posted on August 12, 2013 13:31
I get this question about once a week these days, “Are the Skylines really going to be legal when they are 25 years old?” It’s a loaded question. The answer is actually yes, and no, as it all depends where you live. In North America, Canada is an exception, but even in the United States the rules have some variance. Since I live in California, the answer is actually yes, but no. Yes, because the 1989 Nissan Skyline will be federally legal to import once it’s 25 years old in 2014, but no because vehicles 1975 or newer are subject to direct import laws in California. These direct import laws make it very expensive to bring a car into California compliance. However, for the purposes of this article, I won’t get too far into the downside of the upside of 25 year old vehicle import.
I am 90% sure that when you say ‘Skyline’ you mean ‘Skyline GT-R.’ The only one that really floats my boat is the GT-R, but women do seem to appreciate the non-GT-R cars such as the GT-S shown above. Does that mean that only men like the GT-R? GT-R’s do seem to attract more men and boys, so plan your days accordingly.
First off, since it is now 2013 it is legal to import 1988 vehicles that never met US FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) as regulated by the NHTSA, DOT (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Department of Transportation). This is because the Code of Federal Regulations Title 49 part 591.5(i), also written 49CFR591.5(i), says you can. Title 49 has to do with transportation while 591 is the section called - IMPORTATION OF VEHICLES AND EQUIPMENT SUBJECT TO FEDERAL SAFETY, BUMPER AND THEFT PREVENTION STANDARDS. The .5 designation is a reference to the subsection that details Declarations Required for Importation and the (i) designation is a reference to a section of that subsection. The legal importation of a vehicle is not up to the guy on a random internet forum, the guy at the DMV or even the police officer on the corner. The Code of Federal Regulations is the definitive word on the rules. The contents of its pages trumps casual opinion. The laws used to only be written in these cool things called books, but now you can look up the parts, numbers, and sections online. If you have access to a hard copy of the CFR like I do, it’s like the worst choose your own adventure book ever. It is a difficult book to read. If you ever pick one up you will probably want to put it right back down.
The pertinent text of the Code of Federal Regulations section 591.5 states:
No person shall import a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment into the United States unless, at the time it is offered for importation, its importer files a declaration, in duplicate, which declares one of the following:
(i)(1) The vehicle is 25 or more years old.
The declaration form referenced by the Code of Federal Regulations is the NHTSA form called the HS-7. On the HS-7 form 25 year old cars are Box 1. This is a document that should be extremely familiar to anyone who regularly imports automobiles.
All the Skyline GT-Rs in the above image will soon be eligible for importation into the United States. R32 production began in 1989, so 2014 will mark the year of its 25th anniversary. However, Hakosukas are already available to interested parties in the US.
On top of the NHTSA, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is another regulatory body with a say in vehicle regulations. However, the EPA is even more lenient than the NHTSA, DOT. The EPA says at 21 years old, and in its original configuration, a vehicle is exempt from EPA requirements. This is something that needs some explaining as different people read into it what they want. They only pull the words out of that last statement that suit them. If you want to be a well informed cookie, read it carefully and understand what it really means. The EPA importation form is called the 3520-1. For vehicles over 21 years old, and in their original configuration, an importer would fill in code E on the 3520-1.
The text of the pertinent EPA regulation states:
A vehicle is exempted if it has been 21 years or more since its original production year and it is in its original unmodified condition. Vehicles in any condition may be excluded if they were manufactured prior to the year in which EPA's regulations for the class of vehicle took effect. Vehicles at least 21 years old with replacement engines are not eligible for this exemption unless they contain equivalent or newer EPA certified engines and emission control systems. Upon entry, the importer must file an EPA Form 3520-1 with Customs and declare code "E" on the form.
An example of an engine bay in original configuration. Yes, that means it is stock.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 2:46 AM
Could you post a link to all the forms?
Or pdf versions would be even better!
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 2:56 AM
Also which isf for should I use? I've found multiple versions.
Now for importing a 1989 r32 from Canada would I need all these forms?
