Time To Sell Some Vital Organs: IVI Is Attempting To Import An R34 Skyline GT-R Legally (Updated 6/7/16)
|Image credits: International Vehicle Importers|
I was planning on putting up the second part of my DIY article on installing new carpet in an R32 today but rather than talk about boring old shag pile I decided it was more important to talk about some exciting news for GT-R fans that just broke: yesterday International Vehicle Importers announced they were in the process of importing an R34 Skyline GT-R. Yes, the most coveted of all Skyline generations may be making its return to our shores as a welcome visitor.
Just like the Rivsu R33 that I reported about months ago the internet is starting to buzz with all kinds of misinformation and misconceptions about this car and how it's legal. One guy even posted on IVI's Facebook if they could legalize his (obviously NOT legal) R33 - totally missing the point that IVI was talking about an R34. Ah, the joys of the internet - never has knowledge is power been taken to a funnier extreme.
So, for those of you wondering how this particular R34 is legal when all others have been welcomed by the DOT about as well as herpes I thought I'd drop some learning once again for everyone's benefit.
You may remember from my previous posts on Motorex and the Rivsu R33 that Skyline importation is restricted by DOT ruling VCP-32 for cars younger than 25 years of age. That's why only R32s are currently easy to import. However, besides the 25-year exemption there's also the Show or Display exemption that I mentioned before in my importation guide.
Under Show or Display you're allowed to import approved cars with "technological or historical significance". The catch - or rather the first one of several - is that each model car has to be petitioned for review by the DOT for inclusion on the list. Once included each individual imported car still has to be approved on a case-by-case basis by the DOT before being allowed in - unlike 25-year old cars where you just have to show CBP the documentation proving their age.
It just so happens that way back in 2009 someone successfully petitioned the DOT to include the "1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-spec Early Model Limited Edition". You can see it listed here on page 2 of the NHTSA list just below my Nismo R32 that was also imported under Show or Display:
NHTSA Show or Display Approval List
For the longest time no one knew what this was and even Sean Morris, owner of IVI and Skyline import guru extraordinaire, posted repeatedly that such a thing never existed. Well, such a thing did - it just wasn't called an "Early Model Limited Edition". Dig deep into Skyline history and in 1999 when Nissan first released the R34 they came out with a limited run of V-spec cars in paint code LV4 - the mystical Midnight Purple II. Sources differ on how many were made (Sean says 282 while Alex and Dennis Gorodji's two GT-R coffee table books say 300) but certainly only a small number were produced and they apparently sold out within 10 days. As part of the first batch of R34s ever made and in such limited numbers these were the cars the NHTSA approved for inclusion in the list.
|Good thing it costs so much - the new owner can afford a new stereo...or maybe not after selling his first-born offspring.|
So if the car's been on the list since 2009 why hadn't anyone brought one in yet? Well, that's when we get to catch number two: the EPA approval.
As I've discussed extensively before any car that wants to be imported legally needs to be approved by the DOT and the EPA. The DOT approves it on safety grounds while the EPA approves it for environmental standards. Being on the Show or Display list just clears one hurdle - it exempts you from DOT safety standards, but you still have to satisfy the EPA. In order to do that the car has to be either 21 years old to get an exemption or you have to have an OBD-II diagnostic system fitted for the EPA to test.
Up until now only JK Technologies who worked with Motorex over a decade ago knew how to get these cars to comply with EPA standards but now that IVI has worked with G&K Automotive Conversions to make an R32 California-legal, they're apparently going to try and do the same with this particular R34. That's going to be a bigger undertaking than with the R32 most likely which is no doubt why IVI is charging the huge price it's asking for.
What that also means is that this car won't be a done-deal, street-legal car for a while yet. After the DOT gives its approval to import the car you still would have to get the necessary modifications done and prove to their satisfaction they were done correctly. That of course means some more red tape will be involved with this car once it actually arrives here from Japan.
Oh, and there's catch number three. Show or Display was meant for cars to be imported for well, show or display, not daily drive and display so once this car is approved the DOT will restrict you to driving it just 2500 miles in a year. And yes, they will audit your mileage periodically.
Of course the biggest catch of all is the one I mentioned first in the headline - the price. One hundred fifty grand is a huge price for a 17 year old car that cost about a third of that when new. In Japan this car would probably be a $50K car so you're paying a hundred grand for the privilege of owning one in the States. That's a hard sell when a brand-new, faster, comfier, and warrantied 2017 GT-R costs $110K and a brand-new Nismo R35 will set you back the same 150 grand. Exclusivity is a hard thing to quantify though so I'm sure somewhere there's a buyer just waiting to welcome this car.
It just won't be stupid old me sadly - I've unfortunately already lost too many vital organs to the GT-Rs I currently have.
UPDATE (6/7/16): Thanks to GTR.co.uk forum member 9TR I was able to get some clarification on the numbers discrepancy of how many Midnight Purple II cars were made. The Gorodji's number was probably based off this old Nissan brochure that says 300 right on the cover:
However, unlike some other GT-R special editions that were made in only one specification like the Nismo R32, 400R, LM Limited, etc. the Midnight Purple II cars were available as both base R34s and V-spec models. Even though Nissan advertised a limited number of 300 apparently 64 base models and 282 V-spec cars were made for a total of 346 according to GT-R Registry. Only the V-specs are specified as eligible for the Show or Display exemption however so only the 282 made of that trim level will be available for import.