Posted Dec 7th 2012 3:01PM
One of the perks for car guys living here in Canada is our 15 year rule for importing cars not available to this market. If a make or model was never offered here, we are exempt from numerous requirements if the imported car has a build date of at least 15 years ago. The law is well-used by collectors and enthusiasts alike, especially for right hand drive Japanese versions of supercars from the 1990's like the: Supra RX7, Fairlady, NSX and the fabled Nissan Skyline GT-R. However, in the U.S. it was near impossible until entrepreneurs came up with creative ideas.
The U.S. DOT (Department of Transportation) classic car importation laws are just that, limited to vehicles that fall in the classic category of 25 years old or older. At the same time, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) exemption was only 21 years, don't bother trying to rationalize this difference, it makes no sense. Over the past decade or so, there have been a few efforts to leverage proper legal channels get cars in or simply circumvent laws altogether. While outfits like MotoRex brought the legendary Skyline GT-Rs into the States after crash testing them, the company met all kinds of problems later on. MotoRex folded amidst legal problems (both civil and criminal) but the increased demand prompted all kinds of start-ups looking to cash in on the craze.
Many importers flourished for a while but were doomed with all of the negative attention they had with their grey market practices. Now, one of the pioneers in bringing the Skyline to North America has uncovered a legal method of importing them once again. And not just the mighty Nissan flagship but all kinds of exotics from the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR to the Porsche 959.
Read on to find out how this black-listed vehicle made it into the U.S.
Related GallerySkymeet 2012
Related GalleryNissan Skyline GT-R www.Showordisplay.com
Sean Morris is the man behind www.showordisplay.com who has used the 'Show or Display' rule to legally import two 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R Nismo Editions. Essentially the 'Show or Display' rule breaks down like this:
Morris has been on a lengthy mission to bring more Skylines into the United States legally. He started this most recent process back in March of 2011 and thought the process was dead on the desk of some bureaucrat but a couple months back was shocked to see a written response. The request was granted and he was allowed to start importing the Nismo Editions. Since there were only 500 (Actually 560, 60 were withheld by Nismo for racing purposes) he thought it would be impossible to find them for sale in Japan.
A rule permitting entry of nonconforming motor vehicles for purposes of show or display became effective on August 13, 1999. If you wish to import a vehicle for show or display, you must apply to NHTSA for permission to do so and establish that the vehicle is of such historical or technological significance that it is in the public interest to show or display the vehicle in the United States even though it would be difficult or impossible to bring the vehicle into compliance with the Federal motor vehicle safety standards. This provision is intended to facilitate the importation of historically or technologically significant vehicles that were never certified by their manufacturer for sale in the United States.
Luck was again on his side as an importer located two of them, #383 and the last one to be sold to the public #500! They were promptly purchased and put on a container bound for the Port of Long Beach, a whole 10 minutes from Morris' home. The Nismo cars arrived in perfect condition, cleaned up and the #383 car was promptly sold to a buyer in Chicago, IL. Morris has decided that #500 is too pristine, unmolested and has a historical significance that he wants to hold on to. For now, it will remain his personal car.
So what will it be like to live with a GT-R like this? There are still several heavy restrictions in place. First, the vehicle must meet EPA requirements to ensure it is safe and doesn't pollute excessively. If the engine has to be replaced to meet the EPA requirements, it could impact the application since it could alter the historical significance of the car. In California, the cars will also have to pass CARB (California Air Research Board) testing but most Japanese cars have passed the much stricter 'Shaken' emissions test and will easily meet the criteria. The NHTSA can also grant licensing of the vehicle to drive it up to 2,500 miles (4,000 km) per year on public roads to displays of similar automobiles or for routine maintenance.
It's been a long road for Morris and the day as finally here. As one of the leading authorities on Skylines, it seemed unfair that he has never owned one in all his years working with them. But now, #500 is his and if you ask him, that exact car was the one he always wanted. Now U.S. residents can get the car they have fantasized about too by picking an eligible vehicle from the list and contacting them through the site.
UPDATE: The #500 Nismo GT-R is now for sale on eBay Motors, current bid is US$15,100 and the reserve is not met.