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 7:44 AM
Imagine trying to explain this to one of our founding fathers, (Jefferson, Washington, ect.) yeesh. They probably would have asked you to stop at the second paragraph. The bureaucracy is getting out of hand.
I wonder if the 1975 emissions rule is the sole reason why the small block 350 is (was) so popular in the states.
It kills me that you cannot import a relatively clean burning JDM car but yet Redneck Joe can go crank up is 69 mustang and spew Hydrocarbons, and NOx all over. (Yes I know that JDM usually means higher NOx but it can not be any worse than the old Camaros, Hemis Mustangs running 10:1 Plus compression ratios.)
Just spewing random thoughts out there.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 9:18 AM
I was wondering when this topic would come up again with the impending 25th birthday of the R32. As always, thanks for the info Sean.
I tried getting my hands on a DOT exempt R32 on two separate occasions and it was finally North Carolina insurance laws that stopped me from buying the second one I was looking at. No company (even with a professional appraisal) would quote me comprehensive or collision coverage except Hagerty. I wasn't about to insure a $25-30k car with only liability or insure it with a company that limits your mileage, so it was a no-go. This was in 2007 though, so maybe things have changed.
The better question that I have to ask myself now is, how hard would I kick myself for selling a NSX to pick up a GT-R. :/
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 9:34 AM
Nice article. Unfortunately it seems to read "everyone can pick up a 25 year old import with a little cash and some hard work. Unless you live in CA. Then you are just screwed."
Any chance at a follow up article at navigating CARB and CADIV regulations? Assuming the vehicle runs well and has all factory emissions equipment installed it "should" be similar to having the FDV8 smogged. Get a ref to look it over and confirm that it is running properly and cleanly. But knowing CA I doubt that is the case.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 11:13 AM
I believe the answer is "good luck". The reason an FDV8 can be smogged is because they use, CARB certified parts, and a CARB certified engine. I'm no expert, as I live in Michigan where we have no emissions testing at all, but I've read the articles here about the FDV8 swap. In that article they talk about how the engine has to be installed in an OEM like fit, they used an intake that was CARB legal, because it came with the CARB sticker, etc.
Again, I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure if you were to import a Skyline into California you run into all sorts of problems because the RB26 engine was never sold in California or US legal trim. With engines like the 3SGTE in my MR2 Turbo, things are (I'm guessing) relatively easier. A person could convert a JDM MR2 to US emissions trim, and demonstrate that by turning down boost, and adding a cat.
Same with an FDV8, the engine wasn't intended for that car, but a person can demonstrate that it was installed as an LS is installed for use in the US market, show that all emissions controls are in place for the US/California, and that only CARB legal parts are in place. There is no such thing as a CARB legal RB26 though, and that's where the problem comes in. When dealing with bureaucrats in my experience it is much easier if things are black and white. Certainly an RB26 could be built to pass the California emissions testing, but would it be certified is a whole different question.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 11:46 AM
What if you import it and never drive it on the street? Only trailer it to events and such, do you need to jump through any hoops at that point?
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 12:02 PM
What if you (piss off all sorts of fanboys) and transplant in a CARB legal engine? LS3 into an R32 GT-R for hypothetical example? Seems like that would solve some of the hurdles (albeit creating some more, like avoiding getting lynched by JDM fanboys)
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 2:02 PM
As with anything, there are legal and not so legal ways. How does Jay Leno have his F40s and 959s that were never federalized? There's always a way. Otherwise, this is a great article from the master of importation (Sean). Those of you asking him for form numbers, etc. there's a chance he isn't going to hand you over his many years of experience on a plate. Sean was importing cars long before I met him in '98 or '99.
mekill: me and my buddies used to call that "maximum pissoffage". Certain engines just plain suck whether you know how to build them or not (e.g. Subaru EJ). The RB doesn't suck and is relatively easy to build (to a point) so that would be totally lame if somebody put an LS in a R chassis. But then the guy would be achieving maximum pissoffage.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 2:43 PM
This article is confusing to me. To quote Protodad, it reads "everyone can pick up a 25 year old import with a little cash and some hard work. Unless you live in CA. Then you are just screwed." But then it shows a picture of a California title for a GTR. Are we supposed to read between the lines or something?
