bait! Doesn't take a rip-roaring torque monster to do that, either!

Just some thoughts . . .

NTX5467

The way my state works is you can put a newer engine in a older car but it must have all the equipment for that year engine, however the state won't buy a older engine in a newer car unless you bring the older engine up to the cars emission standard. In the 70's I was emission testing for the auto manufacturer I worked for. We were doing EPA certification test. I can tell you that a simple idle and 2500rpm test or even the dyno test that some states use is nothing compared to a seven mode seven bag EPA certification test. We tested those emissions from a car that came frozen from the cold room all the way through the warm up stages, plus hot weather simulations. The reason most states I know do not have a just whatever comes out the tailpipe is OK is because they don't have the resources to do a complete test. Therefore tampering with any devise on the car is illegal. They will do the visual and will check components to make sure they are on there and work and do a basic emission test. I have friends with cars of the late 60's and 70's who have removed devises and say they are just as clean out the tailpipe, but those cars would never pass a EPA certification seven mode test. In other words some guys think they see what's going on but in reality they are only seeing part of the emission picture.

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Scary stuff, here.

No, just people who didn't read and understand the rules in THEIR PARTICULAR STATE. Legality of engine swaps and mods varies by state. Anecdotal experience from a state that is NOT the OP's state is pretty much irrelevant to him. As he pointed out, he is not subject to testing where he lives. If one moves, one MUST understand what the rules are in the new state, and be prepared to deal with them, but frankly the experience of someone with a 1984 model in moving from NJ to AZ is truly irrelevant to someone asking about a 1976 model in TN.

Bottom line is that it is up to the owner to fully understand what is or is not legal in his or her particular state. Every state DMV and emissions board has the requirements available on line. Very few states require testing for a car that's more than 35 years old.

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No, just people who didn't read and understand the rules in THEIR PARTICULAR STATE. Legality of engine swaps and mods varies by state. Anecdotal experience from a state that is NOT the OP's state is pretty much irrelevant to him. As he pointed out, he is not subject to testing where he lives. If one moves, one MUST understand what the rules are in the new state, and be prepared to deal with them, but frankly the experience of someone with a 1984 model in moving from NJ to AZ is truly irrelevant to someone asking about a 1976 model in TN.

Bottom line is that it is up to the owner to fully understand what is or is not legal in his or her particular state. Every state DMV and emissions board has the requirements available on line. Very few states require testing for a car that's more than 35 years old.

Joe, the state of Tenn. emission test in the counties I listed in thread #4 so If he moves or sells that car and somehow it ends up in those counties there will be trouble. Here are the counties in Tenn. that are testing.

You live in Roane county, so apparently there is no emission testing in your county at this time. That does not mean it will always be so. Think about what happens if you move, or sell the car to someone who lives in Hamilton, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson or Wilson counties where they do emission testing.

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Joe, the state of Tenn. emission test in the counties I listed in thread #4 so If he moves or sells that car and somehow it ends up in those counties there will be trouble. Here are the counties in Tenn. that are testing.

You live in Roane county, so apparently there is no emission testing in your county at this time. That does not mean it will always be so. Think about what happens if you move, or sell the car to someone who lives in Hamilton, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson or Wilson counties where they do emission testing.

Well, we've apparently succeeded in scaring the OP away, since he's only posted twice on the whole AACA forum. Those would be the two times in this thread, the most recent of which was over a week ago. I'm guessing he's gone elsewhere for info.

The reality is that any mods suggested in this thread are pretty easily reversible IF the need were to arise. Even swapping in a 455 is acceptable since this was a factory option in 1976, as was posted above. Bottom line is that you can "what if" yourself into a stupor, or you can educate yourself as to the risks then make your own informed decision without nannyism. Of course, this is irrelevant if the OP is long gone.

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That is why the cars that are subjected to checks are used for daily drivers/winter beaters and I play with the older cars,we used to have testing here but its gone but not sure if its gone for good. When we had the testing every vehicle over 25 years old was exempt.

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