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Summary
  • Homologation is a certification process conducted on vehicles to verify whether or not they meet the standards for sale.
  • If we’re talking about a “homologation car” or “homologation special,” it means that the vehicle is approved for racing.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration oversees the homologation process via the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Homologation is a certification process conducted on vehicles to verify whether or not they meet the standards for sale.

This approval process is sanctioned by federal entities like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which oversees the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) in the US.

The FMVSS’s homologation standards specify details on vehicle construction, design, performance, and durability requirements.

Homologation vs. Homologation Special: What’s the Difference?

Technically, all vehicles are homologated. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have made it to showrooms in the first place.

However, there’s a fine line that separates homologation from homologation specials, which we’ll be talking about in this section.

A vehicle that underwent the homologation process essentially means that it meets the standards of the market whether it’s for commercial or special use.

But if we’re talking about a “homologation car” or “homologation special,” it means that the vehicle is approved for racing.

For a vehicle to be considered a homologation special, the automaker is required to produce a certain number of road-going versions.

Homologation specials should also meet the regulations of the specific league they will compete in.

Homologation cars are high-performance vehicles that are also considered as modified road cars, so they can’t be driven on public roads.

Governing Bodies for Homologating Vehicles

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration oversees the homologation process via the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

The NHTSA is responsible for enforcing vehicle performance standards and partnerships with other governing bodies, helping reduce deaths, injuries, and other accidents related to motor vehicle crashes.

The NHTSA’s FMVSS can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49, subtitle B, chapter five, part 571.

Under the safety standards, specifications surrounding details like seating capacity, emergency features, and curb weight, among others, were indicated for all types of vehicles, including cars, trucks, trailers, buses, and more.

The safety standards fall under section 103 of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, which required the imposition of safety standards for all new domestic and imported vehicles by January 31, 1968.

Homologation Process

The homologation process begins with the automaker. The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires the manufacturer to issue a self-certification addressing its compliance with the safety regulations imposed by the government.

From there, a certification label will be granted to indicate full compliance.

Automakers also need to pass the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before their vehicles can be sold commercially.

Vehicles to be sold in California must also comply with a set of emissions regulations authorized by the Clean Air Act.

The final part of the homologation process requires automakers to secure certifications from third-party associations. These include the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and the American Highway Safety Insurance Association (IIHS).

The homologation process grants automakers legal access to target markets that could potentially increase their revenue. The process also authenticates the safety of various models, which can boost brand reputation.

Lastly, the homologation process helps automakers avoid penalties for non-compliance, as well as expensive recalls.

Classic Homologation Specials

Discussing homologation specials is arguably the most exciting part about this topic, mainly because these cars are branded as “special” for all the right reasons.

Check out these classic homologation specials, and find out why they’re called as such.

Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale

alfa romeo 33 stradale stellantis media
Returning after more than 50 years, the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale is available in two variants一a regular petrol engine or a fully electric version. Image credit: Stellantis Media.

The Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale has been around since the late 1960s, and the Italian automaker recently brought the model back into production. The catch? Only 33 units were sold.

Returning after more than 50 years, the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale is available in two variants一a regular petrol engine or a fully electric version.

The visionary 33 Stradale is back with a reimagined style that perfectly combines its classic look with a sleek and modern design.

The 33 Stradale shares some major components with the Maserati, including chassis components from the MC20, the wheelbase, and the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that can churn 620 hp. It can also come with a BEV configuration, which can deliver over 750 hp.

BMW M1

bmw m1 wikimedia
The BMW M1 may have exited the tracks a long time ago, but the model left a mark in the world of homologation specials. Image credit: Wikimedia.

The BMW M1 may have exited the tracks a long time ago, but the model left a mark in the world of homologation specials.

The M1 debuted in 1978, donning a six-cylinder inline engine housed by a timeless exterior that no enthusiast will ever forget.

Only 460 BMW M1s were produced. The model was intended to participate in the German Racing Championship, but a couple of setbacks halted its attendance.

Eventually, the M1 appeared in the specially created Procar series.

Handling was arguably the M1’s best feature. The model only weighed approximately 1,300 kg, and the weight distribution through the mid-engine design gave it outstanding handling characteristics.

Ferrari 250 GTO

1964 ferrari 250 gto wikimedia
The Ferrari 250 GTO was launched in 1962. Over the years, it was recognized as the pinnacle of the competition-ready 250 GTO series. Image credit: Wikimedia.

The Ferrari 250 GTO was launched in 1962. Over the years, it was recognized as the pinnacle of the competition-ready 250 GTO series.

While most street-legal race cars sported a mid-engine layout, the 250 GTO was the only one to have a front engine on display.

The 250 GTO had a V12 engine that could take the car as fast as 280 km/h. The model can go from a 0-100 sprint within 2.9 seconds and churn out 300 hp.

Ford RS200

ford rs200 wikimedia
Designed by Ford of Great Britain, the Ford RS200 was created to become a top contender for the radical Group B class rally racing. Image credit: Wikimedia.

The Ford RS200 was produced from 1984 to 1986. Designed by Ford of Great Britain, the model was created to become a top contender for the radical Group B class rally racing.

To meet the homologation requirements, 200 part kits had to be produced and at least one street-legal version had to be assembled.

The RS200 was first revealed at the Belfast Motor Show and served as Ford’s first four-wheel drive race car for class rally racing.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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