Don't you have a GTR Eric? Were your's and Sean's brought in during the Motorex days (Sean was involved with them I beliEve)? Since Motorex supposedly did the legwork to allow legal importation of the R32 would that not now make it easier for someone to get one on the road in CA?
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 5:13 PM
@Wrecked: The difference is between importing and using. You can import the vehicle to CA legally using the steps described in the article. However, you will not be able to register it to legally drive on the street.
Also, Motorex was performing legal imports of GTRs. They may have had some issues towards the end of their days but they did recieve approval to register the vehicles they sold legally with additional crash protection and smog modifications (like 3 more cats). This obviously isn't happening anymore and the 25 year law is something completely different from what Motorex was doing at the time.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 5:37 PM
3520-1 PDF - http://vehicleimport.blogspot.com/2011/01/3520-1-epa-form-importing-motor.html
HS-7 - http://vehicleimport.blogspot.com/2011/01/hs7-form-importation-of-motor-vehicles.html
@Protodad. "Any chance at a follow up article at navigating CARB and CADIV regulations? "
The rules are confusing. If you think the article is confusing, try reading the CFR (FMVSS), the Health and Safety Codes, the Blue Book, etc.
I could get into all the areas of importation, but I just chose the 25 year old rule for now. The 1989 R32 turns 25 years old next August.
My car came in under the "Show or Display" exemption. Historically or Technologically significant. Generally under 500 made (560 on the NISMO), FMVSS exempt. I can drive it up to 2500 miles per year. Over 21 years old EPA exempt. http://www.showordisplay.com/2013/08/new-vehicles-on-approved-and-not.html
I will have the NISMO R32 GT-R, and a Hakosuka at the JCCS Show, September 28th in Long Beach. Come on by if you have any questions you want to ask. http://www.gtrusablog.com/2013/08/japanese-classic-car-show-in-long-beach.html
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 6:01 PM
@Wrecked. This is part of the confusing things about cars, importing, titling, and registration. They are all different things. Just because you have a car, doesn't mean its legal. Just because you got it imported, doesn't mean you can title it. Just because you title it, doesn't mean you can register it.
I didn't write the rules, but I know them, and I work around them. Most people say this can't be done. They are wrong. All it takes is desire, time, and money. I can legally import ANY car. DESIRE, TIME, and MONEY, and I can get it done. However most of the ones that want to do it, are too much of broke asses to actually pay the money to do something correctly. This is where the 25 year rule comes in. Fits fine for those guys. However, California, its own entire issue. Again, I didn't make up the rules, but I can bring something into compliance with them.
Like anything, legal and illegal ways to do everything. Don't think that I have not seen every way to import, title, register anything and everything. VIN swaps, registration in Florida, title as a kit car, etc, etc. Not impossible, but those guys often get popped. They get too big and bad, think their shit don't stink, but it does. The guys that get screwed are the second or third owners caught holding the hot potato. When ICE seizes your shit, they don't want to hear about the guy who "told you" it was legal.
So back to the last picture in the article. California "TITLE ONLY". It says it large in the middle. I own the car, but I can't legally drive or register it. This car is actually headed to Chicago, where California's rules do not apply. No reason to spend the ~$8000 or so that we used to spend at MotoRex to bring a car into compliance via FTP testing.
This is that part about "California - you are screwed." Not really screwed, but guys scraping together two dimes, aren't going to want to hear about $8k to bring it into California compliance.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 6:53 PM
I can't wait until I have enough dough to buy an R32... I eventually want to get my hands on an R34, but the R32 will do just fine until the R34 is available.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 7:05 PM
Guess we're lucky in Australia where we can get all the GTRs...R32's can be had for about 12K AUD!
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 8:32 PM
So any speculation on what this will do to the market? The Skyline is probably one of the first "mass produced" cars that people would readily import. Unlike other direct imports, there weren't >500 units made, more like 300k. I suspect the market will surge like the Supra after F&F and when too many people realized they paid far too much for a car that has little more than "want" value these days, the price will plummet.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 8:42 PM
GT-R wise, Nissan made 43,934 over the 6 years of production. http://www.gtrusablog.com/2009/08/r32-nissan-skyline-gt-r-specifications.html
As far as other Skylines, they are a dime a dozen. Throw away cars in Japan. They made hundreds of thousands of them.
