Hi Miles, hope all is well
Technically you're wrong on the emissions equipment issue.
All automobiles sold in the US as of 1966 have some sort of emissions equipment. FEDERAL law says it is illegal to remove or modify that equipment in any way ... period. That law has never changed. Of course, the Federal government never inspects our cars, they leave that up to the states. Compliance with the Federal law has been left to the states to determine.
California law cannot over-ride Federal law and permit anyone to remove or tamper with the installed emissions controls. No agency has ever given any individual the right to remove or tamper with those controls, across the 50 states. The term EXEMPT means to be exempt from inspection only, it has never meant that a vehicle is exempt from the Federal requirement to have those controls in the first place. However if no agency visually inspects your car, nobody is going to know if you have removed or tampered with its emissions controls. That's the catch 22 that works in our favor.