However this rule isn't just for Skylines, its not just for GT-R. Anything 25 years or older this year, 1988 currently.
Right now, its hard to find a 1989 R32. Lots of 1990's out there, but not as many 1989's. Some of them have been snatched up. Lots of them are in UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, where they had 15 year rules, or other types of personal imports.
I feel a piece of shit car is piece of shit money. A good car is good money. It will take a few people getting burned to realize that. Just because its cheap, doesn't mean its good. Its not too expensive, you are just too broke.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 8:58 PM
eric: I've wanted to see that swap for years because, well, yeah, maximum pissoffage, and also being referential to oldschool maximum pissoffage people had related to Datsuns (why not replace this iron block I6 with something better - an SBC?) for double whammy. And to get even further off topic, wish I could go back and change username now that I better grok the culture here but oh well.
Anyway, totally way off topic, so I'll stop.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 9:12 PM
@tyndago: I din't mean to trash the GTR name, just that the Skyline itself is not limited to the GTR. Like you said, the Skyline is a throw away car and many people will be suckered into purchasing something that they didn't understand.
That being said, I would happily pick up a second hand GT-S. Just like the CA18 didn't get respect, neither does the RB20. I am looking forward to more VIP cars hitting the 25 year old age (and just maybe a Stagea).
Also, I may start quoting your last line.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 9:40 PM
@Protodad - that last line, I screwed it up. Its Arrogant Bastards Ale. Its not too expensive, you're too cheap.
As far as the CA, lots of 1988 180's with the engine in Japan. They are toss away cars too. You could own one today.
In Canada, I see a lot of guys with too much car, don't realize how much it costs to maintain an R32 GT-R. Its not an in-expensive car. Its not a non- complicated car. Sometimes I want to headbutt the Canadian guys. Othertimes, I think I might setup a "fair-trade" store for Canadians. For every good part I sell here in the US, I will send the same part to Canada, so they don't fuck up their cars so much with the cheapest shit they can find on ebay.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 11:36 PM
Mmm, Arrogant Bastard. Oaked ruination is a masterpiece.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 8:08 AM
Good article. Great points.
But I don't understand the Canada comments in the August 14 post, tyndago. There are many people in the States, in Mexico, in England, in Australia who don't understand the car they've purchased and put lots of cheap parts on them. There are more GT-R's, GT-S's, and GTi-R's in Canada as they're easier to import. When they are more readily available, it's more likely you'll see someone who shouldn't own one have one in their driveway and it might be loaded with poor parts; but you'll also see some wonderful cars. You'll see a Canadian GT-R specific forum focused on the model (http://www.gtrcanada.com) and the desire to improve and maintain a beautiful car.
Keep up the great work, but give your neighbours to the north a bit of credit. And no, I do not have a GT-R. I've driven a few on the track and maybe someday.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 10:54 AM
@Nissannx. I have been on the GTRCanada forum since near the beginning. Look for my screen name. I know Johnny, Dave, etc. I always give the Canadians a hard time. Its just now a few years down the line, more kids get them, and they are more car than they can afford. I am on the GTRCanada FB page, and like I said, I want to headbutt a couple of the guys on there. How many fucking times can you ask what spark plug to use for an RB. I tell them the correct plug to use, why to use it, and alternatives, and the same dude asks the same question 4 days later. Shitty knock off wheels, stanced cars, and bullshit racks on GT-R's. Not my cup of tea, and I express my opinion.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 2:49 PM
I understand giving buddies a hard time, getting frustrated with a couple of guys on a FB page, and so on. I appreciate that. Just your comment seemed to cover an entire country. Thanks for clarifying.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 4:10 PM
What's the reason for sending the car all the way to Chicago vs. somewhere local like Nevada or Arizona?
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 8:55 PM
@pharcydeabc. Its going to Chicago, because he lives in Chicago. I am not doing any shady shit with the car. I leave the shady shit to idiots. Any idiot can import a car illegally, much harder to do it legally. I do it legally.
Thursday, August 15, 2013 1:46 AM
@Tyndago. I understand that it's not completely honest, but I wouldn't call it shady shit. If I live in CA, but have family in NV, then I can simply register and insure the car with the NV address. I can drive the car in CA and if I ever got pulled over, then everything checks out. Am I missing something?
Thursday, August 15, 2013 11:54 AM
@pharcyde. Technically you have 20 days to register your car in CA if you live here and your car does too. At one point the CHP was encouraging people to snitch on their neighbors with out of state plates to get the registration fees.
Possibly you could get around it by having the car in someone else's name, but I would classify that as semi-shady...
Thursday, August 15, 2013 12:29 PM
I would not risk out of state plates. I had a 1990 GTR with Canadian plates registered to my friends family that lives in BC. I drove it for a year in socal, but eventually I got pulled over and told that I need california tags because they have seen the car in the area for a while. I ended up selling the car.
Good news I just moved to Texas, so next year a GTR will be mine again, legally this time!
Thursday, August 15, 2013 1:52 PM
So I'm confused. If you live in CA, are you "screwed" or does that just mean that you need to jump through extra hoops?
Thursday, August 15, 2013 10:45 PM
@pharcydeabc. If you are in California, then you need to bring the car into compliance with direct import rules. The short version is that you need to FTP test the car. The test is $1200-$1500 a test. The cert is about $5k. Testing/tuning making it work, PER CAR is about $8k. That is on top of the cert. If you don't call this "screwed" then I don't know what you would call it.
There are not many places that can make an engine that was released in 1989, never setup for an FTP, pass an FTP. I am one of the few people that has ever done it. So take it from me, you are screwed.
Thursday, August 15, 2013 10:49 PM
Did you know that the State of California loses millions of dollars a year in revenue from California residents who unlawfully register their vehicles in other states or countries?
Did you know that vehicle registration fees are due immediately upon accepting employment or establishing residency in the State of California?
Did you know that California law permits only 20 days to complete the process of registering your vehicle without paying a penalty?
The three most common reasons for not completing the registration process are:
People are unaware of California registration laws.
People are evading payments of registration fees and taxes.
People are unable to comply with air pollution control laws.
Include the following information:
State or province in which vehicle is registered. Mexican plates cannot be investigated without a physical address where the vehicle's owner resides.
Vehicle license number
Date and time the vehicle was observed
Make, model and color of the vehicle
Location where the vehicle was observed (street(s) and city)
Any additional comments and descriptive information
Thursday, August 15, 2013 11:28 PM
@tyndago: lol, did you know that CA used to be considered the worlds eighth largest economy? Did you know that CA has one of the most overcompensating welfare systems in the world? Did you know that CA's massive amount of red tape not only prevents any innovative design or thinking as well as enforces archaic models of thinking (see the high speed rail).
CA is a joke. Tell me they care about smog when swapping out an old school nox puker for a new age gas sipper is illegal just because of some out dated law.
If CA actually cared about emissions and not bureaucracy, you could swap any OB2 engine into any pre OBD2 chassis because it would reduce emissions. Instead, they allow my 89 Ford truck to blow high on its scale but not my in-laws 95 escort that just tips over its scale. However, a new KA or LS that barely registers is completely illegal to swap into either.
Thursday, August 15, 2013 11:35 PM
@Protdad - don't get me started on California. Do you remember the "smog impact fee"? They used to charge $300 if you brought a car from outside of California, into California. It wouldn't matter if it met or was cleaner than California standards. They didn't want you to try and bring the car into standards, they just wanted to charge you money. Eventually it was repealed, but just a single example of the ARB. Not my favorite agency. I have been investigated by them. I have tried to have meetings with them prior to bringing cars into the country, when I was at Motorex.
Friday, August 16, 2013 12:01 AM
Yea, that came off wrong. I am on your side, CA is just a mess when it comes to emission laws.
Friday, August 16, 2013 2:55 PM
If I were going to start my research in a serious way where should I start? If I made use of your services the car would be heading to OK, and on my own research with our local laws I haven't found anything to trip me up (import, title, tag, insure are all coming up green, SO FAR). The only sticking point would be insurance, but my Hagerty rep has assured me if push comes to shove they can insure it, just with the normal caveats on the rest of our Hagerty cars. My GEICO rep got flustered and said they'd have to get back to me on it. Kept asking if I meant a Stanza.
It's something I've thought about in the vaguest terms for a while, but now it's time to put money where the food intake is located, as they say. Beyond following some of your own threads when I lurk on GTR forums here and there, there's not a whole lot of info, or my unfamiliarity with the grey-market import ritual kept me from fully understanding.
On the maintaining side of it, I'm pretty fortunate being a Nissan tech, and having the vast NNAnet and non US-market service network at my disposal, but I'm still in the dark on a ballpark figure to expect and prepare for. I've been told anywhere from $15k to 25, which isn't as horrifying as I was expecting and I'd rather pay that on a Skyline than the inflated prices I'm seeing on local STi's. (Last one I test drove was a 400hp OPEN LOOP tuned '07 shitbox they were asking $27k for, complete with shitty Krylon'd interior panels. I worked for Subaru from '06 to '09, and driving that thing filled me with the same sense of dread as walking into a house that had seen a murder. Some of my favorite cars, IF you can find one stock and unmolested.)
Friday, August 16, 2013 4:17 PM
add to above ^
Primarily asking for directions to comprehensive resources. I imagine this is going to be a busy year for bringing Skylines over, and don't want to waste any one's time until I have everything squared up and ready to buy. Need to do the buying research at this stage. (ie what to look for like cracked dashes, etc.)
showordisplay.com has been a big help already, and Skylife is always fun to read.
Friday, August 16, 2013 7:44 PM
@Subasean. I have been working on a bit of a buyers guide for R32's. I can give you the "basics" here - http://www.gtrusablog.com/2010/05/real-basics-nissan-skyline-gt-r-r32-r33.html
I'll get at the rest of this when I get some time.
Friday, August 16, 2013 7:57 PM
The costs are as above in the article. Cost of the car. Car cost varies on condition. Shipping, and stuff as above with brokers, local transport, buy fees, etc. Its about $4000 or so. You could spend anything from $8000 - $35,000 on an R32. All depends again, on condition.
Friday, August 16, 2013 11:11 PM
To all the potential R32 owners in the USA,
Go for it. You won't be disappointed.
a happy Canadian
Saturday, August 17, 2013 12:01 AM
Here is a Nissan Skyline GT-R buyers guide that I started a while back. I will fill it with more information, when I get more questions asked.
Thursday, February 13, 2014 1:49 PM
Hi all. I have read and read and read all needed materials for importation. My only question is with this rule can i drive a skyline from canada to the us. I live 45 miles from the border.
Thursday, February 13, 2014 3:01 PM
As long as it is over 25 years old, as determined by month/year of production it is legal to drive across the border. You will need a bill of sale, and need to fill out the HS7 and 3520-1. You will also have to pay the import tariff. They might even give you a reach around at the border.
Friday, February 14, 2014 11:17 PM
In Hawaii, we are subject to Periodical Motor Vehicle Inspections (PMVI) which strictly states that cars must have DOT/SAE compliant equipment on the vehicles to be licensed and driven on the road. If the 25 year rule exempts the vehicles from lack of FMVSS compliance, does that apply to DOT/SAE standards as well? Example: JDM S13 headlamps and taillamp conversions are not legal in the State of Hawaii because the lenses lack the required SAE/DOT markings on all the lenses. If I were to import an S13, because of the "25 year rule" would the imported vehicle be exempt? Does the Federal law take precedent over local state rules and regulations?
Sunday, February 16, 2014 2:17 AM
I looked up Hawaii for someone recently. Federal Law trumps state law for importation. Over 25 is NHTSA exempt.
However Hawaii won't let you register them, so you are screwed. Find another state.
Sunday, February 16, 2014 2:17 AM